How accessible are the UK’s top attractions?
Access to places and events for the less mobile has improved significantly over the last few years. It’s been driven by a mix of legislation and a greater willingness to be as inclusive as possible.
This has meant installing ramps, lifts and accessible facilities for wheelchair and mobility scooter users. For those who walk independently but struggle with distances, many attractions offer buggy rides or have wheelchairs available for the visit. And the more enlightened also offer reduced prices for carers.
But the difference between what’s available at different attractions can still be challenging. If you’re travelling some distance to get to a venue, you need to know that it’s going to be an enjoyable day out.
A bit of number crunching carried out by ageukmobility has come up with some useful guidance. The team took top 30 tourist attractions as ranked on TripAdvisor, and then gave them marks on a range of accessibility features.
The result is a list of what they consider to be the most accessible popular attractions in the UK. There’s a pleasing spread across the country. And interestingly, a long history hasn’t meant that attractions are ruled out from being accessible. So included on the list are some ancient monuments and older buildings that have benefited from a bit of creative thinking to make them more accessible.
Which are the mist highly ranked attractions?
The top attractions according to the rankings are:
- Stonehenge in Wiltshire, operated by English Heritage
- Titanic Belfast, telling the story of the ill-fated Titanic in the city where she was built
- National Railway Museum in York, built inside a former railway depot and offering close-up views of trains from the age of steam through to modern bullet trains
- Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, containing regularly changing exhibitions in 22 galleries
- Hyde Park in London
- Royal Yacht Britannia, permanently docked in Edinburgh, with accessibility to all five levels from royal apartments to crew’s quarters
- St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London
- Chester Zoo
- The V&A, also known as the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington, London
- Royal Albert Dock in Liverpool
- Tower Bridge, across the river Thames in London
- Warwick Castle, a medieval castle with family-friendly entertainment
- Alton Towers theme park, aimed more at families
- Blackpool Pleasure Beach, another amusement park with plenty to do for children
How were the rankings determined?
Taking the top 30 attractions listed on TripAdvisor, the team then awarded points for a range of factors, including:
- Accessible toilets
- Universal access
- Mobility aids on offer
- Motorised scooter friendly
- Onsite disabled parking
- Free carer tickets
- Whether they allow guide dogs
- Their score on Euan’s guide*
What about the rest?
Of the other attractions in the top 30, only Edinburgh Old Town didn’t offer accessible toilets.
Onsite disabled parking is a bit hit and miss, so definitely worth checking before you leave.
Most offer onsite disability aids, and are motorised scooter-friendly. And, pleasingly, all offer carer tickets.
Much of the difference in scores came down to the points awarded by Euan’s Guide, which gave low ratings to the Natural History Museum, Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Palace and Borough Market in London, and doesn’t offer ratings for a few of the attractions.
What are the other top 30 TripAdvisor attractions?
Rated and reviewed by the visiting public in general, the top 30 attractions also include:
- National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh (no onsite disabled parking)
- The British Museum in London (no universal access)
- Windsor Castle (no onsite disabled parking)
- Churchill War Rooms in London (no onsite disabled parking and not clear about mobility scooters)
- National Gallery in London (no onsite disabled parking)
- Westminster Abbey in London (no universal access and no onsite disabled parking)
- St James’s Park in London (no disabled aids on offer and no onsite disabled parking)
- Houses of Parliament (no universal access and no onsite disabled parking)
- The Roman Baths in Bath (no universal access, no onsite disabled parking and unclear about guide dogs)
- Tower of London (no universal access and no onsite disabled parking)
- Edinburgh Old Town (no accessible toilet and no mobility aids on offer)
- York Minster (no universal access, no onsite disabled parking and unclear about motorised scooters)
- Borough Market (no mobility aids on offer, no onsite disabled parking and unclear about motorised scooters)
- Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh (no universal access, no mobility aids on offer, and no onsite disabled parking)
- Sky Garden in London (no universal access, no onsite disabled parking, and unclear about mobility aids on offer and motorised scooters)
What about art and galleries?
Artsy.net has a useful article on how galleries and exhibitions are approaching being more inclusive. They range from committed to making a ‘curatorial choice’ not to provide wheelchair access to an installation. In the latter case the Tate Modern apologised and provided a video experience instead.
There are many criticisms of a lack of thought around accessibility, but the view is that curators are trying harder. Coming in for particular praise is the Dale Chihuly glass art exhibition at Kew Gardens, which has been laid out to be accessible to all.
If any of the accessible features mentioned here are very important to you, we would recommend you give the attraction a call, just to make sure that service is available on the day you visit.
*Euan’s Guide is used by thousands of disabled people to review, share and discover accessible places to go.
The Motability Rough Guide to Accessible Britain, lists 180 accessible days out, reviewed by Rough Guide writers. Free to download or view online.
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