Here’s an access review triple header for you! On the basis of our Cardiff tourist day back in September. I review the access at Cardiff Castle, Pettigrew Tea Rooms and the National Museum Cardiff. Also includes Cardiff Castle concert accessibility information and access information for the Museum of Cardiff from a visit in June 2022
(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, as I said before, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as an electric wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!)
There is a system with reduced ticket prices for disabled patrons, but we didn’t feel like they were that significantly reduced for what I would be able to see of the castle. We then mentioned to someone how I wouldn’t be able to see a good chunk of the castle due to access and we were just let in to see the parts that I could get to!
We were able to walk about 15 minutes to the castle from our hotel (Ibis Budget Cardiff Centre).
Like I’ve already said, the castle was only partly accessible, I sort of expected that since it is a castle after all, but a lack of access is still irritating, regardless of whether it’s expected. I must say that what I could get to was very interesting, which probably made the lack of full access even more of an annoyance. The ramp to the section that I could access was also particularly steep, to the point where we had to go backwards down the ramp to stop me going too fast and essentially freewheeling to the bottom. We were able to mention this to staff on the day so hopefully something can be done to make the ramp less steep.
Additional Accessibility Information for Cardiff Castle as a Concert Venue
I bought an accessible platform ticket for the Dermot Kennedy concert from Gigantic and then was emailed by the team from Orchard Live requesting documentation as proof of disability for the access platform. Once I sent that off, I received an email back a couple of days later saying that I had been ‘successful’ (odd wording in my mind, I didn’t realise this was something I could be ‘successful’ at since I was aware I was trying to ‘win’ access). I was also informed that the accessible toilet would be right next to the platform and that the site was a greenfield site (in case you’re like me and don’t know what that means, it means there’s grass). The access platform ticket and carer ticket came in separate emails with separate barcodes which seemed a bit excessive and odd to me as surely it’s easier to send 1 email with one barcode? I also noticed (and heard from other disabled concertgoers on the night) that it was very well advertised that Gigantic was the ONLY, place to buy access platform tickets (I only find out after some frustrated searching
Once I’d reached Cardiff from London (having been in London the previous night for another gig) with GWR, I was able to walk to the castle from my hotel (The Ibis Budget Cardiff Centre which I have reviewed before)
The first thing I noticed was the cobbled path leading to the accessible platform. This was expected as I’d visited the castle before, but cobbles are not a wheelchair user’s friend.
Once I arrived at the accessible platform, I gave my name and was given a wristband and could pick my spot on the platform (picked a front row seat, obviously).
Whilst the view was pretty good (see the photo below for the view, I do have a few issues to raise. The major one was that it did that incredibly Welsh thing and (to put it politely) pissed it down for at least an hour straight. The accessibility platform had zero shelter and Orchard Live specifically said not to bring umbrellas. This left me drenched and wondering if my ELECTRIC wheelchair would survive the deluge. It also meant that other people on the platform had to leave BEFORE Dermot’s set as it was unsafe for them to be so cold and wet. I know it’s an outdoor gig, but SOME provision for wet weather cover in an accessibility platform when disabled people like me are often sat on MASSIVE BOXES OF ELECTRICALS just seems sensible.
My other issue was the lack of lighting along the paths and the fact we were just let off the accessibility platform at the end of the gig and just released into the general melee. As a solo disabled concertgoer trying to exit with 9000 other people (ish) I didn’t feel very safe at all.
Pettigrew Tea Rooms
Being a tea room, this place was completely free to walk into and then you just obviously paid for what you ate/drank.
Again, were able to just walk here from the castle.
This place was more accessible than I was expecting (I tend to assume independent businesses are inaccessible for some reason, maybe I should quit with that thought process after this experience!) There was ramp access and a wheelchair accessible bathroom, I mean it’s basic access but somehow, I was still shocked which I think says more about the state of business accessibility in general than about this specific tea room. The space inside was probably a little tight for manoeuvring a wheelchair but the weather was decent enough that we were able to sit outside. There was also an art exhibition upstairs which was only accessible via stairs, which was a little annoying, but I was not overly annoyed as I myself couldn’t see how access was possible given the constraints of the building, although I am always willing to help improve accessibility if the business is willing!
National Museum Cardiff
Again, this was another free walk in situation.
Again, were able to just walk here from the tea rooms.
We entered through a separate entrance with a ramp/tunnel entrance under the main area of the building, which was accessed via a gate. This gate was opened by staff who were contacted through an intercom. I know some people say separate entrances and having to enter underneath the building like this hides disabled people, but frankly it makes me feel like some kind of queen or a secret agent and, I might just sound like a child here, but that’s never a bad thing! The lifts were also very “properly” done I thought, allowing access while still being designed to match the look of the building. The were also lockers which were an unexpected bonus as it meant we, as tourists on an overnight stay filling time before our coach home, didn’t have to lug all of our luggage all the way round the museum.
Museum of Cardiff
Again, this was another free walk in situation.
Again, was able to just walk here from the hotel (Ibis Budget Cardiff Centre) in about 20 minutes.
There was a permanent ramp up to the main door. Once inside I spoke to someone who explained the museum (there’s a “story of Cardiff” sort of area on the entrance level explaining Cardiff’s history and then the exhibitions which change are in the basement) and I felt really comfortable asking about animatronics (I wanted to know if there were any as they are a startle reflex nightmare for me). There is a HUGE lift to get between levels and I believe accessible toilets as well. There are no animatronics in the exhibits that I saw, just a dolls house in the entrance level exhibition where the dolls move when you press a button. There’s also a movie in one of the basement exhibitions (when I went which was beginning of June 2022) which I didn’t watch as loud film noise can also spark my startle reflex.
All said, while there’s more to be done for sure, I found the accessibility in Cardiff as a tourist was pretty good. Particular bonus as a student that all these things were in walking distance from our hotel and freeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)
I’m glad to see that you had a positive experience, and that the locations are mostly accessible. I always wonder how castles can adapt and be more accessible, but can never think up a good solution. Perhaps one day they will!
Yeah, castles are a difficult one because obviously there’s history to be preserved, but I’m sure there are accessibility solutions that will preserve the history as well
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