Every year a variety of excellent attractions are unveiled across the UK, from dazzling galleries to state-of-the-art museums and high-octane adventures. Modern building design usually pays more attention to access needs, so the great news is that most new attractions are accessible, too. Rough Guides editor, Helen Fanthorpe, uncovers five of the best that you can visit in 2020.
1. Windermere Jetty: Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories, Lake District
Opened March 2019
You’ll find Windermere Jetty – you guessed it – on the eponymous lake in the staggeringly beautiful Lake District. Evoking the sights, sounds and even smells of life on the lake, this museum details the experience of boat builders and boat owners, as well as harbouring a collection of forty vessels dating from 1780 to the modern day. Steamboats, yachts and speed boats all feature, and live conservation workshops (daily) allow visitors to see the painstaking art of restoration in real time. The whole of the museum is accessible, with disabled parking, accessible toilets, level access and seating available for visitors with reduced mobility. Despite this, there is limited information on the website itself; phone the venue on 01539 637940 for more information. All single tickets are under £10.
2. The Wave, Bristol
Opened autumn 2019
Hoping to make a splash in Bristol, The Wave is the UK’s first inland surfing lagoon. Aside from state-of-the-art facilities and experienced surf coaches, the philosophy that underpins The Wave is wholesome and refreshing. Noting the link between mental-health issues and inactivity, founders Nick Hounsfield and Craig Stoddart decided to harness the power of waves, adventure and physical activity to help improve these conditions. Surfing has a wide range of benefits to health and well-being – including improving mental health, helping co-ordination and balance and strengthening muscles. Lessons can be tailored to suit surfers of any ability, including people with cognitive or physical disabilities. A surf session with a lesson is £55 for adults (£45 for juniors), but wetsuits, boots and surfboard hire are all included. Locals – living in postcodes BS35 5, BS35 4 or BS32 4 – can get an Annual Locals’ Pass for £15 (adult) or £5 (junior).
3. V&A Dundee
Opened September 2018
Part of the thirty-year, £1-billion regeneration that’s invigorating Dundee and its waterfront, the V&A Dundee opened as Scotland’s first design museum in late 2018. Lapped by the banks of the Tay, the building is the work of Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, who was inspired by the cliffs of Scotland’s East Coast: the stone-clad walls create the impression of a stark cliff face. Inside, the galleries cover Scottish design from fashion to healthcare, architecture to furniture. The V&A Dundee was designed with inclusion and accessibility in mind: there’s lift access, a quiet room, seating areas and disabled toilets on every level (plus a Changing Places facility). BSL-interpreted and live audio-described tours can also be arranged for anyone with sensory impairments, featuring handing objects which can be touched. Entrance is free, except for select exhibitions when disabled visitors will pay a concessionary rate.
4. Leeds Playhouse
Reopened October 2019
Emerging bright and bold from a £15.8-million redevelopment, Leeds Playhouse is slicker and more accessible than ever. This historic theatre was founded in 1907 and relocated in 1990, but has remained a prestigious venue with an impressive output. Shows are varied – from children’s performances to classical drama – and the focus is on new writing. All this is backed up by an extraordinary, award-winning Creative Engagement programme that organises theatre groups, courses and events for the youth, older people, schools and also refugees and asylum seekers (the Playhouse is one of the UK’s first “Theatres of Sanctuary”). As you might expect, there’s a huge emphasis on accessibility and inclusion. On top of an inspiring range of accessible performances – audio-described, BSL-interpreted, dementia-friendly and relaxed shows – their Ramps on the Moon project casts Deaf and disabled actors in main stage productions.
5. The Weston at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Opened March 2019
Yorkshire Sculpture Park extends across five hundred acres of fields, gardens, lakes and woodland: the first sculpture park in the UK and the largest in Europe. Works by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Andy Goldsworthy, James Turrell and David Nash pepper the open-air gallery, where cattle and sheep amble among the sculptures. Bathed in natural light, the new Weston visitor centre opened in March 2019 with a £3.6m price tag. Designed by architects Feilden Fowles on the site of a historic quarry, the building blends beautifully with the landscape, and has been shortlisted for the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize that crowns Britain’s best building. The chic interior pays homage to Scandinavian design, where there’s a new restaurant, gallery space and shop. While some parts of the outside park have uneven terrain, there’s good access within The Weston, and there are mobility scooters and wheelchairs available to hire. There are plenty of disabled toilets around the site, and assistance dogs are permitted throughout. Entry to Yorkshire Sculpture Park is free.
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: © Windermere Jetty
Osprey Heritage Boat: © Windermere Jetty
The Wave: © Global Shots/The Wave
V&A Dundee: © Hufton + Crow
Leeds Playhouse Performance: © Mark Brenner
Yorkshire Sculpture Park: © Marc Atkins/Yorkshire Sculpture Park