Accessible adventures in Northumberland!

Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages

A great cottage, Alnwick Garden and Barter Books!

Our summer holiday this year was a very modest affair but really relaxing and restorative just as a holiday should be.

Accessible entrance to Fox Cover
Accessible entrance to Fox Cover

We had decided ages ago that we would “staycation” this year in anticipation of Brexit-related chaos after the previous deadline of 31 March (is that right? It’s all such a mess!). I don’t know if it’s because we therefore weren’t geared up to a longer holiday or to going abroad or whether I/we would have felt like this anyway but the thought of a long journey, even one broken up into stages (or perhaps particularly one broken up into stages with several different places to stay) would have been an utterly exhausting prospect!

Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages
Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages

As it was, the journey up to Doxford Cottages only took three hours. We started out on the A1 but as there were signs flashing up that there was congestion ahead we switched to the A19 for a while. There was sunshine and showers on the way with one particularly monsoon-like downpour, fortunately not in heavy traffic, when even the wipers in superfast mode couldn’t cope. That meant it was particularly lovely to arrive at the cottage, Fox Cover, in sunshine!

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

I’m sure any wheelchair user would agree that it’s also quite a relief to arrive at an unknown destination and find that it is, indeed, wheelchair accessible.

Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages
Fox Cover, Doxford Cottages

One of the first things we spotted on arriving was a really cute little rabbit and we saw plenty more during the week as well as various other wildlife spots, including a weasel, a mouse, woodpeckers, squirrels (they used to have red squirrels which would have been lovely but grey ones are appealing too!) nuthatches, chaffinches, lots of rooks and also bats.

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

Our delivery from Food Heaven arrived so we were all set for a relaxing time. I’d been having a somewhat stressful time at work so the complete switch off was very necessary. I barely looked at my personal emails and certainly didn’t access work ones or accessed any social media and we just caught the headlines on television now and again.

Peaceful surroundings at Doxford Cottages
Peaceful surroundings at Doxford Cottages

Reading, doing puzzles and jigsaws was the order of the day. Yes, it’s tame but it was also blissful.

There are a number of accessible things to do in the area. Knowing that the weather was not going to be terribly good, we had only really planned to go to the Alnwick Garden and to the coast.

The weather did exactly what was forecast: it rained solidly all Sunday but we had planned to just relax that day anyway. On Monday we went to Barter Books, a huge second-hand book shop in the old station in Alnwick. It has a slightly bumpy threshold but is accessible and has an accessible loo and a few designated parking bays right outside the door.

Accessible and entrance to Barter Books, Alnwick
Accessible and entrance to Barter Books, Alnwick

We have been here before but not for a few years; they have developed the café since our last visit but there is still the same relaxed atmosphere and, of course, thousands of books!

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

The next day, as the forecast was good we headed to Alnwick Garden (see my separate, more detailed review). I had read reviews of this on Euan’sGuide and knew it was accessible, which indeed it was as long as you don’t mind a bumpy ride. Many of the surfaces were very uneven but it was a pleasant visit overall and the walled garden is really attractive. I contacted the gardens once we were home and they said that improving the path surfaces is part of their development plans and they are going to include millions of fibre-optic lights in them so that the gardens can open at night.

The Ornamental Garden, Alnwick Gardens
The Ornamental Garden, Alnwick Gardens

Another day we explored the coast which is lovely and unspoiled with huge sandy beaches and big skies. We went as far as Bamburgh, an immensely impressive castle which we had visited before when I was perfectly mobile so this time we just admired the outside. I’m afraid I’ve been a very bad blogger and not taken anything like enough photographs.

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

Because these days doing lots of visits is quite tiring, it’s really important to us to have a cottage with pleasant surroundings and preferably a good view. This cottage has that in spades and we have even booked to go back next year. It’s important for us to get cottages booked up in plenty of time as there are not that many cottages which are exactly suitable and with the sort of surroundings we want. We had rather hoped we would be able to book it for a short break but it was only available to book for a whole week during the times when we want to go so we decided to go back next summer. I promise I will take more photos next year!

Here are some more of our Accessible Adventures!

Cosy Cumbria cottage with great views

Entrance to Ash Cottage

Ash Cottage is different to most cottages – it was really cosy even on the first evening! In fact, it was almost too warm as we couldn’t resist lighting the wood-burner.

Entrance to Ash Cottage
Entrance to Ash Cottage

It is one of ten cottages at Tottergill Farm, Castle Carrock, Cumbria run by Tracey and Barnaby Bowan – all are luxurious, some even have hot-tubs.

Compact, with a living-dining-kitchen, bedroom and wetroom bathroom, Ash Cottage also has some outdoor space with fabulous views towards the Solway Firth and Scotland.

The farmyard, Tottergill Farm, Cumbria
The farmyard, Tottergill Farm, Cumbria

The cottage is part of a huge barn, converted into several cottages while other buildings contain the rest of the cottages plus there are other outbuildings to house the pigs and chickens you share the site with. There is also a wood-store with logs for the wood burner. So often we have found that the first evening in a cottage is rather chilly, even if it’s warm after that, but Ash Cottage , which under-floor heating as well as the wood burner, was cosy from the off!

Sitting out space with great view
Sitting out space with great view

As with all cottages and the accessibility issue, everywhere is different and everyone has different needs; the important thing is to gather as much information as you can in advance. The owners’ website has an accessibility statement with details about all the cottages and the site generally and they were happy to answer questions via email. They also have some equipment they can lend you, such as a shower stool, toilet seat raiser or dining chair with arms.

Parking space and entrance to Ash Cottage
Parking space and entrance to Ash Cottage

I actually found the cottage through Premier Cottages, as you can include in the search filter the level of accessibility you need. Ash Cottage is NAS level 2, which is for people who can manage a few steps and that is pretty accurate but it would be tricky for someone who couldn’t cope with slopes or who required more in the way of grab-rails for example. Also, some of the track to get to the farm is very pot-holed and bumpy which might be problematic for some.

Doorway at Ash Cottage
Doorway at Ash Cottage

We actually had a slight problem on arrival – my powerchair wouldn’t go over the threshold! Some cunning arrangement of the rugs from in the house helped, but it wasn’t ideal. Also, the furniture needed moving so I could get to the dining table. The whole site slopes and the slope to access the sitting-out area of Ask Cottage was a little precipitous. Had the weather been warm enough for sitting out, I suppose I would have attempted it but in the end, the issue didn’t arise – even in the sunshine, the wind as still keen!

Entrance to The Sill
Entrance to The Sill

The first full day we were there, the rain did not let up at all so we were forced to just chill out with the newspaper, books and a jigsaw, listening to our favourite CDs! On the second day, the weather was a little iffy but quite bright so we ventured off to The Sill, the National Landscape Discovery Centre at Once Brewed, near Hadrian’s Wall. Opened last year, The Sill has a permanent exhibition about the landscape and our relationship with it as well as temporary exhibitions – the current one is about Dark Skies and preventing light pollution. It is very interactive but I think they could have incorporated a little bit more detail into the landscape exhibition without spoiling the child-friendliness. The whole place has been designed with accessibility in mind: automatic doors, a lift, accessible loos, even a changing-places area with shower. Outside there are plenty of Blue Badge spaces as well as bike racks and next door is a Youth Hostel.

At The Sill
At The Sill

The café, which specialises in local produce, is on the first floor, accessible by lift and is light and airy with great views over the countryside. We just had a sandwich, which was great and very generous, but I can’t comment comprehensively on the menu, however it did all look good! There is a path from ground level right up to the garden roof and you can also access it from the café. There is a hard surface, but it was rather juddery so I didn’t fancy venturing too far on it but the views even from this level were good. From the roof they must be fabulous!

Talkin Tarn
Talkin Tarn

On the following day, we went to Talkin Tarn, a very attractive local lake surrounded by woods. The track was absolutely fine for my scooter so we enjoyed the views, the woods, the waterfowl and the fresh air. Very fresh it was too – it even hailed briefly but fortunately we were under the trees so barely noticed!

The woods at Talkin Tarn
The woods at Talkin Tarn

There is ample parking which is free for Blue Badge holders for up to 3 hours if you display the time that you arrived. From the car park to the lake is quite a slope but you can park behind the café/ gift shop where there are some marked bays and access from there is much less steep. There are toilets, including an accessible one requiring a RADAR-key. The website doesn’t seem to mention parking or access so I shall have to do a review for Euan’s Guide!

The path at Talkin Tarn
The path at Talkin Tarn

A couple of coincidences: when I started researching my family history, it turned out that some relatives lived in a cottage at a place called Tottergill. When I first googled it, up came some holiday cottages in Cumbria! Turns out there is also a Tottergill in Arkengarthdale and that’s where my granny’s granny was born! Second coincidence: Tracey Bowan is from a part of Leeds very near where I grew up. Third coincidence: down the road from Castle Carrock is a car-mending place called Allison Peter!

Waterwheel at Tottergill Farm
Waterwheel at Tottergill Farm

To sum up: if Ash Cottage would suit you in terms of access, then I thoroughly recommend it. The situation is great and there are plenty of accessible things to do nearby (the Carlisle Tourist Information Centre supplied me with some suggestions and links). As a guest at Tottergill, you also get free use of a local swimming pool. The cottage owners are really friendly and helpful, keen on reducing the carbon footprint of the place and on making your holiday as enjoyable as possible.

Click here for reviews of other accessible places to stay.

Luxurious and accessible!

The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks

The Roost is a lovely, one-story cottage  which sleeps four in two bedrooms with two bathrooms. It is one of six cottages at Field House Farm near Bempton in East Yorkshire.

The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks
The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks

The house is wheelchair accessible, although my power chair needed an extra shove to get it over the threshold of the front door, and although the internal doors are not wide, I was able to get around without any problem.

The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks
The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks

There is a double bedroom with an ensuite bathroom which has a shower over the bath and the other room can be configured as a twin or a king-size double and the ensuite bathroom is a wet room with space to manoeuvre a wheelchair.

The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks
The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks

The furnishings are all really good quality and it was very comfortable, although a little chilly as the weather was very cold and the cottage had not been booked for a while but we were able to turn the heating up and get the wood burning stove going so it was lovely and cosy the next day. This is virtually always the case with cottages so we did expect it but of course if you’re only staying a weekend it means it’s not so warm for more of your stay! There was plenty of wood and they told us we could help ourselves if we needed more.File_001

It’s a really well-equipped cottage and there was a welcome tray with tea, coffee, biscuits and a bottle of wine. The decor is lovely with original features from its former life as a farm building and there was an interesting history of farm in the cottage information folder.

The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks
The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks

The cottages also have impeccable green credentials, using a wind turbine and rainwater capture, encouraging recycling and using local products.

The friendly, helpful owners (who live on-site) have other cottages at nearby High Barn, where we had stayed last year and on both occasions we were really lucky with the weather, so as last time we had a very sunny visit to the promenade at Bridlington which is nice and smooth for wheel users with plenty of parking. The Blue Badge bays were all full but with this being off-season, there were loads of free spaces nearby.

The prom at Bridlington
The prom at Bridlington

All the cottages at Field House and High Barn are different, but if there is one that suits you, I thoroughly recommend them!

The Spinney, High Barn cottages
The Spinney, High Barn cottages

For further details of accessibility features, see my review on Euan’sGuide.

 

Lovely cottage, fabulous view!

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

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!

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