How Wheelchair Accessible is Ireland?
When you research a trip it’s so exciting, reading all the books and blog posts about where you’re going. But when I was doing some minor research, the posts were mainly written by healthy people. I’m not trying to start a fight, it’s just there’s so much difference from a healthy person saying something is accessible vs a person with chronic illness saying something is accessible.
When we went to The Book of Kells Exhibition at Trinity college it was beautiful. And Trinity College was beautiful too, the buildings were so pretty and the college felt like it had so much life in it even though it was nearly summer break. I didn’t take my wheelchair for this outing, I got my little bit of walking done that day I don’t need to risk a blood clot. But I did pay attention to if it could fit in the areas around me. On the campus grounds yeah it’s perfectly fine. The issue would’ve been if we had taken it inside the exhibition hall. There was a room that had copies of The Book of Kells up on the walls which was a little cramped because there was a lot of people in there.
Glendalough was also another problem area that we went to. It was all gravel paths and steep staircases throughout the place, though thankfully we were able to bypass most of them on the way out by looping around and going across a bridge. Glendalough had its own charms but all and all definitely not wheelchair friendly and if you want to see all of it, it’s hard to do while in a chair. If you can do short stints of stairs with or without assistance and flat gravel, then you should be okay to walk around. It wasn’t one of my favorite places during the trip and it was a little unsettling especially since it was cloudy and dreary.
Waterford crystal was one of the really interesting tours we went on. We got to learn about each step of the crystal making process. Their building was very accessible because I was in my chair during it. They had little lifts for me to go up in for every small flight of stairs. Their staff was also amazing and were very accommodating letting me have good views of demonstrations and everything. I’d definitely recommend going if you can. But the town itself wasn’t as accessible, the sidewalks weren’t the greatest the were hard to get on and off of when it we had to cross the streets. Another issue were the stores, these were some of the smallest stores of the whole trip and it was hard to navigate them in my chair so be careful.
Blarney Castle and Cobh were two of my favorite places on the trip. Cobh was the last port of call for the Titanic which I thought was really cool because I’m a huge Titanic nerd. We only went on a short walking tour there which I managed well enough because it was the first longer walk of the day. From what I could see though it looked pretty accessible dips in the sidewalks and ramps to get to lower areas near the water.
Blarney Castle was amazing and absolutely beautiful it has things you can see all over the grounds. And while kissing the Blarney Stone is the most well known things you can do there, it’s definitely not the only thing you can do. The castle grounds are gigantic there’s something to see for everyone.
Though I would say that kissing the Blarney Stone is probably one of the least accessible thing you could do there. You have to go up steep stairs to get to the top of the castle then you lay down on your back and get dangled over the edge of the castle to be able to kiss the stone. There aren’t elevators either, so if you’re entirely wheelchair dependent I don’t think there’s any other way to get up there. But what we did instead was go to the poison garden, there were all kinds of poisonous plants. Some of which were poisonous enough to be kept in little cages so people couldn’t steal them or eat them. Another thing we saw were the Three Wise Men Trees and the Three sisters stones both of which were easy to get to.
The Ring of Kerry was pretty much all seen from the bus. So we did get a break from walking some days and a couple days we didn’t have to be up nearly at the crack of dawn either.
I read a few blog posts from people about the cliffs of Moher (which were gorgeous) in particular, that they had paths that could be used for people in wheelchairs or strollers. So at that time, I was super excited that something like that could be accessible. Though I supposed I should’ve known it wasn’t going to be a paved path, but I was just so excited about it all, and I didn’t pay too much attention to much of anything except my hip pain.
|you can kind of see here how steep it is|
So we get to the cliffs, it’s a bit drizzly as one would expect in a place where it rains near constantly. And Jonathan and his parents are rolling me around every which way looking for a paved path or at least a wooden ramp of some sort. Well we were a bit dismayed when we figured out that we were meant to go up this very long and steep gravel path. It was incredibly bumpy and painful riding on the gravel but I really wanted to see the cliffs so I toughed it out. And coming down the gravel path was more terrifying than going up it. I was terrified the whole way down that I was going to accidentally get dumped out of my chair. But thankfully we made it down in one piece. I’d say that was the bigger accessibility problem we had at one of the places we went to.
Next up was a Sheepdog demonstration and our next stop in Derry also called London-Derry.
The Sheepdog demonstration was actually amazing how the dog knew what command to do based on a pitch of a whistle blow. I spent a decent chunk of my early childhood at Dog Shows so it made me feel kind of nostalgic. They also told us how each farm puts different colors on the sheep to be able to tell them apart when the dog herds them back. A lot of sheep only have one blotch of color on them meaning they belong to only one farmer. Dual color means they’re owned by two or potentially more farmers. And a fun fact we learned while we were there is that while they’re cute, black sheep are fairly useless. They have a oil in there wool that causes it to just immediately fall apart, while white wool stays clumped together. If white wool touches black wool the oil will transfer and the white wool will fall apart and won’t be able to be used for anything. Farmers mainly keep a couple black sheep and a few other kinds of sheep alive so people can learn about them but they’re mainly just pets.
Next up was our stay in London-Derry, which in my opinion I wouldn’t recommend that people go see. Things were a bit strained because people there never agree if that area is actually part of Ireland or part of the UK. But while you’re there you’ll have to switch your cell service over to a UK provider. We did another city walk which was mostly wheelchair accessible. Around the city you’ll see lots of murals on buildings but you’ll also see a lot of just plain graffiti.
Our last full day and personally my favorite day was seeing Giant’s Causeway and seeing the Titanic Museum in Belfast!
We saw Giant’s Causeway first and it was stunning, I could’ve sat there all day. For this excursion I decided to try to walk because to get down to the main pretty area you could either take a bus or walk to get down there. We took the bus down so I’d still have the energy to enjoy it once we got down there. But it is mainly accessible, plenty of paved paths. Unfortunately I wasn’t exactly smart when I picked out a jacket to wear for the day. I wore my warm fuzzy jacket with no hood instead of my rain coat. Hence why I stole Jonathan’s hat because I was getting wet and cold and he had his jacket hood.
When we got off the bus and I got into my wheelchair, I was pretty much jumping out of my skin I was so excited. But because I was so excited to see the museum, I was completely oblivious to the fact that Jonathan was acting strangely. And the Titanic Museum being a huge tourist attraction, at the front door you have the option of taking pictures at a green screen. And surprise Jonathan proposed to me there! It was the best day of my life and I’m excited to spend the rest of my life with Jonathan. Turns out that nearly all the employees and other people in the museum were watching from everywhere, including the upper floors. Something I thought was really sweet, when it was almost time to leave we went to the souvenir shop to ask about paying for all the pictures. They had actually had them all in a large gift bag and put them in my lap, telling us that it had been taken care of. If any of you see this post thanks a lot guys!
For dinner we headed over to an awesome place called The Glyde Inn. We didn’t stay here but we ate dinner in their pub area. Earlier in that day a tally was taken for each food item offered for dinner. I ate a little bit of chicken and it was some of the best chicken I’ve ever had, Jonathan got fish cakes and quickly regretted his decision after he tried my chicken. We also got drinks and dessert while a band played it was very lively and fun. We all sang songs and one of the people in our tour group actually got to go up and sing with them. And I guess our tour guide/bus driver told staff there that we had just gotten engaged they sang congratulations to us and gave us what I think was a strawberry shortcake.
Then the next morning we had to get on our flight back home, which I both looked forward to and hated at the same time.
Another thing that Jonathan and I noticed was that there weren’t any handicap buttons that open the door for you. I don’t think we saw any if I remember correctly. It was a bit of a pain trying to wheel me inside places and have the door open. A lot of the time the doors would get shut in my face.
I could’ve misinterpreted the situations but people in our traveling group were a bit hostile. I feel like I was getting ‘why are you in a wheelchair vibes’, granted no one said anything but I don’t know, I kind of feel like I was being judged.
Another thing that was few and far between when we were doing walking tours through the cities, was that there weren’t many dips in the sidewalk. So Jonathan would have to do wheelies to get the front wheels of my chair up onto the sidewalk and ease me up onto it. After awhile (because these city tours were kind of long) a couple of the other guys in our group would grab onto the frame of my wheelchair and lift me up onto the sidewalk. And that was really nice that people didn’t act fridged the whole time.
Overall I’d say places were a hit or miss with accessibility. If you’re a ambulatory wheelchair user like me, I would say assess each place you go and decide if you can walk around or if it would be better to use your chair. If you’re a full time wheelchair user get creative, at a lot of the places we stopped staff were helpful when they saw my chair.