The Cliffden Hotel in South Devon offers holidays to visually impaired people but the charities that own and run the hotel want to stop this service and sell the hotel. Lots of the guests are devastated by this news. The Trustees of VI Talk a CIO want to buy the hotel so that the holidays and experiences can continue.
Taking a holiday at the Cliffden is a holiday with a difference. The guests are met at the station or airport and taken to the hotel. When they check in with a member of staff who has had visual awareness training, they will be shown to their room, which will have high contrast to make it easy.
The Cliffden Hotel is currently one of the Vision Hotels. The hotels are specifically designed to meet the needs of visually impaired guests. Staff have visual awareness training. Guide dogs are welcome and the hotels have dog spending areas, can provide beds, bowls, food and even a dog shower if your four legged friend has got a bit messy on a free run.
In the rooms you will find liquid level indicators and talking alarm clocks.
The Cliffden is set in seven acres of lovely gardens, where you can relax with a drink or take a stroll.
The hotel offers lots of themed breaks, for example, five days of different walks across the Devon countryside or coast; activity breaks where guests can have a go at anything from zip wire, archery, horse riding, climbing and driving a dual controlled car; to even a pamper week for your Guide dog.
From the start of your break when you arrive at the station or airport, you will be met by someone and driven to the hotel. Information at the hotel is provided in large print or Braille. There is a swimming pool with Life guards trained in visual awareness.
One of the truly special things about the Cliffden are the volunteers, of which there are over 30. These are local people who give up their time to accompany guests on excursions or to get out and about on a one to one basis. All the volunteers are DBS checked.
So you see the Cliffden isn't just about staying in a good hotel but much more. Lots of visually impaired people live alone and can become lonely and isolated. Depression and mental health issues have a high incidence amongst blind and partially sighted people. Also a high percentage of visually impaired people are from the older generation, meaning that there is a possibility that they may not have many people around them.
The Cliffden offers an environment where they can feel safe and supported but not smothered. They can find empathy rather than sympathy. Guests can be as independent as they feel comfortable with. Guests will often meet friends and make new ones during their stay.
The sad thing is that the charities that own and run the hotels have taken the decision to discontinue doing so. The guests are devastated by this news, as for lots of them taking a break isn't an option if their only choice is to go to a mainstream hotel.
There is a group on Facebook called Friends of Cliffden Hotel, where you can read lots of stories from people who have stayed at the Cliffden and learn how much this hotel truly means to them.
Here are just a few examples:
"Just back from an excellent rambling week - staff, volunteers, and the intrepid blind / partially sighted ramblers made it a great time. Look forward to similar trips. - could never be done at a mainstream hotel."
" As I was leaving, escorted an old lady around the grounds, she - had not been around the grounds. She was sighted. She had been there for a couple of days with her partially sighted husband. Since his arrival at the Cliffden, she said that his mood had lifted, and he was smiling because he felt so comfortable. Ironically, they had only heard about the hotel from the local media reporting about the current situation.They are keen to return."
"My husband and I are both registered blind and Guide dog owners, who visit the Cliffden hotel several times a year. We are horrified at the proposed closure of all three of the hotels, as it has become our safe haven and home from home, over the last five years or so that we have been going there. We have always found the staff to be very helpful and friendly. It is all the little things that these hotels provide that are so important to visually impaired people, like help finding your table at meal times, having someone meet you at the train station to pick you up and take you to the hotel, and help you with your bags. That's even before I start on the facilities for our Guide dogs, which just aren't going to be met at mainstream hotels. A lot of thought has gone into these hotels. Can you honestly, hand on heart, say that we are going to get dog food, bowls, beds, etc. provided to make our lives a little easier whilst on holiday, aswell as ordering in dog food if needs be? A spending area for our dogs that is secure, as well as a secure free running area would be unthinkable in the grounds of a mainstream hotel, which is unfair on our dogs as they need a break from their harness in order to let off steam and have fun in safety. Cliffden has everything nearby and you can even walk to the beach without crossing any main roads. as you walk through the lovely gardens!! There has always been lots of visually impaired people at the Cliffden hotel on every occasion that we have been there. We have also made many friends there, from all over the UK, many of whom we will never see again if the hotels close. One day I lost some tablets and one of the staff found them for me. We aren't totally incapable of doing anything for ourselves but all these little things that staff help us with, if and when we need it, are invaluable to helping us keep our independence and enjoy our holidays with minimum stress. I have even stayed at Cliffden on my own with my Guide dog, which takes a lot for me as I am a very anxious person who finds going places on my own very difficult at times. I also suffer from depression but I can have a few days at Cliffden and relax, knowing that there is someone on hand if I have a problem. Staff at mainstream hotels just aren't going to have the time for us. It took me 3 years to find my way around the Cliffden hotel and to think of having to try to get used to somewhere else is a daunting prospect. I'll probably not be able to go anywhere on holiday on my own again because I don't know the area, and I'll be too panicky and anxious to go on my own. Going to Cliffden with just my Guide dog was a huge achievement and as I know the Teignmouth and Dawlish areas well it makes an ideal holiday stop for me. Life can be isolating enough for visually impaired people."
"This place is amazing, all the things I had worried about seemed to just disappear as we were instantly put at ease by the wonderfully helpful staff. I can honestly say we never felt so relaxed and safe for as long as I can remember and this experience has changed our whole family's opinion."
"We nearly booked next years holiday before we left and with this devastating news we have been knocked a little bit, as the week we have just had has meant so much to all of us. So please don't close the hotel, it does make more of a difference than you can ever imagine and I have two little girls who will be inconsolable if we can't go back next year."
So as you can see the Cliffden is desperately needed and the VI Talk Trustees want to save the hotel stays open. All the Trustees, except for the Treasurer, are visually impaired themselves and have a deep understanding of the needs of blind and partially sighted people. Most of us work in the sight loss field but have also stayed at the Cliffden and experienced first hand how relaxing and empowering a break here can be. Please donate to our fund so that we can save Cliffden and continue offering such desperately needed holidays.