I’ve lived in Northumberland my entire life. I love visiting the abundance of attractions the region offers. As rheumatoid arthritis has reduced my mobility, visiting attractions means considering their accessibility. When Silver Travel Advisor asked me to contribute on accessible attractions I was delighted to revisit some favourite places.
The Alnwick Garden and Treehouse Restaurant
These magnificent, unique gardens with their spectacular cascading water features are set in the grounds of Alnwick Castle, home to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. The enormous, beautifully crafted, Treehouse Restaurant known as one of the world’s largest skywalks overlooks the extensive gardens which also contain a café, picnic area and shops. All of these areas are disabled friendly/wheelchair accessible. From the designated disabled car parking area the level pathway leads to the entrance. Concessions are available for senior citizens, carers for disabled people gain free entry. Nearby, posters display how staff are happy to help the less mobile enjoy their visit. Free wheelchair and mobility scooter hire is available (please book in advance). Assistance dogs are welcome.
All pathways walking areas including interior floorings have a good quality surface. Areas are appropriately ramped, some walkways are railed. The spacious shop and café have level access. Accessible cutlery is available in eating areas. Seating is provided throughout the gardens. The Pavilion overlooking the giant cascade provides seating and shelter. Disabled/wheelchair accessible toilets are available.
Woodhorn Colliery Museum, Narrow Gauge Railway and QE ll Country Park
Woodhorn Colliery Museum is recognised as one of the best surviving examples of late 19th century/early 20th century colliery life. It stands on the edge of the Queen Elizabeth Country park which is a haven for wildlife. A narrow gauge railway links the country park to the museum. Entry to the museum is free but there is a car parking charge for all vehicles of £3.50. Disabled parking is available. Wheelchair/mobility scooter can be hired free – book in advance! There is level access to most areas (I only noticed two areas of colliery buildings that may be problematic). Information is available in large print and Braille. There is a level access shop with low level shop counter and hearing induction loop. The café is level access. There are disabled/wheelchair accessible toilets.
The Narrow Gauge Railway linking the museum to the Country Park includes a wheelchair accessible carriage. The Queen Elizabeth II Country Park has a free car park, level access walks, seating throughout and a wheelchair accessible fishing platform at the lake. A brewers fayre restaurant overlooks the park. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Howick Hall Gardens
Howick Hall is the seat of the Earls Grey and the home of Earl Grey tea but it is the extensive grounds that are open to the public. There is a level access informative Visitor Centre and a level access elegant tea room serving refreshments and light meals. The venue has accessible toilets. Disabled car parking spaces are provided as well as a drop off point beside the tea room. Disabled visitors and their carers are admitted at concessionary rate. Most of the pathways consist of small gravel or grass and most are accessible. A useful physical disabilities map for the grounds is available free from reception. Power assisted wheelchairs are available (please book in advance). Assistance dogs are welcome.
Wallington Hall and Gardens
Wallington Hall is a 17th century mansion once home to generations of the Blackett and Trevelyan families. The estate was gifted to the National Trust in 1942 by the Trevelyan family. Extensive grounds surround the Hall. There is a free car park including designated disabled car parking. Wheelchair and buggy hire is available (please book in advance). Exploring the Hall takes time, there is lots to see. Many rooms contain fine furnishings and various large collections. Touring the Hall illustrates well, life above stairs as well as life below stairs. Wallington Hall also has a superb collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings by artist William Scott Bell and art collections by Turner, Ruskin and Burne-Jones. There is ramped access to the Hall and lift access to the first floor. Pathways throughout the gardens are a mixture of gravel and resin providing a good surface. A free access map is available. There is also mobility parking available (please book in advance) at a separate Walled Garden, a 10-15 minute walk from the house. The café where you can enjoy coffee or a full meal is spacious with level access. The well-stocked gift shop also has level access. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens
The Estate is owned by English Heritage but for seven centuries it was home to the Middleton family who lived first in the Castle, then from 1814 in the Hall. The grounds which are a mixture of formal and informal gardens link the castle to the Hall. There is designated disabled car parking and disabled set down points close to the Hall. Concessions are available to over 60’s. Carers for disabled people are admitted free. Wheelchair loan is available (please book in advance). An access map is available for wheelchair users.
The whole estate is open to the public. The Castle is dominated by a 14th century Pele Tower. The Hall has an unusual architecture inspired by the temples of Greece. Both the Castle and Hall are displayed unfurnished. The Castle has partial disabled access (as there is a spiral staircase). Ramped access and radar key access provide level access to the Hall for wheelchair users. The Tea Room is based in the original kitchen of the Hall. It has level access as does the gift shop. Gradients in the grounds are generally not steep, paths are gravelled with superior gravel to facilitate good access. There is seating throughout the venue. Assistance dogs are welcome.
The Newbiggin Maritime Museum
The Newbiggin Maritime Museum at Newbiggin, explores the fishing, mining and tourism industries of the area dating back to the 11th century. Community life is well illustrated with tales of hardship and extraordinary acts of heroism being prominent.
A large free car park with disabled parking places adjoins the centre. The ramped pathway leads to automatic doors. There is a lowered section at the welcome desk. Large print brochures are available. With the exception of a viewing platform which has steps the whole centre has good level access. There is a wheelchair accessible/disabled toilet. Assistance dogs are welcome.
The café uses local produce. The gift shop is packed with gifts and produce, many from local crafters. Both are level access.
The Laing Art Gallery
The Laing Art Gallery in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne on the edge of Northumberland is known for bringing world class art to the North East through both its permanent and temporary exhibitions which include art of national and local importance.
There is level access to the entrance with automatic doors. Wheelchair hire is available (book in advance). Stairs (beautiful sweeping staircases with handrails) feature throughout but so do lifts – with full lift access to all floors, all lifts are wheelchair accessible with tactile buttons and voice announcers. Seating with and without arms is provided throughout the venue. Light portable seating is available which I found useful. There are talking audio guides and listening posts, hearing induction loops, large print and gallery plans in braille. Assistance dogs are welcome. The café provides a varied menu, is spacious with level access, large print menus are available on request as a large handled cutlery and open handed mugs. The venue has disabled/wheelchair accessible toilets. Assistance dogs are welcome.
The Laing Art Gallery is in the city centre, but there is disabled car parking behind the gallery and a drop off point beside the gallery. There is a taxi rank just steps away and a good local bus service.
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