Inspirational schoolboy Adam King, who captured the hearts of TV viewers in the Republic of Ireland when he appeared on The Late Late Toy Show last year, has been exploring the Giant Spirit that Northern Ireland has to offer.
Alongside his family, the Co Cork youngster – who has brittle bones – recently set off on a staycation full of adventures in Northern Ireland. He managed to fit in an action-packed agenda of accessible friendly activities.
From soaking up some history and fun at the Titanic Experience, Belfast to taking in the epic views of Newcastle and the Mourne Mountains, County Down. Not to mention an out-of-this-world visit to the newly-refurbished Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, County Armagh, as Adam delved into solar systems and space through new sensory interactive experiences and the world’s oldest telescope still in its original place!
Adam’s dad David commented on the families experience: “Overall this was such a brilliant short break which we would highly recommend. On every level, for children and adults of all ages, Northern Ireland has it all. We would like to say a big thank you to our friends in Tourism Northern Ireland for looking after us so well on the trip!”
If you are searching for family-friendly experiences that are accessible to a range of different abilities, then Northern Ireland has plenty to explore! Discover Northern Ireland understands that visitors have a multitude of needs and has put together a list of experiences for the entire family.
Titanic Belfast, Belfast
This modern museum is located on the former Harland and Wolff shipyard where the RMS Titanic was built and is consistently one of Northern Ireland’s highest rated attractions. With accessible bathrooms, blue badge parking, and rentable wheelchairs, this attraction is exceptionally well-equipped to cater to disabled visitors.
Those with impaired sight will benefit from the availability of audio and Braille guides, and those with hearing difficulties can make use of the British Sign Language (BSL) visuals and printed guide. Titanic Belfast has also made attempts to make the experience as autism-friendly as possible, with ‘VIP’ passes and rentable ear-defenders and/or blackout tents. Find out more information here: https://www.titanicbelfast.com/visitor-information/accessibility/
Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, County Down
At this elegant Georgian castle, in the charming village of Hillsborough, County Down, you can follow in the footsteps of world leaders, through plush and lovingly restored State Rooms including the Throne Room, State Drawing Room, Lady Grey’s Study, State Dining Room, Red Room and Stair Hall.
Hillsborough Castle and Gardens welcomes all visitors and aims to make everyone’s day out successful and enjoyable. Committed to improving access and facilities for visitors with disabilities, visitors are entitled to bring an accompanying carer free of charge and there are 27 blue badge holder parking spaces. All the staff you will meet at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens undergo Autism Awareness Training and to help prepare you for your visit and learn about what you will see when you get here, you can download a Pre-Visit Guide. Sensory bags and games are also available to aid in engagement with the castle environment.
Additionally, all recognised guide, assistance or service dogs, including assistance dogs in training, are welcome at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, and are permitted to accompany their owners on castle tours.
Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim
Northern Ireland’s first UNESCO Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway is a geological wonder and home to a wealth of history and legend. The 40,000 basalt stone columns left by volcanic eruptions 60 million years ago intrigue and inspire visitors.
While the pathway to the causeway is relatively flat and wheelchair-friendly, the shuttle bus provides a suitable alternative for those with mobility issues. The visitor centre has interpretive exhibits, such as a 3D coastal model, or request a portable induction loop is available or general audio guides for those who are hearing or visually impaired. The majority of the exhibits are tactile, interactive and/or available in Braille. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/giants-causeway
Armagh Planetarium, County Armagh
Armagh Planetarium is the longest running planetarium in the British Isles. In the amazing Digital Dome Theatre you can relax and experience our planet and beyond; take a tour of the night sky, or even discover some of the myths behind the star constellations. While you are there you can take a trip to the Mars room or touch the largest meteorite on display in Ireland which at an amazing 4.6 billion years old, is the oldest thing you’ll ever touch. Armagh Observatory and Planetarium has also underlined its commitment to being a ‘space’ for everyone by opening its new Changing Places facility. https://www.armagh.space/
Ulster Museum, County Antrim
The Ulster Museum in Belfast is easily navigated with elevator access to all floors and the walkways are wide and spacious, with slopes alongside staircases. Located in Botanic Gardens, the museum has five levels of exhibits, including art, natural science, and history, and typically takes 2-3 hours to explore fully. A sound enhancement system is also available at certain locations, as are described videos. Magnifying sheets can be requested as well so everyone can enjoy the full experience on offer from the museum.
Exploris Aquarium, County Down
Located in Portaferry, this aquarium is full of life and is not only home to plenty of fish and marine animals, but a new reptile section and even its own otter sanctuary. Families can get especially close to the array of tropical animals in Exploris’ educational open pools. The building itself is fully accessible for wheelchair users, with all tanks visible and in addition, there is a hearing loop in the reception area, and suitable disabled parking and bathrooms available, as well as discounts for carers and an assistant dog bathroom in the park.
Castle Espie, County Down
Escape to the beautiful shores of Strangford Lough and uncover 60 adventure-filled acres of wetland wildlife waiting to be explored. All the Wetland Centres exist to fulfil founder Peter Scott’s vision of connecting people with nature, so they make it a principle that their wetlands and wildlife are accessible to everyone.
Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast
Crumlin Road Gaol is the only remaining Victorian-era jail in Northern Ireland since 1996, and as you will discover on your tour, it has more than its fair share of stories to tell. While not entirely accessible (there are 2 lower rooms only reachable via narrow steps) most of the building is easy to navigate, with elevators and ramps to make wheelchair access simple. There are also rentable wheelchairs available at reception and friendly staff on hand.
Belfast Zoo, Belfast
Belfast Zoo is a super fun and educational day out with over 130 species on display, 2 restaurants, countless picnic spots and a children’s play area, you can spend a whole day exploring here. The zoo offers disabled parking, bathrooms across the park and rentable wheelchairs. Also, the visitor centre is fitted with an induction loop hearing system, and offer a “Quiet Hour” for guests on the autism spectrum to enjoy the park before it officially opens at 10am. http://www.belfastzoo.co.uk/news-and-events/news/News-6013.aspx
To help make your trip as run as smoothly as possible, Discover Northern Ireland has put together 5 top tips for visitors to be aware of:
- It is essential to pre-book and to check availability directly with each provider and to be aware of each venue’s cancellation policy when booking.
- When planning a trip, consider how to avoid traffic congestion by travelling at quieter times such as weekdays, be sure to check traffic ahead of time or consider taking public transport.
- To ensure you get the most out of your day-trip or staycation, and to avoid busier spaces, consider booking a mid-week break, or explore lesser known destinations.
- Embrace a Giant Spirit safely and take care of yourself, local business and the environment around you by signing the Visitor Charter Pledge on Discover Northern Ireland’s website. Visit: https://discovernorthernireland.com/know-before-you-go/giantdifference.
- Always follow current COVID-19 travel advice and guidelines before planning and while visiting. Visit nidirect.gov.uk and check that the provider has been accredited with the “We’re Good to Go” industry standard.
For more information on great places to visit and for things to see and do – check out www.discovernorthernireland.com.
You can also keep up with Adam’s adventures on www.adamkingadventures.com.