Bookended by bank holidays, May is the perfect month to get out and about with your Motability Scheme car, scooter or powered wheelchair. Take advantage of the two long weekends to explore the UK’s waterways, get up close to wildlife, delve into history, visit some family-friendly highlights or sit back and enjoy a train ride to remember.
Hit the water
1. There are few things as relaxing as a leisurely day out on a boat, but some vessels are more accessible than others. Waveney Stardust have space for six wheelchairs on each of their boats, and offer half- and full-day private tours of the Norfolk’s Broadland waterways.
2. For a dash of history, try a six-hour trip with commentary on the Manchester Ship Canal courtesy of Mersey Ferries. You can start at Salford, Seacombe or Liverpool, with a coach at the end going back to where you started. There’s wheelchair access to the main deck, but you should book ahead.
3. The 19th-century Anderton Boat Lift in Cheshire is a stunning feat of engineering, raising boats 50 feet from the Weaver Navigation to the Trent and Mersey Canal. Book in advance for the two wheelchair spaces on the glass-roofed boat.
4. Also try: The Nancy Oldfield Trust arranges accessible canoeing, sailing, fishing and more on the Norfolk Broads.
Discover an animal attraction
Take the kids to explore animals this bank holiday
5. Animal encounters always make firm family favourites. Pembrokeshire’s
Folly Farm has good wheelchair access and keeps children entertained with farmyard animals, a zoo, a funfair and more. On 1 May 2017, the farm will host a fun day, based on popular Welsh children’s programme Cyw.
Folly Farm has farmyard animals, a zoo, a funfair and more.
6. There’s also wheelchair access to the flying arena at Eagle Heights in Kent, one of the UK’s largest bird of prey centres. It has over 50 species of birds, as well as other animals including meerkats and huskies. Facilities include disabled parking and toilets.
7. The picturesque Highland Wildlife Park, in the Cairngorms National Park, specializes in animals that inhabit mountains and tundras including tigers, wolves and a polar bear. You can drive around the main reserve and there’s also a walking section. One stretch might not be suitable for wheelchairs, but blue badge holders may be allowed to drive by prior arrangement.
8. Also try: Meet the animals at the inclusive Fairytale Farm in the Cotswolds, which also has an array of sensory experiences.
9. Also try: Woburn Safari Park – independent mobility consultant Helen Dolphin MBE reviews her recent trip.
Learn from the past
Visit Blists Hill Victorian Town open-air museum this bank holiday.
10. These days, there’s absolutely no need for an educational day out to be dull. Take, for example, the fascinating collection of museums at Ironbridge Gorge. One of the most popular attractions is Blists Hill Victorian Town, where sensory experiences make it a good choice for visitors with impaired vision. Over the second May bank holiday weekend, Ironbridge will host activities and workshops looking at Victorian superheroes and the science of superpowers.
Soak in some history at the Roman Baths this bank holiday.
11. There’s another great historic experience in store in the evocatively preserved remains of the Roman Baths in the city of Bath. As the ancient site is below street level, there are some steps but two lifts mean that 90 percent is wheelchair accessible. There are also British Sign Language guides and tactile displays.
12. Also try: Finding out more about the shipbuilding and maritime disaster at Titanic Belfast.
Get away with the family
13. Bank holiday weekends present almost endless options for family trips. One hit with children is the ‘enchanted world’ of the BeWILDerwood adventure park in Norfolk. It’s home to a host of whimsical characters and combines forest trails, adventure playgrounds and organised activities. The paths may be difficult in places with a manual wheelchair.
14. There’s a rather different appeal at Diggerland, which has sites in Devon and various other locations in the UK. Kids love the rides and real construction machines. Most diggers are operated with power-assisted hand controls, although some may be hard to access for visitors with disabilities.
Construction meets fun at Diggerland.
15. The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden offers another kind of interactive experience, with storytelling sessions as well as information about the author’s life. Facilities include an on-site wheelchair, audio transcripts, large print information, a Braille map and induction loops.
16. Also try: Taking one of our suggested educational days out.
Ride the rails
17. There’s something about the golden age of steam that appeals to all ages. One attractive way to get a taste is Brecon Mountain Railway in Wales, where the narrow gauge line runs along the Taf Fechan Reservoir. There’s a ramp to the platform and one carriage can carry wheelchairs.
18. If you’ve been bitten by the railway bug, you can see more than 70 heritage vehicles at Locomotion: National Railway Museum in Shildon, County Durham. The museum has wheelchairs available to hire. From 29 April to 1 May 2017, it will host a toy fair and steam gala, with guest locomotives.
19. There will be a celebratory atmosphere on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway from 27 to 29 May, as the Spring Gala sees them run as much of their rolling stock as possible. The visitor centre has an accessible lift and induction loop system, plus there’s disabled parking and toilets.
20. Also try: Admire the work of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel at Steam: Museum of the Great Western Railway.
We hope our 20 ideas for making the most of the long bank holiday weekends has been helpful. For the latest information, whatever you choose to do, check the websites or phone ahead to double check book mobility equipment or assistance.
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We would like to thank the following individuals, companies and picture libraries for their kind permission to share their photographs:
Animal attraction/ folly farm: boy at window.jpg
Learn from the past/ Ironbridge gorge: Blists Hill Victorian Town, near Ironbridge.jpg
Learn from the past/ roman baths: Access-58.jpg
Family days/ diggerland: Spindizzy touched up bucket 3.jpg