Same but different!

Private garden, Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages

Our trip back to Northumberland meant some slightly different arrangements but also new places to visit: an accessible promenade and some rather bumpy gardens!

Private garden, Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages
Private garden, Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages

Because of the virus, holidaymakers had been asked not to turn up before 5pm in order that the cottages could be thoroughly cleaned and we managed to time it so that we turned up on the Saturday at 5.05! Instructions had been added to the cottage information file about Covid and the visitors’ book had been put away and nobody had written it since before the lockdown but otherwise the cottage was just as we remembered, comfortable, clean, spacious, well-equipped and with good decor. Sue, the manager, appeared on the Monday to check everything was all right, but wouldn’t step inside. Later in the week we saw some of the cleaners in PPE: the new rules were being taken very seriously.

Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages
Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages

The surroundings are wonderfully peaceful: no traffic, just the susurration of the trees and the cawing of the rooks.

The peaceful surroundings of Doxford Cottages
The peaceful surroundings of Doxford Cottages

We had stayed at Fox Cover at Doxford Cottages last year but whereas then I thought it was almost ideal and we rebooked it straightaway (and thank goodness we did! I don’t think we would have found anything at short notice) this time it seemed a bit more of a struggle to deal with the practical arrangements.

Parking area, Doxford Cottages
Parking area, Doxford Cottages

In the preceding weeks, I had made a real effort to work on my balance so that I would feel more confident in a new setting and that did help but it is difficult when grab rails are in different places and chairs are a different shape! Really deep armchairs can be a bit problematic for anyone who is not particularly tall as you need to get the right combination of cushions to feel comfortable but there was a really good selection of different sized cushions!

Sitting room, Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages
Sitting room, Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages

With grab rails, shower seats etc, it’s a case of needing to feel sure that things won’t budge when you grab them or lean on them. This place does not claim to have the top level of accessibility but, given that it is wheelchair accessible and they have made an effort with some grab rails, they could just do with having a bit of a rethink and making it even better. As ever, different people need different help but that’s why there are industry recommendations for layouts that suit the most people.

Kitchen and dining area, Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages
Kitchen and dining area, Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages

We weren’t planning to do anything much, we knew the weather was going to be dodgy on some days and we wanted to get the balance right so as not to come back from holiday needing a holiday! The weather was glorious on the Sunday so we spent most of the day in the garden, then on Monday when the weather turned and was wet most of the day, we were able to sit in the conservatory, looking out at the trees. We were thoroughly chilled by now so on the Tuesday we ventured out to the somewhat unfortunately named Spittal to see the sea. Spittal promenade is a low key affair but very easily accessible and with good parking in well-marked bays for Blue Badge holders. We hadn’t seen the sea since visiting Northumberland last summer and very refreshing it was too and with distant views of Holy Island and Bambrugh Castle. There were plenty of other people about and we exchanged hellos while remaining suitably distanced.

Spittal Promenade
Spittal Promenade
Easy parking at Spittal Promenade
Easy parking at Spittal Promenade

On the Wednesday we went to Howick Hall Gardens. I had seen them recommended in the cottage visitors’ book and on Euan’sGuide and they would be a great place to visit for the able-bodied as they are very extensive. In a good-sized scooter they would probably be a bit bumpy but for a power chair it really was a bit too uneven in places as the paths are mainly all grass.

Howick Hall Gardens
Howick Hall Gardens
Howick Hall Gardens
Howick Hall Gardens

Some of it was no more uneven than our lawn at home but there were some tree roots and other obstacles which made it a bit tiring to deal with while the threshold into the Sensory Garden was just impossible to even attempt.

Rather tricky entrance to the Sensory Garden, Howick Hall
Rather tricky entrance to the Sensory Garden, Howick Hall

I was glad to have gone because I wanted to see what it was like and it was a great change of scene with some lovely plants. The visitor centre was closed except for a ticket counter where a member of staff gave us a map of the grounds with the access of all groups marked. It wasn’t a very detailed map and as we left, we asked for the usual map which described the path surfaces so I would recommend asking for both maps if you are a wheelchair user or accompanying one.

Bog Garden, Howick Hall
Bog Garden, Howick Hall

The Thursday was mainly drizzly again then the Friday was an absolute corker, really hot and sunny. We thought we would have a brief trip to Bamburgh to get another glimpse of the sea, but as I suspected, even though it was about 10am when we got there, it was heaving so our vague plan of perhaps parking somewhere with a view of the sea was impossible. On the way there was a lovely, clear view of the Farne Islands and we got a glorious view of the silvery waves, the beach, and the castle behind.

Bamburgh Castle and beach
Bamburgh Castle and beach

Back at the cottage, a chap had turned up to trim the hedges. He wasn’t going to be long so we wandered back down the lane under the shady trees and discovered there were lots of little mice in the bank under the hedge. Doxford Cottages are something of a haven for wildlife: every day we saw a woodpecker or two, seven or eight chaffinches all at once, a nuthatch, pheasants, rabbits and a squirrel as well as the mice and lots of crows, jackdaws, house-martins and many other birds.  

Driveway to Doxford Cottages
Driveway to Doxford Cottages
wild mouse
P1000765

I really recommend this cottage if the access is right for you. It’s a great cottage in lovely surroundings and there is plenty to do in the area. I know the bathroom arrangements can be make or break for many disabled people and, guess what? We forgot to take photos of the bathroom! You can see the shower area on the cottage website and they provide a good adjustable height shower seat and also a toilet seat raiser if you wish (and were happy to provide measurements). The toilet has a vertical grab rail to the left of it but as it is not a back-to-the-wall lavatory, the rail is too far back to be useful and the drop-down rail to the right of the loo is a bit too far away to lean on but of course that won’t be a problem for everyone. It’s also great that it is possible to sit at the dining table in a wheelchair! The dressing table is also at an accessible height.

Wild rabbits, Doxford Cottages
Wild rabbits, Doxford Cottages

This may have been a little tiring physically at times but it was great to have a change of scene (I’d not been away from the house since the lockdown) and be in such peaceful surroundings. It was also very mentally refreshing to have a break from the news: we just checked the local weather and national headlines once a day and didn’t look at social media at all. We didn’t even have the radio on, just lots of our favourite CDs and only got a newspaper on the days when we were out and about.

Woodpecker, Doxford Cottages
Woodpecker, Doxford Cottages

I’m glad that we went on some ‘exotic’ holidays when we did as we have them to look back on. I certainly have no intention of flying until the airlines have sorted out accommodating wheelchair users properly. Besides, even if I was able-bodied, the thought of having to wear a mask for hours on end in the airport and on the flight is not very appealing. At the moment, simple staycations are right for us. I think a shorter break would suit me better as far as not getting too tired goes and as we are no longer bound by school holiday dates, I can see us doing a short break in the autumn or spring (or both!) in future. Maybe not at this cottage but we shall enjoy exploring other options!

Private garden, Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages
Private garden, Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages
Entrance to Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages
Entrance to Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages

Here are some other accessible places we have stayed.

Possibly the best cottage yet?

Accessible entrance to Fox Cover

We might have found our favourite cottage of all, plus some thoughts on what adjustments should owners of accessible cottages make?

Do you come over all ‘hotel inspector’ when you stay somewhere? We tend to, whether it’s a hotel, B&B or cottage, but with Fox Cover at Doxford Cottages, there’s not much you could improve on!

Accessible entrance to Fox Cover
Accessible entrance to Fox Cover

A cottage for two, it has a spacious sitting room / dining room / kitchen, large bedroom, bathroom with both a bath and a roll-in shower and there is also a conservatory to sit in which overlooks the private garden and the woods beyond.

Looking out from the courtyard garden at Fox Cover
Looking out from the courtyard garden at Fox Cover

It is one of nine cottages created from the old coach house and stables on the Doxford estate in Northumberland, all of which have beautiful décor. It was clean, comfortable and very well equipped, including up-to-date local information.

Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages
Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages

Fox Cover is fully accessible, being step-free and with wide doorways. There were grab rails in the bathroom by the shower and the loo. Inevitably, everybody needs rails in different places but it did strike me as slightly odd that the ones in the bathroom were placed as if you were left-handed. In the shower area, the rails were on the left if you were to use them to stand up from the shower seat (provided on request) as were the shower controls and there was no drop-down rail to the right of the loo to lean on when standing up but there was one on the left. There is a recommended setup for loos and washbasins that many holiday cottages don’t adhere to it. In some cases I think this is so that the loo can be used by people who prefer either a right-hand or left-hand transfer but I suspect it ends up being not ideal for anybody. Perhaps cottage owners should simply state whether it is a right-hand or left-hand transfer or even create an accessible cottage for each configuration. Anyway, we coped but for many disabled people, the bathroom arrangements are a deal breaker. It staggers me that some places advertising themselves as disabled-friendly don’t provide photos of the bathroom. Having said that, I have been very remiss in not photographing the cottage interior myself – there are pictures on their website though.

The owners have some equipment they can lend and are happy to answer questions – I asked about the height of the bed, for example. A bit high for me so we used a portable step. As a general principal, I think providing normal height furniture should be the rule, with the possibility of ‘raisers’ if people need different heights. Having said that, a lowered hob in the kitchen would have been useful. This sort of adjustment makes things accessible for everybody: lowered kitchen surfaces are not inconvenient for non-wheelchair users.

I really appreciated that I could sit at the dining table in my power chair with no problem. In the past two places we stayed, Normandy last summer and Norfolk at Easter, we had to prop the table up on books which was far from ideal. The dressing table was also a good height for a wheelchair user. At Valley View in Herefordshire the height of the dressing table was adjustable!

Parking and drop off area for Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages
Parking and drop off area for Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages

You can park right outside the cottage on the tarmac driveway to unpack or for drop-off and pickup but you need to move car to a gravelled area for more longer term parking. This was fine for us as Pete does the driving but if a wheelchair-user was the driver and couldn’t negotiate the gravel this could be problematic.

The lake, Doxford Cottages
The lake, Doxford Cottages

For the more mobile, there is a track down to a lake in the grounds. There was quite a lot of flooding when we were there but even without that you would need a sturdy all-terrain scooter to explore the estate.

The path to the lake, Doxford Cottages
The path to the lake, Doxford Cottages

The Doxford Cottages website has loads of useful information (although not an accessibility statement) such as what you will find in your cottage including a welcome pack of a bottle of wine, local honey, some tea and coffee and a pint of milk. They also mentioned a local company, Food Heaven that provides meals and other food items delivered to your cottage. We ordered three different ready meals and quite a few other items such as ham, eggs, bread, fruit and vegetables. A very friendly delivery driver turned up with it just after we’d arrived and helped to unpack: if you aren’t there they unpack it and put things in the fridge, bread bin etc. I’m not sure I would recommend them particularly though – the meals were tasty but the other things weren’t particularly special. Although it’s good to use local shops and services, it’s no good if the items aren’t things you would choose anyway and shops aren’t always accessible. There are supermarkets in Alnwick to stock up – we went to the local Sainsbury’s during the week which is very modern and accessible.

Barter Books in Alnwick is accessible!
Barter Books in Alnwick is accessible!

Although it rained quite a lot, we had lovely sunshine for our trips out and just chilled out on other days with books, magazines, puzzles and, yes, a jigsaw and did plenty of sitting outside in the peace and quiet. Even before we had entered the cottage we had spotted a rabbit and saw many more during the week plus a weasel, mouse, at least one woodpecker everyday – sometimes two or three at once! – nuthatches and half a dozen or more chaffinches plus, on the last evening, bats flying around! There are seed feeders opposite the sitting room window which are refilled every day.

Lots of cute bunnies live near Fox Cover!
Lots of cute bunnies live near Fox Cover!

I did feel a little bit inclined to keep this place to myself as it is so nice but as we have booked it for a week next summer already, I may as well share!

The Grand Cascade, The Alnwick Garden
The Grand Cascade, The Alnwick Garden

There are a number of accessible things to do nearby – we visited Barter Books in Alnwick and the Alnwick Garden, reviewed separately. The coast is lovely too and we will try out some more places next year.

The Ornamental Garden at The Alnwick Garden
The Ornamental Garden at The Alnwick Garden

Click here for more accessible places to stay.

Big skies and accessible hides

Lovely sunshine on our last morning!

It was rather chilly for outdoor exploring during our stay in Norfolk but the views from the car were magnificent! The North Norfolk coast is completely different to that of North Yorkshire, west of Sheringham it flattens out and there are no cliffs or rocky coves but lots of shingle beaches, sand dunes, marshes, wetlands and that huge, huge sky.

Church Farm Barns, Bircham Newton, Norfolk
Church Farm Barns, Bircham Newton, Norfolk

This was our second stay at Norfolk Disabled Friendly Cottages (now called Church Farm Barns), this time in The Little Workshop, a fully accessible cottage for four. Last time, we booked Stable Cottage but because of a problem with the heating, we were upgraded to The Big Workshop which had a lovely view so this time we booked the smaller next-door cottage in order to benefit from the same view which Stable Cottage doesn’t have.

Great view from The Little Workshop
Great view from The Little Workshop

All the cottages are accessible and of different sizes and there is plenty of equipment such as hoists or a profiling bed which the owners will hire out to you if required. The owners are really helpful and Lavinia makes a point of coming to welcome you and check that everything is all right.

French windows
French windows

Despite the name, The Little Workshop is really spacious with plenty of room to move around. Not quite perfect, however, as it’s not possible to sit at the dining table in a wheelchair but, as in Normandy last summer, we raised the legs on top of books which makes the table rather high but at least you can sit at it. Another small gripe would be that all the pillows were really thick ones: I ended up using a thin cushion instead as I couldn’t possibly have slept with my head on such a high pillow! Also, the mattress could do with replacing when they update the cottage: it was a little bit like hammock-like! I’m not sure if it’s an age thing or a disability thing, probably a bit of both, but I find it increasingly difficult to cope with different domestic arrangements. Our house isn’t perfectly arranged, but at least I’m used to it and feel more confident there. Different furniture arrangements, positions of grab rails etc take a bit of getting used to. Sad, but true!

Easy access to The Little Workshop
Easy access to The Little Workshop

There was also an issue with getting out onto the patio as the threshold was rather high and there was a bit of a dip where a drainage grid had been put in which had maybe sunk a bit. We had found something similar with the Big Workshop, but with that cottage, you can exit through the front door and come around the side but this isn’t the case with the Little Workshop. We mentioned this to Lavinia and somebody brought a bit of board which we could put down to form a bridge between the rather high threshold, over the drainage grid and onto the patio itself. We tried it the next day and despite some overnight rain which had warped the board a bit, it worked a treat!

Access to the patio sorted!
Access to the patio sorted!

Another brilliant thing is that the cottages are really cosy, so unlike many of the quaint, old cottages we’ve stayed in, although I don’t see why they couldn’t be made to be as cosy as this as well!

We arrived on Friday and as I said, the weather was rather cold so on the Saturday we set out for a drive along the coast, heading first for Cromer then driving westwards past Sheringham then we came across the Cley Marshes Visitor Centre which looked like an accessible place so we decided to check it out. It strongly reminded us of The Sill, the National Landscape Discovery Centre that we visited this time last year in Cumbria as it was built in a similar style with plenty of wood and glass and a ‘living roof’ and designed to be sustainable and accessible.

Cley Marshes Visitor Centre
Cley Marshes Visitor Centre

We managed to resist the cakes in the café, but they did look rather good! It’s run by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and has a shop and café in the main building, accessed by a lift (one of those rather basic ones where you have to hold down the button as you go up or down) then there was a separate building with information about the work of the Trust and another building that was a hide with telescopes/binoculars that you could use although they were either too high or in front of the bench so accessing them from a wheelchair would have needed a bit of manoeuvring. There was also an exhibition in there by a local artist.

Cley Marshes Visitor Centre
Cley Marshes Visitor Centre

We continued on to Blakeney where we stopped for a pot of fresh seafood. I don’t think I’ve done that for years so it felt rather nostalgic! We continued on past Wells, past Burnham Overy Staithe and Brancaster then slightly past the turnoff back to the cottage in order to check out Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve which we thought we might visit the next day.

The weather continued to be rather iffy but we fancied more fresh air so the next day we did go to Titchwell. The staff were very helpful and explained that most of the path was slightly better than the path between the car park and the visitor centre which was indeed the case, not too bumpy and some of the way round there were boardwalks but most of the way was a rather rough path (failed to get a photo of the path, unfortunately). However, as it was starting to rain we decided to call it a day which was just as well as it started to chuck it down on our way home. Apparently, there are accessible hides at Titchwell but we didn’t make it that far!

Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve
Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve

It is, of course, really frustrating not to be able to go for a brisk walk and explore places like we used to but I can’t live my entire life being irritated by that situation or it would be miserable, so I just have to accept that we have to curtail what we do. Many of the visitors to Titchwell were all geared up for bad weather but I think even if I was completely able-bodied we wouldn’t have wanted to walk around in the rain anyway!

Nowadays, we usually choose accommodation with good views and this cottage has them in spades: the windows are huge to take advantage of them and it was fun spotting (and hearing!) the oystercatchers which live round about. We also wanted to feel like we had had a relaxing time, especially as my work is slightly stressful at the moment, so it was lovely to not check even ‘home’ emails but to read, do puzzles, listen to music, chat and just generally chill out.

Lovely sunshine on our last morning!
Lovely sunshine on our last morning!

The Monday when we left, the temperature was due to reach about 20°!

As ever, different accessibility adaptations suit different people, but if the facilities at Church Farm Barns suit you, then I thoroughly recommend them as they are generally high-quality accommodation, even the ones which haven’t been updated yet, and the staff are really welcoming. They have improved their website as well which has information about accessible things to do locally.

For more information about accessible places to stay, see my other reviews.

Charming cottage and very high-tech!

Valley View cottage, Llangrove, Hereford

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

Great views, great access!

The patio

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 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.

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

Eco-friendly cottages, accessible to all!

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.

 

Our accessible Scottish adventure!

Port Selma Lodges

Our first overnight stop was in Wark, Northumberland at the Battlesteads Inn. Actually, our very first stop was at Witton-le-Wear, County Durham,

Witton-le-Wear church
Witton-le-Wear church

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!

Battlesteads Inn
Battlesteads Inn

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.

I would definitely stay here again – for further details on accessibility, see  my reviews on accessibilityreviews.org or Euan’s Guide.

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!

Cringletie House is a baronial castle which you would not expect to be

Cringletie House, near Peebles
Cringletie House, near Peebles

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

Port Selma Lodges
Port Selma Lodges

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

View from Port Selma Lodges
View from Port Selma Lodges

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!

Port Selma Lodges
Port Selma Lodges

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

Cycle path near Benderloch
Cycle path near Benderloch

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

Castle Stalker
Castle Stalker

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.

Loch Etive
Loch Etive

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

New Lanark Mills
New Lanark Mills

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.

New Lanark Mill Hotel
New Lanark Mill Hotel

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!

 

 

Port Selma Lodges, Benderloch, Scotland

Port Selma Lodges

Port Selma lodges are two wonderful wooden chalets in a lovely, quiet location with wonderful views which happen to be fully accessible! The pictures on the website don’t do justice to how beautifully done and well-maintained they are. The owners live over the way and obviously look after them carefully and provide everything you could possible want in a holiday cottage as well as leaving you a welcome tray with a bottle of wine, cheese, oatcakes and other goodies, a pint of milk in the fridge and even fresh flowers!

Port Selma Lodges
Port Selma Lodges

Both lodges comprise a double bedroom with en suite wetroom bathroom with grabrails and a moveable showerseat, plus a twin room and a bathroom with shower over the bath; a sitting/dining room/kitchen and a verandah, all accessible (there is a ramp to the front door) and there is more outside sitting space for if you wanted to dine outdoors.

Willie and Jan Orr, the owners, met us when we arrived and had advice on accessible things to do in the area such as the nearby cycle track and made it clear they were happy to be contacted if we needed them.

Their website gives quite a lot of information about things to do such as ferry trips, cafés and so on. We mainly drove around and took in the lovely views, which weren’t spoiled by the rather poor weather at the start of the week – as ever with Britain, you have to grab your moments! There is a cycle track nearby which you can scoot along and get to a viewing point with lovely sea views, there’s an accessible café with wonderful views of Castle Stalker and we visited Dunstaffnage Castle in its harbourslde setting.

We had a thoroughly relaxing week – the sun even put in an appearance and we had at least one fabulous sunset – the lodge faces west.

View from Port Selma Lodges
View from Port Selma Lodges

I found the lodges because of a review on Euan’s Guide which gave a great description and confirmed the good impression I had from the owners’ website.

Definitely a recommended place to stay!

Other places we stayed this Summer: Battlesteads and Cringletie House