Access for all: Five wonderful wheelchair-friendly trails in the UK

To celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities, accessible outdoor campaigner Debbie North chooses five fantastic countryside routes across Englan

Debbie North
03 December 2023

Seventy years after the Act of Parliament that created the first National Parks, a major review published in 2019, led by author and newspaper editor Julian Glover, called for action to revive the founding spirit of our National Parks movement, making them greener, more beautiful, and accessible to everyone. In the report, Glover emphasised the need for improved accessibility for visitors with disabilities to our National Parks and Landscapes. His work with groups representing disabled visitors showed there was a huge appetite for getting out into nature

Ever since ill health prevented me from walking the hills, mountains, and fells of Britain, I have been a passionate advocate for ‘Access for All’, and have spent years pressing for change. In 2022, I was appointed by the Cabinet Office as Disability and Access Ambassador for the Countryside. Over time I have observed some encouraging improvements, but there is still much progress needed before we can confidently say that our countryside is inclusive for everyone.

In celebration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I am excited to share with you five of my favourite stile-free walks in the UK, suitable for wheelchair users.

1. Isle of Arran coastal walk

Views of Lochranz (Debbie North)

Where? Isle of Arran, Scotland

Route length: 4km

Lochranz castle, situated on the north headland of the Isle of Arran, offers a breath-taking setting to immerse yourself in the mountain views and expansive seascape. With a history dating back to the early 13th century, the remains of Lochranz castle stand as a captivating testament to its vibrant past.

As you take in the scenery, you may be fortunate enough to witness the red deer descending from the mountains to graze on the lush grass surrounding the castle. Keep an eye out for the resident Lochranz grey seal, lazily basking on the rocky shore. Along this coastline, it is also possible to spot bottlenose dolphins.

Follow the path to Fairy Dell, which winds around Newton Point. Here, you’ll find a view indicator that highlights significant landmarks and sights across the vast expanse of the Firth of Clyde to the north of Arran.

Arran boasts an impressive array of approximately 900 flowering plants, many of which can be discovered along the shore or on the cliffs around Lochranz. Thrift, Sea Campion, and Navelwort are just a few examples of the flora that cling to ledges and crevices. Spring is an especially enchanting time to visit, as the area teems with wildlife.

2. Easby Abbey

The author explores Easby Abbey (Debbie North)

Where? North Yorkshire, England

Route: 3km

Easby Abbey, situated in a picturesque location by the River Swale, boasts impressive ruins that are a sight to behold. As one of the best-preserved monasteries of the Premonstratensian ‘white canons’, it still showcases the magnificent refectory, gatehouse, and canons’ dormitory. Embarking on a walk here is a delightful experience, as the path follows the old railway line (Darlington to Richmond) and offers a flat and straight route.

The walk leads you through the woodland and eventually takes you across the River Swale via an old steel bridge at Easby. Once you’ve crossed the bridge, turn left and continue along the tree-lined lane to the abbey. It is a great spot for a picnic. Alternatively enjoy refreshments back at the Old Station.

A mobility scooter is available to hire from Richmond Swimming Pool.

3. Whinlatter

An aerial shot of Whinlatter Forest (Shutterstock)

Where? Lake District, England

Route length: 5km circular trail

Whinlatter Forest near Keswick in the Lake District has fantastic paths for wheelchair-users to roam, trailing through breahtaking woodland landscape. Simply follow the signposts from Braithwaite village for about 5km and you’ll arrive at the visitor centre. Although there is parking available near the centre for blue badge holders, be prepared for a bit of an uphill climb to reach the building.

But the effort is worth it when you see the outstanding vistas along the accessible trails. If you have any mobility issues, a mobility scooter is available for hire in this beautiful forest with clearly marked trails. After a day of exploring, you can treat yourself to a cup of tea and a slice of cake in Cafe Ambio, near the visitor centre.

4. Craig-y-Nos Country Park

An autumnal view of Craig-y-Nos Country Park (Debbie North)

Where? Swansea, Wales

Route length: 5km circular trail

These magnificent grounds, once belonging to the renowned opera singer Adelina Patti, are now under the careful management of the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park Authority. Spanning across a vast 40 acres, this enchanting country park is situated on the confluence of the Tawe, as it flows on its way from Llyn-y-Fan Fawr to Swansea and the river Llynfell.

The Country Park provides ample opportunities for a leisurely stroll. Design your very own ramble along the numerous paths that lead through the abundance of mature trees. The serene ambiance is further enhanced by the presence of the river and two picturesque lakes, which serve as a magnet for diverse wildlife. This idyllic setting makes the park an ideal destination for a tranquil afternoon outing.

5. Durlston Country Park

The flat and wide paths at Durlston Country Park are suitable for wheelchair users (Shutterstock)

Where? Dorset, England

Route length: 5km circular trail

Durlston Country Park is in the south-east corner of the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, just a mile south of Swanage. It spans across 320 acres of heath, woodland, and cliffs, and is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including 33 species of breeding butterfly, over 250 species of bird, 500 wildflowers, 500 moths, and thousands of other invertebrates. If you’re lucky, you may even spot dolphins and porpoises out at sea.

For wheelchair users, there are several accessible walks around Durlston, including a circular coastal walk that takes in part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. There is an all-terrain mobility scooter available to borrow from the visitor centre.

Debbie in Whinlatter Forest (Debbie North)

About Debbie

Debbie lives in Yorkshire and is a consultant, writer and motivational speaker.

A spine condition left her unable to walk but this hasn’t stopped 61-year-old Debbie from literally and figuratively climbing mountains. It has also given her the drive, passion and determination to become one of the country’s leading campaigners for creating a countryside accessible to all.

To find out more about Debbie, please visit

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