Ash Cottage is different to most cottages – it was really cosy even on the first evening! In fact, it was almost too warm as we couldn’t resist lighting the wood-burner.
It is one of ten cottages at Tottergill Farm, Castle Carrock, Cumbria run by Tracey and Barnaby Bowan – all are luxurious, some even have hot-tubs.
Compact, with a living-dining-kitchen, bedroom and wetroom bathroom, Ash Cottage also has some outdoor space with fabulous views towards the Solway Firth and Scotland.
The cottage is part of a huge barn, converted into several cottages while other buildings contain the rest of the cottages plus there are other outbuildings to house the pigs and chickens you share the site with. There is also a wood-store with logs for the wood burner. So often we have found that the first evening in a cottage is rather chilly, even if it’s warm after that, but Ash Cottage , which under-floor heating as well as the wood burner, was cosy from the off!
As with all cottages and the accessibility issue, everywhere is different and everyone has different needs; the important thing is to gather as much information as you can in advance. The owners’ website has an accessibility statement with details about all the cottages and the site generally and they were happy to answer questions via email. They also have some equipment they can lend you, such as a shower stool, toilet seat raiser or dining chair with arms.
I actually found the cottage through Premier Cottages, as you can include in the search filter the level of accessibility you need. Ash Cottage is NAS level 2, which is for people who can manage a few steps and that is pretty accurate but it would be tricky for someone who couldn’t cope with slopes or who required more in the way of grab-rails for example. Also, some of the track to get to the farm is very pot-holed and bumpy which might be problematic for some.
We actually had a slight problem on arrival – my powerchair wouldn’t go over the threshold! Some cunning arrangement of the rugs from in the house helped, but it wasn’t ideal. Also, the furniture needed moving so I could get to the dining table. The whole site slopes and the slope to access the sitting-out area of Ask Cottage was a little precipitous. Had the weather been warm enough for sitting out, I suppose I would have attempted it but in the end, the issue didn’t arise – even in the sunshine, the wind as still keen!
The first full day we were there, the rain did not let up at all so we were forced to just chill out with the newspaper, books and a jigsaw, listening to our favourite CDs! On the second day, the weather was a little iffy but quite bright so we ventured off to The Sill, the National Landscape Discovery Centre at Once Brewed, near Hadrian’s Wall. Opened last year, The Sill has a permanent exhibition about the landscape and our relationship with it as well as temporary exhibitions – the current one is about Dark Skies and preventing light pollution. It is very interactive but I think they could have incorporated a little bit more detail into the landscape exhibition without spoiling the child-friendliness. The whole place has been designed with accessibility in mind: automatic doors, a lift, accessible loos, even a changing-places area with shower. Outside there are plenty of Blue Badge spaces as well as bike racks and next door is a Youth Hostel.
The café, which specialises in local produce, is on the first floor, accessible by lift and is light and airy with great views over the countryside. We just had a sandwich, which was great and very generous, but I can’t comment comprehensively on the menu, however it did all look good! There is a path from ground level right up to the garden roof and you can also access it from the café. There is a hard surface, but it was rather juddery so I didn’t fancy venturing too far on it but the views even from this level were good. From the roof they must be fabulous!
On the following day, we went to Talkin Tarn, a very attractive local lake surrounded by woods. The track was absolutely fine for my scooter so we enjoyed the views, the woods, the waterfowl and the fresh air. Very fresh it was too – it even hailed briefly but fortunately we were under the trees so barely noticed!
There is ample parking which is free for Blue Badge holders for up to 3 hours if you display the time that you arrived. From the car park to the lake is quite a slope but you can park behind the café/ gift shop where there are some marked bays and access from there is much less steep. There are toilets, including an accessible one requiring a RADAR-key. The website doesn’t seem to mention parking or access so I shall have to do a review for Euan’s Guide!
A couple of coincidences: when I started researching my family history, it turned out that some relatives lived in a cottage at a place called Tottergill. When I first googled it, up came some holiday cottages in Cumbria! Turns out there is also a Tottergill in Arkengarthdale and that’s where my granny’s granny was born! Second coincidence: Tracey Bowan is from a part of Leeds very near where I grew up. Third coincidence: down the road from Castle Carrock is a car-mending place called Allison Peter!
To sum up: if Ash Cottage would suit you in terms of access, then I thoroughly recommend it. The situation is great and there are plenty of accessible things to do nearby (the Carlisle Tourist Information Centre supplied me with some suggestions and links). As a guest at Tottergill, you also get free use of a local swimming pool. The cottage owners are really friendly and helpful, keen on reducing the carbon footprint of the place and on making your holiday as enjoyable as possible.
Click here for reviews of other accessible places to stay.
The Roost is a lovely, one-story cottage which sleeps four in two bedrooms with two bathrooms. It is one of six cottages at Field House Farm near Bempton in East Yorkshire.
The house is wheelchair accessible, although my power chair needed an extra shove to get it over the threshold of the front door, and although the internal doors are not wide, I was able to get around without any problem.
There is a double bedroom with an ensuite bathroom which has a shower over the bath and the other room can be configured as a twin or a king-size double and the ensuite bathroom is a wet room with space to manoeuvre a wheelchair.
The furnishings are all really good quality and it was very comfortable, although a little chilly as the weather was very cold and the cottage had not been booked for a while but we were able to turn the heating up and get the wood burning stove going so it was lovely and cosy the next day. This is virtually always the case with cottages so we did expect it but of course if you’re only staying a weekend it means it’s not so warm for more of your stay! There was plenty of wood and they told us we could help ourselves if we needed more.
It’s a really well-equipped cottage and there was a welcome tray with tea, coffee, biscuits and a bottle of wine. The decor is lovely with original features from its former life as a farm building and there was an interesting history of farm in the cottage information folder.
The cottages also have impeccable green credentials, using a wind turbine and rainwater capture, encouraging recycling and using local products.
The friendly, helpful owners (who live on-site) have other cottages at nearby High Barn, where we had stayed last year and on both occasions we were really lucky with the weather, so as last time we had a very sunny visit to the promenade at Bridlington which is nice and smooth for wheel users with plenty of parking. The Blue Badge bays were all full but with this being off-season, there were loads of free spaces nearby.
All the cottages at Field House and High Barn are different, but if there is one that suits you, I thoroughly recommend them!
For further details of accessibility features, see my review on Euan’sGuide.
Valley View is a lovely cottage for two: comfortable, spotlessly clean and well-equipped plus it has amazing views. It also makes a really good base for exploring the area and there are plenty of accessible things to do.
The cottage comprises a sitting room, kitchen-diner, bedroom and ensuite bathroom, all of which have plenty of space to get around easily in a wheelchair and the access is really easy, just a slight ramp to get you over the threshold with hardly a bump. The table is high enough that you can sit at it in a wheelchair. Thatch Close Cottages comprises three cottages in total, all of which can be linked in different combinations for larger groups.
There are various high-tech features such as the kitchen worktop with hob and sink will rise and lower at the touch of a button as will the bathroom wash basin and the dressing table. Despite this, the overall feel is of a cosy cottage and the decor is charming.
The spacious bathroom has a shower seat, lots of grabrails and even a wash-dry loo.
I was really impressed that the website included a list of everything that was included as so often you are not sure quite what to bring. In the event, one or two of these were actually missing but it was just a case of mentioning it to Ed, one of the owners and they were provided straightaway. Ed and Marion are obviously really keen that people enjoy their visit and will lend equipment such as a shower wheelchair or toilet seat raiser (which some places charge for) and they even have a talking microwave and other kitchen equipment for the visually impaired. In fact, when Ed asked if there was anything that would improve the place and I mentioned that the sofa was a bit low, he promptly fetched some feet to go underneath it which raised it up – perfect! The household equipment generally is very good quality – although I’m not sure any two of the glasses matched each other! – however, we have been in some cottages where the kitchen equipment is a bit worn. Here everything was in really good condition and there was all you could need for meal preparation.
The cottage complies with very high levels of accessibility on the National Accessibility Scheme and has been inspected by the Fire Brigade. It has various safety features such as an emergency pull cord in the bathroom and emergency lighting in case of power failure. There are further details and a full accessibility statement on the cottage website.
The emergency lights do unfortunately mean that there is some light at night which might disturb some people and the patio could do with some TLC but otherwise the cottage is fabulous and even includes a generous welcome basket including breakfast ingredients, a bottle of wine, home-made cake and marmalade. The cottage can be linked to the ones next door for larger groups. You could hear some noise from through the wall, but not too bad.
There are plenty of accessible things to do in the area, such as Symonds Yat – we parked up at Yat Rock and had no problem accessing the lookout point with my scooter – there are also plenty of benches on the way. We also visited the original Hampton Court which has the most amazing walled garden which was fully accessible and my scooter coped fine with the lawned area. Entrance was free for a carer so we only had to pay one entry fee! The woodland trails would have been too much for my scooter though but very nearby is Queenswood Country Park and Arboretum with very attractive woodland and the paths lead to a viewing point with amazing views over the countryside. It is free and even the parking is free for a Blue Badge holder.
Another day we visited Ross on Wye where if you park up by St Mary’s church you can go through the churchyard to a park called The Prospect with, you’ve guessed it, amazing views! We later parked down near the river and there is a riverside path which is easily scootable too and very attractive. The tourist office sent us some leaflets about the area, including a ‘buggy route’ around the town – we didn’t follow all of it, but it’s good to know that they are thinking about accessibility.
This is a gorgeous part of the country and Valley View is a great place to stay with plenty of accessible places to visit within easy reach.
The adventure started at Heathrow. As previously, we stayed at the Hilton T5 and met up with my brother, this time for a fabulous meal at Mr Todiwalah’s Kitchen – the most delicious Indian food you can imagine! We’ve had the odd hassle with accessible rooms at this hotel in the past but last time and this, they’ve given us the sort of room we wanted, with a proper wet room style shower.
Some months previously, BA had contacted us to say that the flight had been put back a couple of hours, which meant that the next day we had loads of time to kill, so we had a very leisurely breakfast, packed up then did some reading until it was time to go to the airport.
A week or so earlier, we had phoned the airline, as they suggest you do, to check that there was no problem with them transporting my Powerchair (this was the first time we’d travelled with it, having previously taken my Luggie scooter with us). They assured us that this was fine, so we were slightly annoyed if not entirely surprised when we went to the Special Assistance check-in desk to find that they had no record of the details we had given over the phone and did not know much about this particular sort of battery. They even suggested we rang the manufacturers to get more details! Eventually, after two different more senior members of staff had been summoned they decided it was fine and even gave us a code to identify the battery for future journeys, which did in fact prove useful on our return. Seriously could have done without the stress though!
There was so little time between the gate being announced and boarding commencing that I didn’t get to board first, but ended up being transported past everybody who had been asked to wait. A while ago, I might have felt rather embarrassed about this; now I just tend to think that if this is how it has to be, then so be it! This was in an airport wheelchair from which I was then transferred to the on-board wheelchair which they then lift onto the aircraft, having strapped you in as if you are about to do a parachute jump! Not great, but it gets you to your seat.
Arrived at Bilbao, we then had to pick up the hire car. I have no idea why picking up a hire car has to take so long, – they were taking about 30 minutes per person so we must have waited at least an hour plus of course the time it took to deal with us. We had specifically requested an ordinary, low car and an estate because of having to lift the Powerchair in and out. Despite a member of staff when we booked saying the details of our request would be passed on, there did not appear to be any record of this but they did their best to accommodate us and at least we ended up with a low car.
Off we set, armed with our AA directions which had served us well before in Spain. However, we should have consulted a map at the same time! Lesson learned! Knowing we were fairly likely to be late, I had e-mailed the hotel, the Parador de Argómaniz, sometime before to explain and they had said to ring them if we were going to be later than 11 as that’s when the restaurant closes and they would save us some food. I rang them once we were on our way and gave them an idea of when we might arrive and they asked what food we would like them to have ready for us. This was before we went haring off on the wrong road and had to come back, eventually getting ourselves back on track and arriving at 12:20. This of course isn’t particularly late for Spain, but even so, we were quite tired by then so the omelette and huge plate of chorizo, jamón etc and of course a drink were very welcome indeed!
Our room was a decent size and comfortable, with wide doorways and a few grabrails in the bathroom, although the shower stool was just an ordinary stool and not the most supportive thing!
Breakfast was varied – eggs, cold meat, cereals, bread, fruit, yogurts, served in the restaurant on the top floor, with its amazing wooden beamed ceiling. We spent the next day mainly relaxing out on the terrace enjoying the peace and quiet and looking at the wonderful view except when it got too hot – but that’s why they invented siestas! They may be dying out but when you’re on holiday…
Dinner was also in the fabulous dining room with plenty of choices of local food and wine and pleasant staff who were quite happy to provide me with a copy of the menu to bring home to show my students!
The next day, after another great breakfast we checked out and headed for Vitoria to find a supermarket which we had previously looked up on the internet. According to Google maps it was accessed via a service road but after several fruitless steps to find this and asking directions from people who didn’t know where it was, somebody finally told us you reach it via a slip road off the main road! Then it was very easy to find, so we stocked up and headed for Getaria. This time Google maps and Streetview had been really useful as we knew exactly which road to take and which landmarks to look out for and found Epotx Etxea easily. We sat on the terrace in the shade (it was over 30°) and marvelled at the view, before the owners’ son arrived and showed us around, then it was time for a cuppa and a relax!
In the morning we were up early and there was the most stunning sunrise – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a sunrise as red as a sunset! The plan was to do no driving that day so we simply revelled in the lovely surroundings, the amazing view and the sunshine. The most strenuous thing we needed to do was wave at the owners as they came and went in their car!
Andrés, the owner, who I had corresponded with over the booking, came and introduced himself and we chatted about the house and surroundings. There are vineyards all around, in fact, Mahastí is the local Basque word for vineyard and there was a home produced bottle of the local white wine, txacolí, in the fridge. In the gardens there is a lemon tree, an orange tree, (I thought it was a lime as the fruit was still green!) a fig and a grapefruit tree. Andrés said to help ourselves so dinner one night involved lemon juice with the smallest carbon footprint imaginable! Thunder and lightning heralded some cooler weather.
Andrés also recommended where to go to get postcards, so the next day we headed down to explore Getaria (spotted the restaurant featured in The Trip to Spain, I think!) and to buy postcards. Getaria is definitely a working port and, I have to say not the most beautiful place in parts although it does have an old town but I’m not sure how accessible that is and a lot of it is cobbled. It also has a small beach and even beach wheelchairs.
Then it was on to Zumaia where we parked and explored the riverside promenade, clearly a popular place for a stroll. During the afternoon, back at the house, Maikar, Andrés’ wife came and introduced herself – we couldn’t have asked for friendlier hosts – happy to chat and to advise when asked but not intrusive: just perfect!
The next morning it was raining again but it cleared up and we headed for Zarautz to see what it was like, post some cards and buy some more. At first I thought we’d go after lunch then I remembered that of course small shops in Spain don’t reopen until about half past four, so that’s when we went and, yes, they were just about reopening by then – quite reassuring to find out that some things don’t change! At one point, naughtily, we parked by a bus stop (not blocking anything, I hasten to add) while Pete ran into the tourist office and the police came over and nearly gave us a fine. Playing dumb and asking for some directions got them onside and they let us off!
The next day, Friday, was our final day and quite hazy and warm. We went back to Zarautz, parked in the car park near the front as recommended by the tourist information lady the previous day and went out onto a terrace overlooking the sea. From there we could see the long promenade or Malecón, so we headed there via a pedestrian street and realised that this area of the town at least is very wheelchair friendly.
The Malecón is very accessible, mainly smooth and with plenty of benches and cafés along its length. Apparently there is some sort of accessible wooden boardwalk – we didn’t manage to spot it, but there was plenty of promenade to explore anyway. We couldn’t resist having a pintxo of tortilla de patata and freshly squeezed orange juice at an outdoor café, looking at the sea and the ratón, the mouse-like promontory at Getaria.
That evening, Andrés and Maikar made a point of coming to say goodbye and explained that we were their first booking ever through Handiscover, a website of accessible properties that puts you in contact with the owner. It was useful for finding Mahastí, but if we were to go again, I’d book directly as it would be cheaper.
Saturday was check-out day. We hadn’t done very much on this holiday but that actually suited me fine! Last time we visited Spain, we stayed in five different places, but this time I didn’t fancy all the packing and unpacking and getting used to new places that that would involve as it is rather tiring.
I had investigated online an accessible nature reserve that wasn’t too far away which we might have done, but when it came to it, just exploring the local towns was quite enough. People often make the joke that you sometimes come back from holiday so tired you need another holiday, which was what I wanted to avoid and what with the airport hassles and getting lost it wasn’t quite as smooth as I had imagined, but of course you don’t remember those things afterwards. I’m mainly remembering the lovely view and the warm welcome from Andrés and Maikar.
Anyway, we packed up and drove to the airport with no problems. Dropped off the car and went to the Special Assistance desk where the code we had been given at Heathrow for the chair proved useful and we didn’t have too much of a wait to get checked in. On the way out, we had had to pay extra for one of the bags (we were so dismayed that we hadn’t realised you have to pay in advance – perhaps this was why they let us off paying for both bags!). This time, I had gone online and paid for the bags in advance which cost slightly less. It had somehow passed us by that this ruling had been brought in.
The return flight only required one wheelchair transfer, from mine to the in-flight chair and we were boarded first. Off last of course but this can’t really be helped. My brother picked us up from the airport and we all had a cuppa and cake at the hotel! Rather poor selection of cakes for a Hilton on a Saturday afternoon but you can’t have everything – the restaurant at this hotel seems to have gone upmarket since we last here and our evening meal was delicious.
When we checked out a week before we had mentioned that one of the folding grab rails in the bathroom didn’t stay upright when you wanted it to and of course they said they would get it seen to but when we were allocated the same room on our return, guess what? It hadn’t been fixed!
Drove home the next day: no problems, stopping just once at Donnington service station – very civilised indeed, much less crowded than a lot of service stations and it even has some outdoor seating at the back away from the carpark. On the way down we had stopped at Tibshelf and Northampton services, both of which were very good. I never used to remember which services were better or worse than any others but I do now. Whether that’s because I have an eye to reviewing things or simply because I notice things like easy entrances or user-friendliness more now that it is a bit more vital, I don’t know! Donnington had an M&S, so we even arrived home with milk for a cup of tea and something for dinner!
I suppose if you want to go somewhere on holiday that’s green you may get rain but on the whole I think it’s worth it. I would rather look at lush green countryside than parched, arid countryside which can be impressive but isn’t quite so pretty. Also, there’s something very relaxing about being at the seaside! I certainly recommend this area as a place to visit and definitely recommend Epotx Etxea for somewhere to stay and Mahastí if you need it to be accessible.
I’ve reviewed the Parador and Mahastí both on my blog and on Euan’sGuide if you would like more detail on its accessibility and more pictures.
Mahastí is a wonderful little single storey cottage at Epotx Etxea, home of Andrés and Maikar and their family, high above Getaria in the Pais Vasco or Spanish Basque Country.
Mahastí sleeps four in two bedrooms, and there is the bathroom and a kitchen-dining-sitting room combined, plus the terrace where you can sit in the shade of the wide eaves and gaze at the fabulous view of the sea and the coast and also eat meals as there is another dining table and chairs there.
It’s all very neat and clean and beautifully done with pretty tiles and curtains and very well-equipped for basic cooking, plus there was a bottle of home-produced txacolí (white wine) in the fridge! Unusually for Spain, it has an oven as well as a microwave, although no kettle – but who wants abroad to be just like home?!
The garden is lovely, with lots of birds, flowers and trees, including a lemon, an orange and a fig tree, plus more outdoor furniture on the lawn and a serious barbecue!
The adaptations for accessibility are discreet – the level entrance and wide doors you would barely notice, plus a few grabrails in the bathroom and a free-standing shower stool. You can park right alongside and the terrace is smoothly tiled. Obviously, everyone has different needs; for me, being quite short, the loo was rather high and the shower, even on its lowest setting, was out of my reach. I mentioned this to Andrés – he was happy to take suggestions, the family are clearly really keen that you have a good time and that the place is comfortable for you. I’ve also reviewed the place on Euan’sGuide, including more photos to illustrate access issues.
Although walkers passed up and down the road that leads to Epotx, it is quite a trek to Getaria and involves a few hairpin bends – you would probably want to go by car. Getaria itself is on quite a slope and although it has some beach (including beach wheelchairs) it is a working port. For more of a resort, pop along to Zarautz to the east, which has a great long promenade with cafés (and two different kinds of beach wheelchair!) and is a very accessible place all round, what with dropped kerbs and smooth surfaces.
It also has some sort of wooden beach walkway, although we didn’t actually seek it out, as there was plenty of prom to explore anyway.
Zumaia, to the west also has a prom, this time by the river and very pleasant.
I booked Mahastí through Handiscover, but if we were to go again or if you wanted to book either of the properties in the main house (above Andrés and Maikar’s flat) it’s cheaper to book directly. Andrés and Maikar are incredibly friendly and can provide lots of useful information but they do not intrude – the perfect hosts! It also meant I got to have lots of conversations in Spanish which is all good practice!
Mahastí is a lovely house and Epotx Exea a wonderful setting – I really can imagine going there again!
We loved our two night stay at Argómaniz! We arrived ridiculously late (long story) but the staff didn’t turn a hair. I knew we might not arrive before the restaurant closed so had e-mailed them well in advance and they suggested I rang if that was the case, and they would save us some food, so when I did they asked us what we would like! Finally arriving at 12.20, we were provided with omelette, bread, a huge cold meat platter and a very welcome drink – and relaxed!
The room, an accessible one on the first floor, was a decent size and comfortable. Breakfast was varied – eggs, cold meat, cereals, bread, fruit, yogurts. Meals were served in the top floor restaurant with its amazing wooden beamed ceiling. Dinner the next day was delicious too with plenty of choices of local food and wine.
We spent the next day mainly out on the terrace looking at the wonderful view. There are lawns and trees and even a discreet children’s play area. You can order drinks and snacks of various types whenever you want.
Specific accessibility issues: some of the disabled parking spaces were on a slope and would have been impossible to use in conjunction with a wheelchair but others were fine, plus they are happy for you to pull up by the door to drop off/pick up, which is what we did.
Our room was spacious, with wide doorways and there is lift access to all floors and step-free access throughout. There is the occasional uneven flagstone but they are easily avoided. The restaurant, bar and terrace all have ample room and good solid tables.
In the ensuite bathroom, there were grabrails by the loo and wet-room style shower, but only an ordinary stool to use in the shower, which wasn’t as supportive as a proper shower stool would be. Also, the hairdryer required the button to be pressed continuously while operating it, which I’ve always found irritating!
The blend of old buildings and modern comforts is something that Paradors do very well and this was no exception – despite the age of the main buidling, the whole place was accessible and comfortable and the food and the staff were great. After the slightly hassled journey there, it was a wonderful place to chill out before journeying on.
Other Paradors we’ve stayed at recently include Alcalá de Henares, Tordesillas, and La Granja, all of which were accessible. All Paradors are individual and not all are accessible, so it needs a bit of research before you book!
The website does not do the cottages or the view justice. We were expecting something a little bit twee and with some sort of view but what we got was pretty stylish and with a fabulous view. Admittedly, if we had been in the Stable Cottage which we had booked, we wouldn’t have had a view, but a phone call the day before we set out explained that the heating there wasn’t working so we had been ‘upgraded’ to The Big Workshop which meant we had a huge house all to ourselves, including a sitting room with French windows and large, low-silled windows to give a panoramic view of the rolling countryside, including a windmill!
The cottages are especially designed for disabled people, with roll-in showers, grab-rails, low-level surfaces in the kitchen and wide doorways amongst other things, plus you can hire other equipment you may need, such as hoists, but it’s all perfectly comfortable for the able-bodied too. A lot of thought has gone into the design and the whole place is very attractive.
All the cottages have some outside space – patio or garden and they sleep from 3 people in the smallest to 10 in the largest; a couple of them are two-storey with a lift. Ours was open-plan and very spacious and although the kitchen area wasn’t that attractive it was very well-equipped and everything was in good condition – except the table was rather wobbly but as the owners are on site, they happily fetched us a different one and took ours away for mending!
The house was really warm: they are very well-insulated and the bio-mass system keeps you in hot water and heating. We even slept with the window open – which doesn’t tend to happen in March! – but it meant we heard the most fabulous dawn chorus and the calls of the oyster catchers and little owl (I think!). Much better than it being too cold – so often we’ve been on a short break and the first night has been freezing until the storage heating has kicked in and we’ve got the fire going.
We had planned to visit Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, run by the Hawk and Owl trust, having seen a review of it on Euan’sGuide, so off we went in the Saturday morning sunshine and we weren’t disappointed! It’s lovely to go somewhere that’s so accessible you don’t have to give it any more thought than anyone else would – this is how it should be. The whole place is accessed by boardwalks with netting on for grip and all the hides are accessible too – we saw some birds very close up which we’ve never seen before, plus some water voles running in and out of their holes in the bank of the stream. For more detail, see my separate review of Sculthorpe.
Lavinia, who runs the cottages, had recommended Bircham Mill, the windmill we could see from the cottage, which was reopening that day for the start of the season, so we called in there for some bread and couldn’t resist a cake or two! They have a tearoom and gift shop as well which are accessible but I didn’t go in so can’t give details.
We also visited Hunstanton in brilliant sunshine on the Sunday morning. It has some attractive parts although the promenade is rather stark and concrete-y but it’s always good to get some fresh sea air! They seemed to be renovating some parts of the seafront area so it might be interesting to see it again some time.
Back at the cottage, we had asked if they could put out the garden furniture – it had been stored away for the winter – and we were able to sit outside enjoying the sunshine, the view and the birdsong. There was a slight hitch going out through the French windows – the anti-tip wheels on my powerchair caught on the threshold, so we used the front door instead and came around the side of the cottage.
Actually, the front door threshold was a bit of a jolt and there were a couple of other things which could be improved – a firmer mattress , for example, but those are very minor compared to the general good design of the cottages overall. I’m sure we’ll be back!
Does it get any better? Yes, it does! The site is a haven for wildlife – there is a webcam linked to the tv to keep an eye on the resident barn owl, and many other species enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Plus there was a generous welcome basket of goodies from local suppliers including their home-produced organic apple juice – fabulous!
The Spinney at High Barn Cottages in East Yorkshire is the cosiest, best-equipped cottage we have ever stayed in – so often cottages are cold on the first night, but with underfloor heating and a wood-burner (with generous supply of eco-friendly wood briquettes), we were toasty from the word go.
There are five cottages on the site, each sleeping at least four in a double
with bathroom and a twin with ensuite wetroom. All the fixtures and fittings are of a really high standard and there are personal touches such as the history of the farm and the family, books, DVDs, games and tourist information. All have outside seating – ours had a table and chairs by a small pond – if it had been warmer we could have breakfasted outside! You can also sit in the courtyard so you can catch some sun – if there is any! – at all times of the day.
My only issue (and having written a screed about it on the feedback form I was worried it would look like moaning, which was the last thing I wanted after we had enjoyed our stay so much, but Angela, one of the owners arrived as we left so we were able to discuss it with her and she agreed with us) was that a fixed overhead shower is a bit problematic if you don’t want to get your hair wet.
That’s not really an accessibility issue, but that type of shower means someone else needs to run off the cold water you inevitably get before the hot comes through because you can’t avoid if you are seated – if they sorted that out and maybe added a couple more grabrails, we’d be back there like a shot!
They have more cottages just down the road at Fieldhouse Farm, a couple of which are accessible too, plus two places in York.
The journey there from York was lovely with all the Autumn colours and including a slight detour to take the Scenic Route while on the way back you get a stunning view of the Vale of York from the top of Garrowby Hill.
Nearby you have plenty to do: Bridlington and the rest of the Yorkshire coast, Bempton cliffs, the North York Moors, places to eat out (there are recommendation in the visitor information folder in the cottage), and York itself is only an hour away. It was gloriously sunny on the Sunday morning of our long weekend so we went to Bridlington which has a very scooter-friendly and attractive pier at the North Bay.
They seem to be in a process of making the town more accessible all round – actually, I get the impression that when towns do themselves up these days, they include accessibility in their plans – it was the same with Oban this Summer. About time too!
I actually found out about High Barn from the Premier Cottages site but booked directly with the owners who are happy to supply a shower stool or other extra bits of equipment on request. Have a look at their website – it gives so much information, including floor plans and access statements.
It felt really life-affirming to stay somewhere so lovely and with such attention to detail – John, Angela and their family are obviously genuinely keen that you have a great experience and they should be really proud of what they have created.
Our first overnight stop was in Wark, Northumberland at the Battlesteads Inn. Actually, our very first stop was at Witton-le-Wear, County Durham,
to take a photo of the church in which my great-great-grandmother got married in 1859, then a brief loo stop at the Wentworth leisure centre (very civilised!)
Battlesteads is officially a hotel and restaurant although it’s in effect a pub with rooms and very good it is too, being accessible, eco-aware and dog-friendly. We had a ground floor room with an adapted bathroom ie it had shower seat and grabrails and the room, although pretty compact had a couple of chairs. There were very nice biscuits and a bowl of fruit and they made it clear they were happy to provide fresh milk – I can’t imagine wanting a cuppa made with ‘plastic’ UHT milk!
The whole of the ground floor was accessible – a couple of tight turns but nothing my scooter couldn’t handle. The décor was traditional pub style but with lots of great railway posters on the walls, advertising local attractions.
Dinner was tasty, not gourmet but not stuff we’d cook at home, so fine by me! Breakfast was good too, we had smoked salmon and scrambled eggs but they did the full English and various other cooked options plus some ‘continental’ choices – ham and cheese, some fruit but not a great deal else. It was served in the conservatory, which was pleasant and would normally have a view of the garden but this was mainly taken up with gazebos for their forthcoming beer festival.
The staff were mainly Eastern European and were very pleasant and efficient. When we checked out it seemed to be the owners we were dealing with – they were local anyway and very jolly and friendly too.
The next day we headed through gorgeous, rolling scenery and made our way to Peebles and Cringletie House with a brief stop at Galashiels’ Tesco for a newspaper and also via a short detour to see the famous gates of Traquair House which were closed after a visit by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 to only be reopened when there is a Stuart on the throne!
accessible but it is! Getting to the ground floor involved a platform lift, other than that, it was all level or you used the normal lift to get to the first floor restaurant. For more details on this, see my review or look on Euan’s Guide.
The restaurant has fabulous views and the food was pretty good too – we had a late lunch then dinner later and both were good without being fabulous. The dinner included various ‘amuse-bouches’ which were actually better than the starter, but what with the jolly staff, the great view and a nice glass of wine, the whole experience was excellent!
Breakfast again was ‘good in parts’ – I ordered scrambled egg and while what I had was perfectly nice, it was much more akin to an omelette. Pete’s full breakfast was suitably filling!
The room, Traquair, a junior suite, was spacious and pleasant and we had fun playing with the ‘rise and recline’ chairs! The bathroom was spacious with a walk-in shower, grabrails etc and lovely toiletries. There seems to be a trend away from little bottles of toiletries – all the places we stayed had large bottles of very good shower gel etc that you use but leave in place – much greener than all those small plastic bottles.
The grounds look lovely – it was a bit chilly to explore but they looked good from inside!
Next day we headed for Oban to stock up before heading for our base for the next week at Benderloch. I’d already checked out that Oban had a supermarket, (with accessible loo – top marks, Tesco for your very good loos!) so we did our shop and made our way to Benderloch. We’d checked on
Streetview how to get to the place we were staying, so found the lane we needed to follow off the main road without too much hassle and there were the two wooden lodges, Port Selma Lodges, created by Jan and Willie Orr a
few years ago to accommodate both disabled and non-disabled guests in some style! They look good on the website but even better in reality – really high quality and in beautiful condition. Willie and Jan had heard the car so came to meet us – just as well as we had no ‘phone signal! – and showed us in. They told us everything we
needed to know and answered our questions about accessible things to do and made it clear they were there to help if we needed anything. There was a ‘welcome pack’ of a bottle of wine, cheese and oatcakes, local fudge, chocolates, milk in the fridge and tea and coffee supplies as well as fresh flowers!
The weather was rather drizzly at the start of the week – we looked at it as a good excuse to chill out and have a break from driving. On the Monday we ventured out to check out the local stretch of the Oban to Fort William cycle
track and as if by magic, the sun came out just as we got out of the car! From the carpark you could go in two directions for a fairly short distance before the (beautifully smooth!) track joined the road so we pootled along admiring the wild flowers then came to a viewing point with a great view of the sea. We back tracked and came upon an information board near the carpark explaining how the track was part of a disused railway line. You could follow it for miles but in places it is right next to the road or actually joins the road so we left that to the many cyclists who were following it – some complete with back packs, camping gear, the works!
We didn’t do a great deal during the week – drove around and took in the lovely scenery mainly, including the view of Castle Stalker – even in the
drizzle, it’s one of the most fabulous settings imaginable for a castle (it was used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, apparently!) and visited Dunstaffnage Castle (the sun obligingly came out again as we arrived!) which has a terrific setting by the harbour and we also did a gorgeous drive along the side of Loch Etive. Our return from that was blocked by some stubborn cows until a lorry driver who came along advised driving at them rapidly! We let him do that and we followed him through – it worked! We got a chance to try out the lodge’s verandah one splendidly sunny afternoon and watched the swallows flying in and out to their nests above the French windows.
The week went all too fast then it was time to move on to the next adventure. We decided to take a different route to our next destination and went via Loch Lomond. The drive there via Inveraray and Loch Fyne was through absolutely beautiful scenery. Once we were at Loch Lomond, this being a sunny Saturday, you could see how it is a popular daytrip from Glasgow – the traffic going the opposite way to us was really heavy! Next it was motorways to get us around Glasgow, then we found our way to New Lanark, home of New Lanark Mill Hotel, mainly associated with Robert Owen, an enlightened factory owner in the style of Titus Salt or the Rowntrees, which is now a World Heritage Site, with a visitor centre and hotel.
There was a wedding going on when we arrived and it was sunny which
added to the atmosphere – I can imagine in rainy weather it might look a little bleak to some, but generally the effect was charming. Who could resist somewhere with an ‘Institute for the formation of character’? After checking in someone came to our room to explain the emergency evacuation procedure which was an interesting touch – never experienced that before in a hotel.
After having some lunch, we explored the site with its great views of the Falls of Clyde and later had dinner in the restaurant which has quite an imaginative menu and was jolly good.
It was really interesting how elements of the mill buildings are incorporated into the hotel and restaurant. The rooms are actually a bit bland, but the bathroom had a solid iron post, part of the original fabric, and there were iron braces in the vaulted ceiling, plus there are gorgeous photos everywhere of the mill at all times of year. It’s all easily accessible, and again, the staff were all very good about accommodating you – no fuss made, for example, when we preferred to sit at a different table to the one they directed us to a breakfast, which, as I’ve said before, is just how it should be. Here’s my full review and my Euan’s Guide review.
From there we headed back to York and were surprised it only took four hours!