Summer is the time for big adventures. The days are longer, warmer and sunnier. And when it comes to things to do, we’re always spoilt for choice. But for some of us, it’s not always as easy as picking an activity and heading off for a day of fun. If you or a member of your family have any additional needs, then planning a day out can be that little bit more complicated. You might worry about parking, or how busy it is, how close the toilets are or whether the staff know how to support your visit. That’s why we’ve put together our top places for an accessible activities this summer.
If you have any tips of your own for taking the pressure off a fun day out, then please do get in touch.
Fresh air and adventure in the Lake District
Stay: YHA Ambleside
The Lake District is a walker’s paradise. Its cloud-kissing fells and epic views have inspired many a poetic soul. But its steep slopes and rough paths don’t immediately put you in mind of accessible walking routes for those with limited mobility. That’s where Miles without Stiles come in. They provide information on routes that are easy-going and wheelchair friendly in our National Parks. There are 48 to choose from in the Lake District, enough to satisfy even the most ardent walker. Route eight on the Miles without Stiles website details a 1.5km walk around Brockhole that takes in the shores of Lake Windermere, Brockhole’s gorgeous gardens and an epic adventure playground that’s perfect for little ones (which includes a swing for children with disabilities and a wide slide). The route is entirely on a level, with short sections of 1:12 gradient. The visitor centre, café, meadow trails and much of the grounds are accessible to those with limited mobility, and the excellently named electric buggy ‘the Brockmobile’ is available to ferry you from the car park or lakeside jetty to the visitor centre. Brockhole is just a four-minute drive from YHA Ambleside, one of our most popular hostels with views that are, frankly, too good to be true. The reception, café/bar, self-catering kitchen and communal areas all have step-free access, and there is a ground floor accessible bedroom with an en suite wet room.
Download YHA Ambleside’s access statement here.
Have a Eureka! moment at the National Children’s Museum
Stay: YHA Haworth
This museum in Halifax is specially designed for kids and my goodness does it deliver. Tailoring to the 0-11-year-old market, young visitors have six zones to explore, covering everything from the mysteries of deep space to the fascinatingly gross ways our bodies work. It’s quite literally full to the rafters with interactive exhibits to get young minds whirring with new facts and things to discover. In addition to its bamboozling array of exciting exhibits, Eureka! is also brilliantly accessible for families with different needs. As well as fast-track admission, accessible toilets (one of which is a Changing-Places toilet) and a hearing loop at all tills, they also have an online sensory guide available to download on their website so you can prepare for your visit. Many of their staff are learning BSL and some are trained to use the BlueAssist system to support visitors who have trouble communicating. Best of all, however, is their free ‘Extra Pair of Hands’ service aimed at families with a disabled child. Bookable two weeks in advance, a staff member will call to discuss your child’s likes, dislikes and triggers, then they will join you for two hours of your visit to provide whatever support you might need. You can book an Extra Pair of Hands through their usual booking line 01422 330069. Eureka! is less than half an hour away from YHA Haworth, a gorgeous Victorian Gothic mansion in the heart of Brontë country. The hostel has a fully accessible room with a level access bathroom close by, but the shallow step at the front entrance and steep outside slope leading to the self-catering kitchen make it only suitable for those with limited mobility.
Download YHA Haworth’s access statement here.
Starry eyed at Chatsworth House
One of the most famous and recognisable stately homes in Britain, Chatsworth House is the well-loved home of the Duke of Devonshire that has been in the Cavendish family since the 16th century. Chatsworth’s stunning grounds and classically aristocratic house have made it the star of many a period film and BBC dramas (Keira Knightly can’t get enough of the place). And, unusually for such an old and grand place, the house, gardens and grounds are fully accessible to those with limited mobility. The entire visitor’s route inside the house is wheelchair accessible (although electric scooters aren’t permitted) and they have eight wheelchairs available for guests to book in advance. To get out and about in Chatsworth’s extensive grounds, you can hop on a buggy tour for a small charge which leaves from outside the Orangery shop. Visitors with sensory impairments can pick up a multimedia guide from the North Entrance Hall to help you find your way around the house, and there’s a dedicated ‘sensory garden’ that’s designed to pique all your senses. Assistance dogs are welcome at Chatsworth as long as they’re good boys and girls who are house trained. If you want to prepare yourself ahead of your trip, you can familiarise yourself with the visitor route and learn more about the house by downloading room cards from their website. The grandeur of Chatsworth is less than half an hour from YHA Castleton Losehill Hall, our not-quite-so-grand but equally lovely property in the heart of the Peak District. The hostel has step free access to all communal areas and three accessible bedrooms with en suite wet rooms. The reception is fitted with a hearing loop and we have a vibrating pillow alarm available for guests with hearing impairments.
Download YHA Castleton Losehill Hall’s access statement here.
Soak in the culture at York Art Gallery
Stay: YHA York
In our (very extensive) list of gorgeous British cities, York is right up there at the top. Its narrow streets are just teeming with history and you can’t turn a corner without coming across a beautiful building or picturesque park. York Art Gallery is a natural extension to the city’s grand beauty, hosting collections spanning 600 years of artistic brilliance. Home to work ranging from 14th century Italian panellists to modern pieces by Hockney and Lowry, the gallery’s also put a great deal of effort into making their spaces as open and accessible as possible. Members of their visitor experience team are trained in autism and visual impairment awareness, many of them are dementia friends, and they operate a traffic light sticker system for people with sensory issues, allowing visitors to indicate how much support they would like during their trip. All levels of the museum are wheelchair accessible and where they don’t have automatic doors, there is a designated member of staff waiting to open it for you. Throughout the year the gallery open-up their spaces for ‘low sensory experiences’, which are designed for visitors who would prefer a quieter visit. The light and noise levels are carefully monitored, and they set aside a space that’s calm and quiet for anyone who needs it. These events are free for people with autism, dementia and other conditions, the next one is on Sunday 15th September and you can just rock up – there’s no need to book. The delightful YHA York is only a 7 minute drive from the gallery, or if parking in the city centre is a concern you can get any number of buses (which are all wheelchair accessible). YHA York has a ground floor accessible bedroom with en suite bathroom, two spaces for blue badge holders and a portable induction loop in the reception area.
Download YHA York’s access statement here.