The Christmas period is the perfect time to spend with family and friends, and what could be better than enjoying a festive day out together? Whether it’s a visit to Santa, a sparkling grotto, a Christmas workshop or just taking in all of the lights and decorations, Christmas can be a magical time. That’s why we’ve asked disability travel expert Carrie-Ann to round up her top five accessible attractions to visit this Christmas.
The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Buckhinghamshire
This fantastic museum immerses you in the world of Roald Dahl, one of the world’s most popular authors and creator of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The BFG and the disgusting Mr and Mrs Twit.
It is a treasure trove of lively hands-on displays, activities and story-making ideas. Walk through the chocolate doors and unearth secrets about the people and places that inspired Dahl’s tales. Use touch screens to read his hand written notes and visit a replica of his writing hut. You can also pick up writing tips too, not only from Dahl himself, but also from the likes of Phillip Pullman, J.K. Rowling, Jaqueline Wilson and Benjamin Zephaniah.
Throughout the year there are a range of activities for children and their families, as well as a programme of workshops and evening events for adults. December is certainly no different. The museum’s phizz-whizzing Christmas Extravaganza caught my eye (Sunday 18th December, 12pm-2pm). It’s a party with magic and games, storytelling and singing, and a “jumpsquiffling amount of fun!”
The museum and shop are step-free. There is one step into the café, but a portable ramp is available. There are two fully accessible toilets and personal assistants receive free admission. Tactile maps, a hearing loop, and audio transcripts of audio visual presentations are all available.
Fairytale Farm, Oxfordshire
Children will love Fairytale Farm – a sensory and learning wonderland for all the family. With an exciting adventure playground, an enchanted walk with a surprise around every corner, and a chance to meet amazing animals, there is so much to see and do.
Fairytale Farm was the UK’s first visitor attraction to put disabled children first in the design and layout – but it is loved by children (and adults) of all abilities. Just turn up and have fun – everything is accessible and everybody is welcome!
At the farm’s magical Christmas Fairytale event, children can meet Santa in his indoor fairytale grotto where they will receive a present. They can also join in with various festive activities and see the enchanting Christmas lights, which are bigger and better for 2016. The event runs every Saturday and Sunday from 3rd to 18th December and daily from the 19th to 24th December.
Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, Cumbria
Welcome to Lake Districts’s oldest, longest and most scenic railway! You can travel from Ravenglass – the only coastal village in the Lake District National Park – across the estuary, through the hills, past seven request stops, to your final destination, Dalegarth-for-Boot station.
This is a sunny and wet weather attraction with open top and closed carriages for your comfort and the best views. The journey itself crosses seven miles of spectacular scenery on its way to the foot of England’s highest mountains, the Scafell Range.
There are lots of things to do including shopping, exploring the museum and conquering the adventure playgrounds, as well as places to eat and drink. There are also plenty of trails and walks to discover in this beautiful corner of the Lake District National Park – there really is something for everyone.
At the main station, Ravenglass, accessible toilets and parking are available. An audio commentary app is free to download, and there is free wi-fi available. The trains have accessible carriages, which should be booked in advance. The staff are helpful, friendly, welcoming and are pleased to assist with any enquiries.
The London Eye, London
At 135 metres, the London Eye provides up to 40 kilometre panoramic views of London on a clear day. The gradual rotation of the 32 high-tech glass capsules takes approximately 30 minutes. Each offers breathtaking views of London’s famous landmarks, such as Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Gherkin and much more. Having stood on London’s Southbank for sixteen years, the London Eye has become an iconic landmark in itself and a symbol of dynamic innovation in an ever-changing city landscape.
The London Eye is fully accessible. Wheelchair users are advised to pre-book a time slot online, and an assisted boarding service is available. Assistance dogs are welcome on board.
Hopping on the London Eye after dark is a great way to view an amazing array of Christmas lights across the capital, as far as the ‘eye’ can see! There’s also a Winter Festival at the nearby Southbank Centre, with outdoor attractions, a huge Christmas market, food stalls, bars and entertainment alongside the river. This is open most days from 10am to 10pm until 25th January.
Roman Baths, Bath
The Roman Baths contain the preserved remains of one of the greatest religious spas of the ancient world. Unique thermal springs still run through the site to this day, so the Baths flow with natural hot water. In 2011 the Roman Baths went through a £5.5 million redevelopment to bring the best of modern interpretation to the site. It has transformed its accessibility and preserved it for the next 100 years.
Audio guides with a range of commentaries for different age groups, interests and languages are easy to use and informative. Video presentations bring the various areas to life as they would have been in Roman times, with great effect. There are regular free guided tours with knowledgeable staff; and costumed characters entertain around the main bath.
Lifts are available and 90% of the site is accessible to wheelchair users. Visitors with hearing or visual impairments are able to enjoy the site using sign language audio guides and tactile displays. There is also a guide available for visitors with autism on their website.
The ‘Stick up the New Year’ workshop is open for children to make fridge magnets using an image of the Roman Baths. It runs on Wednesday 28th, Thursday 29th and Friday 30th December at 11am until 3pm. The Pump Room Restaurant will be serving kids’ festive afternoon tea from Saturday 17th December until Monday 2nd January.
You can find more accessible attractions by visiting the Open Britain website, which lists the accessibility features for hundreds of attractions across the UK.
By Carrie-Ann Lightley
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