Being a wheelchair user can present certain challenges when trying to find accessible accommodation, especially if you’re hoping to stay somewhere remote. So when my partner, Stephen and I discovered the OmniPods glamping pod in the Devonshire countryside we couldn’t wait to try it out.
By Karla Baker
It was a Friday afternoon when we made our way down the winding, narrow lanes of South Devon. We knew we were heading somewhere rural, but we didn’t realise quite how rural! Hedges full of bright blue and purple flowers lined the roads, and behind them the tall grass looked like a green sea rippling in the wind. Before long we had arrived at our home for the weekend and I was straight up the decked ramp, eager to check it out.
A lot of accessible accommodation looks quite clinical, like something you’d find in a hospital, but not this place. It had a real luxury feel to it and was decorated so beautifully with scatter cushions, books and ornaments, that the untrained eye would never notice it was fully accessible. Of course, living with a disability you can spot these things a mile away, especially some of the main features like the wetroom and wheelchair-height kitchen features, but as we settled in we kept discovering further hidden things, like a voice-controlled smart home system, profiling beds and switches to open and close the blinds. It was more accessible than our own home, and we knew we were in for a great weekend.
After a wonderful night’s sleep, we headed out to explore the nearby coastal town of Salcombe. Although steep and narrow in parts, it was such a beautifully quaint place to wander around. We popped into a few boutique shops and found a little cafe, where we picked up some lunch and strolled to the harbour to watch the boats gently bobbing around as we ate.
With the day still young, we decided to head to somewhere I had come across while planning our trip – Start Point, a dramatic coastal area dominated by a lighthouse. I’d found out that it had a smooth, tarmac walking route along the cliff edge, and couldn’t wait to see it for myself. We weren’t disappointed, instantly enjoying uninterrupted views down across the dramatic and rugged Devonshire coastline, and began our stroll to the lighthouse. Passing through the gate we were straight onto the track that ran just over half a mile to the end.
We made our way down, admiring the stunning scenery as we went. Once at the lighthouse, Start Point lived up to its reputation as being one of the most exposed peninsulas on the English coast, and the winds really picked up. We turned back to see a humongous black cloud quickly drifting in our direction so we hurried back to the car, heading in to wind so powerful that I was using all of my strength just to keep my arms from flying off my powerchair controller. Just as we thought the weather couldn’t get much worse, the horizontal rain set in.
Looking like a pair of drowned rats we eventually made it back to the car to dry off and warm up. It was certainly a memorable experience, and my motto is: “An experience is better than no experience”. Despite the wind and rain, I’d definitely recommend a visit if you enjoy scenic, accessible strolls.
After a relaxed evening in the pod, we woke up hoping for better weather as we headed slightly further afield to Dartmoor, to explore more of the countryside. We started with lunch at one of the most picturesque restaurants we’ve ever visited – Badgers Holt. Nestled among trees on the edge of the River Dart, and with beautiful peacocks wandering around us, we finished our food then continued the adventure along the river to Bellever Forest. Once there, we got out for a wander, enjoying the peace and tranquillity of being the only human beings around. The only sound we could hear was the flowing river running over its rocky bed, with the bright yellow gorse bushes providing the only flash of colour on this bleak yet calm day.
Our adventurous day in Dartmoor was coming to a close, but we wanted to take the scenic route back through the stunning national park. We found ourselves driving through valleys and over hills, rewarded with magnificent views of the ancient landscape, before passing through miniature villages full of wisteria-covered cottages selling homemade jam outside. It was like something from a picture postcard.
Back at the pod it was drizzling a little but mild in temperature, and not wanting to go inside yet I couldn’t resist sitting out on the veranda, under the canopy reading my book. I found my happy place right there, getting all the enjoyment from being outside, looking out over the hills and hearing the gentle pitter-patter of the rain, without getting wet. Covered outdoor spaces are so underrated.
Waking up on the final day of our glamping trip, we headed to the nearby estuary town of Kingsbridge for some lunch, before making our way back to Salcombe for a wander around Overbeck’s, a country house and garden run by the National Trust – just as the Sun was finally trying to make an appearance.
Nestled on the hillside, as we passed through the gates it felt like we had been transported to a hidden paradise. Much like a secret garden, every path we went down presented us with more amazing views, the subtropical microclimate supporting palm trees that framed the sparkling sea in the background. We wandered up and down the steep but accessible paths taking in the striking, colourful plants and exotic scents. Too busy enjoying the incredible landscape we didn’t get a chance to explore the house, but that can wait for another day. We always love exploring National Trust places, but Overbeck’s turned out to be one of our favourites yet, and the perfect way to end our time in Devon.
Before this trip we never considered glamping as an accessible option, but now it’s definitely something we’d do again. We were able to stay in the heart of the countryside and explore some beautiful places – all while staying in a luxurious and practical wooden pod, designed for people of all abilities. We can’t wait to return.
Omnipod booked through Airbnb
Badgers Holt Restaurant and Tearooms
Tel: 01364 631213