There is something exceptionally British about hitching a box containing your possessions onto the back of your car and setting off on your holidays. Since the 1950s, Brits have enjoyed a love affair with the caravan, and today, around 1.5 million of us still travel this way every year. For many people, a caravan holiday is about freedom and independence in travel, but with all the comforts of home.
Whether you own your own home on wheels or are looking to hire at a caravan park, our list of eight caravanning hotspots will allow you to get out in your Motability Scheme car and appreciate Britain at its best. Here, Rough Guides author Vivienne Watton gives the lowdown on some of the best destinations for an accessible caravan holiday.
Best for Coastal Walking
The stunning Pembrokeshire Coast National Park boasts white-sand beaches, rugged cliffs, diverse wildlife, over 950km of coastal walks, as well as the attractive seaside town of Tenby and Britain’s smallest city St David’s. Great efforts have been made to make the park accessible and the excellent pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk provides information on easy access beaches, viewpoints and a series of maps of wheelchair suitable and easy access parts of the coastal walk. You can also hire a mobility scooter if you don’t want to travel with your Motability Scheme scooter. A good place to start is the stretch of coast between Wiseman’s Bridge and Saundersfoot, which offers beautiful views (pembrokeshiregreenways.org.uk has a guide for scooter users). In Saundersfoot, there is a ramp down to the wide sandy beach and a beach wheelchair is available to hire. The town and harbour are pleasant to explore and there’s a small Sensory Garden near the seafront.
Where to stay:
Haven’s Kiln Park, 15 minutes outside Tenby, has two-bedroom adapted caravans with wet rooms and bed hoists. There is also a touring park area (hard-standing and grass) with accessible toilet and shower facilities and use of park facilities. The smaller Lydstep Beach has a number of wheelchair accessible caravans. There is access to park facilities including a pool with shallow step entry. Not quite a caravan, but for those needing high-level support the owners of Hampton Court Holiday Park near Saundersfoot have built a fully accessible and equipped wooden chalet on the park.
Best for Garden Lovers
With its mild climate, the southern coast of Cornwall is a plant-lover’s paradise. Whether it’s woodlands or jungle, kitchen gardens or flower borders that you admire, you’ll find plenty to marvel at in two very different British gardens located here: the biodomes of the Eden Project and the lush Lost Gardens of Heligan. They are a feast for the senses, with beautiful landscapes, fragrant plants and gently flowing water features. At the Eden Project a team of Access Volunteers is on hand to help you explore the biomes, outdoor gardens and canopy walkway. There are relaxed family events for people with sensory or communication needs, such as autism. In winter, a temporary ice rink can accommodate manual wheelchairs. At Heligan, you can explore the Northern Gardens and restored kitchen gardens, and watch birdlife from inside an award-winning wildlife hide. Both sites have steep gradients in part but have made the gardens as accessible as possible for those with mobility issues.
Where to stay:
Tucked in the Pentewan valley Little Winnick Touring Park is a quiet, dog-friendly family site with hard-standing and grass pitches plus disabled toilets and showers. Set in mature gardens, Heligan Woods has a static caravan with ramped access and for touring caravans there’s a disabled wet room and toilets. A little further afield, Trevella Park is a larger static caravan site with an outdoor pool and fishing lakes. It offers two and three-bedroom caravans with ramped access and full wheelchair access to site facilities.
Best for family fun
An ancient royal hunting ground, Hampshire’s New Forest is actually almost a thousand years old. Its network of woodland, heathland, picturesque villages and famous free-roaming forest ponies make it an ideal spot for outdoor family fun. The New Forest official site has information on accessible activities within and around the forest, such as horse-riding, cross-country cycling and accessible walks. If you prefer a more leisurely day out, you can paddle in a stream or at one of the beautiful sandy beaches just a few miles away on the south coast. There are also plenty of family attractions nearby, including Paultons Park and Longdown Activity Farm. The Moors Valley Country Park and Forest just outside Ringwood has won awards for access and inclusivity. Here, you can hire a wheelchair bike (a bike with a wheelchair on the front), explore the park by tramper scooter or spend a peaceful day at the accessible fishing lakes.
Where to stay:
Situated just outside the New Forest National Park towards Bournemouth, Shamba Holidays is a relatively large touring park offering full access to the clubhouse, disabled changing rooms and toilet, and a swimming pool. For a smaller family site, Green Pastures Farm near Ower is a leafy campsite with caravan pitches and access to disabled showers and toilets. If you want to stay nearer the coast within easy reach of the New Forest, try the clifftop Hobourne Naish holiday park where there’s a wheelchair accessible lodge with wheel-in shower room.
Best for Great Outdoors
Beloved of the English poet Wordsworth, the Lake District has arguably the most spectacular scenery in England, with mountains, fells and glittering lakes nestled in every valley. Plenty of walks, especially around the lakes, are accessible for all, including wheelchair and scooter-users. Lakedistrict.gov.uk has a searchable database of 40 designated ‘Miles without Stiles’ walks. To get out on the water, both Windermere Lake Cruises and Ullswater Steamers have some boats accessible to manual wheelchair users or you can hire a wheelchair accessible motorboat from Coniston Boating Centre. The Lake District Visitor Centre at Brockhole has mobility scooters and wheelchairs for hire to enjoy the grounds and there is a wheelchair accessible swing in the adventure playground. Of course the beauty of the lakes can be also appreciated on a scenic drive and lakedistrictdrives.com details 15 routes taking in the best of the lakes, heritage villages and mountain passes.
Where to stay:
Castlerigg is a touring and static caravan and camping site with lake views near Keswick in the heart of the Lake District. For tourers, there are wheelchair accessible showers and ramped access to site facilities. There are also two static caravans with ramped access. Church Stile Farm & Holiday Park, located in a stunning wooded valley near Wastwater, is a picturesque camping and caravanning site with disabled access toilets and washrooms.
Best for art-lovers
It’s usually the big cities that we associate with great galleries, but two outstanding art centres are located in the quieter corners of West Yorkshire. Billed as Britain’s leading outdoor gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park showcases contemporary sculptures – including pieces by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth – in around 500 acres of rolling parkland. Hire a mobility scooter and explore the park; access is generally good but with some gradients and soft surfaces. The £35-million Hepworth Wakefield opened in 2011 in a fully accessible state-of-the-art building. It’s home to the Wakefield collection of Modern British art, the Hepworth family gift and temporary exhibits. They hold regular creative workshops including family activities at weekends and school holidays as well as talks, debates and tours. BSL interpreters can be available on request for talks.
Where to stay:
The nearest caravan parks with disabled facilities are both on the edge of the Peak District, approximately half an hour from Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Surrounded by woodland and meadows Holme Valley Camping is a touring caravan and camping park with a new amenities block including facilities for wheelchair users. Ingfield Farm Camping is a rural farm site with electric hook-ups and fresh water plus toilet and shower block with disabled access. Further afield, there are several large static caravan parks on the coast around Scarborough or Whitby (approximately 2 hours drive). For something more sedate, Summerfield Farm has a single wheelchair accessible caravan set in peaceful countryside.
Cairngorms National Park
Best for Adventurers
With mountains to ascend or ski down, lochs to swim or kayak, and forests to cycle or trek, the Cairngorms National Park is an adventurer’s paradise whatever the time of year. Try Glenmore Forest Park for wheelchair accessible trails around Loch Morlich or just relax on its sandy beaches or take a swim. The Highland estate of Rothiemurchus is also a good place to find some accessible walks. Those seeking something more active could try a canoe trip on the River Spey with Craggan Outdoors who are happy to take wheelchair users so long as they can transfer from chair to boat. The Cairngorm Mountain Railway and Ski Centre is fully accessible year-round with its funicular railway allowing wheelchair users access to the mountain-top. In winter, Cairngorm mountain is home to Disability Snowsport UK, which specialises in getting people with any disability on to the piste with a range of adaptive equipment.
Where to stay:
Both Glenmore Forest Campsite and Rothiemurchus forest camping and touring caravan parks are open all year round, meaning the hardiest caravanners can base themselves here for winter sports. Glenmore is a large forestry commission site with fairly basic amenities but does have a disabled access toilet. Rothiemurchus has a disabled toilet and shower room. A little further afield on the coast, an hour’s drive from the Cairngorms, is Nairn Lochlay, a Parkdean static caravan park with wheelchair accessible and adapted caravans.
Best for Culture Vultures
With two castles and seven National Trust properties, not to mention the Shakespearean attractions of Stratford-on-Avon, a visit to Warwickshire in the heart of England will satisfy the most ardent of culture enthusiasts. Like many historic buildings, neither Kenilworth nor Warwick castles are completely accessible for wheelchair users but, as with the National Trust, great efforts are made to enable those with limited mobility to enjoy the experience. At Kenilworth Castle, admire the ruins of the keep and take a lift to all floors of the Leicester Gatehouse. At Warwick castle, you can explore some of the dungeon and enjoy an outdoor show. Following its five-year revamp, the Royal Shakespeare Company now has excellent facilities with plenty of wheelchair spaces and audio and captioned performances with touch tours. The best way to appreciate the new facilities is of course to take in a show, but you can also do backstage tours and take the lift up the 35m-high tower for views across Stratford.
Where to stay:
You won’t find big static caravan parks in this part of the world but two smaller family-run touring parks both have facilities (toilet and shower) with disabled access. Harbury Fields lies half an hour east of Stratford-upon-Avon, near Leamington Spa while Island Meadow is situated to the west on an island formed by the River Alne. Island Meadow also has a few static caravans for hire, one with disabled facilities.
East Anglian Coast
Best for British Seaside
On the 30-mile stretch of East Anglian coast from Great Yarmouth to Dunwich you’ll find the British seaside in all its guises. Great Yarmouth with its Pleasure Beach rides, amusement arcades and end-of-the-pier entertainment shows offers the kiss-me-quick fun of a traditional seaside town. Or visit the Sea Life aquarium for a peak at life in the ocean. For a charmingly English experience, visit more sedate Southwold with its colourful beach huts and quirky Under the Pier Show games or head to Dunwich for the wildness of heather-clad heathland, sandy cliffs, unspoilt beaches and coastal bird or seal watching from a sea-watch hut. The flatness of the East Anglian coast provides easy access to many of its wide, sandy beaches with beach wheelchairs available at Great Yarmouth.
Where to stay:
Holiday-park operator Haven has two caravan parks in East Anglia:Seashore Holiday Park to the south of Great Yarmouth and Wild Duck a little inland. Both have adapted caravans with ramped access and wheelchair access to park facilities. Further south, Park Resort’ Kessingland Beach has adapted caravans. For touring caravans, award-winning Clippesby Hall to the north of Great Yarmouth offers a disabled access toilet and shower.
Need to know:
- When visiting any new destination it is a good idea to contact venues directly to discuss your individual access needs.
- Many of the big holiday park operators provide a variety of wheelchair accessible and adapted caravans in many of their parks, as well as good access to facilities around the sites.
- For ideas on accessible activities and days out in the UK, check out The Rough Guide to Accessible Britain, which is packed with recommendations from expert reviewers.
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The Motability Scheme enables disabled people and their families to access a brand new car or scooter, by exchanging their mobility allowance to lease the vehicle of their choice. Find out more:
We would like to thank the following individuals, companies and picture libraries for their kind permission to reproduce their photographs:
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Charles Stirling / Alamy Stock Photo
David Noton Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Tim Draper / Rough Guides
Dorling Kindersley: Laurie Noble
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