Following a recent operation, wheelchair user and Managing Director of Global Access Award Scheme (GAAS), James Price, was in need of a bit of a break. So he headed to The Vale Resort in Wales to find out how accessible it is, and for a well deserved rest …
The Vale Resort is a beautifully landscaped hotel with fabulous, upmarket facilities, as well as a huge golf course. The hotel is set well into the country among some 650 acres of greenery, and driving down the huge driveway gives a real sense of going on ‘a retreat’. As a resident in the hotel for the weekend I certainly enjoyed real comfort and looked forward to the morning spa treatment.
The entrance into the hotel is on the flat from the disabled parking area, and has revolving doors with two side doors making it easier for wheelchairs. You are welcomed by the large reception area complete with a piano bar in front of you, the main hotel bedrooms to your left, and the dining area, spa and gym to your right. The accessible bedrooms have an adapted shower on a flat level with a shower seat, mirror, and sink at good height as well as toilets with grab bars. The bedroom benefits from a huge double bed, also at a good height for wheelchairs, and there is plenty of space to manoeuvre around the room. Rooms are as close to reception as you would want and have a sliding balcony door although there is a six inch step down to the pathway, should you wish to use it.
The spa is a fantastic: spacious, clean and welcoming, and most importantly, relaxing! It is next to the gym and pool, and has flat level access from both the parking area and the hotel with a lift up to the treatment rooms. There is a large disabled toilet – very large in fact, allowing ample space for changing and swinging a cat; a relaxation area, and a huge gym. As a GB wheelchair athlete I have used this gym in the past and found no issue with access. While equipment is not specifically designed for wheelchair users, any gym goer in a wheelchair will find ample to do, although hand bikes, which are amongst the few accessible cardio machines, are up a small step and buried among the other cardio machines making them too tricky to get to in a chair.
There is no difficulty getting to the from the changing rooms to the pool, although there are not any hoists available (I improvised using the sun loungers that are located around the pool and bumped my way down to the floor and water’s edge from my chair.) The sauna, Jacuzzi and steam room are up three steps from the pool however, so they are not suitable for wheelchair users.
On the other hand, the treatment room where I had a candle massage had plenty of space space and the treatment bed could be raised or lowered making it easier to transfer from my wheelchair. You are given a robe, slippers and towel and are welcome to spend the whole day lounging in them if you wish. My treatment was excellent and the therapist was very attentive to my needs, asking questions to ensure she wasn’t causing me pain or distress due to my recent operation and underlying disability.
Le Grille, The hotel restaurant, is situated between the spa and the hotel, set behind a café/bar area that sits again between the hotel and spa. It is a very intimate restaurant and as the name suggests, provides a well thought out menu of fine dining foods from the grille – from quality beef steaks and venison, to sea bream and duck roulade. Access to the restaurant is absolutely fine with plenty of space for wheelchairs to manoeuvre.
The hotel grounds are very hilly but well maintained as it services the golf course, but the hotel itself is completely flat and easy to get around.
In my opinion The Vale Hotel and spa is excellent for wheelchair access and bar having hoists, it is a completely accessible hotel for just about all wheelchair users. Despite being on some fairly hilly terrain the pathways in the grounds are well maintained and indeed there are golf buggies that could be used to transport you around the beautiful grounds. I found the staff to be completely sympathetic to my needs and they always offered help where needed, although it was rarely required. Other than the disappointment of not being able to use the gym hand bikes, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room I still thoroughly enjoyed my stay here – it is a very relaxing destination and a beautiful spa with great staff and an excellent treatment! The hotel also offers great food and everything you would expect from a four star hotel. I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to relax and have a treatment – disabled or not.
– Staying at the hotel is a must to fully enjoy the spa and facilities – being able to roll from the bedroom directly to the spa, spend the day there and roll back again makes the day all the more relaxing!
– Make sure you take your time to enjoy the breakfast, or if you are staying for more than one night, have room service in the morning – the food is wonderful and reasonably priced, and it really adds to the relaxing weekend experience.
– Ensure you allow time to fully use the spa area – do not just go for your treatment – really allow yourself a day to fully chill-out in the spa and relaxation rooms.
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