Travelling to a new place can sometimes be daunting, even if you’re excited to explore, it can be nerve-racking when you don’t know what to expect – especially so if you have a disability or other physical limitations which restrict your mobility. The Isle of Wight has plenty to offer that’s easily accessible and you’re guaranteed a warm welcome wherever you visit.
As everyone has different requirements and not all disabilities are visible, we’d always recommend checking with the pub, restaurant or attraction before visiting to ensure your needs can be met and that you are well looked after. Here are our hot spots for exploring the Isle of Wight the easy access way!
Crossing the Solent
Travelling to the Isle of Wight has never been easier. Whether you’re arriving in an adapted vehicle, or as a foot passenger, both Wightlink and Red Funnel are well equipped to make your journey as stress-free as possible. Both the FastCat and RedJet are accessed by ramps (which vary in steepness depending on sea and tidal conditions) once on board there are designated wheelchair seating areas. Staff are always on hand if you need help.
If you’re bringing your car with you, all you need to do is let your booking advisor know your travel requirements when you book, and they’ll ensure you have enough space around your vehicle to get in and out, as well as an easy route to the lifts and passenger lounges. You’ll find plenty of space to manoeuvre and even licensed cafés on board, so you can relax and enjoy a drink or something to eat while you admire the views across the Solent.
www.redfunnel.co.uk | www.wightlink.co.uk
Whether you’re looking for a quaint cafe, or a seaside pub with spectacular views, the Island has a huge variety of restaurants and cafés to choose from – there’s something to suit all tastes and budgets.
The White Lion in Niton has recently reopened, as is trading for the first time as a Freehouse. Located at the heart of the Island’s most southerly village, the pub has a small car park to the rear, but there is also on street parking available on the high street. There is level access from the main road, or a ramp from the car park, and although the double doors might be tricky to negotiate if you’re alone, once you’re inside there is plenty of space between the tables and staff are more than happy to give you a hand to find a suitable spot. The pub has a great selection of local beers and the menu offers a good range of classic pub favourites but with a modern twist, focusing on local Island produce. Its sister pub – the Chequers Inn at Rookley – is similarly spacious, with easy access and tasty food.
Chessell Pottery Café is a real hidden gem, tucked away in the West Wight on the route to Freshwater. Open all year, the café serves a delicious selection of homemade cakes, cream teas and hot and cold food, alongside locally roasted, barista coffees. Although the car park has a light gravel surface, it’s just a short stroll to the café and entrance to the converted barn is step free. There’s plenty of space to move once you’re inside and a wide range of different seating types (we recommend cosying up on the sofa by the log burner on colder days). Why not spoil yourself and pop in for afternoon tea?
Finding something to do that keeps the whole family occupied can be a struggle, but a visit to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway will keep everyone happy. Step back in time to the golden age of steam and enjoy a 10 mile journey through some of the Island’s unspoilt countryside in a beautifully restored Victorian or Edwardian carriage. Disabled visitors can join the train at Havenstreet Station, where there is a large car park with designated spaces for blue badge holders and level access around most of the site. The trains have a specially adapted carriage for wheelchair users, and although there is a slope to the platform and a ramp to board the carriage, the platform staff are always on hand to help you board. There is a fully licensed refreshment room, ice cream kiosk, gift shop and Train Story Discovery Centre where you can view some of the railway’s impressive historic collection of locomotives, carriages and rolling stock.
Please be aware that there is a steep drop from the platform edge. You can read the railways full accessibility statement on their website www.iwsteamrailway.co.uk
Monkey Haven primate rescue centre on the outskirts of Newport also gets great reviews from disabled visitors and has been been highly commended on their facilities by Mobility Magazine. Home to a range of monkeys, owls, reptiles and meerkats, they provide designated blue badge parking next to the entrance, with a concrete pathway all the way to the admissions area, which is flat and step-free with a smooth tiled floor surface. Discounted admission is available to disabled adults and children, and carers are not required to pay. Once inside the sanctuary, although there is a slight slope, wide flat pathways allow you to get up close and personal with the animals and ensure easy access to all areas. Recently refurbished Xhabu’s tea room serves coffee, tea, sandwiches, cakes and ice creams and there’s a lovely gift shop, as well as play areas for the little ones.
You can find a detailed access statement along with photographs of the rescue centre on their website www.monkeyhaven.org
Exploring the Isle of Wight
Although sand can be inaccessible for wheelchairs or mobility scooter users, there is no shortage of places to get beside the seaside. There are flat paths that run alongside several of the Island’s beaches, including Ryde and between Sandown and Shanklin, as well as Ventnor and Cowes Esplanade. You’ll find a great selection of cafés along the way to keep your thirst quenched and hunger at bay.
The Isle of Wight also has a network of cycle paths which provide a great opportunity to get out and explore the Island’s landscape and wildlife. The Red Squirrel trail utilises much of the Island’s disused railway network, and as such, the paths are relatively flat and smooth, making them perfect for family groups of cyclists and wheelchair or mobility scooter users.
There are 32 miles of trails in total, which can easily be broken down into bitesize sections and stretch from Cowes at the north of the Island, towards Newport, and over to Sandown and Shanklin in the East. Don’t forget to look out for the trail’s namesake, the red squirrel on your way!
Please note: all information here is given as a guideline only, please be aware of your own limitations and explore the Island as safely and comfortably as possible.