The way to Wales
Places I visited
Wheelchair Accessibility
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North WalesThe dragon is the Welsh national symbol, as it is the main element of the Welsh flag.

Conwy Castle -- even today, it's dominating the landscape around the Conwy River estuary
 
If there is one good thing about ignorance, it's that ignorance enables you to truly discover something new, something you previously had no idea of. I had heard of Wales before, of course. I knew where it is on the map, I knew that the Welsh have their own national soccer team, I knew that "Snowdon" is the name of a famous Welsh mountain.  Little did I know!  I still don't know very much about Wales, as I've merely received a couple of  touristic impressions.  But I was able to experience. I saw the sea, the sky and the mountains. I heard the sound of  the wind and the breaking waves. I breathed  the fresh air. 

This is to share my impressions and to encourage everyone, especially people with disabilities, to come and see for themselves. 



 
The Way to Wales 

My first day in Wales I spent almost entirely on car driving, as I was heading for Ireland and had chosen the youth hostel at Conwy as my place to stay to be able to conveniently reach Holyhead ferryport on the following morning. 

Actually, it was more of an afternoon and evening, due to the Hamburg ferry's arrival in Harwich at noon and because I  lost almost an hour in Birmingham rush-hour traffic. I left the M6 at Wolverhampton to head for Shrewsbury, from where the A5 directly took me to the Welsh border somewhere behind a town called Oswestry.  This probably isn't the fastest way to get from Harwich to A typical valley in Snowdonia, Wales. The clouds cast their shadows on the ground and provide for an ever-changing landscape.North Wales, but I'm sure it is the most scenic one. Shortly behind the Welsh border, the terrain becomes more and more hilly, until you find yourself driving up a river valley within the mountains, sometimes widening, sometimes narrowing. Because I had to reach Conwy within the opening hours of the youth hostel's reception, I wasn't able to stop anywhere and take pictures, which I truly regret. 

With a little more time, it would have been possible to take a look around Shrewsbury in Shropshire, which is supposed to be quite a picturesque town. Another cultural landmark, the world's first iron bridge at "Ironbridge", would have been within easy reach as well. 

The first significant place along the  A5 is the town of Llangollen. The A5 then continues to make its way through the Welsh mountains and eventually reaches the resort Betws-y-Coed. I got there around sunset and saw the mountains of Snowdonia bathing in orange sunlight, while the valley floor was already dark and dotted with the lights of Betws-y-Coed. Can't believe I didn't stop to capture this amazing view. When arriving at Conwy some 30 minutes later, I already had decided that, if possible,  I would spend more time in Wales than originally planned. 


Places I visited

The first thing I did after checking in at the youth hostel and checking out the wheelchair facilities was to get back to the check-in and make a reservation for the way back from Ireland one week later. Luckily, they still could accommodate me, and so I had an additional day to do some sightseeing in North Wales. I drove around a bit in then mountains of Snowdonia. Then I went to Bangor, where I did some shopping, had lunch and spent an hour or so on the pier enjoying marvelous a part of the Snowdonia coastline, viewed from Beaumaris on the Island of Anglesey (Ynys Mn)views of the Welsh coastline and Menai Strait ( the sound between Mainland Wales and the Isle of Anglesey). There are beautiful resorts and beaches along the entire coast, and visiting all of them is a matter of weeks, not days. 
Conwy is one of the most beautifully situated towns I'v ever visited. My suggestion for a nice evening walk: Park your car on the central car park and take over the bridge to the other shore of the Conwy River estuary. Continue a bit to the left along the shore and wait for the sunset there! Only 10 km or so north of Conwy is Llandudno, the best known resort on the Welsh coast. Nice promenade with lots of victorian buildings.


River Conwy estuary
A view of the River Conwy estuary 


Wheelchair Accessibility

Despite the difficult terrain, North Wales is a very well-developed tourist region. The Welsh Tourist Board explicitly encourages facilities to be made accessible, and this seems to show. I've seen disabled parking lots and signs to handicap restrooms as well as lowered curbs in nearly every town I visited. In addition to this, many tesco and Safeway superstores have very good disabled facilites. A particularly good example is the tesco superstore between Conwy and Llandudno Junction, which I very much recommend German industrial architects to visit in order to find out how to plan,  build and equip accessible buildings. 
Another beautiful Snowdonia view

One remarkable example for the high regard for visitors with special needs in this area is the Vale of Llangollen Canal Boat Trust, an organisation providing accessible boat trips on specially designed vessels.
 
 

When I cross-read the brochures on display at the youth hostel's reception, I noticed a surprisingly large number of places which stated they were partly or fully accessible, so there's plenty of things disabled people can do here. Conwy is quite  steep, but at least has centrally located handicap parking and restrooms (can't blame them for building the town on a hill, can you?). The visitors centre is only a stone's throw away from the parking lot. 
 

The promenade area of Llandudno is almost flat, so you will have no problems moseying along the beach and in the streets behind the first row of hotels. The "Great Orme", a 200-meter-high cliff, is accessible by car, but besides the great view from the parking lot at the top, there's not a whole lot to do up there. 

The excellent Brochure "Discovering Accessible Wales" can be ordered from the Wales Tourist Board.
 
 

Accommodation
As previously mentioned, I stayed at the Conwy Youth Hostel (YHA) and was extremely pleased with the facilities there. They will give you one of their family rooms for the price of a double room, if you prefer privacy to dorm accomodation. Bulk beds and inaccessible en-suite bathrooms, but otherwise ample manoeuvring space. The handicap bathroom will be on the same floor. It has a wheel-in shower with one of these foldable shower seats. As often the case, I found that one a bit too small, but you can always stay in your chair. The excellent management and staff are extremely helpful, open and good-humoured. Not only one of the best-situated, but also one of the best-managed hostels I've ever been to.  Book well in advance, this already is a popular place, and I'm sure it will become even more popular as the word is spread around the continent. The only problem is the narrow lift which must be used in order to get to the rooms. I barely fit in, and my chair isn't really a wide one. Tel. 01492 - 593571 
 

Other accessible accommodation listed in  RADAR's "Accessible Holidays Guide" include: 

  • Bryn Meirion Guest House, Benllech (Anglesey), Tel. 01248 - 853118. This is the closest one to Holyhead ferry port.
  • Dolhyfryd Lodge, Abergele (Dengbyshire), Tel. 01745 - 826505
  • GROOMS West Shore Hotel, Llandudno, Tel. 01492 - 876833
  • Traeth Ganol Hotel, Prestatyn (Flintshire), Tel. 01745 - 853594
  • Rhosydd B&B, Pwllheli (Gwynedd), Tel. 01758 - 612956
     

     
     
     
     


The Pier in Bangor
The Pier in Bangor










 
Links
Wales Tourist Board
Very good and informative website.
Order the brochure "Discovering Accessible Wales"!
Welcome to Wales
England and Wales Youth Hostel Association 
Conwy, North Wales
North Wales Tourism
 Gwynedd County Concil
 North Wales Internet Home Page
 Snowdon Weather Station -- LIVE WEBCAM
 Conwy Camera Club Website
Some very nice pictures
 Snowdon Mountain Railway
Llangollen accessible boat trips
4 Miles of accessible beach promenade at Prestatyn
Enablement Wales
New, very promising website containing a database designed to list all accessible places in Wales. Definitely worth a visit.
Access Enabled
a page giving access information for disabled anglers -- one more example for the many options disabled visitors have when vacationing in Wales
Stackpole Centre
Holiday and outdoor activity centre for disabled people situated in Pembrokeshire
The Wall Place
Accessible vegetarian restaurant in Conwy -- website also delivers a very good general  impression of this scenic medieval town

this page last updated on March 8  2000
 

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