Cead mile failte (a hundred thousand welcomes) from Ireland, a great destination with plenty to see and do for a wheelchair traveller. Ireland has come on a lot in regards to accessibility in recent years and hoping I can shed some light on the main attractions and a few potential pitfalls. I was born and bred in Dublin, the capital of Ireland and lived here all my life although my wheelchair experience in the city and throughout the country only stems back over the last 10 years.
Ireland is known for having very mixed weather, four seasons in one day as many say, and that is very true so prepare for all options. The temperatures don’t fluctuate too much throughout the year and we don’t really get extremes of heat or cold like many other countries. A good summer for us is if we get a week or two of temperatures in the early 20°C/70°F and what a great country it is when the sun does come out. When that happens, you will see plenty of pale white Irish people suddenly turn into red lobsters!
There are many great parts of Ireland to see, depending on the type of holiday you are looking for. Dublin is by far the largest and most populated area with loads of tourist attractions. Most of the city is very accessible and 95% of the curbs are cut which makes life a lot easier, which is also the case throughout the rest of the country. All of the buses run by Dublin bus are now wheelchair accessible but there are a limited number of spaces for a wheelchair on each, so be careful. The main things to see in the city include
- the Guinness Storehouse (no. 1 tourist attraction in Ireland)
- the book of Kells and library in Trinity College
- Dublin Castle
- the Jameson distillery
- Croke Park
to name but a few, which are all very accessible and Dublin zoo is fantastic if the weather is nice. There are plenty of museums and art galleries scattered throughout the city which are worth checking out and again no problems with the wheelchair in most cases. Henry Street and Grafton Street make up the two main shopping areas (if you have an interest in that sort of thing) and Temple Bar is where much of the nightlife action happens, although it’s all cobble stones on the streets in the area which are a bit of a nightmare, especially if you have a few drinks on you!
The train is a solid transport option for a wheelchair user looking to explore the rest of the country as they have special reserved spaces, it’s reasonably priced and very comfortable. I own and operate Wheelchairtaxi.ie here in Ireland on which you will be able to find all your nationwide transport needs if you do decide to visit this beautiful country. We list direct contact details and other relevant information for many different wheelchair transport providers including taxis, minibus hire, car hire and we even have a couple of wheelchair accessible fishing boats on the site if you wanted to do some fishing while here.
Outside of Dublin there are some wonderful areas in Ireland to check out.
– Kilkenny is a great spot for an old mediaeval town with lots going on although many of the buildings are older with some being difficult to access. Don’t let that put you off however as it is such a vibrant city and a must see. It is one of the most popular cities in the country for stag and hen parties with a kicking nightlife which says it all really!
– Galway is fantastic any time of the year but especially come the end of July when the horseracing festival takes place. The city takes on a whole new experience and has a heartbeat like no other with huge crowds flocking from all over. Be warned however as accommodation is very difficult to get in the city around this time with prices hugely inflated so you need to book early to be sure of getting somewhere to stay.
– The cliffs of Moher are located in County Clare which are the most visited ‘natural’ attraction in Ireland. I have been there myself and while they are spectacular, I did find the experience difficult with the wheelchair. Stone pathways, gravel and plenty of hills are to be expected if you decide to visit.
– Cork is known as Ireland’s second capital and has a mix of city and countryside. The city has plenty of charm, as do the people and it would be on par with Dublin in regards to accessibility for the most part.
– Kerry is a beautiful area if you are looking for a more rural experience. It has some incredible scenery with amazing views of the coastline but because of the natural environment don’t expect a huge amount of accessibility outside of the main towns.
– Achill Island, off the coast of County Mayo, is a place like no other – very rural and very beautiful with some great beaches surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. Popular with those who want to escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, things on the island move at a slow and relaxing pace. The island is connected to the mainland by a bridge and there is one wheelchair accessible taxi, although it is not that reliable so I would be sure to have other plans in place just in case.
Ireland has and is continuously improving in regards to accessibility and there is plenty of information out there on the Irish tourist board websites and the individual hotel sites. Most hotels now by law must have accessible rooms here so that shouldn’t be a problem and older buildings are adapting their facilities to cater for wheelchair users, which is moving slowly admittedly but is moving. Transport is getting better with main public transport accessible for the most part in the main cities, the only exception being taxis but there are still a couple of good ones about. So if you want something a little different with the friendliest people in the world, come visit!