Places to stay

Here are some places I’ve stayed recently stay with comments on their accessibility as well as general stuff!

Valley View, Thatch Close Cottages, Llangrove, Herefordshire

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.

Valley View cottage, Llangrove, Hereford
Valley View cottage, Llangrove, Hereford

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.

Fabulous view from Thatch Close Cottages, Llangrove, Herefordshire
Fabulous view from Thatch Close Cottages, Llangrove, Herefordshire

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.IMG_1256

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.

Easy access at Valley View cottage, Llangrove, Herefordhsire
Easy access at Valley View cottage, Llangrove, Herefordhsire

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 walled garden at Hampton Court Castle, Herefordshire
The walled garden at Hampton Court Castle, Herefordshire

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.

St Mary's churchyard, Ross-on-Wye
St Mary’s churchyard, Ross-on-Wye

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.

By the riverside, Ross-on Wye
By the riverside, Ross-on Wye

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.

Amazing view at Queenswood Arboretum, Herefordhsire
Amazing view at Queenswood Arboretum, Herefordhsire

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.

View from Yat Rock, Hereforshire
View from Yat Rock, Hereforshire

 

Mahastí, Getaria, Pais Vasco, Spain

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, Epotx Etxea, Getaria, Pais Vasco
Mahastí, Epotx Etxea, Getaria, Pais Vasco

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.

The view from the terrace of Mahastí, Epotx Etxea, Getaria, Pais Vasco
The view from the terrace of Mahastí, Epotx Etxea, Getaria, Pais Vasco

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?!

On the terrace, Mahastí, Epotx Etxea, Getaria, Pais Vasco
On the terrace, Mahastí, Epotx Etxea, Getaria, Pais Vasco

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 terrace, Mahastí, Epotx Etxea, Getaria, Pais Vasco
The terrace, Mahastí, Epotx Etxea, Getaria, Pais Vasco

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.

The garden, Epotx Etxea, Getaria, Pais Vasco
The garden, Epotx Etxea, Getaria, Pais Vasco

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.

Beach wheelchairs, Zarautz
Beach wheelchairs, Zarautz

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.

Promenade, Zarautz
Promenade, Zarautz

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!

By the river, Zumaia
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Mahastí is a lovely house and Epotx Exea a wonderful setting – I really can imagine going there again!

Epotx Etxea, Getaria, Pais Vasco
Epotx Etxea, Getaria, Pais Vasco

See other places in Spain that I’ve reviewed!

 

Parador, Argómaniz, Pais Vasco, Spain

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!

Terrace and gardens, Parador de Argómaniz
Terrace and gardens, Parador de Argómaniz

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.

Terrace, Parador de Argómaniz
Terrace, Parador de Argómaniz

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!

View from the Parador de Argómaniz
View from the Parador de Argómaniz

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.

Parador de Argómaniz
Parador de Argómaniz

 

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!

 

Norfolk Disabled-Friendly Cottages

Norfolk Disabled-Friendly Cottages are just that – in Norfolk, adapted for disabled people and the owners are very friendly!

The Big Workshop
The Big Workshop

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 panoramic view
The panoramic view

The cottages are adapted 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.

The view from The Big Workshop
The view from The Big Workshop

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 sitting room
The sitting room

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.IMG_0559

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.

Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve
Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve

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.

Bircham Mill
Bircham Mill

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.

The prom at Hunstanton
The prom at Hunstanton

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.

The patio
The patio

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!

The Big Workshop
The Big Workshop

 

High Barn Cottages

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, High Barn cottages
The Spinney, High Barn cottages

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

The Spinney at High Barn cottages
The Spinney at High Barn cottages

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.

The courtyard at High Barn cottages
The courtyard at High Barn cottages

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.

Generating their own electricity
Generating their own electricity

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.

On the prom at Bridlington
On the prom at Bridlington

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.

The dew pond, High Barn cottages
The dew pond, High Barn cottages

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.

Here are some other accessible places we have stayed.

 

 

New Lanark Mill Hotel

We stayed one night at New Lanark Mills on our way back from Scotland to home but it’s worth spending more time here as it’s not just a hotel but a World Heritage site with a visitor centre and plenty to see.

New Lanark Mills
New Lanark Mills

The hotel is in one of the old mill buildings and the rooms incorporate original features which add a bit of character to the otherwise fairly bland bedrooms. They are comfy enough and have good views and gorgeous photos of the site, which is by the Clyde and its waterfalls. We had booked an accessible room, so the bathroom was wetroom style with shower seat and grabrails. After we checked in, someone appeared to explain the emergency evacuation procedure, which I have never experienced before, but it was good to know.

There was a wedding going on but that didn’t impinge on our stay other than some guests’ children bashing on the piano rather tediously during dinner!

Dinner was very good as was breakfast with plenty of choices – better on the cooked stuff than the continental, as ever.

New Lanark Mills
New Lanark Mills

Staff were really pleasant and helpful and the whole place is accessible, if a little uneven outside. There was a speed hump with a notice by it asking people not to park by it as it had a gap so wheelchair users could get by, but guess what? White van parked right in the gap! Managed to get over the hump anyway and the van had gone by the time we came back from seeing the falls, the millrace and other features. It doesn’t affect entry to the hotel. Inside there was a bar (rather loud radio) and lounge (sunny and pleasant) as well as the restaurant and it’s all very easy to get about – they’ve obviously put some thought into access issues and staff were happy to let you sit wherever suited you best.

Definitely recommended for somewhere a little different to stay. Other places we stayed on this holiday are Battlesteads, Cringletie House and Port Selma Lodges.

 

Cringletie House, near Peebles

They can when they are Cringletie House in the Scottish borders! It’s a luxurious country house near Peebles with a great restaurant and lovely staff. I can’t really comment on the grounds as the weather was a bit too drizzly to explore but they look very nice!

Cringletie House, near Peebles
Cringletie House, near Peebles

When you arrive there is a ramped entrance then a platform lift to get you up the three steps to the ground floor – not possible with my scooter because of how the lift is situated but it had a seat so I could get off the scooter then back on at the top.

We got a very warm welcome, in fact all the staff were great, and as our room wasn’t ready (we were quite early) we headed to the restaurant for some lunch.

After that we were shown our room which was actually a junior suite so had a couple of armchairs (the rise and recline sort which was fun to play with!) – the website talks of them having just one accessible room but it sounded like they had more than one – they were on the ground floor while there was lift access to the first floor restaurant which has fabulous views.

The room was spacious and comfortable with a large bathroom with roll-in shower, grabrails etc. In fact, they have made huge efforts to make the place disabled-friendly without that impinging on the style and comfort of the place for everyone.

As I said above, the weather wasn’t really appropriate for exploring outside and some of the paths don’t look very suitable but I can’t really comment!

Dinner was very good – several ‘amuse-bouches’ to start with; not terribly good fishcakes then a lovely fish main course and we even found room for dessert as none of the dishes were huge or stodgy.

Breakfast was good although my scrambled eggs very much resembled omelette!

On leaving, the platform lift once again came into play – I could scoot on to it but not off, so a chair was fetched so I could get off and have a seat while Pete manhandled my scooter into position!

It was quite pricey but I would love to go back to such a lovely place where they just take it in their stride that you use a scooter – no one stares or makes a big deal of it, which is just how it should be!

 

Battlesteads Inn, near Hexham

Although that’s not what we did as we were on our way to Scotland but I would recommend the Battlesteads Inn near Hexham to anyone.

Battlesteads Inn
Battlesteads Inn

Our room was compact but comfortable with a couple of chairs, fresh fruit, decent biscuits and they were happy to provide fresh milk. We had requested an accessible room, so the bathroom had a shower seat and grabrails, although it was slightly awkward to negotiate the bathroom door. Only other niggle is that the bed was a bit squashy. They also have larger rooms – ‘luxury lodges,’ which are wheelchair accessible but my scooter would not have coped with the entrance. Obviously, everyone’s needs are different – some people need room to manoeuvre, I prefer a more compact room as I can move around it on foot.

The whole ground floor of the inn is brilliantly accessible and the staff – a mixture of local and eastern European –  are very efficient and friendly and took everything in their stride.

The food was good, without being ‘gastro’, but plenty of choice and a definite cut above ‘pub grub.’ Breakfast was good too, plenty of cooked choices, not so good on the continental, although there was ham and cheese, served in the conservatory with a view of the garden, although this was largely taken up with gazebos for their forthcoming beer festival.

Definitely a comfortable, friendly place that I would recommend and visit again.

The Garth, Gunnerside

Certainly the best view in Gunnerside, maybe in the whole of Swaledale. If this cottage, the Garth, had been wonderfully accessible I would have been inclined to keep it to myself but as it turned out, it did have its downsides. We booked it through Yorkshire Cottages although you can do it through Owners Direct which has some different and more recent photos.

Getting in and out involves a couple of steps, not very deep ones but no handrail and when wet, rather slippery. Inside was so huge (it sleeps 6) I used my trusty Luggie scooter to get around between rooms! The house was designed to make the most of the fabulous views and has huge windows in every room, most of which look over, up or down the dale.

View from terrace
View from terrace

There is a shower cabinet as well as a bath but with rather a high step up into it, otherwise everything is fine – they obviously take note of comments in the visitors’ book as new sofas and reading lamps have been added. The décor is somewhat dated (actually, very dated!) but it’s all pretty comfortable and very well-equipped. The first evening in a cottage is always cold in our experience, even though this place has central heating rather than storage heaters. There is a real fire, so we stoked that up then didn’t need it the rest of the time as it was perfectly cosy.

The Garth, Gunnerside
The Garth is the cottage with the inverted v shape eaves

I’m not sure about accessible things to do in the area – we did everything there is to do before access was an issue, so looking at the stunning views is the main thing we do now! Anyone wanting recommendations for things to do or where to buy things, do ask. One of the things we did was the route from Langthwaite to Low Row which takes you through the ‘watersplash’ from the opening shots of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ – it’s a fabulous route with amazing views. This is a bit tame but something new we tried was the fish and chip van which comes up the dale and stops in Gunnerside on a Friday night – wow, best we’ve had for a long time. Supporting local businesses is always a good thing! There are of course walks galore, including investigating the industrial ruins of the area’s lead-mining past – it is this mix of natural and industrial heritage which makes the dale so attractive in my view.

So the quest for an accessible dales cottage continues – I was gutted that this one is not really suitable but new cottages appear all the time, so here’s hoping! I hope you like the posed picture with the bottle of wine – not a bad view from your kitchen!

Posed picture from kitchen
Posed picture from kitchen

We drove over the amazing Buttertubs pass to get home – no view this time due to the weather but, trust me, it is staggering.

 

Apartments Haaser, Maurach, Austria

The apartment we stayed at in Maurach, had fabulous views of the woods and mountains and although it was quite basic, it was perfectly comfortable and very clean and in excellent condition. There were two upstairs and two downstairs apartments, parking and level access round to the door. This had a lip that was too high for my scooter but might well be fine for a wheelchair but whether the apartment would be appropriate would depend on your level of mobility. I had asked if we could borrow a stool to use in the shower cabinet which helped but it was rather a step up to get into the cabinet! In the kitchen area, there was a hob and a combined microwave/grill as well as toaster and coffee maker and enough equipment for making everyday meals. Outside, there was a little terrace (the upstairs apartments had balconies) with chairs and a table. The television had Austrian and German channels only but we managed to get the gist of the weather forecasts!

View from the apartment
View from the apartment
Apartments Haaser, Maurach
Apartments Haaser, Maurach

There was a supermarket with bakery in Maurach (MPreiss) and also a bakery delivered bread to the house every day – you put your order and the money in a bag and hung it on the outside light at the front of the house and fresh bread and croissants would be delivered first thing in the morning! As we don’t speak German, the only thing we actually recognised on the price list were ‘buttercroissants’ but you could figure out what were rolls, loaves and large loaves from the weights and prices; it was still something of a lucky dip , but that’s all part of the fun of a  holiday abroad!

We spent a lot of our time scooting / walking round the nearby lake as there is a path most of the way, suitable for bikes, rollerskates, segues, buggies, you name it: wheel-users’ heaven! It was smoothest near Pertisau, but fine near Buchau and Scholastika on the other side of the lake too and there are plenty of benches along the way. The lake boats are accessible – it was no problem scooting on and off and there was a lift for accessing other floors. The cute little steam train would be too much of a challenge though unless you can climb big steps. In Pertisau there are shops, hotels, cafés etc some more accessible than others. The Furstenhaus hotel was accessible inside and out and does good cakes. The Post Hotel had at least an accessible terrace but not such good cakes! Round at Achenkirche we lunched at the Fischerwirt Am See which had possibly the nicest accessible loo ever but no way to get into the hotel that didn’t involve a step – perhaps if you stay there they provide a ramp.

I really recommend this area for a holiday where you can get great views without driving or sitting on a bench – seeing them while scooting along is much more fun as they constantly change and they really are breathtaking!

Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 5

We stayed one night here before our holiday and left the car while we were away. We had stayed here a year before and been given a room with a bath, despite requesting an accessible one then found out later that they do have rooms with wet-room style bathrooms so we requested one of those. On reaching the room we realised it was one with a bath so we headed back to reception where they were most perplexed as their system said the room did not have a bath. We assured them it did so were allocated another room which did indeed have a wet-room, with seat, grab bars etc although the room still had a very low swivel armchair which looked difficult for anyone to use, never mind someone with restricted mobility!

We had eaten here before and were again joined by my brother who lives nearby, so sampled quite a few menu dishes between us but chose from the higher end of the menu as some of the more pubby items had disappointed last time. The food was great if pricey but the service was desperately slow even though the place was not that busy. Breakfast was fine with plenty of choice. Rubbish croissants but good sausages and bacon but apparently tinned mushrooms.

We ended up staying the night at the end of our holiday – the plan had been to retrieve the car then head off to a country pub which I had carefully checked out for accessibility and was looking forward to, but the car was making horrendous noises so it was a case of booking in at the Hilton again (we specified the room-number. Bet they don’t get that very often!) and calling the AA. This time we ate at Mr Todiwalah’s Kitchen and oh, boy, was that a good decision! Gorgeous food, excellent staff, good atmosphere and prompt service – the AA fortunately only rang back after we’d finished eating! Car was sorted before check-out time the next day. Their computer system was having problems which had meant not being able to open the min-bar the previous day and meant they couldn’t give us a receipt, but this was made up for by them e-mailing it to us at least three times!

The whole hotel is very accessible, as long as you get the right room and I like the way the staff took it in their stride that I was using a scooter. An airport must get all sorts of people all the time, and it should be the norm  anyway that people don’t make a difference, but it is still novel enough to be pleasant when it happens!

http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/united-kingdom/hilton-london-heathrow-airport-terminal-5-LHRATHI/index.html

Brauereigasthoff, Aying, Germany

We stayed two nights here before flying home from Munich airport which was only about 45 mins drive away but this place is right in the country and very beautiful. The main house was the home of the family who made Ayingerbrau beers and there is still a brewery you can tour and buy souvenirs of. We stayed in the separate but equally historic guesthouse in an accessible room, although the only difference that I could see was a stool to use in the shower – no grab bars, for example. Also, the toilet was in a separate cubicle which would be impossible to get a wheelchair into. It was a lovely room, on the first floor, (there was a lift) a suite in fact with a sitting room complete with porcelain stove for cold weather visits! I would not put chairs on casters on a wooden floor though as they move too readily!

Brauereigasthoff Hotel, Aying, Germany
Brauereigasthoff Hotel, Aying, Germany

Having arrived at lunch time, we went over to the pub, also run by the hotel and ate in the shade of the trees. The surface was gravel and it was good and spacious. The menu was entirely in German so we struggled a bit (we have Spanish and French but very little German!) and needed the help of the waitress to work things out. Watch out for freshly-grated horseradish – it’s hot! In the evening we ate in the formal restaurant. To get into the main building there was a slight step up – my scooter was fine going down it but not up. There was a set menu which we were happy to go along with although on the second night I asked for an alternative to the cheese plate on offer as dessert that day and was offered various choices. We never did figure out if we could have ordered from an à la carte menu or not but the food was delicious anyway! Breakfast had plenty of choice – hard boiled eggs, lots of ham and cheese, bread, yogurt and fruit. No need for lunch after that but we succumbed to the cake menu! As the weather was good, we sat outside the guesthouse during the day which was lovely – lots of geraniums and shady trees and as it was Sunday, the road was pretty quiet. To get in and out, there are slight jolts in the doorways but nothing too drastic and the cobbled path was a bit rough but again, my scooter, designed for indoor use, really, coped fine. There was a library/sitting room for if the weather was not so good. The staff were great and as a pre-airport stop off I highly recommend this place. It was almost entirely accessible: do ask if you would like further details. Scooters don’t seem very prevalent in the parts of Austria and Germany we were in so mine got plenty of curious looks and even an enquiry as to how it worked and where it was from!

http://www.brauereigasthof-aying.de/page/index.php/en/

Hotel Alpenrose, Kufstein, Austria

We stayed two nights here after flying into Munich airport on our way to the Achensee, the hotel being 130 kms from the airport. Although it is a Best Western, the atmosphere was entirely that of a family-run hotel, which it is and a very well-run one too, with pleasant, friendly, helpful staff. The restaurant claims to be award-winning and it certainly was very good with nicely-presented national and local specialities, delicious bread and nice wine. The breakfast was also good: you could order various egg dishes as well as helping yourself to lots of different buffet items: cold meat, cheese, croissants, fruit, yogurt etc.

We had booked the Alpenrose because it was accessible and it mostly was with a ramp to get into reception and from there you could access the restaurant and breakfast room but the lounge had a step up. To access the terrace where there were more restaurant tables, if you used the ‘outdoor’ route there was a small step which was too much for my scooter but a wheelchair would probably be OK with it. The ‘indoor’ route to the terrace involved two bigger steps. There was a lift (our room was on the first floor) and the room was very spacious with a walk-in shower, plenty of grab bars and a stool to sit on in the shower. There was also an alarm-cord in the bathroom.

Hotel Alpenrose, Kufstein
Hotel Alpenrose, Kufstein

Not very pre-possessing from the outside, it was a comfortable hotel and very clean, it just needs a little bit of updating: the graphic rose patterned carpet in the bedroom for example and the table-cloths on the terrace tables – lose them and the terrace was lovely! The surrounding mountains are impressive and there was a spectacular storm the second night which meant decamping indoors half-way through our meal! I can’t review Kufstein itself as we just used the hotel for a rest from driving and I would definitely recommend it as a good stopover as well as a base if you did want to explore Kufstein.

http://www.alpenrose-kufstein.at/en/home.html

The Brocket Arms, Hertfordshire

We stayed one night at The Brocket Arms last year after flying into Heathrow from Spain before heading back up north the next day. The pub took some finding in the lanes round about but once there, we were pleased we’d chosen it as it was peaceful and relaxing. The exterior of the pub and the accommodation (in converted outbuildings across from the pub) are charming and the room had been refurbished to be charming too – it still had some old-fashioned fittings but generally was very nicely decorated and furnished; shame someone hadn’t cleaned the loo properly but otherwise fine. I think it would be wheelchair accessible but I can’t quite remember so it would be worth checking. You could park right outside on the gravel carpark. The distance from room to pub is about ten yards.
The pub is ‘olde-worlde’ with wooden beams, a mixture of furniture etc. We ate there in the evening: pub fayre, but done well (there were specials available but we didn’t realise until afterwards so I don’t know what we missed!). Breakfast was mixed – good coffee and cooked element, toast OK, juice poor and plastic jam – very odd as they sell jars of fabulous local jam which would have been a vast improvement! At least we were able to bring some away with us to enjoy at home! The staff were very helpful and pleasant and on the whole I would recommend this place although as of course everyone has different accessibility needs, so worth checking in advance.

http://www.brocketarms.com/

Middlethorpe Hall, York

We didn’t stay here but recently had a team ‘away day’ event here in the Barlow room. The website describes it as having access ramps and disabled facilities, but doesn’t mention the gutter which you need to negotiate before you reach the ramp! I was nervous of scooting over the gutter (my scooter is not really designed for rough terrain!) and got off and had colleagues move the scooter over it the first time but braved it after that and it was OK just rather a jolt. I’m not sure how users of self-propelled wheelchairs would find it. The carpark is at some distance but there is no problem about being dropped at the door. Once inside, it is a lovely venue, very well-appointed and with one of the poshest accessible loos ever!

We had lunch in the main house, which despite being a historic house, had a ramp up to the entrance to avoid the steps, although there was another gutter to negotiate, then staff had placed ramps over two short flights of stairs – rather steep but manageable and the staff were very helpful. Scooting around indoors was fine but the lavatories are on the floor below and although there is a lift, a staff member felt my scooter would not fit in. So, it was back to the Barlow room before we had a guided tour of the lovely gardens – flagstones and gravel paths and short grass with just one step which might be avoidable if you went a different route.

It was a lovely experience – lunch was fabulous! – but I’m not sure I would recommend this place if you were looking for a truly accessible venue.

http://www.middlethorpe.com/meeting-rooms/

Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 5

We stayed one night here before our flight to Spain last year in what was supposed to be an accessible room – it did have grab rails and emergency call buttons so was obviously supposed to be a disabled-friendly room but it had an over-bath shower which wasn’t very helpful. I contacted the company and they have apologised and said they do have rooms with walk-in showers, so I wish we had asked to change rooms! As we were just there one night, we decided to stay there and make the best of it. Other features such as a low swiveling arm chair made it un-userfriendly too. It would be so easy to get it right, you would think such a huge company would try a bit harder.
The food in the restaurant was patchy (I think I chose better than my companions!), breakfast was good the disabled parking spaces were very near the entrance and staff were friendly so a perfectly good place to stop before catching a flight, in fact we’re staying there again this year so I’ll report back on whether we get a more easy-to-use room!

Parador de Alcalá de Henares, Spain

We stayed here for the last night of last year’s holiday in Spain – it’s pretty convenient for Madrid’s Barajas airport. The parador is based around an old convent but generally is very hi-tech and modern, almost too much so: a panel at the bedside allowed you to switch off the lights in the whole room, but you couldn’t have one bedside light on without the other being on too – not really a technological advance! The whole place was completely accessible apart from, I think, a tiny step down into the courtyard but I might be misremembering and the bedroom had both a wet-room style bathroom and also a bath with shower over too.
It is in the town centre and has a courtyard rather than any gardens so not as relaxing/get-away-from-it-all as some but peaceful nonetheless. The staff were pleasant, the food good with plenty of choice at breakfast and the town is very pleasant and historic too. I would definitely recommend this for a brief stop.
http://www.parador.es/en/paradores/parador-de-alcala-de-henares

Parador de La Granja

Here are some reviews of hotels or other places to stay I’ve visited recently both in Britain and abroad. They are general reviews but mention any accessibility issues I encountered, good or bad!

Here’s a review I wrote after our holiday in Spain last year. After flying into Madrid, we picked up our hire car and this was the first place we stayed.

Outdoor bar area
Outdoor bar area

We stayed two nights here at the start of our holiday and got thoroughly relaxed which was the plan. My mobility is bad and I was hoping to use my scooter around the building so was really pleased that I could – a member of staff explained where to park around the back and met us there and showed us the way in. There was some issue with our booking both here and at another Parador – they asked if I had booked through an agency when in fact I had booked directly through their website; I don’t know what the issue was, plus they had missed the fact that I’d requested an accessible room but they sorted that out and showed us to the room that was really spacious and comfortable.

The breakfast did not seem to be quite as good as I remembered Parador breakfasts to be – no tortilla or hard boiled eggs, for example, but it turned out you could order scrambled eggs. Food in the evening: the first night I had fish with lots of bones – rather off-putting – but the second night had the tastiest beef dish I have ever had!

The building is great – old but sympathetically modernised. Staff were great too – really helpful when we wanted to look online for directions to our next hotel. We had a bit of difficulty finding this place, actually, as did other people – the signs are not that obvious but you turn left as you enter the gates of the complex.

http://www.parador.es/en/paradores/parador-de-la-granja

Posada Camarga, Santiago Millas, León

We stayed a night here because the place we were supposed to be spending the night at, in a spirit of helpfulness, had swapped our ground floor room for a second floor one so we would be away from the noise of a wedding that was going on, forgetting that we had booked a ground floor room because I have poor mobility. The manager rang a couple of other places and got us booked in at this charming place that was much quieter than the original place would have been and we felt we had really struck lucky!
Posada Camarga was wonderfully quiet, beautifully converted and decorated and we were welcomed with tea and biscuits! There are ground floor rooms and ours at least had a walk-in shower. The proprietress is Spanish but her English is so fabulous you wouldn’t guess; she is an ex-business consultant who has created a lovely hotel and produces the delicious meals available in the evening, from a menu with 3 choices each for each course. The courtyard was full of flowers and we could hear birds singing – a vast improvement on the slightly sozzled renditions of Abba going on at the place we would have stayed! I was able to use my scooter as there was a ramp leading from the rooms to the main house where dinner and breakfast were served. The countryside around was nothing special but if you were on your way somewhere like we were and wanted somewhere quiet and relaxing, with a friendly welcome and simple, delicious food, I recommend this place wholeheartedly.

http://www.camarga.es/esp/entorno-camarga.html

Parador de Tordesillas, Spain

Some of the reviews of this Parador talk of it being a bit past its best, but having stayed in several other Paradors on last year’s holiday in Spain as well as lots of others at other times I would say it holds up well – they are all different and have different qualities. This one is good at being relaxing, child-friendly and laid back. It didn’t particularly seem in need of smartening up so far as I noticed. What was an issue for me was that while you could enter the lobby on wheels (I use a mobility scooter when there is lots of ground to cover), you couldn’t then access the rest of the hotel. That required entering through the door that gave access to the pool and garden – not a big problem, it was a doorway people used to access the garden, so not a ‘tradesman’s entrance’ but not ideal. To use the sitting room off the lobby we would have had to go out through this door then around to the front and it would still have meant a few stairs so we didn’t bother and didn’t need to as the weather was lovely and we sat out in the garden all day, where people were using the pool and sunloungers, all surrounded by pine groves..
The staff were friendly and helpful, the food good with the usual choices of local and national dishes in the evening (although with a distinct lack of vegetables unless you chose very carefully, which is so odd in a country that produces an abundance of great veg!) and plenty of choice at breakfast: Spanish omelette, hams and cheeses, pastries, fruit, yogurt etc.
We really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the historic town of Tordesillas where the C15th treaty was signed to divide up South America between Spain and Portugal is just down the road.

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Gardens, Parador de Tordesilla
Pine woods, Parador de Tordesillas
Pine woods, Parador de Tordesillas
Tordesillas
Tordesillas
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