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Windsor

The best accessible royal days out in the UK

The wait is over. As royal wedding fever approaches its crowning moment, erupting crowds gather, cupcakes are iced and fans finish binge-watching Suits, it’s finally time for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to tie the knot. With all eyes on the happy couple and celebrations in full swing, Rough Guides’ writer Mani Ramaswamy picks the best royal days out to mark the occasion.

Meet the Royals at Kensington Palace, London

Home to a number of Royals over the years, Kensington Palace is now the official residence of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Admire the magnificent ceiling paintings in the King’s State Apartments, learn about Queen Victoria’s unhappy palace childhood and step into the fashion spotlight with a glimpse of some of Diana’s iconic dresses. Sign language and describer tours are available daily; book two weeks in advance.

Board the Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh

Visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia is all about reliving the glamour of the Queen’s foreign tours. Docked at the port of Leith in Edinburgh, the Britannia was in use by the royal family for over 44 years for state visits, honeymoons and holidays. If nautical displays float your boat, this has all the ingredients for a great day out. There’s blue-badge parking on level E of Ocean Terminal’s car park.

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Hampton Court, King Henry VIII’s opulent home

Cast yourself in a Tudor drama at Hampton Court Palace, London

Vast, lavish, labyrinthine. Hampton Court Palace, Henry VIII’s grandest surviving palace is the perfect throwback to the intrigue and plots of Tudor life. Costumed courtiers set the stage and the glorious tapestries of the Great Hall are a pure delight. Exhibitions are mostly accessible, but watch out for uneven surfaces. Wheelchair tours can be pre-booked and wheelchairs and mobility scooters are free to borrow.

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Windsor Castle beside a pretty stretch of the River Thames

Take vows at Windsor Castle, Berkshire

Don’t have an invite to the royal wedding? You can still snoop around the Queen’s favourite home, Windsor Castle, where the couple will take their vows. Towering above the Thames, this well-loved royal refuge is touristy, of course, but undeniably impressive – the magnificent State Rooms are lined with some of the Royal Collection’s finest paintings. Ramped access is available via the access entrance in Engine Court.

Meet murder at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

Best known as the home of Mary Queen of Scots, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is now the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. The plasterwork of the State Apartments is outstanding and if it’s bloody history you’re after, Mary’s secretary, David Rizzio, was stabbed 56 times here. There’s no wheelchair access to the chambers of Mary Queen of Scots but the Great Gallery offers virtual tours.

Hunt treasures at Buckingham Palace, London

The Queen’s permanent London residence, Buckingham Palace throws open its doors for ten weeks each summer. Great for nosing around the glittering State Rooms and gaping at masterpieces from the Royal Collection – and for imagining you’re royalty. The State Rooms are fully accessible, but free wheelchairs and step-free access must be booked in advance.

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Sandringham House – the royal family’s Norfolk estate

Join the Royals at Sandringham, Norfolk

The Royals traditionally gather at the Sandringham Estate for Christmas and New Year. Visitors can tour the rooms of this cosy country retreat and dream of joining Her Majesty for a gin and Dubbonet festive cocktail. Car enthusiasts will appreciate the vintage motors and the blooming rhododendrons in late spring are lovely. There’s a regular shuttle service between the gardens entrance and the house and disabled parking close to the visitor centre.

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Balmoral Castle – a magnificent royal residence in the Scottish Highlands

Holiday at Balmoral, Aberdeenshire

For a taste of royal freedom, dust off your tartan and head to the Queen’s summer retreat, Balmoral. The Royals have been holidaying here since 1852 when it was bought by Queen Victoria. The castle ballroom is the big draw and visitors can roam the grounds too, but the rest of the estate is off-limits. There’s disabled parking outside the Estates Office and hearing loops for the audio tour.

Explore the Queen’s official residence in Northern Ireland at Hillsborough Castle

The setting for heated political talks, royal garden parties and Antiques Road Show episodes, Hillsborough Castle is the Queen’s official residence in Northern Ireland. Thanks to a £4.8m cash boost from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the castle is improving access and facilities to lure crowds; due to reopen in July 2018 – the State Rooms are guaranteed to impress. Mobility scooters aren’t permitted inside the castle.

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Pomp and ceremony: the Royal Procession at Ascot Racecourse

Feel like a Royal

Get a taste of sovereign life with Afternoon Tea at The Goring hotel or stay at the award-winning Park House Hotel. Run by Leonard Cheshire Disability, this beautiful Sandringham Estate property – Princess Diana’s childhood home, caters specifically to people with disabilities. Horse fans can cheer Her Majesty at the Royal Ascot or canter onto the (imaginary) world stage in a horse-drawn carriage.

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Read more articles by Rough Guides or view the Rough Guide to Accessible Britain online.

The best afternoon teas: traditional, fun and accessible

8 Perfect places for a stress-free day out

Days out for foodies: The best accessible food and drink experiences in the UK

Image Credits

Rough Guides would like to thank the following individuals, companies and picture libraries for their kind permission to reproduce their photographs:
Header image: Windsor Castle: © iStock
Hampton Court: © Lydia Evans/Apa Publications
Windsor Castle: © iStock
Sandringham House: © iStock
Royal Ascot: © VisitEngland/Doug Harding
Balmoral Castle: © VisitScotland/Kenny Lam

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