As the Royal Family prepares for the Coronation of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey on 6 May, the nation is planning its celebrations with much excitement. Whether you wave a flag for the newly crowned monarch during the Coronation Procession or rally your neighbours into your very own street party, the festivities are expected to be in full swing across the UK over the Coronation Weekend.
To mark this historic occasion, Rough Guides’ writer Joanna Reeves shares the best accessible days out in the UK fit for royalty.
Coronation Procession, London
Watch history unfold before you with a streetside view of the King’s Procession on 6 May. King Charles and the Queen Consort Camilla will travel from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, last used in 2012 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession. After the ceremony, His Majesty and Her Royal Highness will embark on the Coronation Procession through the streets of London, returning to Buckingham Palace by Gold Stage Coach, a gilded carriage that’s been used at every coronation since William IV’s in 1831.
There are accessible viewing areas with British Sign Language interpreters along the route: by the four main screens in Hyde Park; on the north side of the Mall, close to Trafalgar Square; and by the main screens in Green Park (Broad Walk) and St James’s Park (Marlborough Gate). Arrive in plenty of time, as spaces are limited. There are also quiet spaces with ear defenders available; check the map for locations.
Embrace the royal legacy of Kensington Palace, London
Home to a number of royals over the years, Kensington Palace is now the official residence of the Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate, and their three children. Admire the beautiful ceiling paintings in the King’s State Apartments, learn about Queen Victoria’s unhappy palace childhood, and see gleaming gems in the Jewel Room.
If you visit before 24 October 2023, book a ticket to check out the dazzling Crown to Couture exhibition, which traces how historic royal costume has impacted contemporary red-carpet style. The State Apartments have been filled with 200-plus items, from glittering regal dresses worn at 18th-century Georgian court through to Beyonce’s showstopping 2017 GRAMMY Awards outfit.
All three floors of the palace are accessible, and tours are available if booked in advance. Visitors are able to bring a carer with them free of charge, and accessible parking is available – make sure to book at least a week in advance. There are also some manual wheelchairs available to use free of charge, although these can’t be booked ahead of time.
Board the Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh
The Royal Yacht Britannia is docked in Edinburgh
Visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia is all about reliving the glamour of Queen Elizabeth II’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.
Coincide your visit with the Coronation weekend to follow in the footsteps of King Charles, who enjoyed summer holidays aboard the vessel during his childhood and, in later years, sailed with his own sons on family trips to the Western Isles. Britannia’s five decks are all accessible via a central lift, and there’s Blue Badge parking on level E of Ocean Terminal’s car park. There are also accessible toilets throughout the ship.
Discover Coronation Regalia at Windsor Castle, Berkshire
Windsor Castle beside a pretty stretch of the River Thames
Didn’t manage to snag a ticket to the Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle on Sunday 7 May? You can still visit the royals’ historic home, Windsor Castle, while learning about the traditions of the ancient Coronation ceremony and seeing the Coronation Regalia of previous years. Towering above the Thames, this well-loved royal refuge is touristy, of course, but undeniably impressive – the majestic State Rooms are lined with some of the Royal Collection’s finest paintings.
Note that the nearest disabled parking bays are located on the High Street, and that the castle is at the top of a short, steep hill. There is a platform lift and accessible toilets on the North Terrace. Wheelchairs are available to borrow, but be aware of uneven surfaces outside and carpeted rooms inside. You can also get a free companion ticket if you call or email ahead.
Get creative at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
Best known as the home of Mary, Queen of Scots, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is now the King’s official residence in Scotland. Celebrate the Coronation of His Majesty with a fun-filled visit to the palace, where you can decorate your own crown, design a flag like the one that flies when the King stays, and create a badge to commemorate the occasion.
Wear your crown while you explore the palace, wandering through the State Apartments like royalty and learning about its bloody history: Queen Mary’s secretary, David Rizzio, was stabbed 56 times here.
Mobility scooters can be used in the Palace grounds, and are also allowed in the Palace providing they can fit in the lift (they list the dimensions on their website). Unfortunately there’s no wheelchair access to the chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots, but the Great Gallery offers virtual tours. Multimedia guides in British Sign Language are available, as are audio-descriptive guides for those with visual impairments. Accessible parking is located on Horse Wynd, just outside the palace.
Coronation festivities at Balmoral, Aberdeenshire
Magnificent Balmoral Castle in Scotland
Why not head to Balmoral, the long-favoured royal residence in Scotland? The royals have been holidaying here since 1852 when it was bought by Queen Victoria. Coronation celebrations will be rocking Balmoral on 6 May, with screens showing live events, vintage buses, falconry displays, and music from the Ballater Pipe Band. The castle ballroom is the big draw and visitors can roam the grounds too, but the rest of the estate is off-limits.
All facilities are accessible at Balmoral; there’s disabled parking outside the Estates Office and hearing loops for the audio tour.
Explore the official royal residence in Northern Ireland at Hillsborough Castle
Hillsborough Castle is the official royal residence in Northern Ireland, as well as being the setting for heated political talks, royal garden parties and Antiques Roadshow episodes.
As Northern Ireland’s only royal abode, this is the place to celebrate the Coronation of His Majesty. Expect a party fit for a king: music performances, garden games, live screens and a rare gun salute are all on the itinerary. Kids can make their own crowns, let off steam in the 100-acre grounds and picnic on the manicured lawns.
Visitors are entitled to bring an accompanying carer free of charge, and all the staff undergo Autism Awareness Training. There’s a Pre-Visit Guide you can download, to familiarise yourself with the castle ahead of time. There are also 27 Blue Badge holder parking spaces available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Note that some of the garden paths are unsuitable for wheelchair users and those with restricted mobility. Step-free routes and ramp access are available in Pineapple Yard and Stable Yard, as well as between the Walled Garden and State Entrance. Unfortunately, mobility scooters aren’t permitted inside the castle.
Hunt treasures at Buckingham Palace, London
The King’s London residence, Buckingham Palace throws open its doors for ten weeks each summer. Great for nosing around the glittering State Rooms and peering at masterpieces from the Royal Collection.
The State Rooms and Palace Gardens are fully accessible. There are free wheelchairs and step-free access, but both must be pre-booked in advance by calling the Specialist Sales team on 0303 123 7324 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The team can also arrange accessible parking if required. Mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs are welcome in both the Palace and the Gardens.
Join the royals at Sandringham, Norfolk
Sandringham House – the royal family’s Norfolk estate
The royals traditionally gather at the Sandringham Estate for Christmas and New Year, and visitors can tour the rooms of this cosy country retreat and dream. Car enthusiasts will appreciate the vintage motors, and the blooming rhododendrons in late spring are lovely.
Sandringham is fully accessible and there is Blue Badge parking available for visitors, but note that the car park is a fair distance from the house. A regular shuttle service operates between the house and the gardens’ entrance, though some of the outdoor paths within the gardens are uneven. They also have wheelchairs available to loan for a refundable £20 deposit.
Cast yourself in a Tudor drama at Hampton Court Palace, London
Hampton Court, King Henry VIII’s opulent home
Hampton Court Palace, Henry VIII’s grandest surviving palace, is the perfect place to discover 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. Wheelchairs and mobility scooters are free to borrow, and there are audio tours of the Tudor kitchens and William III’s Apartments for blind or partially sighted visitors. Parking is also free for Blue Badge holders.
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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
- Royal Yacht Britannia: © Marc Millar Photography
- Hampton Court: © Lydia Evans/Apa Publications
- Windsor Castle: © iStock
- Sandringham House: © iStock
- Balmoral Castle: © VisitScotland/Kenny Lam