Does it get any better? Yes, it does! The site is a haven for wildlife – there is a webcam linked to the tv to keep an eye on the resident barn owl, and many other species enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Plus there was a generous welcome basket of goodies from local suppliers including their home-produced organic apple juice – fabulous!
The Spinney at High Barn Cottages in East Yorkshire is the cosiest, best-equipped cottage we have ever stayed in – so often cottages are cold on the first night, but with underfloor heating and a wood-burner (with generous supply of eco-friendly wood briquettes), we were toasty from the word go.
There are five cottages on the site, each sleeping at least four in a double
with bathroom and a twin with ensuite wetroom. All the fixtures and fittings are of a really high standard and there are personal touches such as the history of the farm and the family, books, DVDs, games and tourist information. All have outside seating – ours had a table and chairs by a small pond – if it had been warmer we could have breakfasted outside! You can also sit in the courtyard so you can catch some sun – if there is any! – at all times of the day.
My only issue (and having written a screed about it on the feedback form I was worried it would look like moaning, which was the last thing I wanted after we had enjoyed our stay so much, but Angela, one of the owners arrived as we left so we were able to discuss it with her and she agreed with us) was that a fixed overhead shower is a bit problematic if you don’t want to get your hair wet.
That’s not really an accessibility issue, but that type of shower means someone else needs to run off the cold water you inevitably get before the hot comes through because you can’t avoid if you are seated – if they sorted that out and maybe added a couple more grabrails, we’d be back there like a shot!
They have more cottages just down the road at Fieldhouse Farm, a couple of which are accessible too, plus two places in York.
The journey there from York was lovely with all the Autumn colours and including a slight detour to take the Scenic Route while on the way back you get a stunning view of the Vale of York from the top of Garrowby Hill.
Nearby you have plenty to do: Bridlington and the rest of the Yorkshire coast, Bempton cliffs, the North York Moors, places to eat out (there are recommendation in the visitor information folder in the cottage), and York itself is only an hour away. It was gloriously sunny on the Sunday morning of our long weekend so we went to Bridlington which has a very scooter-friendly and attractive pier at the North Bay.
They seem to be in a process of making the town more accessible all round – actually, I get the impression that when towns do themselves up these days, they include accessibility in their plans – it was the same with Oban this Summer. About time too!
I actually found out about High Barn from the Premier Cottages site but booked directly with the owners who are happy to supply a shower stool or other extra bits of equipment on request. Have a look at their website – it gives so much information, including floor plans and access statements.
It felt really life-affirming to stay somewhere so lovely and with such attention to detail – John, Angela and their family are obviously genuinely keen that you have a great experience and they should be really proud of what they have created.
Our first overnight stop was in Wark, Northumberland at the Battlesteads Inn. Actually, our very first stop was at Witton-le-Wear, County Durham,
to take a photo of the church in which my great-great-grandmother got married in 1859, then a brief loo stop at the Wentworth leisure centre (very civilised!)
Battlesteads is officially a hotel and restaurant although it’s in effect a pub with rooms and very good it is too, being accessible, eco-aware and dog-friendly. We had a ground floor room with an adapted bathroom ie it had shower seat and grabrails and the room, although pretty compact had a couple of chairs. There were very nice biscuits and a bowl of fruit and they made it clear they were happy to provide fresh milk – I can’t imagine wanting a cuppa made with ‘plastic’ UHT milk!
The whole of the ground floor was accessible – a couple of tight turns but nothing my scooter couldn’t handle. The décor was traditional pub style but with lots of great railway posters on the walls, advertising local attractions.
Dinner was tasty, not gourmet but not stuff we’d cook at home, so fine by me! Breakfast was good too, we had smoked salmon and scrambled eggs but they did the full English and various other cooked options plus some ‘continental’ choices – ham and cheese, some fruit but not a great deal else. It was served in the conservatory, which was pleasant and would normally have a view of the garden but this was mainly taken up with gazebos for their forthcoming beer festival.
The staff were mainly Eastern European and were very pleasant and efficient. When we checked out it seemed to be the owners we were dealing with – they were local anyway and very jolly and friendly too.
The next day we headed through gorgeous, rolling scenery and made our way to Peebles and Cringletie House with a brief stop at Galashiels’ Tesco for a newspaper and also via a short detour to see the famous gates of Traquair House which were closed after a visit by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 to only be reopened when there is a Stuart on the throne!
accessible but it is! Getting to the ground floor involved a platform lift, other than that, it was all level or you used the normal lift to get to the first floor restaurant. For more details on this, see my review or look on Euan’s Guide.
The restaurant has fabulous views and the food was pretty good too – we had a late lunch then dinner later and both were good without being fabulous. The dinner included various ‘amuse-bouches’ which were actually better than the starter, but what with the jolly staff, the great view and a nice glass of wine, the whole experience was excellent!
Breakfast again was ‘good in parts’ – I ordered scrambled egg and while what I had was perfectly nice, it was much more akin to an omelette. Pete’s full breakfast was suitably filling!
The room, Traquair, a junior suite, was spacious and pleasant and we had fun playing with the ‘rise and recline’ chairs! The bathroom was spacious with a walk-in shower, grabrails etc and lovely toiletries. There seems to be a trend away from little bottles of toiletries – all the places we stayed had large bottles of very good shower gel etc that you use but leave in place – much greener than all those small plastic bottles.
The grounds look lovely – it was a bit chilly to explore but they looked good from inside!
Next day we headed for Oban to stock up before heading for our base for the next week at Benderloch. I’d already checked out that Oban had a supermarket, (with accessible loo – top marks, Tesco for your very good loos!) so we did our shop and made our way to Benderloch. We’d checked on
Streetview how to get to the place we were staying, so found the lane we needed to follow off the main road without too much hassle and there were the two wooden lodges, Port Selma Lodges, created by Jan and Willie Orr a
few years ago to accommodate both disabled and non-disabled guests in some style! They look good on the website but even better in reality – really high quality and in beautiful condition. Willie and Jan had heard the car so came to meet us – just as well as we had no ‘phone signal! – and showed us in. They told us everything we
needed to know and answered our questions about accessible things to do and made it clear they were there to help if we needed anything. There was a ‘welcome pack’ of a bottle of wine, cheese and oatcakes, local fudge, chocolates, milk in the fridge and tea and coffee supplies as well as fresh flowers!
The weather was rather drizzly at the start of the week – we looked at it as a good excuse to chill out and have a break from driving. On the Monday we ventured out to check out the local stretch of the Oban to Fort William cycle
track and as if by magic, the sun came out just as we got out of the car! From the carpark you could go in two directions for a fairly short distance before the (beautifully smooth!) track joined the road so we pootled along admiring the wild flowers then came to a viewing point with a great view of the sea. We back tracked and came upon an information board near the carpark explaining how the track was part of a disused railway line. You could follow it for miles but in places it is right next to the road or actually joins the road so we left that to the many cyclists who were following it – some complete with back packs, camping gear, the works!
We didn’t do a great deal during the week – drove around and took in the lovely scenery mainly, including the view of Castle Stalker – even in the
drizzle, it’s one of the most fabulous settings imaginable for a castle (it was used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, apparently!) and visited Dunstaffnage Castle (the sun obligingly came out again as we arrived!) which has a terrific setting by the harbour and we also did a gorgeous drive along the side of Loch Etive. Our return from that was blocked by some stubborn cows until a lorry driver who came along advised driving at them rapidly! We let him do that and we followed him through – it worked! We got a chance to try out the lodge’s verandah one splendidly sunny afternoon and watched the swallows flying in and out to their nests above the French windows.
The week went all too fast then it was time to move on to the next adventure. We decided to take a different route to our next destination and went via Loch Lomond. The drive there via Inveraray and Loch Fyne was through absolutely beautiful scenery. Once we were at Loch Lomond, this being a sunny Saturday, you could see how it is a popular daytrip from Glasgow – the traffic going the opposite way to us was really heavy! Next it was motorways to get us around Glasgow, then we found our way to New Lanark, home of New Lanark Mill Hotel, mainly associated with Robert Owen, an enlightened factory owner in the style of Titus Salt or the Rowntrees, which is now a World Heritage Site, with a visitor centre and hotel.
There was a wedding going on when we arrived and it was sunny which
added to the atmosphere – I can imagine in rainy weather it might look a little bleak to some, but generally the effect was charming. Who could resist somewhere with an ‘Institute for the formation of character’? After checking in someone came to our room to explain the emergency evacuation procedure which was an interesting touch – never experienced that before in a hotel.
After having some lunch, we explored the site with its great views of the Falls of Clyde and later had dinner in the restaurant which has quite an imaginative menu and was jolly good.
It was really interesting how elements of the mill buildings are incorporated into the hotel and restaurant. The rooms are actually a bit bland, but the bathroom had a solid iron post, part of the original fabric, and there were iron braces in the vaulted ceiling, plus there are gorgeous photos everywhere of the mill at all times of year. It’s all easily accessible, and again, the staff were all very good about accommodating you – no fuss made, for example, when we preferred to sit at a different table to the one they directed us to a breakfast, which, as I’ve said before, is just how it should be. Here’s my full review and my Euan’s Guide review.
From there we headed back to York and were surprised it only took four hours!
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!
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.
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.