All this talk of Royal Weddings reminds me I still need to tell you about accessible days out in Sandringham, the Queen’s country retreat in Norfolk.
We were staying at Elms Farm Cottages in Lincolnshire and decided to take a drive over to Sandringham, from memory I think it took about an hour to get there, but don’t quote me on that.
Now, if you’re anything like me, your knowledge of Sandringham will be limited. Mine stretches as far as Her Majesty the Queen stays there over Christmas, and we get to watch them going to church on the telly.
Not to worry, I’ve done a bit of homework, and here is a brief overview of the Sandringham Estate and a few photos from our visit.
Wheelchair Friendly Days Out in Sandringham
The Sandringham Estate
Sandringham is a private home and has been a favourite retreat of the monarchy since 1862. The house is set in 24 hectares of gardens, there are 240 hectares of woodland and country park open to the public and the whole estate occupies some 8,000 hectares.
In Norfolk, the Sandringham Estate is a big deal. As well as being the most recognisable stately home in Norfolk, the estate helps more than 200 people earn their living. On top of that, as the estate is also home to many tenant businesses its importance cannot be understated.
Accessibility on the Sandringham Estate
We parked in a free designated disabled parking space in the visitor centre. I was able to push the wheelchair comfortably (except at the church) along the path from the car park to the visitor centre and on road to the church.
Fortunately, the Sandringham Estate website has put together an accessibility page and full access statement. Here are some key points:
- Sandringham House, Museum and Visitor Centre are fully accessible for wheelchair users.
- There are reserved car parking bays close to the Visitor Centre for disabled visitors.
- Transport is available for those less able to walk, from inside the ticket office entrance to the front door of the house and back throughout the day. There is no charge for this service.
- There are adapted toilets at the Visitor Centre and at the Stables Tea Room.
- Wheelchairs may be borrowed free of charge (deposit required); inquire at the Restaurant.
- Wheelchair users and those less able to walk should be aware that there are quite long distances to cover between the Visitor Centre and Sandringham House, and around the gardens and grounds.
- There is no discount offered on admission tickets for wheelchair users and other visitors with disabilities, but all visitors who require an access companion are entitled to a complimentary ticket for that person.
- Registered assistance dogs are welcome in Sandringham House, Museum and Gardens.
And here’s a link to the full access statement: Accessibility Guide (PDF)
The Sandringham Visitor Centre
The visitor centre tastefully blends in with its surroundings. It’s home to a restaurant, coffee shop, gift shop, plant centre, outdoor clothing shop, ice cream kiosk and children’s adventure area.
There is plenty of outdoor seating, mainly around the perimeter or if the weather is good, you can park yourself on the grass and have a picnic.
The House Museum and Gardens
We didn’t venture into the house and gardens because we were on the clock. But, from what I could see from the road, I’m sure we would have enjoyed it.
You can find more information about the house, gardens and museum here: Sandringham House
Sandringham Church – St Mary Magdalene
As I mentioned earlier, Sandringham Church, or rather watching The Royals go into it, is all I knew about Sandringham. As churches go, St Mary Magdalene is lovely but much smaller than I expected.
I was unable to find a completely accessible route into the church and the access statement seems to suggest there isn’t one?
Instead, there are 7 steps into the churchyard for those who can manage them or an uneven path. I struggled to push the wheelchair up the path because the chair was sinking into it.
In the end, I manhandled Bridget up the steps and carried the wheelchair. Although I could have brought Bridget down the path backwards on the way out, I decided it was best to escort her down the stairs and carry the chair again for fear of injuring her.
Maybe, a strongman could push a wheelchair up the path or some mobility scooters might manage it – please keep this in mind when you visit.
For me, the path could quite easily be made more accessible or an alternative route made available at the top of the churchyard. All that said, a visit to the 16th-century church is a must. It is small, but its cosy. I can easily imagine The Royal Family enjoying intimate services inside away from prying eyes.
Stay on the Sandringham Estate
If you really want to get the Sandringham experience, how about taking a holiday there. I didn’t know you could but you can, in fact, there is actually an accessible hotel on the estate.
On the Sandringham estate, there are two-holiday cottages, Garden House and The Granary. Two caravan sites and an accessible hotel.
The Park House Hotel is run by Leonard Cheshire Disability and caters for disabled visitors and their companions.
The childhood home of the late Princess Diana, Park House was offered by her Majesty The Queen to be used as a hotel for disabled people, I never knew that!
You can find all the information you need about the facilities at the hotel on their dedicated website Park House Hotel
It’s a shame we didn’t get the chance to see the house, gardens and museum but it was still a worthwhile visit. It’s not often you get the opportunity to walk in the Royals footsteps and even though access to the church was a bit tricky, I wouldn’t have missed it.
The Sandringham Estate makes for a lovely day out. Even if you only wander around the country park or take a picnic on the grass, it’s still worth visiting. I know the next time we’re in Norfolk, we’ll make more of an effort to spend the day there.
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