Seascape Lodge – an escape to the Emerald Isle

A slightly back-dated review next, but one that we really wanted to share with you.  A trip in August 2017 to Northern Ireland took us to Seascape Lodge near Bushmills, on the beautiful Antrim Coast.

www.seascapelodgeni.com

As usual, lots of research on accessibility and fun was done in advance, the added challenge this time was a property for a family of 12! We were lucky to find Seascape Lodge, a 5 bedroomed 5* holiday property outside Bushmills, with amazing views looking out across the Atlantic Ocean and Antrim Coast.

It is only a short 25 minute flight with EasyJet from Liverpool into Belfast International Airport, and a 1 hour drive to Bushmills.

There is ample parking outside Seascape Lodge, and it is completely level and well-maintained. There is 1 small step to access the house through the front door, but access through the conservatory or kitchen is level. Internally there are no steps on the ground floor, and on this level there are 3 spacious twin/double bedrooms and a large bathroom with separate bath and shower cubicle (not many internal photos sorry but plenty online). On the 1st floor are 2 very large double bedrooms and another large bathroom.

There is a stair gate at the bottom of the stairs, and we used our travel stair gate at the top to stop Emily trying to divebomb her way downstairs…

There is a luxurious feel to the inside of the house, with high quality bedding and towels, comfy beds and lots of nice stylish touches. The kitchen is well equipped, with loads of crockery and glasses (needed when 12 people are in residence!).

The outside space is the magical part of Seascape Lodge and it is completely accessible. Once outside accessibility to the tennis court and 9 hole green are level, and the large lawn outside the house is not only level but also completely enclosed, ideal for locking in 6 crayzee children.

Be prepared for the many different weather systems you will experience in 1 day in Northern Ireland, I managed to catch some sun for these photos but we also battled against the obligatory Irish wind and rain on 1 or 2 days. Just take suncream, wellies and a wetsuit and you’ll be just fine, all eventualities accounted for (and they will happen).

There is a fantastic BBQ area, part of which is under a covered terrace with heated lamps. This decked area is up 1 fairly large step.

 

Seascape Lodge is just outside Bushmills which has some local amenities including a Co-op and a nice variety of places to eat; plus the world famous Bushmills Distillery. For a bigger shop there is a Tesco in Portstewart (approximately 8 miles), and more supermarkets and amenities in Coleraine (approximately 9-10 miles).

There is so much to see and do in this area, and the beautiful Seascape Lodge is centrally located for all the sights of the Antrim Coast including  The Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle and miles and miles of beautiful beaches.

For those with limited mobility White Park Bay beach opposite the house is not particularly accessible as it is a steep descent from the car park, the final part of which is across sand dunes.

However, there are plenty of local beaches with fantastic access including White Rock Sands and The Strand in Portstewart (a 2 mile stretch of level beach which you can drive onto).

Ian always responded quickly to any queries we had about the property and was available during our stay. We would highly recommend Seascape Lodge for all the family, including those with mobility and accessibility needs. As long as you prepare for the crazy Irish weather you will love this part of the world, there is a certain magic to it.

 

 

The Secret Life of……a little flamingo at Chester Zoo

A trip to the wonderful Chester Zoo this time. According to the height chart on the way in, Emily is the same height as a flamingo, hence the blog title!

There are plenty of well-marked disabled spaces opposite the entrance to the zoo, and it’s a level, well-maintained walk to the gates.

On this occasion we were re-joining as members, so we headed straight to the Membership Office which is to the right of the gates. The cost for a child member is £50 per year, and Emily’s ticket is Child + 1 carer, so it means that Emily can have unlimited trips to the zoo all year with a carer of her choice! As the boys abandon us for the heady heights of cricket once the season starts, it’s great to have something the two of us can go and enjoy as often as we like. Yearly membership is excellent value, as it is £20 for just 1 day entry for a child, so £50 for a year is more than worth it.

The office is easily accessible and has automatic doors.

Once you have either paid for day entry, purchased a ticket, or if you are already a member, you head past the shop on your left and guest services/toilets on your right. Then you will be faced with the magnificent sight of the elephant enclosure, just before you reach the entrance gates where your tickets are scanned.

We were lucky enough for the elephants to be heading over to meet/eat us (I know they’re vegetarian..). We stood next to one of the zookeepers who was throwing them snacks, so we got to enjoy watching them play-fight over the biscuits, and see the baby elephants up close.

As we headed in Emily opted for the monkey house first. As we’ve been members before, we weren’t in a rush to see everything in one day. The 11 miles of pathway might be a struggle!

I won’t list each area you can visit as it’s so much more exciting to explore it yourself, but all areas are very accessible. All the entrance doors are either automatic doors or have buttons at a low height. All the paths are well-maintained and level (a surprisingly high number of places aren’t well maintained, which for us means lots of trip/stumble hazards).

The Elephant Bridge and Wooden Bats Bridge have quite a steep gradient, and the walkway across the cheetah enclosure may be a slightly bumpy ride in a wheelchair but still very accessible.

We didn’t travel on the boat rides this time, but we did take a trip on the monorail. We caught this from by the Lion Enclosure/June’s Food Court, which takes you back to the main entrance. It is £1.75 for children and £2.20 for adults, carers can travel free.

Access to the monorail stations are by ramp, and there is a very slight ‘lip’ between the carriages and entrance/exit path, although it is still accessible with pushchairs or wheelchairs. (Electric scooters are not permitted on the monorail).

I would definitely recommend taking your adapted buggy or wheelchair for a trip to the zoo, it’s lovely to walk and see all the sights if you can, but wobbly legs will get very tired!

In our couple of hours at the zoo we visited the monkey house (twice), the bears, the elephants, the cheetahs, and saw even more from the monorail. Still loads to see on our next trip.

The female lions didn’t realise that a busy Sunday afternoon was not the time to start a game of ‘Sleeping Lions’………

And of course what is a trip to the zoo without the obligatory trip to the shop….

You will never fail to have a fab day out at Chester Zoo. It is so accessible and those with limited mobility or wheelchair users won’t miss out on any of the attractions. There is even a wheelchair accessible playpark ‘Wildlife Wood’. We will be exploring this next time!

There are disabled toilets throughout the zoo, and a Changing Places facility located in June’s Food Court. We stopped for a hot drink in Bembe kitchen this time, it is very spacious and has both booths and tables with freestanding chairs.

The accessibility guide on the zoo website www.chesterzoo.org also provides information for visitors with visual impairment, and visitors with autism. There is also a link to the ‘disabled go’ site which gives more information on door widths etc.

And as we glided towards the exit on the monorail we saw the (slightly soggy) brightly coloured real-life flamingos….

 

Monday Escapes – a new linky!

Take a look at the lovely Monday Escapes linky, a fortnightly link-up between parent/travel bloggers,  sharing family travel memories. There are lots of fantastic blogs on holidays, day trips, walks, visits to attractions and other travel experiences.

I have added one of my blog posts from our trip to York on this week’s Monday Escapes, you can find the link on the tinboxtraveller website at:

https://tinboxtraveller.co.uk/2018/04/monday-escapes-23-04-18/

A Deep Sea Adventure at Blue Planet Aquarium

On a chilly Welsh winter day we thought we would escape to a tropical paradise, or at least the next best local alternative – the Blue Planet Aquarium at Cheshire Oaks.

Although there isn’t an accessibility guide on the website, there is a page providing information on the general accessibility – info on lifts, ramps, etc; and having visited previously we didn’t anticipate any difficulties access-wise.

The disabled spaces aren’t particularly well marked, but plenty can be found opposite the entrance. It is a flat level walk to the entrance, and there are automatic doors.

I was able to enter as Emily’s carer, so it cost £12.95 for the 2 of us (or £11.66 if bought online).  As you enter the main concourse it is level entry to all the areas, and there are lifts on either side.

One of the favourites here is the Aquatheatre, a wonderful window on the underwater world. There are at least 3 dive shows daily.

It is very atmospheric in the Aquatheatre, there is plenty of space but take care moving around as it is dimly lit, (understandably as this enables you to appreciate the view). There is 1 step up to have a closer look (also slightly dimly lit), Emily found this view mesmerising! If you are feeling brave there are Shark Dive experiences available. Personally I prefer a nice piece of reinforced glass between me and fish with teeth…

 

Following on from the Aquatheatre is the Aqua Tunnel, which follows it’s way round beneath the enormous tank you view from the Aquatheatre. On this particular day the moving walkway wasn’t operating, but for us this was a good thing as Emily would have struggled with balance and found this disorientating combined with the water and lights moving around us.

 

The café – Nautilus Kitchen serves hot food and kids lunch boxes. It has level access and free-standing chairs. We had a breakthrough here – Emily mastered a straw for the first time and was very proud of herself!!

Blue Planet has disabled toilet facilities, the nearest Changing Places facility is at the Ellesmere Port Sports Village approximately 5 minutes drive away (CH65 9LB).

Overall Blue Planet is very accessible on all levels and disabled parking is  opposite the entrance. Have a look at the website for all the exhibitions, shows and essential info –  www.blueplanetaquarium.com and transport yourself into an underwater tropical world for an hour or 2.

 

 

Sweet and Treats – Spavens Mold

 

We were lucky enough to go to a birthday party at Spavens in Mold recently and not just because we could secretly eat our body weight in cola bottles and white mice. Having been to parties in the past we knew that they always have lots of crafty and sweet- choosing fun, and come home with lots of delicious treats.

On this occasion I was having to think about things differently! I knew the stairs down to the fairy-themed basement might be a problem, and a wobbly balance problem might not fare well with the breakables…

I needn’t have worried, the staff at Spavens were brilliant. They quickly spotted we would need a bit of extra help, particularly with the stairs, and were kind enough to offer to look after Emily during the party, including helping her up and down the stairs 2 or 3 times. It meant a rare thing happened at a party – Mum and Dad got to sit down!

Thank you Spavens for your help and understanding, making sure Emily had a wonderful time, and making sure the whole party was accessible for her.

There is a car park with free disabled spaces a few doors down from Spavens on King Street, and it is a level walk from the car park into the main floor of Spavens.  The main floor of the shop is level although care is needed around the displays! There are 2 access points down to the basement with handrails. 

www.spavens.co.uk

The Chronicles of Ghostly York

 

So a fantastic family trip to York, loads of fun things for all ages, and if you’re lucky you might be inspired to try something new and be transported out of the world of Muggles.

Although York is a mixture of medieval, Georgian and Victorian Streets, mixed in with Viking culture and on this visit a good dose of 21st Century April flooding; it is surprisingly accessible for disabled visitors. The local council website www.york.gov.uk  has links to the ‘disabled go’ pages, and has all the information you need on blue badge parking, accessibility guides, Changing Places facilities, and much more. All the attractions we visited have excellent accessibility guides and really friendly staff.

Once you and your sat-nav have grasped the one-way system and avoided the flooded riverside streets, you will become an old hand at finding places suitable for parking and visiting the attractions. If staying outside York you can use Park and Ride.

We would definitely recommend York for families with young children, and equally for families who have to think outside the box a little bit more.

The Magical Shambles

So a trip to the famous Shambles in York, little did we know the excitement this would generate, and in fact finally inspire the boys in the family to read Harry Potter. As we rounded the corner we were met with the quaint sight of The Shambles, and 3 very busy Harry Potter shops!

The Shambles has previously been voted The Most Picturesque Street in Britain, and you can see why. It has an almost magical feel to it and you feel transported back in time with the overhanging timber buildings and cobbled streets.

The cobbles are obviously quite tricky to negotiate if you have mobility problems and were also quite wet on our first visit; but you can’t really expect too much from a medieval street dating back to the 14th Century! There are also small steps into most shops so lots of help needed getting in and out. It may be more challenging negotiating the cobbles or pavements with a wheelchair or MM.

A wonderful place to visit and be magically inspired.

Return of the Vikings – Jorvik Viking Centre, York

So a trip to meet the Vikings at the Yorvik Viking Centre in the middle of York. Although built on the site where the 5 year excavation took place in the 1970s and 80s, it is actually in the middle of the Coppergate Shopping Centre!

The best car park is Picadilly Street, this has disabled parking spaces close to a lift on the 1st floor, and parking is free with a blue badge. The lift exits into the main square of the shopping centre, where we were greeted by a long queue snaking it’s way around the square, complete with Yorkshire rain to add to the experience!

However having read the accessibility guide on the Viking Centre website first, I knew we could approach a member of Viking-clothed staff and skip the queue into the fast track aisle.

This was fantastic, as we think people were probably queueing for up to an hour, even when pre-booking tickets. We only waited 5 minutes or so before being guided to the admissions desk. It’s a level walk and the doors are always open.

Carers can gain free entry with a disabled visitor, so the cost for the 4 of us was £27. The staff outside the centre, at the desk and throughout the centre were very friendly and helpful.

The modern glass lift is next to the admissions desk, and takes you directly down to the first exhibition hall. This is pretty impressive as the ruins have been recreated underneath a glass floor, so you can walk around and get a real feel for them. It is quite disorientating, particularly if you have a wobbly balance problem, but is completely level! It is also quite dark so care is needed when moving around.

There is a ramp down to the ride experience, access to the car is slightly tricky but Emily was not phased! There is an upper and lower level to each car, the upper level is reached by 2 metal steps (see pic) and the lower level by one slightly raised step. Emily needed a lot of help getting in and out as it wobbles quite a lot whilst everyone is getting in or out, but once inside the car the bar is closed and it feels very safe. Everyone has their own iPad in front of them with information and there is a kids version.

The ride experience is excellent, I won’t say too much and spoil it! The sights, sounds and even smells are very realistic; and the animatronic people and animals are very realistic. Slight surprise when one of the Vikings on a boat turned and spoke to us – a friendly member of staff scaring the customers!

The exhibitions following the ride experience are all on one level and there is quite a lot to see and learn about. We actually went back on the ride experience as they had really enjoyed it.

The gift shop can be accessed via steps from the exhibitions, or you can return to the admission desk in the lift and walk round at street level to the shop.  An enjoyable hour or 2 can be spent here but if you’re not eligible for free fast tracking, I would advise paying a bit extra and avoiding the snaking queue!

Hectic History – York Castle Museum

Next on the museum trail in York was the York Castle Museum which had been recommended by friends and review websites. It has a fantastic accessibility guide, and I was really impressed by the downloadable Visual Story which I haven’t seen in an access section before. It also helps the grown ups get a feel for how the museum looks on the inside!

Thanks to the guide we knew we could park on the road outside the museum for up to 3 hours with a blue badge. When we arrived it was tricky to work out where to park as there is no disabled parking signage, but when I nipped inside I was given information on where to park (it is literally right outside).

There is level access to the museum with automatic doors. Entry is free for a carer with a disabled visitor and children are free so it only cost £10 for the 4 of us. There are really friendly and helpful staff on reception.

The museum is split into 2 halves, and we started off in the section to the left. We knew from the website that there were no lifts on this side and that it was split over 3 levels, and it was also very busy, so Emily needed lots of help with getting around. We had to sit down a few times but there are plenty of seats. The stairs all have handrails so Emily managed by holding one handrail and holding a hand.

The displays, galleries and exhibitions are excellent; and they both enjoyed the Toy Story Galleries.

The best part of this side of the museum is Kirkgate, the recreated Victorian Street. It would be worth a visit for this alone!

Each shop and  business on Kirkgate is named after a real business that operated in Victorian York. It is an amazing experience to be able to walk in and out of the shops, some of which have staff in Victorian costume working in who are answering questions or telling stories. You can also see the school and  police cell; and wander down back lanes complete with recreated (smell and all) toilets.

Emily needed more help on Kirkgate due to it’s cobbles which she stumbled on slightly, and it is also quite dark. There are ramps into all the shops.

The second half of the museum is fully accessible, it is spread over 2 floors and has a lift. At this stage we realised it would have been wise to take in the Maclaren Major as Emily was very tired after using the stairs and walking around so much in the first half. The hunger demons were also kicking in for all 4 of us so we did rush around a bit! Still loads of interesting things to see and learn about.

York Castle Museum is an absolute must, not only is it excellent value for money, there is so much to see and do that it will keep the little and big ones entertained for quite a few hours. Kirkgate is amazing and worth it just to experience reliving Victorian York.

All Aboard! National Railway Museum York

First museum on our museum trail tour of York was the National Railway Museum, a wise choice on a rainy/snowy day!

Disabled parking spaces are outside the entrance to the museum, unfortunately they were all taken but when speaking to staff at the admissions desk they let us know that drop-offs can be made at the main entrance. You can then park in the main car park and collect a token for free parking inside the museum. By the time I made my way back outside a space had become free but handy to know the information for next time.

There are automatic doors into the museum and it is all level access. The road-train which takes you to and from York Minster also picks up/drops off outside the entrance. Although we didn’t travel on the train, we could see that the last carriage had a disabled symbol on the door.

The museum asks for a suggested donation of £5 per person for entry into the museum which seems very reasonable.

We first made our way into Station Hall, it’s an immediate ‘Wow!’ from everyone, an immense hall with gleaming steam trains on view.

There are level and very wide ramps to access all areas of Station Hall. The floor is very smooth and well maintained so no stumble hazards. There are small steps or ramps onto the trains which are open for viewing, the space is a little tight inside them and it was very busy!

The steam train and miniature railway rides are accessible from Station Hall, we didn’t make our way onto these as it was so wet but they looked like great fun. Tickets for both the steam train and miniature railway rides are  £3 each (a carer can travel free with a disabled visitor). A family ticket for 4 on the miniature railway is £10.

We then made our way across to the Great Hall. Access to this is via 2 flights of steps, or 2 lifts which we used as Emily was tiring after walking round Station Hall and getting on and off the trains. Again another ‘Wow!’ when walking in.

There are disabled access ramps onto some of the trains which can be walked around, such as the Japanese Bullet Train (very space age despite being built in 1976!).

Others are too high up to be accessed by a ramp, so Emily needed loads of help up the steps (such as onto the Duchess of Hamilton) as they were quite wobbly. The tracks embedded into the floor in the Great Hall created a slight stumble hazard for Emily so she needed extra help around this area. We are working on Emily looking down when walking but she was just too excited!These tracks wouldn’t create a problem for the Maclaren Major (MM), a buggy, mobility scooter or wheelchair.

The Ambulance Train is fully accessible and actually has a disabled lift tucked away at the side in camouflage, make sure you search for it! It’s an amazing exhibition with digital projection, light and sound.

The cafes in both halls are fully accessible with loose chairs. Disabled toilets are available around the museum. There are wheelchairs available free of charge at both entrances. There are plenty of places to sit and rest while admiring the view!

The shops also have level access, although care needs to be taken around the displays and breakables when a bit wobbly after a busy time!

NRM is a great way to spend a few hours sheltering from the rain, and if you’re lucky enough to visit on a dry day there’s plenty to do outside as well! Lovely friendly staff and most areas fully accessible.