Like us, Lisa, the owner of Dartmoor Accommodation, appreciates the importance of access to information. Also, like us, Lisa is working hard to promote access in the tourism industry, especially in Dartmoor. To spread the word, Lisa invited us down for a bimble so we could see for ourselves just how accessible Dartmoor is.
I’ve got a lot of posts to write about Dartmoor and I’m in the process of writing them. When I publish them, I’ll link to them here. I also wanted to write an overview of the trip and that’s what this post is…
After an overnight stop in Weston-super-Mare, we arrived in Dartmoor fresh and ready to start Bimbling.
Before checking into Hannahs at Seale Hayne, we took a mini trip on the moors to try and grab a glimpse of the famous Dartmoor ponies, and we were not disappointed. Once we crossed the cattle grid, which is at the foot of every moorland road, we pulled into a layby, and there they were – Dartmoor Ponies.
I reckon these clever ponies know people love them. They also know, people love feeding ponies which means the best place to hang out is where people park –
Warning: Just one point, an important point. Feeding the ponies on Dartmoor is not allowed for a very good reason. It encourages them toward cars and onto the roads, where many of them get hit and killed every year.
Hannahs at Seale-Hayne
We made our way to Hannahs. As you get closer, the roads turn into single track roads, and you wonder where you’re going to end up. Then, there it is, a 100-year-old ex-agricultural college that has been converted into Hannahs, an education centre and accessible accommodation venue.
We were met by Victoria, who took us on a tour of the site. I’m not going to detail the tour here, but it included the quadrangle, bistro, grand hall, common room, concert venue, hydro pool, accessible glamping, refectory and various accessible accommodations.
Our second day in Hannahs was Disabled Access Day. We met Lisa and Julian from Dartmoor Accommodation and Carl from Access All Aerials. We started with a few photos with our Disabled Access Day arrow and banner, then whizzed about the quadrangle on a Boma 7.
Obviously, it wasn’t all play, so we settled into the studio for our first ever radio interview (you can listen to the show here). All too soon, the day was over. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Hannahs.
In the late afternoon, we took a drive up to the pretty village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor. This stunning church is known as the “Cathedral of the Moors”.
South Devon Steam Railway
We started early Sunday morning and made our way to the South Devon Steam Railway. After a hearty breakfast in the cafe, we met Alistair, who was looking after us. Alistair was a font of knowledge about the railway and passionate about it.
We boarded the accessible carriage and made a 90 minute round trip from Buckfastleigh to Totnes. When we arrived back at the station, we bimbled around the gardens and took a look at the Butterfly and Otter exhibition.
Drive across the Moors
It was time to head on over to our next accommodation, but we took a leisurely drive across the moors before we did. If you like driving, you’ll love this drive!
After a brief excursion into Tavistock, we arrived at Wilson Cottage. If we could have designed a cottage to stay in, it would be. Although not entirely adapted, it was more than accessible for us and an absolute pleasure to stay in.
After a great night’s sleep, we set off for Castle Drogo. The castle is undergoing an extensive renovation, so we weren’t expecting too much. Even though the place is still a building site, we managed to get around without too much trouble.
We didn’t have any plans for the afternoon, and we both fancied a trip to the seaside. We set off for a wheelchair walk in Torquay, about half an hour from where we were, and we did a short bimble on the English Riviera.
On our way back to Wilson Cottage and due to a conversation with Julian, we dropped into Plymouth. We wanted to find the Mayflower Steps, the steps the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from in 1620 to settle in North America.
We’d overdone it and were forced to have a rest day. Bridget couldn’t move her arm, and bumping her around in a wheelchair simply wasn’t an option. This is all part and parcel of travelling with a disability. It’s inconvenient, but you have to listen to your body, and when it says rest, you rest!
On our rest day, we had planned to take a guided accessible walk around Tavistock with Moorland Guides, visit The Garden House and have a meal in the Bearslake Inn. We fit the Garden House into our schedule the next day but sadly, not the town walk or visit to the Bearslake.
A Wheelchair Walk on the Moors
Our final full day in Dartmoor was supposed to start with a wheelchair walk on the moors, so we met up with Karen from Moorland Guides. I knew this would be a challenge because, as proven the day before, Bridget can’t be bounced around too much. After all, it puts her out of action.
Karen knows the moors, and she also knows the most suitable places for a wheelchair user to have a bimble. Essentially, at least for us, the walk needs to be on a flattish tarmac path or road. Karen took us on a few suitable walks, but the heavens opened, so we called it a day.
The Garden House
The Garden House is not the place we’d typically visit, and Bridget and I know absolutely nothing about plants, flowers, or gardens. What caught our attention is the team at the Garden House has been working on an accessible path.
We’d been warned during a previous phone call that the gardens are in a valley. Because of this, the path has inclines, we decided to give it a go anyway, and we’re glad we did.
And, as an absolute bonus, we had probably the tastiest lunch we’ve ever had, including a Devon cream tea.
Moorland Garden Hotel
We were invited to the Moorland Garden Hotel for a meal in the Wildflower Restaurant to round the day off. Of course, we accepted. The food, service and environment were fantastic. I’m not qualified to give out Michelin stars, but I would have issued one if there were a Michelin star for access.
Barnabas House B&B
Our final night in Dartmoor was spent in Barnabas House B&B in Yelverton. We don’t usually stay in bed and breakfast establishments for fear of them being inaccessible. No such fear here, not for us anyway.
The owners, Angela and Steve, were perfect hosts and made our final night a pleasant one. Broader than that, they were representative of everyone we met in Dartmoor, friendly, obliging and willing to go the extra mile to ensure we could access their facilities.
Dartmoor was more accessible than we expected. We have to be realistic. Bridget will never be able to go walking on the moors, and she can’t use an off-road scooter. If you can, then there is no reason you can’t enjoy some time out in the wilds.
The towns, villages and venues we visited were accessible to us, and they could be for you. What I will say, whenever I spoke to anyone in the tourism sector in Dartmoor, they were aware of the importance of accessible tourism and, for the most part, were doing everything they could to welcome everyone.
From our point of view, an awareness of access issues and a willingness to do something about it is all we can ask for…