I was really excited to visit JORVIK Viking Centre in York with my family on Mum’s birthday surprise day out since it had recently been renovated (April 2017) which made the animatronic Vikings in the historical ride feel so much more real! If you haven’t visited JORVIK before then there are separate sections of the experience (each of which I will go into more detail about below); you first view a glass floor covered excavation site where many of the artefacts were found, then you progress onto a mechanised ride where you sit in a moving vehicle and have an immersive Viking experience. After this, you can explore the interactive exhibits at your leisure which showcase genuine items excavated from the area or participate in live workshops where staff paint a picture of Viking life. I was particularly delighted when planning our visit in advance that JORVIK have a very detailed accessibility statement on their website (https://www.jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk/visit/access/). Have a look at this prior to any visit or give them a call. There were two queues outside the building which were separated by barriers; one was for groups, fast-track and those that had pre-booked tickets and another much longer queue was for those buying tickets for that particular day without any pre-arrangement. If you or your companion have any dislike of crowds then you should seriously consider pre-booking. Despite the long queue for those who hadn’t pre-booked, there were plenty of JORVIK staff entertaining those who were waiting whilst being dressed in authentic Viking costumes. Upon entering, you pay at the ticket area (prices are on https://www.jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk/visit/opening-hours-prices/ if you want to look these up in advance). Then a helpful staff member showed me the way to the lift. The photo below of the stairs and lift was taken from the bottom of the stairs but shows the stairs and lift side by side. You can easily fit a wheelchair into the lift. Upon exiting the lift, you come to a medium sized room with a glass floor. Underneath, you can see a reconstruction of where artefacts were found when the area was originally excavated. There are interactive screens and a staff member regularly gives a short talk on the finds displayed beneath the glass.
In this area is also a disabled toilet which is accessible by a RADAR key. You can buy these easily off of Amazon if you are visiting the UK or don’t have one yet. Although, usually businesses have a spare RADAR key if you have forgotten yours or don’t have one. A staff member will help you on from this area if you have a physical disability that means loading on a ride will be difficult. Make sure to talk to the staff if you or your companion will struggle with queueing at all also as there is normally a short queue to board the immersive Viking ride. The usual carriage is pictured below which has one shallow step to board the front row or three slightly wider steps if you are to join on the back row. We used the mobility assistance carriage where I was wheeled onto a special movable platform in my wheelchair, applied my brakes and then the platform was wheeled onto the ride by a staff member. I would really advise you booking in advance or speaking to the JORVIK staff prior to visiting as only one wheelchair user is allowed in the building at a time so there could be high demand particularly in UK holiday periods. This boarding process went very smoothly and there were very few jolts for me (who suffers with severe nerve pain so struggles with abrupt movements). My two parents and my sister could board normally at the back of the ride and were in the same carriage as me. Once the platform was locked in I was given a pair of headphones since the built-in seat speakers by your ears were not present in the wheelchair carriage and my touch-screen information monitor was swung around so I could see it to my right hand side.
The interactive displays allowed you to pick commentary in many different languages with an option for children and one for audio description should you struggle in any way with viewing the characters and scenes that the ride passes alongside.
The ride slowly moves through reconstructed scenes of Viking life and you meet many characters along the way from the blacksmith to the sea-faring merchant. Most of the characters are animatronic but they have really realistic movements – all the way to their eyeballs moving and blinking! As you pass through each scene, you are given images on your touch-screen pad and a commentary to explain what you are seeing. Having visited the ride prior to refurbishment, I was delighted by the level of detail! The clothing, animal presence and plants were all historically accurate and local to the York area. As you pass through certain areas, you are met with smells of the Viking age and there is a “real-life” actor present at one point. Do discuss all/ any of this with staff prior to visiting if you think there would be problems with this sensory experience!
The ride takes a photo at one point which you can purchase in the shop. You disembark in the opposite way to the embarkation process; they wheel you out of the carriage on the platform and then off of the platform. You are then free to explore the exhibits showing the genuine artefacts found in this area and the interactive displays. Alongside the traditional format of having passages of text on the museum wall, I think JORVIK went the extra mile for children or adults keen to learn since they had touch screen displays which did things like play instruments of that historical period or they allowed you to zoom in on different areas of genuine human skeletons found in the area. Additional to these, there was a staff-led workshop taking place which talked about and showed the trade, textiles and clothing of the period. This was great for children or anyone with an inquisitive mind as it gave a lot of interesting information!
You then exit via the same lift that you came down in by holding the ‘up’ button. You exit via the main doors and then can re-enter the building via a separate entrance if you wish to visit the Gift Shop. I think that JORVIK was a great experience for my family and I as there was certainly something different to interest each of us. The access was well thought out and I loved the fact that I could join my family on the interactive Viking ride without having to brave steps! The team at JORVIK were so welcoming and I would recommend the experience to anyone, disabled or not! Have a look at their website (https://www.jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk) if you want more information on anything. Particularly, browse the access page that I mentioned before. þakka (thank you in Old Norse I believe) to all the staff for giving us a great day out!