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What are the best outdoor attractions in England?

14th July 2021

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many attractions were forced to close across England and the rest of the UK for much of the past year, but with restrictions being eased these attractions have begun to open their doors once again.

Now that summer has arrived and the weather has improved, this guide takes a look at some of the best outdoor attractions you can visit in England, and it will hopefully give you some inspiration so you can make plans and enjoy all of these incredible places for yourself.

Most popular outdoor attractions in England

By using the latest data from the Visit Britain’s Annual Survey of Visits to Visitor Attractions study, which each year invites all English visitor attractions to take part in an annual survey, recording visitor numbers, we have discovered the most popular outdoor attractions in England.

There were more than 1,000 attractions that were included in the research by Visit Britain that ranged from places of worship, museums and art galleries to gardens and wildlife attractions. This article focuses on the most popular outdoor attractions and their accessibility so visitors who struggle with mobility problems and need to use aids like stairlifts or wheelchairs can visit without any worries about struggling to get around. Some of the attractions in this list offer a mix of both indoor and outdoor activities.

Below we take you through the 10 most popular outdoor attractions in terms of visitor numbers:

•Brighton Palace Pier

•Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

•Chester Zoo

•Hylands House and Park

•Windermere Lake Cruises, Bowness

•Stonehenge

•RHS Garden Wisley

•The Abbey Gardens and Abbey Ruins (Bury St Edmunds Abbey)

•ZSL London Zoo

•Hampton Court Palace

Brighton Palace Pier

Accessible Toilets: Yes

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Guide Dogs Allowed: Yes

Brighton Palace Pier is the most popular outdoor attraction in England with more than 4.9 million visitors, according to the Visit Britain study.

The pier is home to world-class rides including the loop-the-loop Turbo Coaster and the Dragon Fly ride. There are also classic fair rides such as the carousel, hook a duck and tin can alley.

Adults visiting Brighton Palace Pier will be taken back to their childhood as it not only shows off the excitement and pace of the modern-day but balances it with its old features and traditional seaside feel.

Marion, an independent travel writer and founder of Love Travelling Blog, said: “No visit to the seaside can be complete without a walk on the pier so we crossed the promenade for a stroll along Brighton Palace Pier which we were pleased to find is free to enter. The pier opened in 1899 replacing the original one that had been destroyed by a severe storm. It’s a long but fun-filled walk to the end of this grand pier which extends 1722 ft (525 metres) and contains a vast array of classic seaside entertainment.”

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Accessible Toilets: Yes

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Guide Dogs Allowed: Yes

Kew is home to spectacular collections of plants and its gardens make it one of the most popular outdoor attractions to visit in the UK with more than 2.3 million people visiting it.

Its gardens are home to the vast Arboretum, an alpine rock garden, a bamboo garden, a woodland garden and the Temple of Aeolus. The Arboretum surrounds the glasshouses at Kew Gardens and the 14,000-odd trees that are located here represent over 2,000 species, including rare and ancient varieties.

The flat nature of the gardens and full tarmacked paths lend themselves to being wheelchair accessible and all the cafes and restaurants have access ramps for diners. Mobility scooters are also available for visitors with mobility problems to hire from Brentford and Victoria Gates.

READ MORE: Britain’s Most Accessible Gardens

Chester Zoo

Accessible Toilets: Yes

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Guide Dogs Allowed: Yes

With just over 2.08 million visitors in the last Visit Britain survey, Chester Zoo is the third most popular outdoor attraction in the UK as well as being the most visited zoo on the list.

The zoo is home to over 20,000 animals and there are 128 acres of zoological gardens that can be explored. If you are visiting with children, then you can book experience days that offer you a unique opportunity to get closer to the incredible animals and plants at the zoo.

Some of the animals that you can see at the zoo include Tigers, Lions, Jaguars, Greater One-horned Rhino, Black Rhinos, Giraffes, Orangutans, Sun Bears and Asian Elephants, to name just a few.

Sam, who is the writer behind the North East Family Fun blog, speaks about her visit to Chester Zoo. She said: “Orangutans are our absolute favourite animals and there are lots of them at Chester Zoo. Their enclosure is huge and we spent around 30 minutes just watching them fool around. They really know how to entertain the crowds. We watched them swing from the trees and the babies play and roll around plus countless crazy expressions.”

The zoo is mobility-friendly as it offers free entry to carers for visitors with a disability problem, there are accessible pathways and wheelchairs and electric scooters can be hired. If you need to use walk in showers or disabled toilets at home then you will be pleased to hear that there are accessible toilets at the zoo which you can use.

READ MORE: Great accessible UK weekend breaks: Chester

Hylands House and Park

Accessible Toilets: Yes

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Guide Dogs Allowed: Yes

Hylands House and Park is a grade II* listed public park that comprises of 574 acres of historic parkland. The gardens and park are free to enter and here visitors can discover woodlands, grasslands, ponds, lakes and formal gardens.

There is also the Neo-Classical Hylands House as well as a café, an adventure playground, a second-hand bookshop and resident artists studios which people can visit.

The Visit Britain study reveals Hylands House and Park estimates it receives around 1.8 million visitors, which makes it one of the most popular outdoor attractions in the country.

One of the reasons the country park is so popular is down to the fact that there are a host of seasonal events which take place in a normal year. Now with restrictions around coronavirus continuing to ease, these outdoor events are set to take place once again.

Windermere Lake Cruises, Bowness

Accessible Toilets: Yes

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes (the steamer vessels)

Guide Dogs Allowed: Yes

With just over 1.6 million visitors in the last Visit Britain study, the Windermere Lake Cruises is the most popular attraction in the Lake District.

Windermere is England’s largest lake and with Windermere Lake Cruises you can explore it by boat and enjoy spectacular views on-board regular services from Bowness, Ambleside and Lakeside piers.

The cruises run every day on historic steamers and modern launches and visitors can enjoy unrivalled views of the surrounding mountain scenery, secluded bays and wooded islands.

There are many different services that people can enjoy and below are some of the different options:

•Yellow Service: You can travel from Bowness to Lakeside or vice versa and it is 40 minutes each way.

•Red Service: You can travel from Bowness to Ambleside or vice versa and it is 30 minutes each way.

•Islands (Blue) Cruise: This is a 45-minute circular cruise from Bowness where visitors can enjoy all the stunning scenery the lake has to offer.

•Full Lake: This trip sets sail from Ambleside, Bowness or Lakeside and you can see all of Lake Windermere.

READ MORE: Accessible national parks in the UK that older people should visit

Stonehenge

Accessible Toilets: Yes

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Guide Dogs Allowed: Yes

The latest annual survey of visits to attractions by Visit Britain reveals that Stonehenge received just over 1.6 million visitors.

The prehistoric monument, which is located in Wiltshire, just off of the A303, is one of the most famous attractions in the world and you are able to walk around the World Heritage Site and view the monument that has stumped scientists for years.

The visitor centre and exhibition allow visitors to discover how the builders of Stonehenge worked and it also gives you the opportunity to walk amongst the Neolithic houses to give you an insight into how they used to live.

Those visiting with mobility problems can ride on shuttle buses which have lowered floors and can accommodate wheelchairs and pushchairs and there are plenty of benches to allow you to rest. There are also wheelchairs that people can borrow to look around.

READ MORE: What is the most accessible attraction in the UK?

RHS Garden Wisley

Accessible Toilets: Yes

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Guide Dogs Allowed: Yes

RHS Garden Wisley is the flagship garden of the Royal Horticultural Society as it is packed with horticultural inspiration. That’s why more than 1.23 million people visited the gardens in the last Visit Britain survey.

If you head to Wisley you can enjoy and learn about their renowned plant collections, get advice from their experts and will even be inspired to take some of what you’ve seen back to your own garden. There are workshops and events planned throughout the year, but you can also easily relax in the gardens too.

The gardens are accessible to all and there is even a recommended wheelchair route through the garden. Some areas, such as the Rock Garden, are not fully accessible. Those of you who struggle to walk can hire wheelchairs or mobility scooters for free, but you will need to book these in advance of your visit.

READ MORE: A guide to the best Royal Horticultural Society gardens

The Abbey Gardens and Abbey Ruins (Bury St Edmunds Abbey)

Accessible Toilets: Yes

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes (parts of the site can become muddy)

Guide Dogs Allowed: Yes

According to Visit Britain, this free-to-visit attraction saw 1.22 million people come to look around it. The Abbey Gardens and Abbey Ruins are situated in the centre of Bury St Edmunds and the abbey was once one of the most powerful and richest Benedictine monasteries in England.

Also known as the Bury St Edmunds Abbey, it was founded in 1020 and grew in power until its suppression in 1539. Today you can still see its remains and this includes the complete 14th century Great Gate and Norman Tower.

The Abbey Gardens is a well-kept park and with its seasonal planting, you can visit the ruins in the summer and spring and expect to see lots of plants in full bloom. The paths around the park are flat and easy to navigate and you are able to get quite close to the ruins by walking along them.

ZSL London Zoo

Accessible Toilets: Yes

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Guide Dogs Allowed: Yes (must have evidence of your dog’s training)

ZSL London Zoo is another hugely popular outdoor attraction in England as it received more than 1.1 million visitors in the year the Visit Britain study was conducted.

It is the oldest scientific zoo in the world and across the site, there is a wealth of history and stories that you can enjoy. Some of the animals you can see at the zoo include Zebras, Pygmy Hippos, Penguins, Lions, Tigers, Crocodiles and lots more.

Despite being more than 170-years-old, people with mobility problems can visit safe in the knowledge that the vast majority of the site is accessible for wheelchair users and those with walking difficulties. There is disabled parking available in front of the entrance of the zoo, wheelchairs and a mobility scooters can be hired, there are lifts available for visitors to use and in some areas like the Tiger Territory, there are higher viewing platforms.

Aby, who is the writer behind the You Baby Me Mummy blog, talks about the time when she visited the zoo with her family: “The penguin enclosure was amazing. It was wonderful to be able to see so many of these beautiful animals, both on land and under the water. Baby was fascinated and it was adorable when she and the penguin touched each other through the glass.”

READ MORE: An accessible guide to kids’ attractions in London

Hampton Court Palace

Accessible Toilets: Yes

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Guide Dogs Allowed: Yes

Hampton Court Palace is both an indoor and outdoor attraction which is why it features on this list as well as it attracted just over 1 million people, according to the latest annual Visit Britain study.

At Hampton Court Palace you can learn about the dramas and private lives of Henry VIII, his wives and children. The palace is home to some incredible outdoor spaces as there are 60 acres of beautiful gardens and 750 acres of parkland that you can enjoy.

The gardens are home to the world’s oldest puzzle maze, three National Plant Collections, wildlife and a record-breaking grape vine.

Hampton Court Palace is also accessible to visitors with limited mobility as there are electric buggies available to use around the gardens and other outdoor areas. The indoor exhibitions are also accessible as there is a lift that gives you access to the majority of the attractions exhibitions.

Other popular outdoor attractions you can visit

Longleat Safari & Adventure Park

Eden Project

Blenheim Palace

Beacon Park

Yorkshire Wildlife Park

The Ice Cream Farm

Shakespeare's Globe

Minack Theatre

These are just some of the most popular outdoor attractions that you can visit in England and they all cater for people with mobility issues. For more articles like this, then head to the blog section to find more examples.

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.