16 of the most wheelchair and buggy-friendly days out in Suffolk
- Credit: National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra
Parks and trails
Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds
Situated in the heart of Bury St Edmunds, this award-winning park stretches across 14-acres and is one the county’s most wheelchair-friendly green spaces. Located on the site of the former Benedictine Abbey, these gardens are known the world over for their stunning floral displays and of course the medieval ruins which sit within the garden. If you’re looking for a bite to eat, The Garden Café kiosk is open daily during the summer and serves a range of refreshments.
There are a number of flat, paved paths across the gardens, allowing those with wheelchairs and buggies easy access throughout. There are also disabled-friendly toilets within the gardens, and cycling is not allowed, ensuring the paths are safer for wheelchair users and pushchairs.
Entry to the gardens is free, and it is open Monday to Saturday from 7.30am and on Sundays from 9am. The gates close between 7.30pm and 8pm June through to September.
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Located in the heart of Dedham Vale, Flatford is one the region’s most beautiful spots and definitely worth a visit this summer. Step back in time and put yourself in John Constable’s shoes as you gaze upon the very same picturesque views that inspired him when creating some of his most famous works of art including the iconic Hay Wain.
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The National Trust has ensured Flatford is accessible for all, thanks to its disabled car parking with five spaces, drop-off point, and an adapted toilet next to the disabled car park. In addition, there is an accessible countryside trail suitable for off-road mobility vehicles.
If you’re looking to get close to the water this summer, Alton Water is a great place to spend a day with the family. Set across 400 acres of countryside, it is the perfect place to go on a walk, bike ride, spot wildlife or enjoy a picnic.
The wide, flat paths mean there is plenty of space for everyone, allowing those with wheelchairs, mobility scooters and buggies to easily navigate the area. There are numerous benches dotted along the paths, and step-free access can be found at the on-site café, visitor centre, cycle shop, water sports centre and toilets. Blue Badge parking is also available.
Affectionately dubbed ‘an Italianate Palace in the heart of Suffolk’, Ickworth stretches over 1,800 acres of parklands, garden and all-weather path.
Under the care of the National Trust, Ickworth House has an accessible multi-use trail around the wider parkland which is suitable for mobility scooters, cyclists, walkers, pushchairs and wheelchairs. The gardens are accessible with level gravelled paths and there is an accessible toilet available.
Wheelchairs are welcome within the house, and there is a lift that gives access to all levels in the Rotunda. Mobility vehicles and scooters are also available to borrow, and there is designated mobility parking in the main car park for Blue Badge holders.
This 16th-century stately home in Long Melford - which was once frequented by Beatrix Potter - has reopened for the summer and is definitely worth paying a visit. Check out a selection of Beatrix Potter sketches, naval paintings, and the garden’s Herbaceous Borders which are currently bursting with bright blooms and buzzing with bees.
There is a drop-off point at the front of the house, ramped access into the hall, an accessible toilet in the house, and a gravel path around the garden. There is also one wheelchair available to borrow.
Beaches and swimming
No trip to the seaside is complete with a day out at the pier, and Southwold Pier is an accessible destination for the whole family. Grab fish and chips, have a go on some arcade games or check out the utterly eccentric world of Tim Hunkin’s machines at the Under the Pier Show.
The pier has no steps throughout, meaning it is totally accessible for all, with enough space for wheelchairs to navigate through. Large disabled toilets are located in the Boardwalk Restaurant on the pier, and there are also 21 disabled parking spaces in the pier’s public car park.
Ipswich town centre’s swimming pool is open every Thursday between 10am and 11.30am for iCan Swim sessions, which aims to get people with disabilities and impairments in the pool, regardless of age or ability. Sessions cost £3.05, and carers go free.
Crown Pools has a level entrance, accessible changing and shower facilities, automatic doors, lift access, disabled toilets and lockers, and a pool hoist.
Places to stay
Five Acre Barn
Chic and contemporary, this tranquil bed and breakfast is nestled in the Suffolk village of Aldringham, just up the road from Aldeburgh and Thorpeness. One of its rooms, Room Five, is spread across one level, making it wheelchair-friendly.
Not only is it accessible, this modern room features soaring ceilings, panoramic views of the vast garden and a private outdoor seating area - perfect for a spot of nature watching. The room has a large shower room with fixtures and dimensions to allow access for a wheelchair, Breakfast is provided - however the barn is only five minutes away from a number of local restaurants.
If you’re looking for a countryside getaway this summer, this Saxmundham-based farm is home to six luxury holiday homes – including the accessible Dunstable stable studio. Designed with accessibility in mind, this ground-floor, step-free studio sleeps two and features a wetroom shower room and fully-equipped kitchen. The spacious walk-in wetroom has vertical and horizontal grab-rails throughout, and an emergency pull-cord, while the kitchen has a lowered sink for wheelchair users. The studio also boasts a step-free patio area, allowing you to bask in the glorious Suffolk sun as you unwind.
Museums and days out
Uncover Felixstowe’s history at this quaint museum located just near Landguard Point. Artefacts on display include mammoth tusks, Roman pottery, medieval coins, and a number of Victorian and Edwardian pieces spread across 14 exhibition areas. All of its galleries are accessible and wheelchair-friendly due to the museum being set across one floor, and a wheelchair is available to borrow from the museum free of charge. However, it should be noted several doorways might be too small for large wheelchairs to fit through.
The museum’s opening times are between 12pm and 5pm, with last admissions at 4.30pm. It is open Sundays and Wednesdays during the summer months.
This Lowestoft theme park has plenty of rides worth checking out, making it a great day out this summer. From rollercoasters and log flumes to tea cups and a carousel – thrillseekers will certainly get their adrenaline rush. For anyone looking for something a bit more subdued, the park also has a sea lion show, a parrot display and soft play area for the little ones. The park prides itself on being accessible, with a number of disabled toilets available throughout. Wheelchair and mobility scooter hire are both also available, and a disabled entry discount rate of £17.50 per person is available for disabled guests and their carers.
Kessingland’s Africa Alive gives visitors the chance to see cast their eyes upon a variety of animals set across 100 acres of land. Some of the species on display include African lions, lemurs, zebras, cheetahs, rhinos, birds of prey, and many more. Wheelchair and pushchair access is available across all exhibits, the food hall, restaurant, and gift shop. The lower end of the zoo is set in marshland and while there are paths throughout, these can be varying in levels, and assistance is advised in these areas.
The zoo’s viewing areas are designed with wheelchair users in mind, and while the Safari Roadtrain is not adapted to carry wheelchairs, staff are available to help visitors board and disembark the train. Free disabled parking is available to those with a disabled parking permit, and discounted entry is available for any guests who are registered disabled.
Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum
Head to Bungay and there you will find the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, a volunteer-run museum that houses over 60 aircraft and aviation artefacts. Visitors can make their way through a number of rooms and exhibits, where they can see aircraft components and equipment from Flixton airfield, components from a 9 Squadron Wellington bomber, several early RAF and Royal Navy jets, V-Bomber cockpits, and foreign aircraft such as MiG-15 and Pucara.
All of its hangars and display buildings are on ground level, so are wheelchair and pushchair friendly. There are also a number of wheelchairs available for visitors to borrow. The museum is open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 4pm.
Northern Gateway Sports Park
Just over the border in North Essex is one of the region’s newest sports parks – and it is home to an impressive, all-inclusive cycle track for all to use.
The Northern Gateway Sports Park in Colchester is a 76-acre site providing a range of indoor and outdoor leisure facilities – but its standout feature has to be its one-mile floodlit cycle track.
Suitable for people who wish to cycle at a leisurely or more challenging pace, this specialist off-road track has a range of cycling provisions for those with disabilities.
“Our track actually has three sections, and can be used as one track or multiple tracks,” explains Isaac Reid, who works at the sports park.
With 96 regular bikes and 19 accessibility bikes to choose from, visitors can take advantage of a number of specially-adapted cycles including hand bikes, dual and side-by-side tandems, and bikes for those who are visually-impaired.
“We have wheelchair-accessibility bikes too, where the wheelchair attaches to a platform at the front and the family member or carer pedals.”
Boxford residents Deborah and Andrew Stewart recently took their son Andrew, who has cerebral palsy, to experience the track - and the family cannot get enough of it.
“We’re very surprised at how accessible it was – we've travelled all the way to Derbyshire in the past just to get a bike suitable for Chris,” explains Deborah.
Andrew adds: “It’s nice to see something like this here in the region, as it gives people like Chris a sense of movement and freedom they don’t usually get. It’s a great sensory experience, especially with the wind in his face.”
The new track – which opened this April – welcomes people of all ages and abilities.
Cafés and restaurants
The Tea Hut
Watch the world go by as you enjoy a spot of lunch at The Tea Hut. This quaint café is situated on the banks of the River Deben in Woodbridge, and sits next to a model boat pond where you can watch members of the Woodbridge Model Boat Club sailing their crafts. Open Wednesday to Sunday for breakfast, lunch and snacks, the café’s large outdoor deck accommodates those with wheelchairs, mobility scooters and pushchairs, and is accessible via ramps.
Located within Suffolk Food Hall, The Cookhouse restaurant serves an array of freshly-cooked dishes using locally-sourced ingredients during its breakfast and lunchtime periods. Afternoon tea and Sunday lunch are also available. The restaurant provides visitors with unrivalled panoramic views across the Orwell estuary, and to ensure accessibility, has a path from the car park and a lift to help visitors get inside the restaurant. It is open Wednesday to Sunday between 9am and 4pm.