22 buggy and wheelchair-friendly days out in Norfolk
- Credit: Roger Newark
Parks and trails
Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve
Getting out into nature is essential to our wellbeing. Run by the Hawk and Owl Trust, Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve near Fakenham is one of the most accessible nature reserves in the country. Set in the beautiful Wensum Valley, with a wide range of wildlife in a variety of habitats – woodland, fen and reedbeds – there are boardwalks for easy access. Plus, all the bird hides are fully accessible to wheelchairs and there are plenty of nest boxes and bird feeders, viewing platforms and rest stops too.
Whitlingham Country Park
A beautiful wildlife haven for city dwellers, and the gateway to the Broads, Whitlingham Country Park on the outskirts of Norwich can be enjoyed by everybody. The Great Broad, which is brilliant for birdwatching, has an easy access path around it. And you can take to the water on the solar powered boat, Ra, which is fully accessible to wheelchair users.
Thetford Forest’s 4.2km Heritage Trail is an accessible, multi-user trail through the woodland, which tells the hidden history of High Lodge. It has a smooth surface, rest perches or benches every 100 metres and two shelters along the way and there are also 1km and 3km shortcuts to explore.
The Blickling Estate has an all-weather multi-use trail, which is ideal for adapted wheelchair users to enjoy. The four-mile, safe off-road path takes in Blickling’s stunning park and rolling farmland. And the gardens have two wheelchairs and three single-seater powered mobility vehicles, which are available on a first come, first served basis.
Barton Broad Boardwalk
Off the beaten track, yet open to all, is the Barton Broad Boardwalk at Neatishead. The boardwalk, which is wheelchair accessible takes you through some stunning marsh and woodland. Make sure you take your binoculars for wildlife spotting.
The National Trust’s Sheringham Park was designed by Humphrey Repton – and is said to have been his favourite. A must visit when the spectacular rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom, the main drive has an accessible, hard gravel path. Plus there are three wheelchairs and single-seater mobility vehicles available to hire.
Norfolk Coast Path
There are lots of picturesque trails in and around Norfolk, including the Norfolk Coast Path. The Access Tested booklet, available via Norfolk County Council’s website norfolk.gov.uk, gives lots of handy information including route maps and detail about the terrain. Several sections of the North Coast Path have Access Tested status, including a 2.5-mile stretch from Blakeney to Cley, a three-mile section between Gorleston seafront and Great Yarmouth along the River Yare, and a one-mile stretch along the picture postcard pretty Wells quayside.
Beaches and piers
With its wild untamed beauty and seemingly never-ending expanse of sand, Holkham Beach is regularly named among the top beaches in the UK. It has dedicated Blue Badge car parking spaces and from the car park a wooden track leads to a viewing platform from where you can drink in that famous big Norfolk sky. There is also a one-mile route to the beach – from the bottom of Lady Anne’s Drive turn left and follow the hardcore track (with the pinewoods on your right).
After about a mile you reach George Washington Hide, which is wheelchair accessible, where there is access through to the beach via a boardwalk. There are accessible toilets at the Lookout visitor centre in Lady Anne’s Drive.
For a traditional bucket and spade day out at the seaside, you can’t beat a trip to Cromer. There is Blue Badge pay and display parking on the west side of the promenade from where you can access the whole prom, the famous pier – and maybe even do a spot of crabbing – and the beach via ramps. There is also lift access from the top of the cliffs down to the east prom – and there are toilets for people with disabilities on both the east and west prom.
Great Yarmouth’s golden sands have attracted generations of holidaymakers to the east coast. And to make it accessible to all, beach wheelchairs, specially adapted with large pneumatic wheels which slide over the sand, are available to hire free of charge from the tourist information centre when it re-opens. See visitgreatyarmouth.co.uk for the latest updates.
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Hunstanton beach, with its famous candy-striped cliffs, is accessible to wheelchairs and buggies via ramps leading down from the promenade. The town also has a Green Flag wining sensory garden at Boston Square, with colourful, tactile and aromatic plants, and water features to create relaxing sounds.
Museums and days out
North Norfolk Railway
One of the most enjoyable ways to enjoy the Norfolk coastline is to let the train take the strain. The North Norfolk Railway offers a real trip back in time on board its stream trains which run on the scenic Poppy Line from Sheringham to Holt, via Weybourne, which featured in the classic sitcoms Dad’s Army and Hi de Hi.
The railway has two converted coaches, which are suitable for wheelchairs and the stunning sea and countryside views can be enjoyed from both. One can accommodate up to five standard size wheelchairs, with standard seating for four accompanying friends and the second can accommodate up to four wheelchairs. Most services include one of the converted coaches, but it’s recommended to give the railway a call the day before a planned trip.
Set sail from Wroxham to explore Norfolk’s unique waterland. Two of Broads Tours’s boats, Queen of the Broads and Belle of the Broads are accessible to wheelchair users and offer river trips twice a day, seven days a week. Because of Covid social distancing requirements, there is currently capacity for one party with a wheelchair on each scheduled trip – a maximum of three on the Belle of the Broads and six on the Queen of the Broads, which must be booked in advance by the day before the trip.
But keep an eye on the website broadstours.co.uk as this may change as lockdown restrictions continue to ease.
Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden
There is always something new to discover at Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden at South Walsham, which has its own private Broad. It is aiming to make all of its gardens and facilities available for everyone to enjoy – and thanks to gift aid donations the second Bridge Path has been boardwalked and the next project is to upgrade the Kingfisher Path. There are plenty of benches at regular intervals where visitors can stop off and take in the views and mobility scooters are available to hire by contacting them in advance via email@example.com.
Currently, tickets must be booked in advance, see fairhavengarden.co.uk for details.
Norwich Castle Museum
This summer Norwich Castle Museum is hosting two fascinating art exhibitions alongside its permanent collections as work to transform the Castle Keep continues. A Passion for Landscape: Discovering John Crome reappraises the work of the Norwich School artist and features 90 paintings, watercolours, drawings and etchings. And the open art show, Somewhere Unexpected is an artistic response to the country going into lockdown last spring. There is step free access to Norwich Castle Museum via a lift from Castle Gardens or, for non lift users, via Farmer’s Avenue. There is also lift access to the first floor of the Rotunda, accessible toilets and a non self propelling wheelchair is available to hire. For full details and information about booking visit museums.norfolk.gov.uk/norwich-castle
Church Farm Barns, Bircham Newton
There are eight holiday cottages here, designed to be accessible to all so that people with limited mobility can holiday with their family and friends a stone’s throw away from the north Norfolk coast. The cottages range in size and sleep from two up to 10 people, and all have level access and an open plan layout, including roll-in wetrooms, low-level kitchens and their own private gardens. A selection of equipment is available to hire, such as hoists, profile beds and wheelchairs. See church-farm-barns.co.uk for details.
Titchwell Manor, Titchwell
Right on the north Norfolk coast, Titchwell Manor hotel is a member of the National Accessible Scheme. Known for its delicious, seasonal menu, with some of the country’s best birdwatching right on the doorstep, the luxury hotel has 18 ground floor rooms. Two of the rooms have toilets and wet rooms designed for wheelchair users, with designated parking spaces next to them. See titchwellmanor.com for more.
The Anchorage, Cromer
Wheelchair accessible bungalow The Anchorage at Cromer makes a stylish seaside retreat. Just a few minutes from the beach, it sleeps four and both bedrooms have en-suite suite shower rooms. Designer details are everywhere, from the wrap-around deck to the light and sunny open plan living area and the newly fitted kitchen. See crabpotcottages.co.uk for details.
Spixworth Hall Cottages, near Norwich
Just outside the city and also perfectly located for exploring the Broads, Spixworth Hall Cottages are set in a delightful rural location and are ideal for family breaks. There are eight self-catering cottages with two, three and five bedrooms, and three have ground floor bedrooms and bathrooms, with extra equipment such as shower chairs and a height adjustable bed available. See hallcottages.co.uk for information.
Cafes and restaurants
Assembly House, Norwich
You couldn’t get a more fitting setting for a decadent afternoon tea than the Georgian splendour of the Assembly House in Norwich. And this summer they’re getting into the staycation spirit with their seaside afternoon tea. Alongside dainty sandwiches and scones you’ll find a fun-filled selection of cakes and pastries including a vanilla 99 cupcake with strawberry sauce, a chocolate flake, wafer and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands and sea salt caramel milk chocolate shells buried in edible sand.
The Assembly House holds a gold star from Norwich City Council for its accessibility and toilet facilities. As well as the restaurant they also have luxury rooms – and Room 3 is fully accessible, with a large bathroom, private courtyard and parking nearby as well as a vi-sprung bed and Egyptian cotton bedding for a dreamy night’s sleep. See assemblyhousenorwich.co.uk
The White Horse, Brancaster
If you love your seafood, then the White Horse at Brancaster is definitely the place to visit, with a menu that changes depending on what’s been caught. The accessible terrace, with its sweeping view of the North Sea, is the prime spot, and there are disabled toilet facilities. If you fancy making a stay of it they have accessible rooms available too. whitehorsebrancaster.co.uk
The Rocket House, Cromer
Another Norfolk eatery with a spectacular coastal view is the Rocket House on The Gangway at Cromer. The elevated outdoor terrace comes into its own during the summer months and if the weather has other ideas, enjoy the dramatic seascape tucked up indoors from the huge picture windows. There is lift access and the menu takes you through from breakfast (we love the look of their vegan breakfast ciabatta), to a hearty lunch menu of sandwiches, salads and jacket potatoes, to Sunday roasts – or a hot chocolate with marshmallows to warm you up.