VisitEngland: accessible coastal breaks
Following on from VisitEngland’s launch of its Access for All campaign – which aimed to raise awareness of accessible places across England – VisitEngland has created three guides with a wealth of advice and information on accessible travel. Covering seven areas – Brighton, Margate, Birmingham, Lincoln, Nottingham, Northumberland, and the Peak District – 56 businesses across these locations have assisted in compiling the guides to help you choose your next holiday destination.
In a three-part series, VisitEngland shares its guides with Disability Horizons readers. This week find out about accessible coastal breaks.
If you fancy dipping your toes in Brighton’s colourful, eclectic waters, there’s some seriously good news. The coastal city’s sites and key attractions are more than well prepared for you and your family and friends if you’re disabled or have any accessibility requirements. And with many facets to its cultural personality, there’s truth in the “there’s something for everyone” saying here.
Visit and you’ll find a host of quirky boutiques in The Lanes, bold street art and a vibrant, bohemian café culture in the North Laine, juxtaposed against the curved white façades of imposing Regency architecture.
The Royal Pavilion sits at the heart of the city. Built for George IV, this nineteenth century Chinoiserie style palace is a symbol of Brighton’s love of the left-field. Inside, the Music Room ceiling adorned by 26,000 gold plaster cockleshells is sheer visual spectacle. The ground floor is accessible to wheelchair users and has an audio-visual room. Audio tours, tactile and sign language interpreted tours are available to book in advance.
In the Royal Pavilion Garden you’ll find Brighton Museum & Art Gallery; home to weird and wonderful artefacts fusing art and history. The Willett Gallery houses a large pottery, fossil and natural history collection, while in the Performance Gallery you can take a look behind the scenes at masks, puppets, sets and costumes. All areas are accessible for wheelchair users. There is a hearing loop at the information desk and shop, tactile/ braille maps are also available.
Change the pace entirely at Sea Life Brighton. Situated right on the seafront next to Brighton’s iconic pier – and with easy accessibility – this is the world’s oldest aquarium and an excellent spot to take the kids or grandchildren. New for 2015 is the Jurassic Seas exhibit, where you can feed a deadly Plesiosaurus using state of the art technology, meet Charlie the resident Snakeneck Turtle and see the mighty Megalodon The Royal Pavilion
Fancy exploring around Hove? No problem. Brighton and Hove buses operate a fleet of 280 accessible low floor buses that are wheelchair friendly and run 24 hours a day. Plus, they have free Wi-Fi and talking bus stop announcements with visual displays, so you can relax and enjoy the seascape scenery. From the stop at North Street/ Old Steine, near Sea Life Brighton take the the 1 or 1A towards Hove and arrive in just 15 minutes.
The Hove Museum & Art Gallery is a treasure trove of toys, art and cinema. This majestic Victorian villa was where the first British film was shot in 1898. Learn about film making in one of two interactive galleries. And ‘Wizard’s Attic’ is packed to the rafters with toys throughout history; from Pierotti portrait dolls to Star Wars figures, all set to the snores of the elusive wizard.
Preston Manor is an elegant seventeenth century historic house which underwent substantial Edwardian remodelling by its upper class family owners; the Stanfords; who became one of the biggest landowners in Brighton. Take a tour around to immerse yourself in the ‘Downton’ style upstairs/ downstairs life at the manor. Both tactile and sign language interpreted tours can be booked to view all 20 rooms.
When the sun goes down, Brighton’s cosmopolitan credentials don’t disappoint. Indulge in some award-winning cuisine at one of its many notable restaurants and then head to a live performance at the Brighton Dome. This premier multi-arts venue presents over 600 events annually spanning classical and contemporary music, theatre, dance, comedy, literature, visual arts and film. The Grade I listed Dome setting is pretty special too.
There’s three accessible performance venues here; the Concert Hall, Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre with Sennheiser and T-loop systems in the auditoria and bar areas. You can also opt for sign language interpreted and STAGETEXT captioned performances, relaxed performances and touch tours. The Brighton Centre is the place to catch the hottest stars; from rock gods to high-profile comedians.
It also hosts public exhibitions on the wider cultural arts. There are accessible viewing platforms for wheelchair users, a low level counter and induction loop in the box office and accessible lifts and toilets.
Overall, both public and private organisations in Brighton and Hove are fully committed to making the city as accessible as possible to each and every visitor. And it really shows. You can even download a map detailing locations of dropped kerbs in the city centre. Plus, it also displays photo-routes; indicating step-free access to the key attractions.
There’s a real buzz in Margate right now, and you should make sure you get in on it. This grand old seaside resort has undergone huge cultural regeneration, and today, there’s a fresh and spirited vibe – although under the surface you’ll still find that warm and welcoming retro twist.
Yes, this candy-striped loving town on the East Kent coast is buoyant with artistic energy. It’s a real cultural melting pot fusing traditional seaside charms and golden sandy beaches with world-class art, a hip café culture and vintage shops.
The Isle of Thanet is rich in history, and Margate’s Old Town celebrates that but adds a funky twist. The streets are lined with chic eateries and laid-back cafés peppered with traditional fish and chip shops. And just as it embraces diversity in its atmosphere, the town is fully committed to extending the warmth of its welcome to anyone with accessibility requirements.
The acclaimed Turner Contemporary Gallery has led the new generation creative charge. Supported by former local Tracey Emin, its 2011 reopening marked the start of Margate’s rebirth. It showcases historic and contemporary art by international artists which has included JMW Turner, Constable and Van Dyck as well as Emin herself and Grayson Perry. And it’s a striking structure; the stark white angular lines are cutting-edge cool, but give a nod to the surrounding coastline’s chalky cliffs.
There are seven accessible parking spaces outside the gallery and two wheelchairs are available to hire. Plus, audio descriptive tours and multi-sensory objects are available for exhibitions free of charge.
After a dose of culture indulge your thrill-seeking side at Dreamland Margate. The original 16-acre pleasure park has been reinvented by award winning designer Wayne Hemingway MBE. Soon to open is The Scenic Railway – the country’s oldest rollercoaster – restored to its Grade II listed timber clad glory. The Crazy Mouse is a hectic waltzer/rollercoaster hybrid and the tea-cup rides have been given a Wedgwood makeover.
Staff are decked out in vintage Levi’s 501’s and T-Shirts adorned with high-octane logos like ‘scream if you want to go faster.’ Wander round the fairground games or enjoy an outdoor sing-a-long movie. Fast Track passes allow you to queue jump on 5 of your favourite rides.
Get your natural history and green-space fix at the Powell-Cotton Museum & Quex Park. In the coastal village of Birchington-on-Sea just west of Margate, this estate is home to the fascinating Powell-Cotton Museum. Named after the family dynasty that owned it, the museum houses a unique collection of natural history, ethnography and fine and decorative arts.
Its dioramas (mounted animals against backdrops of their natural habitat) are a rarity and real highlight. And the new interactive gallery is an excellent choice for families; housing a series of fun and informative exhibits that puts you at the centre of the action. Infrared hearing loop systems are available for talks or guided tours. And two wheelchairs can be hired on-site.
And of course, a trip to Margate wouldn’t be complete without some time spent right on the golden-hued sand. Margate Main Sands is a timeless beach destination with tidal pool, traditional rides and access for all, thanks to the beach wheelchairs that can be booked in advance. Hire a deckchair and work on your tan by day and at dusk take in the sublime colours of the seascape and horizon over a picnic supper. Make up your own mind if Turner was right when he branded Margate’s skies “the loveliest in Europe.”
Access for All campaign – what it means for you
Under VisitEngland’s Access for All campaign key staff members have completed disability awareness training. Accommodation and attractions have been audited by a professional access advisor and many have received a mystery visit from guests with accessibility requirements. All venues listed display full access statements on their websites.
Go to VisitEngland’s Access for All website to download this full costal breaks guide, which includes key contact details and suggested accommodation.
You can also visit our new travel site, Accomable, to find accessible accommodation not just in the UK, but across the world.
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