Even with some travel restrictions coming to an end on May 17th, UK staycations are still expected to experience a boom in summer 2021. While going to the beach can be a great day out for the whole family, finding a beach that is accessible and disability-friendly can complicated the planning somewhat.
With summer just around the corner, we decided to analyse the accessibility credentials of 30 top rated beaches, as according to TripAdvisor data, to determine the top-rated disability-friendly accessible beaches in the UK. Read on to find out more…
Based on the top 30 suggested UK ‘things to do’ for the phrase “beach” on TripAdvisor, we analysed each individual beach against 10 criteria points to determine the best accessible beaches in the UK. The 10 criteria points included: whether the beaches had received a Blue Flag award; existence of ramps, slopes, or slipways; step-free access to beach; step-free access to water; disabled toilet facilities; number of disabled toilets; disabled parking; beach accessible wheelchair hire; availability of beach accessible wheelchairs for hire; and Mobi-mat hire.
Where possible, official tourist board information was obtained, but where not available information from anecdotal sources (such as reviews and independent blog posts) were used as a secondary option. N.B. Due to independent reviews being considered in some cases there is a potential margin of error in the information provided in this article, even though attempts were made to corroborate any claims these alternative sources.
During our research we found that, in many cases, it was difficult to find clear and concise information from reputable sources into disability access and facilities for beaches in the UK, which was extremely frustrating. With this in mind, we devised a scoring system to only award a point if information on the criteria point was A) easy to find and B) explicitly mentioned. Each of the beaches were scored for each individual criterion point (1 point awarded for inclusion, and 0 points given for not included or not mentioned), with a possible total falling between 0-10.
Other criteria points (TripAdvisor suggestion position for “beach” search; TripAdvisor average rating; the number of TripAdvisor reviews; and terrain type) were also analysed – these were not considered unless needed as a tie-break (e.g. if multiple beaches scored the same out of 10 and so were awarded the same ranking position).
|RANK||BEACH||LOCATION||COUNTY||COUNTRY||SCORE (OUT OF 10)|
|3||Brighton Beach||Brighton||Brighton and Hove||England||7|
|5||West Wittering Beach||Chichester||West Sussex||England||7|
|6||Whitby Beach||Whitby||North Yorkshire||England||6|
|9||Porthminster Beach||St Ives||Cornwall||England||6|
|11||Westward Ho Beach||Westward Ho||Devon||England||5|
|14||Frinton on Sea Beach||Frinton on Sea||Essex||England||4|
|15||Carbis Bay Beach||Carbis Bay||Cornwall||England||4|
|16||Scarborough Beach||Scarborough||North Yorkshire||England||4|
|18||Wells Next the Sea Beach||Wells Next the Sea||Norfolk||England||3|
|19||Camber Sands||Camber||East Sussex||England||3|
|20||Filey Beach||Filey||North Yorkshire||England||3|
|22||Hengistbury Head Beach||Bournemouth||Dorset||England||2|
|23||Gorleston-on-Sea Beach||Great Yarmouth||Norfolk||England||2|
|26||Walton on the Naze Beach||Walton on the Naze||Essex||England||1|
|27||Luskentyre||Isle of Harris||Outer Hebrides||Scotland||1|
Looking at location splits, out of the top 30 beached suggested by TripAdvisor, 26 were based in England, with 3 beaches in Scotland and 1 in Wales making up the final slots. Beaches based in tourist-hotspots on the south and east coasts featured heavily, with Cornwall (5), Dorset (5), and Norfolk (4) beaches making up a significant portion of the list. When it came to the top 10, just one beach (Portobello beach in Scotland) outside of England made it into the list. Dorset beaches featured four times, and Cornwall beaches also featured multiple times.
Bournemouth beach and Sandbanks beach, both located in Dorset, each scored 9 out of a possible 10 points. As a tie-break, each beach’s TripAdvisor suggestion position for the search terms “beach” were taken into account – overall Bournemouth took the win, holding the top suggestion position (#1) on TripAdvisor for the search term “beach”, compared to position #24 for Sandbanks. Bournemouth beach also listed additional facilities including cliff lifts, land trains, and 3 accessible beach huts.
Brighton beach, Portobello beach, and West Wittering beach all scored 7 points out of 10, making up the rest of the top five, but a high suggestion position on TripAdvisor propelled Brighton (#4) beach to claim the bronze position overall. During the research we found a 2018 petition to make Brighton beach fully accessible for the disabled and wheelchair users, which may have led to changes which contributed to its high score. For West Wittering, while the beach is technically step-free, access to the beach is limited to a steep concrete ramp by the windsurf club, so this should be considered for prospective visitors.
Whitby beach (North Yorkshire), Weymouth beach (Dorset), Studland beach (Dorset), Porthminster beach (Cornwall), and Perranporth beach (Cornwall) made up the rest of the top 10. As it was difficult to find accessibility information for both locations, Crosby Beach in Merseyside and Horsey Beach in Norfolk both sadly scored 0 points, putting them at the bottom of the list.
As well as the scores, the research also uncovered other notable situational findings – for example, high tide can affect accessibility at Fistral beach in Newquay in Cornwall, so despite technically being accessible it is not advised to use mobility scooters or powered wheelchairs. Likewise, in some cases, wheelchair hire has been withdrawn from the locations due to COVID. Also, it’s worth noting that disabled parking (if available) was not always free – Blue Badge holders were lucky to received complimentary duration (anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours) in some locations, but in some cases a parking fee is charged for all vehicles, including disabled spaces.
If you’re planning a trip to the beach this summer, then check out our range of all-terrain scooters – these have a robust chassis that makes them reliable regardless of the ground you’re travelling on, as well as larger tyres to cope with mud, snow, or sand.
We’re passionate about supporting people with disabilities to ensure they maintain their freedom, so we hope this research provides you with some staycation travel inspiration this summer.
*All data correct as of 06/07/2021. Information is subject to change, and due to independent reviews being considered in some cases there is a potential margin of error in the information provided in this article