With the cold weather hopefully behind us, it’s time to start thinking about summer and what to do when we have a bit of spare time. There are plenty of great accessible days out all over the country to suit all ages and interests, from adrenaline charged thrills to leisurely family friendly attractions.
By Gary Buswell
Here are a few tips for great days out…
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
The site of London’s 2012 Olympics and Paralympics is now a spectacular visitor attraction in the east of the Capital. What better way to inspire youngsters than to take them for a tour of these iconic venues, filled with tales of sporting glory?
In addition to facilities such as the Olympic Stadium, the Aquatics Centre and the VeloPark, there are playgrounds, waterways and parklands, ideal for picnics. There’s also the 376-foot-high ArcelorMittal Orbit, for those that fancy seeing panoramic views of the city or experiencing a heart-racing 40-second slide from the top back down to earth.
The whole park has been designed with accessibility and inclusion in mind. All venues have disability access, and there’s a mobility service that offers wheelchair and scooter hire for visitors. Sighted guides are available too, but these should be booked in advance.
Admission: Free (special events and activities are individually priced)
West Midlands Safari and Leisure Park
Spread across 100 acres and encompassing a drive-through safari, animal houses and an adventure theme park, this attraction offers something for the whole family. You can see all sorts of creatures from hippos to penguins, to creepy-crawlies in the insect house, and you’ll also see the only pride of white lions in the UK.
The park is wheelchair-friendly, although naturally there are a few steep and uneven outdoor surfaces. There are plenty of fully accessible rides in the theme park (such as the hair-raising Venom Tower Drop) and there’s a multi-sensory play area for young children. Wheelchairs are loaned out free of
charge but need to be booked in advance. The park offers free admittance for carers (one per visitor) and this also applies for visually impaired visitors and their guides.
Admission: £24 adults, £22 seniors/discount, £19 children aged 3-15 (extra for theme park rides)
Gliding with Walking on Air
If you’re looking for something a bit different, how about gliding over a Scottish loch? The Walking on Air charity enables disabled people aged 14 and above to fly in a specially modified glider.
The charity works in partnership with the Scottish Gliding Union and activities take place at the Portmoak Airfield near Glenrothes. Visitors get the chance to accompany an experienced instructor in a two-seat K21 glider plane with dual controls. Overnight accommodation with disability-friendly facilities is available.
If you don’t mind splashing about while you’re having fun, head down to this all-seasons tropical water wonderland in Southampton. Younger and more active visitors can ride the rapids, the flume and more, while anyone looking for something a bit less hectic can relax in the spa Jacuzzi.
The rapids is a high octane facility but is disability friendly and rides can be enjoyed by all – as long as you don’t mind crowds and loud noise. There are accessible changing rooms and toilets, a pool hoist and fully trained lifeguards.
Search ‘Romsey Rapids’ via: www.visit-hampshire.co.uk
Admission: Family Fun Session: £6 adult, £4.25 juniors (family ticket: £18.95). Disabled adults £4.25, carers go free.
For something a bit more quaint and nostalgia-inducing, a 30-minute ride through the Dorset countryside might do the trick. Swanage Railway offers both old-skool steam and diesel services to conjure up memories of bygone days.
The service has been made accessible with ramps and an open-access carriage (including an accessible toilet) to accommodate wheelchair users. There’s also wheelchair storage if you want to transfer to
a standard carriage seat.
The journey takes in uninterrupted views of the Corfe Castle ruins and the south-west coastline, or you can get off at one of the charming station stops – although Norden is the only station with an accessible toilet. Here you will also find a picnic area and a small mining museum close by, so it’s a good place if you’re looking for somewhere en route to stop off for a couple of hours.
Admission: Swanage to Norden £13 adult return, £8 child return
This medieval fortress looks out towards the Irish Sea and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in North Wales. Built by King Edward I around 1284 it’s a listed World Heritage Site. Visitors can also see the remains of the town walls, built at around the same time, and there’s also the interesting Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum within the castle for military history enthusiasts to enjoy.
Medieval fortresses aren’t always the most disability-friendly of structures but, thanks to the work of a local disability access group, Caernarfon Castle is now much more inclusive. Inner wards can be accessed by wheelchair users via a ramp.
Other useful websites
– information on walks around the UK that are accessible for wheelchair users and buggies.
– information on free and discounted entry to National Trust sites for disabled people and their carers.