While there’s still a huge amount of work to be done, British cities are becoming more wheelchair-friendly (file photo)
City breaks and wheelchairs used to make for pretty appalling bedfellows — especially in the UK.
Not so long ago, ‘accessible’ used to mean little more than an annexe hotel room with no view, access to just the ground floor of historic buildings and eating outside at restaurants and pubs which don’t have ramps.
While there’s still a huge amount of work to be done before British cities can claim to be the equal of European leader (and multi-accessibility award winner) Barcelona when it comes to being wheelchair-friendly, things are improving.
Paul and Erica Crompton have been documenting the UK city break scene for wheelchair users over the past few years, and sharing their experiences on their website Hope Zine (hopezine.com).
Paul became a wheelchair user 21 years ago after a car accident. He and Erica have been travelling the country ever since to test and rate towns and cities for accessibility. Here are five of the best…
CHEERS FOR CHESTER
Paul and Erica Crompton have been documenting the UK city break scene for wheelchair users over the past few years on their website Hope Zine. They say that Chester (above) is one of the nation’s most accessible cities
The first British city to win the European Access City Award, Chester does an admirable job of overcoming its Roman limitations for wheelchair users. Even the ‘Rows’ (Chester’s unique half-timbered shops above street level) are accessible from four places.
One hour’s drive from Chester, the observatory Jodrell Bank (jodrellbank.net) impressed Paul and Erica by prioritising wheelchair users at its planetarium show. Carers also get free admission to the whole attraction.
STAY THE NIGHT: Crabwall Manor just outside the city excels with its wheelchair-friendly spa facilities including a hoist for people to access the pool and plentiful steps and rails. Doubles B&B from £108.90 (crabwallmanorhotel.com).
GOOD OLD YORK
Paul and Erica note that York Minster (above) has a wide ramp allowing wheelchair users to get into the building easily, plus there are clean and easy-to-find disabled toilets
Another Northern city which belies its medieval, Georgian and Victorian architecture, York offers a huge variety of wheelchair-friendly attractions.
Level entrance access and lifts make the National Railway Museum (railway museum.org.uk) accessible, while Paul and Erica single out York Minster (yorkminster.org) for its wide ramp allowing wheelchair users to get into the building easily, plus clean and easy-to-find disabled toilets.
STAY THE NIGHT: Sandburn Hall, set among 1,000 acres of lakes and woodland outside York, has excellent disabled facilities, including bathrooms with adjustable mirrors. Doubles B&B from £128.20 (sandburnhall.co.uk).
This coastal city excels when it comes to wheelchair access. The i360 big wheel (brightoni360.co.uk) has a ramp and lift connecting the top of the ride with the beach level, plus convenient disabled parking with a flat subway leading directly to the beach level. If you need to hire a wheelchair, you can rent one here.
For nightlife, many of the liveliest pubs and bars have wheelchair access, including North Laine Brewhouse.
STAY THE NIGHT: The Hilton Brighton Metropole has five accessible rooms, some with sea views. Doubles B&B from £86 (hilton.com).
POWER TO PERTH
Undertake the famed Enchanted Forest walk in beautiful Faskally Wood (above) outside Perth – volunteers along the trail can help push wheelchairs in steeper terrain
The historic Scottish city impressed Paul and Erica thanks to the accessibility of the town’s famed Enchanted Forest walk (enchantedforest.org.uk) in beautiful Faskally Wood, north of Pitlochry. It has a spectacular sound and light show in the evenings. Volunteers sited along the trail can help push wheelchairs in steeper terrain.
STAY THE NIGHT: Blairmore Farm has two wheelchair-friendly cottages, with ramps between rooms. Parking is just outside the front door. From £400 for a two-night minimum stay (blairmorefarm.com).
Take in the exhibits at the Titanic Belfast museum, which has fully accessible spaces and galleries
The museum devoted to the doomed Titanic liner (titanicbelfast.com) has fully accessible spaces and galleries plus numerous disabled toilets.
Paul and Erica were also particularly impressed by Billy’s Blue Badge Tours (touringaroundbelfast.com) where a black cab takes visitors around the Peace Wall and the murals of the Falls and Shankill Road. The cab is big enough to take wheelchairs inside itself rather than packing them into the boot.
STAY THE NIGHT: The Belfast Holiday Inn right in the city centre has 14 wheelchair-accessible rooms. All public areas are wheelchair-friendly, too. Doubles B&B in an accessible room from £72 (ihg.com).
- Read about Paul and Erica’s wheelchair adventures, plus find tips and advice at hopezine.com.