28 June 2018

What are the most accessible days out this summer?

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The summer has arrived and as the weather improves many people begin to think of making the most of the season and going on days out.

There are a variety of days out that can be had and those with mobility issues who need stair lifts around their home can still enjoy accessible trips. Here we take you through the most accessible days out that can be had across the UK.

Brighton Palace Pier

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Brighton Palace Pier is unique in that there are very few piers like it in the UK. There’s world-class rides, like the loop-the-loop Turbo Coaster and the Crazy Mouse, as well as arcades and games. The Palm Court Restaurant and Horatio’s Bar have undergone a multimillion-pound makeover just in time for summer, and new features include a four-storey play area (Palace Play) and an exciting ride for grandchildren – The I220!

The pier is very accessible, with the decking on the walkway specially augmented for wheelchair access, all facilities on one level and all staff trained on disability awareness. The arcades, restaurants and bars are all wheelchair accessible. There are also disabled toilets on both ends of the pier.

A spokesperson for the Brighton Palace Pier adds: “It is really important that our attraction is accessible to everyone so that all of the public can enjoy the great benefits and fun of Brighton Palace Pier. We take responsibility to all of our customers extremely seriously.”

Caernarfon Castle

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This brute of a fortress would certainly have been a daunting prospect for any invaders and this was the intention of King Edward I. Caernarfon Castle is one of the most impressive castles in Wales and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The castle is the perfect summer day out and during your visit you can look at the polygonal towers and learn about the history of the structure and how it was once a Norman motte. You can also head to the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, which is housed in two of the castle’s towers.

The castle is very accessible with the entrance boasting a purpose-built access ramp, which enables access from the kerbside at street level to the main entrance. Wheelchair access is provided? throughout the lower level and portable induction loops are available. However, the visitor toilets are accessed via two flights of metal stairs and the towers are also accessed only via stairs and both are therefore inaccessible for those with limited mobility.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government, who look after the running of the castle, says it is important that the likes of Caernarfon Castle are accessible: “It is important that all of our castles and heritage sites in Wales are as accessible as they can possibly be. Given that we are working in historic buildings, we do seek to widen public access to our sites as much as possible.”

Kew Gardens

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Summer is a fantastic time to visit Kew. Kew is London's largest UNESCO World Heritage site, offering unique landscapes, vistas and iconic architecture from every stage of the Gardens' history.

Here you can see a huge collection of living plants, the largest and most diverse in the world, growing out in the landscape and within the glasshouses and nurseries. The Victorian Palm House is one of Kew’s most recognisable buildings. Inside, the rainforest climate supports a unique collection of palms and other tropical species from some of the most threatened environments on Earth. Another highlight is the Great Broad Walk Borders, which opened in July 2016 and forms the longest double herbaceous border in the country. May 2018 saw the grand reopening of the Temperate House, the world’s largest surviving Victorian glasshouse, which contains 1,500 plant species from across the globe’s temperate zones.

Other highlights include the The Hive, the Treetop Walkway, the Princess of Wales Conservatory, the Marianne North Gallery and the Shirley Sherwood Gallery.

Talking about the accessibility at the gardens, a spokeswoman says: “It is so important that the Gardens are accessible to all as we want everyone to have an enjoyable time at Kew. As such, we aim to provide the best possible access throughout the Gardens, our glasshouses and galleries.”

The Gardens are flat, with tarmac paths in most places, all the cafés and shops have level or ramped access, and there are wheelchairs and eight mobility scooters available for visitors to borrow. There are also a number of tours and walks for visitors with sensory loss or limited mobility, such as the Discovery bus tour (a minibus tour around the Gardens).

Minack Theatre

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For clarity, could you mention that it’s in Cornwall?

Despite being located halfway down a cliff, the Minack Theatre regularly accommodates customers with limited mobility and its exhibition, shop and café are all wheelchair accessible and there is a fully configured toilet facility for wheelchair users.

Phil Jackson, the Theatre Manager, says that visitors take something different from a visit during the summer:

“People all take something different from a visit. Those who visit when there is no performance comment on the stunning location and the extraordinary story of Rowena Cade. Those who attend performances again comment on the location, but it’s the overall experience of watching a show with 500+ people on the side of a cliff with the Atlantic as a backdrop!”

The theatre, which is eight miles from Penzance, is accessible by car and bus and there is a wheelchair on site that visitors can borrow.

This year’s performances run until the end of September at 8 pm from Monday to Friday and 2 pm on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

Roman Baths

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Could you clarify it’s in Bath?

The Roman Baths stay open until 10 pm every evening during the summer, offering visitors a chance to soak up the special atmosphere around the torchlit Great Bath.

These Torchlit Summer Evenings are running from 16 June to 31 August 2018 (last admission 9 pm) and the historic site takes on a magical atmosphere once the daylight fades and the flickering torches are lit. Visitors can walk around the Great Bath where people bathed nearly 2,000 years ago, see the ruins of the Temple of Sulis Minerva where Roman worshippers gathered, and wander around the Roman Baths museum.

If you decide to visit in the evening you will also benefit from reduced ticket prices after 5 pm.

Visitors can combine a trip to the Roman Baths with a breakfast, lunch or dinner package at the Roman Baths Kitchen or Pump Room Restaurant.

The baths are very accessible, with 90% of the site available to wheelchair users, while visitors with hearing or visual impairments can enjoy the site using the British Sign Language or fully descriptive audio tour and tactile models.

There are three wheelchairs available for use by visitors and there is a small mobility scooter that can be borrowed by those whose own an electric wheelchair/mobility scooter that is too heavy for the attraction’s lifts (total maximum weight 300kg, maximum length 1200mm).

The Shopmobility service in Bath can reserve wheelchairs and mobility scooters for visitors too.

St Fagans National Museum of History

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The St Fagans National Museum of History could mention location? is another accessible summer day out that can be had as the museum has free parking spaces for Blue Badge holders adjacent to the main entrance. Wheelchairs are available free of charge on request for those who need them, and are provided on a first come, first served basis.

Wheelchair access is possible to most parts of the site. However, due to the historic nature of some of the buildings, some access may be difficult. There are disabled toilet facilities in the main building and the redeveloped main building also features two lifts, and there is a level access walkway to the site via a corridor that runs adjacent to the restaurant.

There is also a motorised Disabled Tour Vehicle (DTV) that can transport visitors around the site. The DTV can carry up to a maximum of five passengers and can be booked up to two weeks in advance by contacting the museum.

But why should you visit? One reason is that St Fagans is regarded as one of Europe's leading open-air museums and Wales's most popular heritage attraction.

Since 1948 over forty original buildings from different historical periods have been re-erected in the 100-acre parkland, among them houses, a farm, a school, a chapel and a splendid Workmen's Institute.

Image Credit: RBG Kew, Erwan Deverre, Gareth Gardner, Richard Szwejkowski.