We've scoured 10 cities to bring you some of the best accessible tourist attractions in the UK.
Although we'd love you to read the whole of this article, you can click on the cities below to skip down to the relevant attractions.
Despite its large number of listed buildings within the 36-acre Regents Park site, there is considerable access for people with health conditions or impairment at the world’s oldest scientific research zoo.
The only major negative is an understandable one – guide dogs are not permitted. However, volunteer-escorted tours can be arranged, although advanced booking (about three weeks) is necessary. Contact 0344 225 1826.
There are over 800 animal species (some 19,000 creatures), and wheelchair users will find nearly all enclosures and halls accessible, including the Grade 1-listed penguin pool, although there is limited visibility here.
There are three disabled toilet facilities and wheelchair hire (a £25 refundable deposit is required) is available (book in advance – 0107 449 6576). Visit https://www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo/visitor-information/disabled-access for full accessibility details.
The accessibility website disabledgo.com places the British Museum at the top of their ten best attractions in London.
Opened in 1759, it attractracts some five and a half million visitors each year.
Although the main entrance in Great Russell St has steepish steps, there are self-operable lifts either side, while the Monmouth St entrance has level access.
There are lifts and wheelchair access throughout the museum, and carers/enablers are offered free entry to the ever-changing paid-for exhibitions.
There are induction loops and BSL-signed talks and lectures are given monthly. The British Museum is particularly strong on aiding the visually impaired, with handling exhibits and touch tours, in addition to large print guides and magnifying aids.
The museum also offer disability specific tours. Contact 0207 323 8299 or email@example.com.
Download their access document at https://www.britishmuseum.org/visit/accessibility-museum.
Perhaps the defining image of London, the Tower Bridge has considerably more ups than downs for the disabled visitor. It took eight years to build and was formally opened in 1894. The walkway offers one of the best, certainly the most atmospheric, views of the capital.
There are lifts to all levels of the two towers, with a lift in the north side tower to take visitors to the exhibition centre where the main display is situated. There are induction loops, subtitles and scripts available for the video presentation.
There is an accessible route for wheelchair users visiting the impressive below-ground engine room on the south side of the building. There are toilet facilities throughout, too.
Best of all, entry is free to visitors with disabilities and their carers/enablers. Call 020 7407 9191.
Click here for full accessibility information.
You might think that a fortress castle dating back to the 12th century would present all manner of obstacles for the visitor with limited mobility.
If you can cope with the cobbled areas, Edinburgh Castle, which also houses the National War Museum is surprisingly accessible.
There is a courtesy vehicle at the main reception for those who could have difficulty with the cobbled approaches to the castle interior. There is a lift and toilet facilities.
The Crown Jewels exhibition has hands-on replicas with Braille guides to their history. Visit https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/plan-your-visit/access-guide.
If you wish to attend the famous annual Royal Edinburgh Tattoo, traditionally held in August.
Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia served The Queen from 1954 until it was retired in 1997. Now berthed in Leith, Edinburgh, it has been rated by TripAdvisor as the UK’s No 1 tourist attraction.
It also warrants a place in disabled access review website Euan’s Guide, where it scored well ‘for the amount of thought and planning that has obviously gone into creating the visitor experience. The staff are very friendly and helpful and this contributes greatly to the experience.'
VisitScotland has awarded the five-deck Britannia Category 1 for wheelchair use without assistance, and it has five wheelchairs available, free of charge. Shopmobility scooters aren’t suitable for the tour.
The ship has British Sign Language tablets available and adjustable control audio handsets. Guides are available in Braille and large print.
Contact Britannia on 0131 555 8800 (Mon-Fri, 9am – 5pm), email firstname.lastname@example.org or download Britannia’s excellent access statement.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
A three-year refurbishment, completed in 2011, to this imposing Victorian building makes it one of the Scottish capital’s most enduring and accessible attractions.
A visual history of Scotland, there are over 30,000 items on display, from portraiture to portrait sculpture.
There are wheelchair access routes in the building, hearing loops in some areas and clear signage throughout.
Download the Scottish National Portrait Gallery's accessibility guide here.
Artlink is a local service providing transport to museums and galleries for disabled people in the region.
It’s Grade 1-listed so you may well wonder what this venue could offer visitors with disabilities? Think again. The meringue exterior doesn’t prepare you for the eclectic range of performance inside, with three separate venues – Concert Hall, Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre, covering a dazzling range from comedy, dance, theatre to film nights and visual installation.
The former early 19th century royal stables and riding block now boasts accessibility, from to large print brochures to lifts and Sennheiser and T-loop systems in the auditoria and bar areas. There are signed and Stagetext captioned performances, and there is accessible parking very close by.
Read more about access at the Brighton Dome here.
Brighton Sea Life
Even if it didn’t house the world’s oldest working aquarium, the Brighton Sea Life Centre on the seafront would still be worth visiting for its vaulted Victorian ceilings. There are more than 150 types of sea creatures, and the centre includes an interactive crab and starfish rockpool.
Wheelchair and limited mobility access is via a side entrance, close to the Brighton Wheel, and it is wheelchair friendly, apart from the auditorium. Talks held in the auditorium can be heard in the tunnel and staff will answer questions for anyone who cannot access the auditorium at that time.
There is free entry for registered disabled carers, accessible toilet and refreshment facilities, and disabled parking close to the centre. Given the constraints of the original build, Sea Life has made the aquarium as accessible as possible for visitors.
There have been greater disasters and losses at sea but the tragedy of Titanic’s sinking in 1912 has a curiously ‘romantic’ fascination’ to it.
The Belfast exhibition is one of the UK’s major tourist destinations, located on Queen’s Road, not far from the Harland Wolff shipyard where the Titanic was built.
In addition to the Titanic exhibition, the Titanic Quarter has visits to the dock and pump house, a small tram and the SS Nomadic, the sole remaining White Star shipping line vessel in existence. Plus, segway and walking tours.
The Circulation Galleries are fully accessible by wheelchair and have integrated hearing loops (T switch).
The centre has an arrangement with Shop Mobility to provide scooters for the visit, though you must satisfy Shop Mobility beforehand that you are capable of riding one. Contact 028 9080 8090.
There is free carer entrance, free audio guides for what is essentially a self-guided experience and contrasting floor services for the visually impaired.
Transcripts of the video presentations are also available. For further accessibility information visit https://www.titanicbelfast.com/Visitor-Info.aspx.
Black Taxi Tours
Over the past 20 years, Belfast has seen the rise of black taxi excursions and guided drives around the city and beyond. They’re a great way to explore the city, with knowledgeable guides/drivers.
They range from 60-90-minute tours of the Troubles, Peace Wall and Murals, to an eight-hour trip exploring the North Antrim coast, including the Giant's Causeway and the Bushmills distillery.
The cabs themselves are comfortable and spacious enough to accommodate wheelchairs.
Giant's Causeway, Portrush
A World Heritage site, the causeway on the North Antrim coast consists of some 40,000 mainly hexagonal basalt stone steps, formed after a volcanic eruption, that lead into the sea. It’s now owned by the National Trust and is one of the UK’s great natural wonders.
A wheelchair friendly shuttle bus operates to the site and the visitor centre has a ramped entrance and there is an accessible toilet in the courtyard.
It may be challenging for those with mobility problems but it is worth the effort. The revamped visitor centre offers facilities for the hard of hearing and there is even an ‘interpretation area’ for the visually impaired to enjoy the experience of the Causeway, a history that goes back 50-60 million years. Unless, of course, it was all the work of the giant Finn MacCool!
Contact 028 2073 1855 before going to ask for advice.
An accessible friendly world of chocolate? We should cocoa.
From the history of chocolate to the very making of the stuff, Cadbury World is a must for chocoholics. It’s also rated very highly for it efforts in making it one of the Midlands’ top accessible attractions.
There is ample parking nearby and wheelchair users are catered for with lifts, ramps and low-level exhibits throughout.
There are accessible toilet facilities on each floor and a RADAR keyed changing room. The bean mobiles accommodate wheelchairs on the Cadabra ride.
Guide dogs are allowed in the building, except for chocolate production areas (a dog-sitting service is provided) and audio guides are available.
For the hearing impaired, scripts are available for video presentations and there is also an infrared hearing system. BSL tablets are available.
The National Motorcycle Museum
If you’re a biker or simply have a love of high-powered, two-wheeled history, this is ideal for you.
The museum houses more than 1,000 motorbikes, including the largest collection of British marques in the world. The NMM attracts some 250,000 visitors a year and is an accessible attraction, with free parking for disabled drivers close to the entrance. There is a limited number of free wheelchairs on a first come, first served basis. Call 01675 443311 for further information.
Once inside, there is wheelchair/disabled buggy access throughout most of the museum, with accessible toilet facilities on the ground floor and a wheelchair-friendly lift to the café on the first floor.
From exploring space, to toy making and finding out how maths affect our daily lives (you'd be surprised!) this science centre is an eye- and mind-opener. Close to the Bullring, it is great for grandchildren and grandparents alike.
There are 200 hands-on exhibits in addition to the larger attractions, including the Planetarium, which can accommodate up to six wheelchairs at a time.
There are accessible toilets on all floors (including one with an hydraulic changing table).
One carer is allowed free entrance. If more than one carer is required, contact Thinktank in advance.
For those with impaired vision, large print maps and guides are available on request, as are magnifying lenses.
Motorised scooters are allowed in some parts of Thinktank.
St Fagans National History Museum
This open air ‘living’ museum of Welsh history lies to the east of Cardiff centre. There are some 40 buildings on site, many reconstructed, while some have simply been moved from their original location throughout the country – from a medieval church re-sited from Glamorgan, to a pigsty and a tannery, even workman’s cottages. There’s a farmers’ market on Sundays.
The size of the site means that you’re best allowing a whole day to explore St Fagans.
There is wheelchair access and lifts, plus ramps. There are free wheelchairs to borrow on a first come, first served basis.
A land train operates from Easter until late autumn for those who find walking or using manual wheelchairs difficult over some distance. And there’s a golf buggy available, holding up to five people, though it’s best to give advance notice.
The visually impaired are encouraged to visit St Fagans, to enjoy the sounds and smells of the activities – bread making, tannery, etc – and livestock. Staff are on hand to explain the techniques being used by craftsmen and women. Large print books are available on loan.
For information on access visit https://museum.wales/stfagans/visit/access/ or listen on https://www.museumwales.ac.uk/media/1844/stfagans_access.en.mp3.
For all the city’s astonishing regeneration and redevelopment over the past 20 years, Cardiff Castle remains the heart of the city, quite literally.
Originally a Roman fort, one of four, and developed by the Normans for its strategic value, the castle tours include apartments, Second World War shelters, The Firing Line history of Welsh soldiery and an amazing clock tower.
There are lifts, ramps and a level Battlement Walk. However, the castle apartments and the keep aren’t really suitable if you find stairs hard going.
Audio guides and BSL tours are available, and ‘touch tours’ of the castle apartment tours can also be arranged, call 029 2087 8100 or click here for more information on accessibility.
Life Science Centre
Science can be fun, as the £90 million Life Science Centre, smack in the centre of Newcastle, amply demonstrates with hands-on experiments and experiences and lectures in Curiosity and Experiment Zones for all ages. There’s also a winter ice rink, from November to February.
There is free admission for dedicated carers for wheelchair users, the visually impaired and hearing challenged. Blue Badge parking is available (subject to space) on-site.
Induction loops and scripts (large print also) are available for the planetarium and the Science Theatre.
Wheelchair users and their carers are welcome to use the ice rink. However, it’s advisable to contact the LSC beforehand to check for less crowded times. Safety issues mean that wheelchair use (motorised must be set to manual) can be limited to quieter times of the day. Wheelchair users pay the normal ticket price but a carer goes free. Call 0191 243 8210 or email email@example.com for more information.
The premier centre for contemporary art in the North-East, BALTIC stands on the south bank of the Tyne, close to the swing bridge.
It’s enjoyed a controversial and occasionally turbulent history in its short life (the converted flour mill opened in 2002), but it’s rarely dull and is a must-visit for anyone with an open eye for art, especially installation work.
As you’d expect, it’s access-focused, and offers visitors the use of walking stick stools, wheelchairs, tri-wheel walkers and mobility scooters. Do phone in advance to book these.
Many BALTIC films are subtitled and the Magnilink print enlarger library is available on request. There are accessible toilets on all floors and changing room facilities on request.
The Discovery Museum
The Discovery Museum has everything you wanted to know about Tyneside and quite a bit more – with permanent exhibits including A Soldier’s Life, which looks at military history in the North-East over the past 200 years to The Newcastle Story, chronicling the region since Roman times.
The Discovery Museum is rated in the best ten attractions in Britain by the disability website Euan’s Guide which is run by Euan MacDonald, whose own mobility is limited by motor neurone disease: ‘The museum has excellent access and is really spacious with plenty of disabled toilets and plenty of seats for those who can walk short distances.’
Documents are available in Braille and/or large print. There is a fixed loop hearing facility and tactile signage available.
First Direct Arena
Local accessibility website www.accessibleleeds.com gives the First Direct Arena top marks for accessibility: ‘the lifts are a good size but there is one problem… you may have to wait.' That is not a bad point though as it shows just how popular this place is with wheelchair users.
The arena also offers a free ticket for an accompanying carer/support worker.
The arena, which opened in September 2013, is the city’s premier venue and hosts stars, from Bruce Springsteen to Michael McIntyre, Il Divo to the Strictly dance tour. Great consideration has gone into the needs of those with limited mobility and the visually/hearing impaired.
West Yorkshire Playhouse
It’s a standing - and sitting – ovation for The West Yorkshire Playhouse (0113 213 7700) which gets a 10 out of 10 rating from accessibleleeds.com. There’s particular praise for its changing room: ‘There is loads of room along with an H-frame hoist, changing bed, shower and properly adapted toilet’.
The theatre provides an exceptional range of facilitated performances – with signed, captioned (for those with hearing problems) and audio defined (for the visually impaired) shows and in Christmas 2014, the WYP produced a dementia friendly panto.
The city’s fabulous maritime history provides some intriguing places to visit, and not all solely focused on the sea.
Mary Rose Exhibition
The Mary Rose Exhibition chronicles the 34-year life of the pride of Henry VIII’s fleet, which capsized in 1545. It was discovered in 1971 and a determined 11-year archaeological endeavour raised her to the seabed in 1982.
Consideration has gone into accessibility, not only with ramps and accessible toilets and changing rooms but hearing systems throughout the displays.
Please note that the main building will be closed until summer 2016. There will be no access to the hull or the vast majority of artefacts. However, the entrance pavilion, including the Shop and Cafe will remain open. Visitors will also be able to see some artefacts and watch a newly edited 10 minute film, narrated by popular TV historian Dan Snow.
Charles Dickens' Birthplace
Accessibility considerations were hardly in the forefront of Regency house design and as a Grade 1- listed building Dickens’ birthplace cannot be adapted to accommodate people with particular mobility issues.
However, the home to arguably our greatest author has made efforts to best welcome everyone within the constraints of No 1 Mile End Terrace. If you have mobility problems, and are happy to miss out on the reception and shop, the staff, who are trained in disability awareness, can open the main front door, but even then there are five steps to surmount in order to enter the house.
For those with impaired hearing, a T Switch hearing loop has been installed.
To ease any disappointment at not being able to access the house, there is a DVD of Dickens’ home that wheelchair and scooter users can view free of charge at the more accessible Portsmouth Museum.
The D-Day Story is some distance from the main Clarence Road, close to Southsea Esplanade. There are Blue Badge parking bays at the nearest car park. However, it is some 150 yards from the museum itself.
The only exhibition in the UK dedicated solely to June 6, 1944 and the liberation of Europe allows motorised scooters and wheelchairs in parts of the venue and you can borrow a wheelchair from reception.
In the museum’s theatre, designated wheelchair spaces are set aside, but companions can sit next to the chair user. There are audio descriptions of illustrated events and exhibits, and documents relating to this momentous day in world history are available in both large print and Braille.
With Gerry and the Pacemakers’ Ferry ‘cross the Mersey nowadays kept to a merciful minimum on the ships tannoy, a one-hour trip on the commercial artery that made Liverpool and Manchester global commercial hubs in the18th and 19th centuries is a must-do, as is a day-long six-hour cruise along the Manchester Ship Canal.
Both the Pier Head ferry terminal, close to the Museum of Liverpool, and ferries themselves (on the main decks) have been made wheelchair accessible, with accessible toilet facilities on the main deck, too. There are colour contrasting steps and handrails between decks.
Electric buggies are available for those who might find the occasionally steep pan between ship and shore (due to the rise and fall of the waves) difficult to manoeuvre. Accessible toilets are available at all ferry terminals on both sides of the river.
For further information about accessibility and to arrange, call 0151 330 1444.
Museum of Liverpool
This fantastic museum opened in 2011 with 8,000sq ft reflecting Liverpool and Merseyside’s social and cultural history. Situated on the Mersey waterfront, the Museum of Liverpool is close to other access-friendly museums and galleries, the Tate Liverpool and Maritime Museum, and the accessible riverside walk.
Wheelchairs can be borrowed for the visit’s duration. Braille guides are available at main reception desk; cloakroom lockers and keys are also in Braille.
There are accessible toilets on all three floors and many of the films accompanying the exhibits have British Sign Language interpretation and/or subtitles.
Visit https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/about/accessibility.aspx for more details.
The World Museum
The disability charity Revitalise rated The World Museum on William Brown Street, just a hundred yards or so from Lime Street station, as the third most accessible UK tourist attraction.
With its planetarium, aquarium and zoological and cultural exhibits from around the globe, it’s one of the most fascinating and imaginatively programmed museums in the North-West.
Wheelchairs can be borrowed from the main reception, there are accessible toilets on all but the ground floor, and there are large print menus in the museum’s cafes.
Subscribe today for just £29 for 12 issues...