Accessible Attractions in Tyneside and County Durham

My childhood was spent on Tyneside.  My grandparents lived in the next county – Durham, so County Durham became my second home.  I’ve always enjoyed visiting the many attractions these regions offer.  A few years ago, rheumatoid arthritis reduced my mobility, I was determined to continue getting out and about, so I started looking at attractions from an accessibility angle.  It was a great pleasure to revisit some of my favourite places as well as new places to look at accessible attractions for Silver Travel Advisor.

Discovery Museum, Newcastle upon TyneThe Discovery Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne, provides excellent facilities for disabled people.  Admission is free for everyone.

The Museum tells the maritime and social history of Newcastle Upon Tyne and surrounding area from early 18th century to the 21st century.  This huge, spacious and airy museum exhibits hundreds of objects from full size ships and vintage cars to small football tickets.  Displays are colourful, clear and in various formats  It has a nice cafe, gift shop and really helpful staff.

Facilities include Blue Badge Parking immediately outside (limited).  Automatic doors throughout.  Wheelchair hire, wheelchair accessible lifts with voice announcers and Braille indicators.  Assistance dogs welcome.  Secure flooring designed to assist the less mobile.  Ramped and railed walkways.  Disabled friendly/wheelchair accessible toilets on all floors.  Evacuation chair in case of fire.  Induction loop system.  Audio points have text versions beside them.  Standard large print and Braille floor plans available.  Plenty of respite seating throughout which is varied – chairs with or without arms and sofas.  Level access cafe with large print menus, large handed cutlery and open-ended mugs available on request.  A light environment without being over bright.

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Great North Museum, Newcastle upon TyneThe Great North Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne, is set in landscaped gardens lined with seats on the northern approach to the city and close to the city centre.  All areas are accessible to the less mobile.  Admission is free to all.

This large, spacious, airy museum has such a diverse collection it is said to have ‘the world under one roof’.  Facilities for the less mobile include: blue badge parking on site (limited), sloped, railed pathway to entrance, automatic doors throughout, wheelchair accessible lifts with voice announcers and tactile buttons.  Disabled friendly wheelchair accessible toilets on all floors.  First floor has a disabled shower/toilet.  Induction loop system, respite seating, assistance dogs welcome.  There are two level access cafes and accessible shop.

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Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, GatesheadThe Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead has always been a Tyneside landmark.  In the 1940s The Baltic was a huge Flour Mill.  When it closed it stood empty for decades until refurbishment brought it a new purpose in life, as part of an arts and cultural development on the south bank of the Tyne.  It stands behind the Gateshead/Newcastle Millennium Bridge which is also a first class visitor attraction.

The Baltic Centre is now an international leader in the presentation, commissioning, development and communication of contemporary visual art.  There are no fixed art collections here – it is an ever-changing programme housed in four huge galleries.  Entry to the museum is free (donations are welcome.)

Disabled people are well catered for.  There is blue badge parking outside.  There is ramp access on the riverside of the building.  Wheelchair, tri walker, mobility scooter and walking stick stool hire are available (please book in advance).  Wheelchair accessible lifts to all floors.  Wheelchair accessible/disabled friendly toilets on all floors except level five.  Accessible restaurant, cafe and shop.  Assistance dogs are welcome.
The Baltic Centre stands next door to The Sage Theatre known as the international home for music and music discovery which also provides good disabled access.

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Gateshead Millennium BridgeThe Gateshead  Millennium Bridge links the Baltic Centre to Newcastle upon Tyne.  Its grace and engineering has attracted people from all over the world.  Watching the tilting of the bridge which takes four minutes is described as a world-class experience.  In the evening its spectacular lighting brings the river to life.  The Bridge is designed for pedestrians and cycles (with a dedicated cycle path).  It has a wheelchair friendly surface and is accessible at both ends for wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

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Tynemouth Priory and CastleTynemouth Priory and Castle are English Heritage owned properties.  They stand beside one another in a magnificent setting surrounded by a large grassed area, overlooking wide, sweeping beaches and with superb river and sea views.  Located in the seaside village of Tynemouth, east of Newcastle upon Tyne, the entrance fee includes visiting both properties and includes concessions for seniors.  Carers/companions of disabled people are admitted free.

It has Blue Badge car parking (please contact in advance) and separate entry for the less mobile (to avoid steps at the Gatehouse which houses the ticket office).  It has partial accessibility because of steep steps at the Gun Battery. Wheelchairs can be hired, and assistance dogs are welcome. There are railed areas where appropriate.  Most of the areas are flat, and where there are steps and cobbles (near the Gatehouse) staff are happy to show how to avoid them or offer assistance. There is no cafe at the venue, but very close by are many cafes, restaurants and pubs.

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National Railway Museum, Shildon, County DurhamThe National Railway Museum Shildon in County Durham houses a superb collection of locomotives, carriages and wagons as well as a wealth of information on railways and railway life.  Entry is free.  Facilities for the less mobile include: level access, wheelchair hire, disabled friendly/wheelchair accessible toilets.  Level access cafe and shop.  Assistance dogs are welcome.  The locomotives are all housed in the Collection Building (where the cafe is also found).  For those wanting to visit the other buildings there is some walking, but an accessibility bus is available (please telephone and reserve in advance).

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Beamish Open Air Museum, County DurhamBeamish Open Air Museum in County Durham is set in 350 acres of countryside.  It is a huge life-size museum which includes an entire pit village, a colliery yard farm, a town, station and waggonway, fairground and hall.  It illustrates north-east life from early 1800s to the 1940s.  You can buy from the shops, eat and drink in cafes and pubs of those eras.  The less mobile are welcome and with the exception of The Drift Mine and the carriage on a train at The Rail Station (which are not wheelchair accessible), most areas are accessible, although it is worth mentioning that some pathways are better than others.  There is dedicated disabled car parking, a drop-off point.  Transport throughout the site is provided on a regular basis through a fleet of authentic buses and trams.  Steep steps are involved on the buses but for the less mobile there is a regular accessible bus (with wheelchair access).  There are disabled friendly/wheelchair accessible toilets throughout the venue.  Assistance dogs are welcome.  There are plenty of places to sit. Places to eat, drink and shop are all accessible.  Staff have had disability awareness training.  Companions and carers to disabled people are admitted free of charge.  There are concessions for seniors.

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Washington Wetland CentreThe Washington Wetland Centre in Tyne and Wear is on a large site consisting of woodland, meadows, lagoons, marshes, reed beds and pools which provide a home to a rich collection of creatures.  It also has a well socked shop, and a cafe with spectacular views.

The venue is very disabled friendly and has full wheelchair access.  There are comfortable, step free, wheelchair accessible hides.  In Hawthorn Wood an extra large window for wheelchair users is provided.  The Pond Dipping area has facilities for wheelchair users.  Although there are some slopes the venue is mainly flat with good surface paving.  There are wheelchair accessible toilets.  Wheelchair and mobility scooter hire are available free of charge (donations welcome).  Trained assistance dogs are welcome.  Carers of disabled people are admitted free of charge.  There are offers for seniors.

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Read more about Accessible Attractions in Great Britain

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Pamela Walker

Grandmother, writer & traveller

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