In North Wales, there are plenty of places to go and things to do for families with pushchairs and people with disabilities. From coastal strolls to horseback gymnastics, here’s a feast of ideas.
Bodelwyddan Castle and Park
Bodelwyddan is a grand Victorian castle is the Welsh outpost of the National Portrait Gallery. The ground floor and first floor galleries are fully accessible, with wheelchairs available to hire. All the displays meet RNIB requirements and audio guides are offered to all visitors. Braille transcriptions and guided tours focusing on tactile exhibits are available on request.
It’s not easy to make a medieval fortress accessible to people with disabilities, but, thanks to the input of a local access group, Caernarfon Castle makes a decent go of it: a purpose-built ramp allows wheelchair-users to access the inner wards, though not the higher levels. Entry is free for disabled visitors and their carers.
Penrhyn Castle, near Bangor
Penrhyn Castle is a swaggering mock-Norman castle and railway museum. There are stairs, steps, slopes and cobbles to negotiate but many areas of the house and grounds are wheelchair-accessible: there’s ramped access to the ground floor of the main house and, in the stable block, a lift to the first floor galleries and museums.
Clwyd Special Riding Centre
Confident equestrian? Or absolute beginner? Even if you don’t know one end of a horse from another, Clwyd’s special riding center is a run by volunteers to help you feel at home in the saddle. They offer lessons and holidays for people with special needs, focusing on riding, carriage-driving and equestrian vaulting – which is a bit like gymnastics on horseback.
Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold
Clwyd Theatr Cymru offers a year-round programme of theatre, cinema, music, dance, comedy and poetry. There’s wheelchair access to all levels and an induction loop system. Audio-described and captioned or subtitled live theatre and film screenings are available.
Llyn Brenig, Denbigh Moors
Broad, blue and fringed with forest, Llyn Brenig is a reservoir with an airy, modern visitor centre, waymarked cycling routes and nature trails. Fly-fishing for trout is the star attraction, with two roll-on, roll-off Wheelyboats for wheelchair users to hire.
Oriel Mostyn, Llandudno
Oriel Mostyn is an adventurous contemporary art gallery aims to offer fresh inspiration each time you visit, with ever-changing exhibitions of Welsh paintings, sculpture, craft and video. Past programmes have included art therapy workshops and learning sessions for the elderly and those with impaired hearing, sight and mobility.
Oriel Ynys Môn, Llangefni, Anglesey
Oriel Ynys Môn contains several galleries, and is a beautifully designed art and local history complex, which celebrates the work of the Anglesey-born landscape painter Kyffin Williams. It also features art by other creatives and paintings of the island’s wildlife by Charles F Tunnicliffe. The galleries and their café, Blas Mwy, are fully accessible.
Snowdon Mountain Railway
Feel on top of the world in Snowdonia by taking the heritage railway from Llanberis all the way up to Hafod Eryri, the Snowdon Summit Visitor Centre. The trains, which are pushed by diesel or vintage steam locomotives, have wheelchair-accessible carriages with great visibility. Wheelchair-users should book in advance to ensure that assistance is on hand.
Get on your bike with Pedal Power, a project which makes cycling accessible to people with disabilities. It hires out specially adapted bicycles, trikes and tandems at Alyn Waters, Wrexham’s largest country park. There is a training area and a safe, mile-long circuit to cruise around. Alyn Waters also has a wheelchair-friendly sculpture trail.
Discover ducks, lapwings and dragonflies at the RSPB Conwy nature reserve overlooking Conwy’s lagoons, estuary and castle. The visitor centre and trails are wheelchair-accessible, as are the hides, which have screens and slots at various heights. Registered Assistance Dogs are permitted, there are wheelchairs to hire for free and carers of disabled visitors are admitted free of charge.
Ruthin Gaol is a sobering prison museum, where the cells have been restored to reveal aspects of the life of an inmate in Victorian times. There’s special access to exhibits for the visually impaired. Since some parts of the historic building are tricky to negotiate, wheelchair users should book in advance. Friendly, knowledgeable staff are on hand to offer information and assistance.
Southern Snowdonia Adaptive Trails
The Mawddach area offers great opportunities to get active with Southern Snowdonia Adaptive Trails. Adaptive mountain biking experts SnowBikers offer tandem tours for the visually impaired and provide coaching at Coed y Brenin Forest Park’s challenging mountain bike course, the MinorTaur Trail. Other handy initiatives include the North Wales Society for the Blind’s audio guide to the wheelchair-friendly Mawddach Trail.
Vale of Llangollen Canal Boat Trust
With its smart red and green livery, Glas-y-Dorlan is a familiar sight at on the splendid Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The name, translating literally into Blue of the Bank, is the Welsh for kingfisher. A wheelchair-adapted narrowboat, it offers day trips on the Llangollen Canal from March to October. There’s a hydraulic lift to help get passengers on board, and large, low windows for fabulous views.
Wales Coast Path
In North Wales, several parts of the Wales Coast Path have hard surfaces suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs. There’s a great route along the River Dee between Connah’s Quay Dock, southeast of Flint, and Chester. The family-friendly stretch between Prestatyn and Conwy is almost entirely seaside promenade.