Blue Monday may have come and gone but many of us are feeling its after effects. If you’ve been spending your January looking out the window, at the cold and rain, dreaming of a better place, then it’s probably time to start planning your holidays for the year and bring some positivity back.
Now, having only just mentioned the weather, this might be a bit of a controversial thing to say, but we’re going to recommend the British countryside as a great destination for a short accessible break. The weather in England might not be warm, or sunny, or even dry most of the time but we do have some gorgeous countryside to enjoy and hundreds or thousands of little country villages to explore.
Staying in the country, rather than going abroad, makes a lot of sense. It tends to be cheaper, for one thing. Plus, by staying in England less able people need not be subjected to the same level of stress that comes with travelling abroad – there’s no hassle with airlines and getting around – as long as you can get a suitable WAV, you’re good to go and there a lots of accessible places to stay.
It’s a chance to get outside, into the open air, and get away from the stresses of everyday life. Here’s our guide to accessing the countryside:
Where To Stay:
We’d recommend renting a country cottage because we’ve found that there are quite a few that have been purposefully built or adapted for less physically able people. These are more likely to be more fully accessible than most hotels or B&Bs, even those that have a disabled accessible room. It’s also just a really nice way to spend a cosy, communal week with friends and family.
There are several websites for renting countryside cottages that allow you to filter your search of their database to find accessible options. But a word of warning: with many sites you’ll find that the information on disabled access in their cottages is either unclear – meaning you have to call each cottage to find out about the details, like on Holiday Cottages – or that the level of increased accessibility doesn’t amount to much (e.g. the cottage is on one floor, or even just has a ground floor bedroom). Too often you find the classic case of venues being loosely defined as ‘wheelchair accessible’, as a catch all term, with no additional information provided.
On the other hand, there are some sites that really do provide accessible cottages and more to the point, make it clear online what that entails. This saves you the frustrating process of having to make a phone call, every time you see somewhere you like, in order to find out what they mean when they say it’s accessible. We want to point out a few websites that have gone the extra mile to make it easier to find out about the access in the cottages they supply.
The Disabled Holiday Directory may sound a little bit naff – sometimes a name like that suggests an approach that is a little too clinical in just providing functioning mobility equipment without concern for how it looks – but we have to to say that that’s not the case at all here. It is specifically aimed at the disabled market but it actually has some really stylish cottages on offer which combine function with fashion.
You can narrow down the options by using their accessibility filter or you can scroll through the list and use the key they give to find something suitable for you. Most of the more accessible options come earlier in the list with some of their later options being ‘generally accessible’. There are certainly some cool options available in this directory such as the cottages in the pictures above and below but it would be nice to see some more places available.
We’ve picked out this cottage in Hambleton, Lancashire, which is one of five there, all purpose built for wheelchair accessibility. It’s fitted out with grab rails, wheelchair ramps, an electric bed, raised power points, lowered light switch and a wheel in shower. It’s also possible for them to make hoists or extra care available. You can see from the pictures they provide that they have aimed to maintain a stylish look while incorporating adapted facilities. It looks like a pretty good place to use as your base for some time in the country.
Another similar collection of cottages is available in the Disability Holiday Guide. Again, this is a bit of a ‘pigeon-holey’ name but sometimes you just want something that does what it says on the tin. It’s a similar set up to the Disabled Holiday Directory but with a smaller collection of properties. We like the fact that they show you some images of the access but their cottages are perhaps a little more cosy rather than stylish.
There are a few other countryside places to stay that we’ve been recently recommended which we can quickly mention. McTaggarts in Ashill, Norfolk, is more of a bar/restaurant with rooms but they contacted us saying that their building has all been adapted for wheelchair users. The Heather Barn cottage, by Kernock Cottages in Cornwall, is a luxury accessible cottage with two bedrooms and is beautifully decorated. Finally, the Tottergill Farm, in Cumbria, has three accessible buildings with good access and again they are all rather modern and cool. We can’t list every accessible cottage in the country here but we hope we’ve given some ideas and some resources!
What To Do:
If you go out to the country then you want to be out in the country, not stuck at your cottage or in the car. The obvious problem is that you need to be sure that, when you’re out and about, you don’t run into obstacles such as stiles or steps. It’s therefore great to see that many people are doing what they can to provide details of accessible places to go for a walk.
Walks With Wheelchairs is a superb tool for less able people looking for an accessible walk. You can find walks all around the UK with filters to help select the length, maximum gradient and terrain of the walk you want to go on. It’s a excellent idea and is the only website where you can find walks all over the country. Their database is growing, if not particularly vast at the moment, but if you know any good accessible walks you can add your own to their collection.
Aside from Walks With Wheelchairs there are other, more localised, resources for accessible walks. Some good Accessible Coast Path walks can be found here. Otherwise most resources are found at county or national park websites. One of the best is the Lake District’s Miles Without Stiles webpage which details over 40 walks without stiles or steps. Devon, Cornwall, New Forest, Snowdonia and Exmoor all also have guides to accessing the local countryside.
Anybody looking for a little more adventure than a leisurely walk in the country should take a look at the Calvert Trust. It’s a trio of five star accredited, award winning outdoor adventure centres for less able thrill seekers. With centres in Exmoor, Kielder and the Lake District they’re in several of the best areas of English countryside.
Activities include climbing, water activities, rope courses, hand crank bikes and velcro Olympics (which sounds amazing, just based on the name) and many more. The centres all aim to provide a challenge and an adventure for every visitor they have. You can book for a day visit or stay for longer at some of them and kids and grown ups are welcome. Their motto is that “it’s what you can do that counts” – fantastic!
Where To Go:
Where you go to eat, drink or sight see is obviously highly dependent on where you stay. All we’d say is that it’s always a good idea to have the Blue Badge Style App handy because we may have found a stylish and accessible venue in the area you stay.
If you do find anywhere that we haven’t yet please get in touch with us so we can add it to our app and website and spread the word!