Here are some helpful resources for planning an accessible trip to the Netherlands.
Wheelchair accessible romantic B&B’s in Holland by Eelke Kelderman. It’s in dutch but is a great resource for finding lovely accessible accommodation in the Netherlands. I reckon with all the photos and the help of google translate or a dutch dictionary you can understand what each accommodation has to offer. B&B’s in Holland by Eelke Kelderman The website is www.eelkedroomt.nl also in dutch but if your computer has a translation function you’ll be able to access it.
Rick Steve’s book Easy Access Europe (this guide has access info for parts of the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France and the UK). It was helpful for getting a general idea of the accessibility situation in the Netherlands. The book covers Amsterdam and Haarlem only, the section on Amsterdam would have come in useful for choosing which areas and attractions I might have visited. I didn’t actually make it to the beautiful city.
Accessible Travel Netherlands have a very informative website with accessible travel ideas throughout the Netherlands. www.accessibletravelnl.com
The website Accessible Amsterdam is a helpful resource with all sorts of access information about public buildings, transport, hotels, wheelchair rental etc.
Amsterdam Tourist Office has a short section for disabled travellers IAmsterdam
My wheelchair travel Noordwijk experience in the wintery springtime. I chose this location for its accessible beaches and opportunities for wheelchair biking through the dunes on car free cycle paths. It’s also near to Keukenhof and the famous dutch flower fields too.
Accessible Dunes Car Free Path
At both ends of the promenade in Noordwijk you come to the Fietspad (car free cycle path) through the dunes. It’s lovely and peaceful rolling through the grassy dunes and the surface is perfectly smooth. The fietspad from the north end is fairly flat, while the one from the south has some small hills.
Noordwijk beach is over the dunes from the promenade. The wheelchair access at the beach is great. There are wide concrete walkways down to the beach at various points. Each beach station has a sign which shows facilities and access. Some of them have beach wheelchairs. For info on availability and location of beach wheelchairs see this link http://noordwijk.org/en/forum/9075/beach-wheelchairs-in-noordwijk.htm
Wheelchair biking along the seafront in Noordwijk, what synchronicity that we stumbled upon a convoy of 150 flower garland festooned mobility scooters! Each one decorated with daffodils. They had a police escort and were just on their way for some lunch on the beach after an incredible journey.
Accessible Hotel Noordwijkerhout
This hotel is a bit corporate for my taste (well it is a conference centre). I chose it because it is a great location for visiting Keukenhof, the flower fields and Noordwijk (but only if you have a car as it’s on the outskirts) plus I got a cheap deal on laterooms.com. There are lifts to all floors and I asked for a wheelchair accessible room. The room was modern and spacious. In the bathroom there was an accessible sink, although the mirror above it was not wheelchair height. I thought the shower was too squeezed in between the bath and toilet and transferring might be tricky for some. It did have a shower seat and grab bars though.
Zaanse Schans is a traditional style dutch tourist village north of Amsterdam set in beautiful scenery. It’s wheelchair accessible and well worth a visit.
Plenty to see, including museums such as the antique clock museum, the Zaans Museum and Verkade Paviljoen (Dutch Cookie Museum ), a clog factory plus a Distillery and Tasting room, quaint little shops and 2 accessible restaurants: The Pancake restaurant and the Museum restaurant.
The surface in the village of Zaanse Schans is flat brick tiles. The path around the windmills is smooth tarmac. There is a disabled toilet in the visitor centre and 2 disabled parking bays outside . Two Wheelchairs are available at the visitor centre so these might be best booked in advance at busy times. www.zaanseschans.nl
Windmill Wheelchair Walk
There is a smooth surfaced path alongside the windmills and a cycle path running parallel below. If you are visiting a windmill take the top path. For a relaxing wheelchair walk take the one below as its wider and less busy. The photos below don’t really capture it that well as the weather went a bit dull.
Wheelchair Accessible Windmills
There are 2 wheelchair accessible windmills at Zaanse Schans: The Sawmill ‘Het Jonge Schaap’ (the Young Sheep) and ‘De Huisman’ (the House man).
We visited the sawmill and saw a fascinating 10 minute video showing how they reconstructed the windmill. Inside the actual windmill there is a lift for wheelchair users which takes you up inside to see the amazing workings and down to the basement to see a mini exhibition. They have a small cafe and a few chickens in the yard. The sawmill staff were friendly, helpful and very informative.
Accessible Hotel Netherlands – Hotel De Rijper Eilanden
Great Disabled Facilities & Fabulously Vintage
This accessible hotel (despite being a modern building) is so full of character it is a gem. It’s impressive total of 155 accessible rooms, many of which have electric reclining beds and wheelchair accessible sinks.
Everywhere you look are vintage items, there is always something to be curious about in this establishment. Things don’t run like a machine here, it is no corporate bland hotel that’s for sure. Instead it is down to earth, friendly, helpful, full of personality and fun. I would really recommend dining here too, fabulous delicious food and generous too. This place is a breath of fresh air for anyone who loves vintage and quirkiness. It’s also an extraordinary venue for anyone with disabilities and would be the perfect place for disabled peoples group meetings or holidays. Access to De Rijp village is great, you can roll straight out of the Hotel onto the cycle path and a quiet road into the lovely village. www.derijpereilanden.nl/en
Charming Village Of De Rijp
Wheelchair access in De Rijp is good, it’s easy to get around, nice and flat apart from the odd small slope over a canal bridge. It’s a historical village and the surface in the centre is flat brick tiles, which are only very slightly bumpy. De Rijp has lots of character, the traditional buildings are very interesting. I loved the blue/green facades, pointy roofs and canal side homes.
Wheelchair Walk Eilandspolder
The Eilandspolder is a hodge podge of grassy islands separated by a maze of ditches and canals. It’s a wetland paradise for wildfowl. There is a car free walking path along the side of the Eilandspolder. It is totally flat, smooth and surfaced for quite a distance and then it becomes compressed gravel which is also easy to manage. We saw sheep and playful lambs, wild geese and heron. You can see the old windmills in the distance pumping the water out of the lowlands.
Wheelchair Bike Riding On The Fietspad
The fietspad (dedicated car free cycle lane) is perfect for wheelchair biking, active wheeling or going for a mobility scooter ride. From De Rijp to Middenbeemster we enjoyed a safe & pleasant roll between these 2 historical villages. We got a local map from the hotel which showed clearly which cycle paths were on the road (fiets route) and which were in a separate dedicated cycle lane (fietspad) so we tried to stick to the fietspad where possible. The fietspad is used by cyclists, mobility scooters and we even passed a pony drawn cart on there. Stylish dutch bike spotting became the past time along the way. At Middenbeemster we took a break at a cafe and noticed that they have a wheelchair lane on the pavement!
Scenic Drive/Ride Around De Rijp
We took a wheelchair bike ride from De Rijp to Schermerhorn, Ursem, Oterleek, Stompetoren-Schermermolens, Grootschermer, Graft and De Rijp. This route is good for windmill spotting although only part of it was on car free paths (fietspad). It would make a nice scenic drive. We stopped at Schermermolens Windmills for a rest and some cake. There is a small cafe and museum there, but its not wheelchair accessible. If you have one, send an able bodied person to go in and get the snacks.
Wheelchair users don’t hesitate! Keukenhof is totally wheelchair accessible, mobility scooters, powerchairs & manual wheelchairs will have no problem. The layout is almost all flat, smooth and step free. Each of the buildings have disabled toilet facilities. All the flower shows and restaurants are spacious enough to get around. Disabled parking spaces are available near the entrance (although you still pay the 6 euros parking fee) Entrance to the gardens is 15 euros and “carer goes free” applies.
Mobility scooters and wheelchairs are available to hire but should be booked in advance. For more Keukenhof wheelchair access info go to www.keukenhof.nl/en/reservation
When To Visit Keukenhof
It totally depends on nature. Keukenhof gardens are open every spring, this year (2013) from 20th March to 20 May. We visited on 18th April and were lucky to have a sunny day. Because of the long cold winter the flowers were late this year so the gardens were not yet at their peak, but it was still very green with splashes of colour outside. The flower shows inside were in full bloom so we still got our tulip fix despite the delayed blooming outside. Before we arrived I kept checking the flower update on tulipsinholland.com (very helpful) and also the latest Keukenhof reviews on tripadvisor to get an idea of what to expect.
Tulips In Holland
Keukenhof has tulips galore, lovely vibrant hyacinths and the prettiest frilliest daffodils I’ve ever seen. This is flower photography heaven…bring your camera!
We saw hyacinth, daffodil and some early tulip fields blooming during our visit. We were lucky to catch the beginning of this colour fest. A week or two later and it must be an amazing sight when the majority of the flower fields are in bloom.
Daring as we are, we went for a wheelchair bike ride to find some blooming flower fields. We parked the car in Lisse and headed out on the cycle path. The path was good until we hit the smaller roads near Keukenhof, then the route became just a marked cycle lane on the road with the cars. So it wasn’t ideal for us to cycle around this area as we prefer to be car free when on the wheelchair bike. We took some pics but the weather was quite cloudy on that day so they came out dull.
After our visit to Keukenhof we visited these fields again on a detour back to our hotel in the car. It was a tulip drive by in the sunshine, so the photos came out much better.
In winter in the UK, sunshine and daylight is precious. When the sky is clear, I like to get up and out at a decent hour to catch those magical rays. At the end of November I wrapped up warm for a wheelchair bike ride on the Cuckoo Trail, in the lovely Sussex countryside.
We started at Hailsham, but next time will start at Hellingley to avoid some of the slopes. Also Hellingley is more out in the country than Hailsham. There are some slopes but a lot of long flat parts. In some places the path was wet and muddy with sludgy leaves, but its all surfaced underneath, so the wheelchair won’t sink you just get muddy wheels.
Precious Winter Light.
We only did a section of the trail back in November, so I will update this info when we have explored it further. Apparently there is a quite a steep bridge to cross at the Polegate end. At Hailsham there is a car park right next to the trail. Coming out of Hailsham the path cuts through some housing on quiet roads, but it is well signed how to get back on the trail. After that we continued towards Hellingley, there are some ups and downs but they are quite short, it’s fine if you have a strong helper. There is also a road to cross. Around the Hellingley area the trail flattens out so we continued on enjoying the countryside. We must have got halfway to Horam but had to turn back quite soon to get back in the fading daylight.
I can’t wait to come back to this trail when the daylight hours are longer.
More Info on the Cuckoo Trail
For general information on where to park and where you can access the Cuckoo Trail, take a look at this pdf : The Cuckoo Trail for walkers, cyclists and horseriders I hope this guide will include accessibility information (eg where the hilly parts are and which bits are more suitable for wheelchair users) next time they update it.
Getting ready for winter in Brighton and Hove. Here’s how I might be spending some of my time in the chillier months to come.
Winter Wheelchair Fun On The Seafront
Brighton Beach Wheelchairs
Wrapped up warm and going for a roll on Brighton beach. Winter has it’s advantages, I might even get the place to myself. The beach accessible wheelchairs are available every day of the year, and are rarely booked out during the winter. Call the Seafront Office on 01273 292716 to make a booking. They are free to use, all they require is a form of proof of I.D. and a £25 deposit.
Easy Access On Brighton & Hove Promenade & Pier
Going for wheelchair walks along the promenade. Eating chips and watching the seagulls from the Pier. There are sloping walkways down to the promenade in Brighton (may be difficult to ascend without assistance). The access to the promenade is level at the Hove end. Numerous disabled parking bays and disabled toilets (RADAR key required) can be found all along the seafront. There is level access all along the Pier and 2 disabled toilets (RADAR key available at the cafe). They also have Braille menus.
Brighton Wheelchair Bike
I will be gliding along the promenade (when it’s not raining or blowing a gale) on a Duet Wheelchair Tandem. To hire Brighton Wheelchair Bike email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Bring a strong person to peddle you both along the miles of seafront cycle path between just before the Pier all the way to Hove Lagoon. Booking essential. For other opportunities to hire a Duet Wheelchair Tandem in the UK go to Where To Rent a Wheelchair Tandem In The UK
Wrapped up warm and going for a roll along accessible Brighton & Hove seafront.
Accessible Brighton Wheel
I could take my wheels on the Brighton Wheel. It’s fully wheelchair accessible. Disabled adults tickets are £6.50 and disabled children tickets are £5. Carer tickets £4.
More Accessible Winter Joy
Feeding The Squirrels At St Anne’s Well Gardens
I heart squirrels. This park is a wonderful wheelchair walk at any time of year. Surfaced paths (there are slopes as well as level parts-strong assistant needed for some bits), disabled toilet (RADAR key), the Garden Cafe, fabulous kids playground, a pristine bowling green, tennis courts, table tennis, sensory garden, fish pond, lots of birdlife, beautiful trees and friendly (just don’t let them mistake your finger for a peanut) squirrels. For more on parks in Brighton & Hove, go to park disabled access info.
Access To Great Food In Brighton & Hove
Perhaps sitting by the fire at Stanmer House having hot chocolate or afternoon tea. Maybe lunch or dinner at one of Brighton & Hove’s accessible restaurants. I’m going to try some gourmet vegetarian nosh at Food For Friends (mention you’re a wheelchair user when booking so they can be ready with the ramp). I also love the tasty Italian food at Carluccios, the fabulous sea views at Alfresco and the Latin American menu at Las Iguanas. Try the links at the bottom of this post for the full list of wheelchair accessible places to eat out in Brighton and Hove.
Accessible Ice Rink At Royal Pavilion Gardens
Going for a trundle in the beautiful (and organic) Pavilion gardens or even a whizz around the ice rink! The Royal Pavilion Ice Rink is fully accessible to wheelchair users. Off-peak sessions (when the rink is quieter) are encouraged. You must be accompanied on the ice by a competent skater who may skate for free.
The Brighton Dome booking office has a fabulous push button door (makes life easy) and a lowered booking desk for wheelchair users. They have wheelchair access and disabled facilities in all the venues and “carer goes free tickets” are also available depending on availability. The Theatre Royal has some wheelchair accessible seating and a disabled toilet in the foyer. Depending on availability they also offer “carer goes free” tickets, so enquire when booking. The Duke of York Cinema, Komedia and The Brighton Centre are also fully accessible. For more accessible venues in Brighton and Hove and detailed access info on the above, be sure to check out the Fed online (link below).
Accessible Brighton and Hove Accomodation & Info
Fancy a Brighton & Hove winter wheelchair mini break? A fantastic access guide to Brighton & Hove can be found at the Fed online. There’s also plenty of helpful accessibility info at the Tourist Office or on their Visit Brighton website.
The Dordogne is a beautiful region but from what I’ve seen so far it wouldn’t be the first place I’d recommend as a great wheelchair travel destination. The greenways (voie verte car free paths) are lovely. The historic architecture is fascinating. Our campsite was great. I just didn’t really find any riverside wheelchair access worth reporting and some of the information I received was misleading. It’s a big region, so maybe I have missed out on some great accessible areas and attractions? Dordogne wheelchair holiday tips are welcome. Please comment below if you can add anything to my findings.
Accessible Camping Near Sarlat
Nice campsite. Great pool. We were pitched very near the facilities which have a disabled toilet and shower. The entrance to the pool is wheelchair accessible. It’s one of those where you have to get pushed through the shallow water to get in. I wouldnt have been able to reach the lock on the gate to the pool either without assistance. There is also a cafe with internet access. While being out in the country, Camping Les Acacias is in a great location for trips to Sarlat and is near to the greenway (voie verte). You can drive to the nearby Vialard entrance and park right next to the car free path.
Sarlat has some impressive old buildings. The main tourist bit is fairly flat but moderately bumpy. We are not talking full on cobbles, but the surface is quite bumpy in some places. It’s a good place to visit if you love historic buildings and don’t mind a bit of wheelchair vibration. Eventually I opted to stay in one place and people watch.
Nice place to visit. The drive up was quite steep, the village is perched on a hilltop. There is disabled parking and toilets near the main square. Adjoining the square is a long balcony with lovely views of the valley and beyond. This is the main attraction. There are tourist shops, ice creams etc and restaurants. We couldn’t stray too far from the square due to the steep slopes but it was definitely worth a visit for the fabulous views.
Wheelchair Accessible Gardens?
Les Jardins Suspendus du Marqueyssac
I wanted to visit Marqueyssac but I was advised against it by the receptionist at the campsite. He said that the paths were too steep for the wheelchair and that I would have problems. He said that Eyrignac would be better. Also the Eyrignac brochure had the “Tourisme at Handicap” label so I decided to take his advice. I also just read a thread in a France forum about Marqueyssac having brand new disabled toilets halfway up the steepest hill imaginable, so maybe he was right.
Jardins du Manoir d’Eyrignac
Disappointed. I chose to visit these gardens because they have the “Tourisme et Handicap” label, so I had expectations. Have Tourisme et Handicap even been there? And if so, did they notice the GRAVEL !!?? My carer managed it but we did see an elderly man struggling to push his wife in a wheelchair. It’s often much easier to push a wheelchair up a steep hill on a smooth surface than it is to push on the level through gravel. There is also a couple of widely spaced steps to the gardens in the photos. So why no ramp? Or why not move a bench to easily make a side entrance with access? A lot of the gardens are not accessible even to the able bodied as mentioned in this comment I found on the net ”Eyrignac was too formal, lacked plants and a lot fenced off to public. They said there was wheelchair access but it was very limited and gravelly” So why advertise it as wheelchair accessible when it’s not? Okay rant over.
Wheelchair Walks & Wheelchair Bike Rides
Vialard to Aillac
The best thing about this area for me was the greenway (voie verte). We accessed the greenway from Vialard and then rode to just past Aillac. We didn’t carry on past there as there was a really steep bit. So we turned back and then went down over the river on the bridge towards Grojelac. The ride back to Vialard was up hill on the way home.
Calviac to Peyrillac
The best day out we had in the Dordogne was on the greenway between Calviac and Peyrillac. It was mainly flat and smooth and the access onto the path was good at Calviac. A great day out in the countryside, gliding alongside the elusive river, past villages, cornfields, the old station of Carlux and at one point through an old tunnel which was lovely and cool inside in contrast to the heat of the baking hot sunny day outside.
I really enjoyed our wheelchair bike rides on the voie verte. These car free paths are a great resource for easy access wheelchair walks. We did find that a few of the access points are too steep for wheelchairs though. A map with the wheelchair access points (like the one they have in Burgundy) would be very useful. On the map below the green line is the greenway and the red line is the road.
Local Community Protecting The Countryside
On the way back from one our wheelchair bike rides, we came across an anti fracking banner drop in one of the old villages. At first I was alarmed to be reminded of the threats to our agriculture, ecology and ground water from Hydraulic Fracturing. But later found that Fracking is still banned in France, it was just a politically engaged community staying vigilant. I hope the people of the UK will be just as vigilant in protecting our countryside in the coming months. If you haven’t heard of Fracking yet, you can watch the documentary Gasland on Youtube, also Britain & Ireland Frack Free and Frack-off.org are good resources for the UK.
Dordogne Wheelchair Travel Tips Welcome
We still had a great time in the Dordogne despite the access issues. The weather was great and we made the most of it. If you know any accessible attractions worth recommending please share with us. Dordogne wheelchair holiday tips are very welcome.
Wheelchair travel in the French Alps is easier than you think. Lake Bourget didn’t disappoint my hopes of accessible outdoor fun in fabulous surroundings.
Wheelchair Walks & Cruises
The Esplanade du Lac in Aix les Bains is a romantic tree lined, lakeside promenade. From Petit Port to Grand Port there is a long stretch of smooth wide path. After Grand Port there is a small beach Plage Memars and Vagabond Gardens, some of which is good for wheelchair users.
There is a new greenway (voie verte) cycle path that runs alongside the lake which is perfect for wheelchairs. It’s smooth and wide with glorious views. We rode from Aix les Bains to Les Mottets and back (on the new wheelchair bike) along this route. The path is near the road so it is a bit noisy sometimes, but the path is usually below the road (so noise is lessened) and does veer away into lovely lakeside park areas. Views of the lake make it very worthwhile.
The greenway around Lake Bourget is perfect for wheelchair walks.
Site des Mottets
This is a large park that leads to a lakeside beach. Reedbeds, moorhens, ducks and wild rabbits give it a nice wildlife feel. The paths are easy access and compressed gravel suface. There are disabled toilets and barbeque areas. It is next to a small marina and a nature reserve. It also has a duck pond, skate park and kids playground.
Scenic alpine drive and panoramic views anyone? Le Revard Bellevedere is good day out for wheelchair users. On the drive up we enjoyed the picturesque alpine vistas. Cows with bells jingling on the grassy slopes, layers of mist floating amongst pines, conifers and ski chalets looking cosy with their stacks of wood ready for the winter. At the top is a large car park, restaurant, shop, disabled toilet and 3 wheelchair accessible viewing platforms. If you go on a clear day the views of Aix les Bains, Lake Bourget, Mont Blanc and the surrounding Alps are astonishing. The glass floor viewing platform definitely enhances the feeling of being on the edge! The paths between the platforms are easy access compressed gravel.
From Aix les Bains we took a drive around Lake Bourget for a day out in the quaint canal side village of Chanaz. There are disabled parking bays in the village. On the other side of Canal de Savieres there is more parking and a lovely canal side path which is perfect for wheelchairs or wheelchair tandems. Here we soaked up the lovely view of the village with its turquoise/ jade canal while the fishermen sat on the banks waiting for a catch.
Veloroute Near Chanaz
From Chanaz we rode the wheelchair bike on the veloroute to Les Mures and back, alongside the Rhone. It was peaceful and mostly car free. Although the long flat bit was a bit monotonous, it was very scenic (and hilly) between L’Ecoincon and Les Mures.
Wheelchair Access In Aix les Bains
Wheelchair users may need assistance in the town due to the slopes. The town gardens are smooth and accessible. In the pedestrian shopping area and around the roman arch, the surface is often stone tiles which are only slightly bumpy. Fancy a dip in the public hot springs? Visit Thermes Nationaux d’Aix les Bains. Entrance to the thermal pool, hammam and sauna is wheelchair accessible and costs 19euros per person per day. There is disabled parking in the underground car park and there is a lift to all floors.
If you look on this tourist map of the Voies Vertes, you will see miles and miles of smooth surfaced, accessible and car free countryside paths in Burgundy. They have even marked which access points are wheelchair accessible. This is the main reason I wanted to visit this area. To get out in the countryside in my wheelchair or on the wheelchair bike and hear the birds twittering while watching the vineyards turn golden in the autumn sunlight. We only managed a fraction of the Burgundy car free paths as there is so much to go at. We stuck mainly to the Santenay area and surrounds. There is so much more to explore on future wheelchair travel trips.
Wheelchair Walks and Wheelchair Tandem Biking
Santenay to Nolay
It’s a Gentle uphill slope nearly all the way to Nolay. We passed vineyards, charming villages, lush and abundant rolling hills and bucolic vistas. Towards the end there are 2 viaducts with wide views. We turned back towards Santenay after the first one and glided back downhill all the way back to camp.
Chagny to near Chalon sur Saone
This is an old tow path alongside the canal. It has quiet locks, lockmaster houses decorated with flowers, barges and house boats. Cruise boats passed us by and then even WE overtook them. Went past huge fields and tiny smallholdings, met cows, donkeys, chickens, sheep, geese and lots of cats. Nice and smooth, mostly flat apart from short slopes at the locks.
Santenay to St Leger sur Dheune
We saw lush emerald countryside, white cows, charming canal side gites, roller bladers and more canal cats. We learned the art of pique-nique (we brought tasy nibbles) and stopped at canal side benches for snacks. Gliding alongside the ducks and fish, we were easily overtaken by the Tour de Francers (men who dress up in serious cycle gear). We rescued a tiny snake on the path. Another cyclist asked where to find a wheelchair bike for his handicap daughter. Luckily, the creaky pedal (that became a wobbly pedal when oiled) waited until the end of the trip before needing attention.
Burgundy Scenic Drives
Montagne des Trois Croix
I enjoyed the scenic drive up the Montagne des Trois Croix, but sadly the viewpoint at the top is a no go for wheelchair users. It’s only a 5 minute walk up, so I sent my carer up to enjoy the 360 degree views while I waited in the car park.
Route des Grands Crus
Driving from Santenay to Beaune through the vineyards on charming country lanes. This is the wine tasting route where you pass through rustic villages and a sea of grape vines as far as you can see.
We drove into the centre and saw the hardcore cobbles and skinny pavements. It looked like a wheelchair disaster zone, so we headed straight out again. Someone with more patience or enthusiasm might be able to chart a wheelchair travel route through this place, but it wasn’t gonna be me on that particular day! Instead we enjoyed the sunset scenic drive back through the sea of grapes on the Route des Grands Crus.
The village square in Santenay has good parking and access. Nearby there is a small Vival supermarket, but you might have to go up and down the curbs to enter, as the pavement is a bit skinny near the entrance. Further up the hill from the main square the pavements get thinner, but there are no cobbles. If you want to investigate further in your wheelchair you might need to go on the road.
You don’t need a watch in Santenay, just listen to the bells if you want to know the time.
Camping des Sources has large pitches, most of them on flat ground. There are disabled facilities, you will need to get the key from reception. Set amongst the vineyards in a green and lush environment, it’s friendly, peaceful and has lovely trees. This campsite is in a great location as it’s not far from the village and very near to the Greenways (car free paths).
I am really excited about wheelchair bikes right now, since having so much fun being peddled around the countryside. If you’ve never had a go, I highly recommend it. So much so, that I compiled a list of bicycle hire shops in the UK where you can rent a Wheelchair Tandem near a car free cycle path.
Types of Wheelchair Bikes
There are different types of adapted cycles for people with different disabilities. My physical condition means that I’m unable to exert myself at all, so even a hand bike is out of the question. With the wheelchair tandem, once I’m on the bike I just sit back and enjoy the ride. My carer Karl is already developing thighs of steel.
Chamonix is exciting, even for wheelchair users. Starting at the tourist office, there is a lowered desk at wheelchair height, which is always a good sign. They gave me a special info pack (also available online ) with their accessibility information. They also advised me on which cable cars were open and answered my questions. Very friendly and helpful staff.
Wheelchair Accessible Cable Car Ride to Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix Mont Blanc
Warning: This is Europe’s highest cable car at an altitude of 3842m. I found it more difficult to breathe at this altitude. Physically fit, strong, healthy carer required (it wasn’t just me who was out of breath). Ascend at your own risk.
We went straight to the information desk outside of the station. The woman who served us should get an award for being friendly, knowledgeable about the access and super helpful. She explained which areas were wheelchair accessible, then went to the front of the large queue and bought our tickets for us. Next, she left us at the front of the departure gate queue, while she got our tickets swiped for boarding. As a wheelchair user I got boarding priority to all the cable car journeys.
The first part is the cable car to Plan de Aiguille. There is no wheelchair access to the viewing area here, so we just changed here to the cable car up to Aiguille du Midi. At the top station I had a dizzy spell. I felt quite giggly, but very weak and thought I might drop dead from altitude sickness. I survived by doing some deep breathing techniques and keeping still to conserve energy. Most areas are wheelchair accessible. There are disabled toilets, a museum and several viewing areas. We crossed the bridge and took the elevator to the top viewing platform. Here we found a 360 degree panoramic view of ice, snow and clouds nestled amongst rocky spires and peaks. Luckily we were there on a clear day, the views are spectacular.
Show your blue badge or disabled ID card to get 50% off for you and your carer. (The 50% discount applies to the multipass too.) There are free disabled parking bays in front of the Aiguille du Midi station. Ask for the key to the disabled toilets at the info desk.
Accessible Train to the Glacier – Mer de Glace, Chamonix Mont Blanc
This station was quite busy. There’s no point queuing with the crowds to board the Montenvers Mer du Glace Train. If you are in a wheelchair let the staff know and they will bring you around a different way to board the train. It involves ramps and the ascent onto the train is quite steep. You definitely need a strong carer for this part. Two members of staff also helped with the transfer, so I had 3 people pushing and guiding my chair up the ramp.
After a pleasant mountain train journey, we arrived at an altitude of 1913 metres. More ramp action to get me off the train, then a mooch around, enjoying the glacial and mountain scenery.
There is a small crystal museum with some huge crystals. It’s a fairly steep downward slope from the station to get there, but not long. There is also a sunny viewing deck that’s accessible. You can see the ice cave down below from here. The ice cave is not wheelchair accessible so I waited on the deck while my carer went down the hundreds of steps to check it out.
The path to the Glaciorium and the Grand Hotel Restaurant are okay if a bit bumpy. There is a short gravelly bit (a bit annoying) on the slope at the entrance to the Glaciorium. We watched a few short films there about glaciers.
Wheelchair Walks In Chamonix Mont Blanc
Around town - Chamonix beckons the wheelchair traveller with its relatively flat valley. The smooth pedestrianized, café lined tourist centre is easy to navigate, but stray off the beaten track and the one area you will find it is not so generous is; drop curbs.
By the river – Follow Promenade du Fori by l’Arve for a flat easy access walk.
In the forest – Go for a roll in Bois du Bouchet, where they have a lovely easy access forest walk. It caters for different disabilities and has a cute little wooden chalet for a disabled toilet at the start of the trail. There is parking just off Route du Bouchet.
How To Spend A Rainy Day In Chamonix
There are 2 museums in the town which I didn’t have time to visit. Musee des Cristaux is apparently completely accessible. Musee Alpin is an old building so it’s ground floor only for wheelchair users.
Accommodation and Camping in Chamonix Mont Blanc
Travelling on a budget we stayed at Camping Les Deux Glaciers. In late September it was quite nippy at night, which is not surprising being so close to Glacier des Bossons. There is a disabled toilet which was opened on request. No wheelchair access to the reception. The campsite is a bit hilly but there are flat pitches near the disabled toilet. The pitches are very pretty. Think rambling stream, flowers, wooden chalet huts and astonishing sunset views of peaks and glaciers from your tent. There is traffic noise though from the nearby motorway. It’s lessened by the sounds of the glacial stream (if you camp near it) and the road is not as busy at the weekend.
Had a brilliant day on the Tarka Trail, we did 16 miles on a Duet Wheelchair Tandem!
We hired the Duet wheelchair tandem from Bideford Cycle Hire for £17 for the day. They have private access onto the Tarka Trail, it’s an unsurfaced slope and a bit bumpy. I had my strong pedaller push my wheelchair up onto the trail and then bring up the Duet wheelchair tandem. After transferring he then took my wheelchair back down to the car. Parking is free if you hire a bike. Once on the trail its a nice, smooth tarmac surface and mostly flat. We passed the charming railway carriage cafe at Bideford. Then lovely views of the estuary as we were leaving town.
There is a bit of traffic noise from Bideford to Instow but it’s still a very pleasant ride. At Instow there is a disabled toilet (RADAR key required) at the back of the car park. It’s not very far from the trail but be careful crossing the road with the Duet as it is a bit more awkward to handle than a wheelchair on turns and curbs etc if you aren’t used to it.After Instow it’s peaceful with lots on nature, birds, sheep, cows, horses, fields, estuary and marshlands. At Fremington Quay there is a cafe and a flat path along the quay with a large lawn. After our picnic on the grass we headed back the way we came staying on the car free Tarka Trail.
We arrived back at the bike hire with time to spare so we rode a mile or so towards Torrington where it is more wooded with slight gradients. I’m so glad we did, as we met a very kind lady cyclist called Sheila, who very generously offered me her copy of “Wind In My Wheels” by Josie Dew. It has a chapter about her journey from Lands End to John O’ Groats on a wheelchair tandem!
Westward Ho – Wheelchair Walk, Pier House and Beach
Despite the moody weather I really enjoyed the wheelchair walk on this coastal path. The rain had perfect timing. Just as we returned from the walk it poured down, so we went for lunch at the Pier House. The food was good and the portions large. Good wheelchair access and a massive disabled toilet too.
Since the weather brightened up after lunch, we continued the walk in the opposite direction down to Westward Ho! beach. The path which passes the rockpools becomes the promenade and is fully surfaced, wide and flat with lovely bay views. According to thispdf, Accessible Trails in Devon, there is another easy access walk nearby at Northam Burrows, but we didn’t get around to that one.
Wistlandpound Wheelchair Walk
Wistlandpound has a peaceful nature wheelchair walk circling a lake which is sheltered by woods. To access the blue badge car park you must get a gate code from reception. From the blue badge car park the path is quite smooth compressed earth and gravel. There were steeper gradients than I had expected so if you want to do the full loop a strong pusher is required. Assisted canoeing on the lake is one of many activities available here for disabled people, for more info see Calvert Exmoor Trust.
Wheelchair Access at Rosemoor Gardens
There are plenty of disabled parking bays at Rosemoor Gardens, disabled toilets and a spacious cafe with room to move in between tables. 2 trampers are available (book in advance) The surfaces are smooth tarmac paths, flagstones, compressed earth and gravel, flat brick paths and in the woods compressed earth and bark.
Part of the gardens are on a slope so a strong helper may be required for some of it. The path down to the lake is on a gradient. The earth and bark path through the woods is quite smooth with gentle slopes. The gardens are split in two by the road. The main gardens in front of the visitor centre are stunning and fairly peaceful. To access the other side there is a path that goes under the road, on this side you get quite a bit of traffic noise from the road. If you are a bit sound sensitive (as I am) you might prefer to stay on the visitor centre side.
Wheelchair Tandem at Haldon Forest Park
2 different rides on a wheelchair tandem duet in the same week can’t be bad.
We did the Discovery Trail at Haldon Forest Park which is 2.5km (1.5miles) of compressed earth, gravel and bark path (which is fairly flat and wide) through the forest with some gorgeous views of Devon countryside. There are some short slopes so you might need a strong pedaller but nothing too steep. It’s a little bit tricky with the duet at the 2 road crossings due to the narrow wooden barriers, but it does fit through. Be careful crossing the road especially if you are new to handling the duet. Back at the car park there is a disabled toilet that’s big enough for the duet to actually fit it, but only just.
Braunton to Meeth, 32 miles of car free cycling. Bideford Bicycle Hire have a Duet Wheelchair Tandem available for hire at £17 per day. Bike Trail at Fremington Quay did have a wheelchair tandem but apparently they sold it to a residential home. They have trampers now.
Cycle Experience have a good selection of all ability cycles at their New Forest cycle hire shop in Brockenhurst.
Kent – Adapted Cycles at Bedgebury
According to the Rough Guide to Accessible Britain you can hire adapted cycles at Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest. Although Louise added in the comments below “ lovely forest but very hilly for a Duet or low gear bikes. We struggled a lot on the ‘easy’ trail.”
London – Special Needs Bikes in Dulwich Park
London Recumbents have the largest range of special needs bikes in England. Including the Duet wheelchair Tandem.
Somerset – All Ability Cycling on The Strawberry Line
Quench Cycles at Alice Holt Forest has a wide range of adapted cycles.
Wrexham – Wheelchair Tandem Bike at Alyn Waters
Pedal Power in Wrexham has 26 specialist bikes including a Duet Wheelchair Bike by the look of the photos on their website. They also have a special bike track which runs through an attractive part of Alyn Waters Country Park. Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 9 am – 5 pm . Prices range from £3.00 to £6.00 per session
Other Places in the UK – Center Parcs
Duet Wheelchair Tandems are also available to hire at Center Parcs.
Do you know of any other places where it’s possible to hire a wheelchair bicycle? And cycle on a car free path in the UK or abroad? If so, please let me know in the comments.