As ‘The Bimblers’, we describe ourselves as the UK’s most unlikely travel bloggers. My partner, Bridget and I travel in wheelchairs, reviewing access as we go. Driven by the mantra: ‘Access for all’ I aim to share my thoughts, observations and ideas to make travel easier for people of all abilities. I’ve collected up my notes on the best accessible beaches in the UK and where to hire beach wheelchairs from.
By Robert Obey
In the UK, sunny days are few and far between. So, when they happen, there’s usually a mad rush to the beach. We are an island nation, we have a certain affinity with the sea and are blessed with some fantastic seaside towns and beaches. But, have you ever tried visiting the beach in a wheelchair?
If you have, you’ll know that sand and wheels don’t mix. Whenever I’ve tried to push Bridget on sand, I’ve had to give up because we either got stuck or I collapsed from exhaustion. Unless you’re superhuman, you are going to need to use a beach wheelchair, and that’s where it gets tricky.
There are initiatives dotted around the UK; schemes that aim to help wheelchair users access the beach. And when I say access, I mean getting onto the sand and, in some cases, into the sea. However, during my research, it became clear that although there are plenty of accessible beaches, there aren’t enough beach wheelchairs; certainly not enough to meet demand. Added to that, information available on both, is often few and far between.
I’ve collected up my notes on some of the great accessible beaches and beach wheelchair hire facilities across the UK to help you enjoy a day out at the seaside.
Accessible beaches in England
When you consider the length of England’s coastline, and the number of seaside towns along it, you’d be forgiven for assuming that many of its popular beaches would be accessible. In parts, they are, but they’re not fully accessible, and that’s a real shame. Nevertheless, there are places that take access much more seriously than others.
A beach lover’s paradise; Cornwall has more than enough beaches to create an entire list of ones to visit. However, not all of their beaches are accessible.
Cornwall Council, along with Cornwall Mobility, Cornwall Disability and other charities, have worked together to create a map of accessible beaches across the county. The map also lists where sand chairs (beach wheelchairs) are available to hire. Search ‘sand chairs’ on: www.cornwall.gov.uk to view the map.
Neighbouring Devon also has a lot of beaches and quite a few that advertise beach wheelchairs for hire which you can find on the Accessible Countryside website: www.accessiblecountryside.org.uk
Brighton and Hove
Brighton and Hove beach in East Sussex has won numerous accolades, most notably being named as a top beach by Lonely Planet and for inclusion, in Visit England‘s coastal guide. Two beach wheelchairs are available to hire from the seafront office.
The quintessential British holiday destination on Norfolk’s golden coast has miles of sandy beaches, unlimited fun and entertainment and, of course, a few beach wheelchairs, available from the Great Yarmouth tourist office.
One of the most well-known seaside towns in the UK. It has sandy beaches, a wonderful promenade for a wheelchair stroll, more entertainment than you can handle in one visit and beach wheelchairs for hire.
Accessible beaches in Wales
The Welsh coast is home to many accessible beaches, some of which have beach wheelchairs available for hire.
One of Pembrokeshire’s worthy winners of a Seaside Award for 2019 (the national standard for the best beaches across the UK). At low tide, a broad expanse of firm sand is revealed, making it one of the most popular beaches on the Pembrokeshire coast. A limited number of beach wheelchairs are available to hire.
Another Blue Flag beach situated on the beautiful Gower Peninsula. Not too far from Mumbles, this sandy beach is flanked by pretty Edwardian beach huts. Visitors can take a stroll along the accessible promenade, or reserve a beach wheelchair to access the beach.
A large south-east facing beach with golden sand, disabled access and a selection of beach wheelchairs for hire. Nearby, the pretty harbour and shopping area add to the destination’s popularity.
Beach wheelchairs in Scotland
Beach Wheelchairs is a Scottish charity in North Berwick that believes everyone should have access to the country’s beaches. It has four beach wheelchairs available for hire from the beach hut in North Berwick, East Lothian.
Thanks to Disability Horizons for this article.