Disabled people are increasingly looking for opportunities to make use of their spare time. They no longer accept a life in a front of the telly but want to seize the day and enjoy bigger and better experiences. This attitude extends to days out and holidays.

Activity holidays are ideal for disabled people that want more from a vacation than mere relaxation. Their aim is to do something new and unusual, perhaps pushing themselves beyond their perceived boundaries in return for the satisfaction of knowing that they ‘did it’.

These are the things that great memories are made of and that can be used as the basis for doing something even better next time.

There are several activity holiday providers that have become specialist in ensuring that activities are appropriate and safe for disabled people.

Calvert Trust, Kielder, Northumberland 

Calvert Trust have 40 years of experience in providing challenging adventure holidays to everyone, and that includes disabled people. Experienced staff work with people as individuals with the starting point of what they ‘can’ do, in order to help them fulfil their personal potential – whilst at the same time building their conidence and developing teamwork skills. (Calvert Trust can provide high quality respite care in a safe and accessible environment.)

Calvert Trust Kielder is based in an area of outstanding natural beauty with 27 miles of shoreline and around 250 square miles to take part in some truly amazing activities. The watchwords are simply: fun, active and accessible with one quote from the Calvert Trust website summing things up nicely: “We want you to really love life, to delight in new experiences and to welcome a new challenge”

Kielder Water & Forest Park include both Europe’s largest man-made forest and lake, so it’s the perfect place to take part in activities and have an adventure.

The Kielder site includes an extensive network of tracks that are variously designed to suit people with differing abilities. Assessment at the Trust’s skills area before you set off will help you to discover which trails are right for you.

Cyclists will particularly enjoy Kielder. One of the more challenging long distance routes even follows the old drovers’ journey across the Scottish border and takes cyclists on lakeside paths, forest roads and open moorland.

Naturally, given the size of the lake, water activities are very popular amongst visitors. Sailing and canoeing are provided seasonally, by professional clubs which need to be booked in advance.

Other ‘Go Active’ activities at Kielder Waterside are available and include archery, crossbows, fencing, water walkerz, sea scooters and snorkelling sessions, body zorbs, crazy carts and crazy trikes amongst others – and Calvert Trust are currently planning to introduce a further variety of nature and ‘bush craft’ activities to the roster.

For people that don’t want to stay for more than a day but who want to experience outdoor activities, Calvert Trust has a range of activity drop in days available throughout the year. These offer an opportunity to try something new such as zip wire or the King Swing, indoor and outdoor climbing walls, canoeing, sailing and motor boating, high and low ropes course, orienteering, archery and laser clay shooting. (A hydrotherapy pool, infra-red sauna and sensory room are also available.)

www.calvert-trust.org.uk/ Kildare

Avon Tyrrell, New Forest National Park

 Avon Tyrrell is set inside the New Forest National Park, a diverse environment that affords visitors the opportunity to experience a variety of activities on land and water. The ‘can do’ attitude of staff as well as a variety of specialised equipment means that people of differing abilities can take part in as many of the activities as possible, along with their friends and family. The emphasis is on learning and developing through adventure and discovery and to this end, the passionate staff will discuss the needs of individual visitors to further understand how best to accommodate them.

As well as the support of staff, who of course, include in their number, fully qualified instructors trained to adapt sessions to meet individual needs, visitors will find that the site is entirely accessible. Additional equipment is available to support disabled people in having a great experience, challenge themselves and create their own sense of achievement. Hoists and other adapted equipment, for example, mean that visitors can zip wire across the lake, take on the climbing wall, take part in tree climbing, shoot an arrow in archery or canoe/kayak across the water or enjoy mountain biking on adapted bikes on the new accessible bike trails.

In fact, differently adapted bikes are very popular for getting around the site. Variations include the recumbent Tret bike, ideal for younger users and the Kettweisel recumbent bike for adults and taller users, which has power assist and three levels of assistance when pedalling (giving riders an extra boost when cycling uphill.) Or visitors might opt for the Pino bike which is better for flatter ground; the tandem bike with recumbent front seat gives both seats a huge range of adjustment, providing users with a comfortable ride.

For other visitors, a Landeez all-terrain wheelchair with large inflatable tyres is available, as are Boma powerchairs, which are also all-terrain and enable users to freely access the entire site.

Avon Tyrell’s commitment to inclusion doesn’t end with physically disabled people but happily extends to people with visual and hearing impairments as well as learning difficulties. Activities are differentiated by delivery and with over 40 activities available, there’s quite a selection to choose from.

Family Inclusion events are held throughout the year and for other organised groups, Avon Tyrrell are able to host a site tour prior to the visit, since this has proven to be the most effective way for staff to fully understand the extent of what is needed for visits and what kind of support is required throughout the stay, as well as enabling group leaders to see facilities first-hand.

The underlying commitment of Avon Tyrrell is clearly to apply the right support for disabled people to be comfortable and safe and to enjoy a broad array of experiences on equal terms with their family and friends.


Jubilee Sailing Trust

As already mentioned, there are different ways to ‘relax’ and these can include vigorous activities. One of the best examples of this type of vacation has to be a voyage on one of the Jubilee Sailing Trust’s tall ships.

The Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST) have three essential aims. Firstly, the integration of physically disabled and able-bodied people. Crews are assembled which include disabled people making up half the number. From here a ‘buddy’ system operates whereby another crew member will be assigned as your specifi c companion for the voyage – with the broad aim being to pair disabled and able-bodied people together. It also helps generally with forming bonds amongst the crew as well as generating a spirit of goodwill and cooperation. (Disabled people with personal care needs or who require assistance from a carer on a daily basis, will most likely have to sail with a known carer.)

The second aim is to empower people to “discover their abilities” and to focus on what they can do, not what they can’t – with the objective being to develop confidence based on their achievements as part of an effective team.

To this end, participants are grouped into four teams, known as watches. The watches have various responsibilities, including literally ‘keeping watch’ – even in the hours of darkness. Each has an experienced watch leader who works with the permanent crew and decides who will do which tasks – all suiting an individual’s strengths, with each in some way, contributing to sailing the ship.

The fi nal aim is ‘education’. Not only will individuals learn plenty about seafaring but it’s a broader opportunity to break down barriers and reevaluate certain ideas about what ‘ability’ and ‘disability’ are really about.

The majority of people that sail with JST have little or no seafaring or sailing experience at all. The permanent crew support people in their tasks; all that’s required is the right attitude and a willingness to take part.

The vessels, Nelson and Tenacious, are both accessible for wheelchair users and there are essential home comforts for all participants including hot showers and points for electric toothbrushes, shavers and hair dryers. Bathrooms are shared and include all the facilities required for those with limited mobility, including four clos-o-mat toilets.

JST consider their mission to develop awareness and understanding generally, to be as crucial as providing a fantastic experience for the individual.


Speyside Trust, Badaguish Centre, Aviemore

Situated in the Scottish Highlands in the Cairngorms National Park, the Speyside Trust Badaguish Centre is just five miles south of Aviemore and offers short break residential activity holidays for children and adults with learning or multiple disability. The team at Badaguish is fully trained and qualified and has 25 years’ worth of skills and experience, which means that people under their supervision can enjoy the outdoors in safety as they have fun, make friends and take on new activities for the first time.

Whether it’s in outdoor activities including canoeing, walking, cycling or archery, staff endeavour to give their expert support and encouragement irrespective of ability in a relaxed atmosphere and in a way that will nurture personal development and lead to an active healthy lifestyle. Groups are usually numbered of less than 10 people (plus up to four to five helpers) giving the possibly of one-to-one support where appropriate.


Bendrigg Trust, Kendal, Cumbria

The Bendrigg Trust is based in Cumbria, an ideal location for using the outdoors to build confidence and self-esteem through the safe provision of adventurous activity. At Bendrigg, no matter what a person’s perceived abilities are; everyone will be supported, encouraged and challenged to do as much as they can for themselves. Specialist courses for disabled people promote inclusion and encourage independence.

Core values permeate the entire Bendrigg experience, starting with listening and valuing the views of individuals and supporting them in flexible ways to achieve their potential by concentrating on solutions rather than problems.

Naturally safety and wellbeing are paramount and so, as you’d expect, parts of the experience deal with managing risk (within safe parameters).

Bendrigg Trust continues to develop its experiences for disabled people whilst being completely rooted in the outdoor environment. It also stands to reason that they aim to foster a sense of appreciation and environmental responsibility along with the notion that the outdoors is a generally good place to be for all that it can show people.