As the mercury plummets and December 25th approaches, there are plenty of ways to find festive cheer up and down the country. From a Christmas-tree maze in the Scottish capital to a Santa Express train rattling through Cumbria, Rough Guides’ writer Jacqui Agate picks the top accessible things to do this Christmas.
Embrace the season with the Eden Project’s Festival of Christmas
30th November–30th December 2019
This festive bonanza takes place at Cornwall’s renowned eco-friendly attraction and includes the Avenue of Lights, in which the site’s famed biomes are lit up in a glittering festive display. You can also hear seasonal tunes played by local musicians, pay a visit to Santa Claus and pick up some last-minute Christmas gifts at the Visitor Centre shop.
The Eden Project is committed to accessibility, with free wheelchairs for hire, disabled toilets and parking, and accessible routes around the biomes and other attractions. Manual wheelchairs are permitted on the site’s beautiful ice rink too.
Explore London’s magical Winter Wonderland
21st November 2019–5th January 2020
The capital’s mammoth Christmas event, Winter Wonderland kicks off at the start of the season. The festive site is filled with gingerbread house-style market stalls doling out mulled wine and bratwurst, and family-focused rides from Ferris wheels to carousels. A perennial favourite is The Magical Ice Kingdom, a maze of ice and snow sculptures, and Zippo’s Christmas Circus, home to acrobats, comedians and clowns.
The site is fully accessible and the pre-bookable events (including the sculpture house and the circus) are wheelchair friendly too. Winter Wonderland is free to enter, though there are some paid attractions – carers are waived of any admission fees.
Take a ride on Cumbria’s Santa Express
Selected dates from 30th November–23rd December 2019
The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway winds out from the seaside village of Ravenglass, slicing through a particularly scenic swathe of the Cumbrian countryside – and its historic steam train has a special festive guest in its sights this season. You’ll journey northeast to Dalegarth where you can disembark and meet Santa Claus in his grotto. If you fancy a festive feast, book the Christmas lunch option: you’ll get a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
The main railway platforms are accessible and there are train carriages specially adapted for wheelchair users. Wheelchairs are available to borrow from the origin platform if needed.
Get lost in Edinburgh’s Christmas Tree Maze
16th November 2019–4th January 2020
Part of the Scottish capital’s annual festive event, the Christmas Tree Maze is exactly what it sounds like: a glittering labyrinth of spruces in Edinburgh’s city centre. Those who work their way to the middle of the maze will discover Santa’s elves’ workshop and earn themselves a special Christmas gift. It’s guaranteed to be a hit with the kids.
The festive maze, and indeed the whole of “Santa Land” where the attraction is based, is suitable for wheelchair users – the paths are flat or ramped, and there’s disabled parking nearby.
Sing Christmas carols at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall
22nd December 2019
What better way to get into the festive spirit than an afternoon spent singing carols? Held at Glasgow’s grand Royal Concert Hall, “A Christmas Cracker” is the work of the talented City of Glasgow Chorus and the Orchestra of Scottish Opera. The show includes Yuletide classics and modern festive hits, including a lively rendition of the well-loved 12 Days of Christmas. Best of all is the chance to pull Christmas crackers with the hundreds of other show-goers.
The venue’s north entrance on Killermont Street is suitable for wheelchair users; lifts travel to all floors, and there are disabled toilet facilities too. A Sennheiser infrared assisted audio system is in use for those with hearing difficulties too.
Discover the magical grounds of Powis Castle
Illuminations 6th–22nd December; decorated state rooms from 30th November 2019
The manicured grounds of National Trust gem Powis Castle are a delight year round – but they have an added charm in winter. The elegant terraces and formal gardens are laced with lights and the trees are strung with baubles. The castle’s grand state rooms are also bedecked for the season and there’s even a carol concert in the ballroom on 11th December. If you’ve little ones in tow, it’s worth booking a breakfast with Santa: feast on a full English in the Courtyard Restaurant, before joining Father Christmas in the bookshop to hear a festive tale.
A wheelchair-friendly route around the grounds is detailed in your free welcome guide, and there are also sensory tours of the site available. There’s step-free access to the castle’s lower floors, the shop and the restaurant, and carers are granted free admission.
Catch a festive film screening at the National Museum Cardiff
14th & 15th December 2019, various times
Feel the Yuletide spirit with a screening of The Snowman at the atmospheric Reardon Smith Theatre in the National Museum Cardiff. Raymond Briggs’ heart-warming festive classic will have the whole family charmed, and the “winter wonderland” entrance to the theatre adds to the magic. Stick around after the film for a chance to snap a picture with The Snowman himself.
There is Blue Badge Parking, level access to the theatre and designated seats for wheelchair users during the performance. The main entrance and all galleries are wheelchair accessible too.
Have a “magical Christmas” at Titanic Belfast
24th November–23rd December 2019
A great bet for families, Titanic Belfast’s Magical Christmas Experience is packed to the gills with festive cheer. You’ll venture into a winter wonderland complete with an enchanted forest, Santa’s elves’ workshop and Mrs Claus’ kitchen, then pay a visit to Father Christmas himself. Throw in some Christmassy arts and crafts, festive storytelling and free tea and coffee for the adults, and you’ve got the perfect December day out.
The venue is fully accessible with level entryways and lifts throughout, and there are also quiet Christmas sessions available for those with ASD or learning difficulties. The event also includes a sensory trail for both parents and children. If you wish to explore the exhibits afterwards, there are ear defenders and other sensory aids available, too.
Rough Guides would like to thank the following individuals, companies and picture libraries for their kind permission to reproduce their photographs (in order of appearance on the web page):
Header image: © Eoin Carey
Eden Project: © Emily Whitfield Wicks/Eden Project
Winter Wonderland: © IMG
Santa Land: © Eoin Carey
Powis Castle: © John Millar/National Trust Images
The Snowman: © National Museum Cardiff