The Accessible and Inclusive Tourism Award at the East of England Tourism Awards 2023-2024 aims to recognise attractions in our region that are committed to providing outstanding guest experiences for all guests, but particularly those with accessibility requirements.

The finalists for this year have been announced, and here we learn more about them.

Colchester Castle

Built on the site of the Roman Temple of Claudius, Colchester Castle in Essex is the largest Norman Keep in Europe and a flagship venue for Colchester + Ipswich Museums. 

The castle dates back to 1076, but opened as a museum in 1860. The museum underwent a capital redevelopment in 2013/14, arguably the biggest refurbishment for a thousand years. 

Colchester Castle welcomed more than 89,634 visitors in 2022/23, 17,452 of whom were school children. As part of its diverse and family-friendly event programme, it offers object handling, audio description, relaxed visits, rooftop tours, escape experiences, birthday parties and even sleepovers. 

Permanent displays chart the rise and fall of the Roman Empire along with other significant moments from Colchester’s history, while temporary exhibitions keep audiences coming back. 

The castle’s current show, Gladiators: A Day At The Roman Games, takes visitors back two thousand years to the world of the gladiatorial arena.

The judges said Colchester Castle showed “a comprehensive and professional understanding of the importance of engaging across diverse and inclusive markets”. 

This is illustrated through “an embedded culture of presenting high-quality access for all information” and “an experience that goes the extra mile”, they added.

Eastern Daily Press: Colchester Zoo in Essex is home to some of the rarest species from around the worldColchester Zoo in Essex is home to some of the rarest species from around the world (Image: NWY Photography)

Colchester Zoo

Colchester Zoo in Essex is home to some of the rarest species from around the world, including critically endangered Amur leopards, Bornean orangutans, and the Rüppell’s griffon vulture. Set in over 60 acres of parkland, the zoo is suitable for all ages, with interactive zones, play areas and educational encounters keeping children entertained no matter the weather.

The original site on Stanway Hall Park was opened in 1963 by zoologists Frank and Helena Farrar, with Helena becoming the first female zoo curator in Europe. The 25-acre site contained a small collection of animals ranging from lions to kangaroos. 

In 1983, Colchester Zoo was taken over by current owners, the Tropeano family, with 2023 marking 40 years under their ownership and the zoo’s 60th anniversary.

The zoo employs over 200 staff in a range of departments. In 2004, it established its charitable arm, Action for the Wild, and has since donated over £4.3 million to conservation projects around the world.

The judges said Colchester Zoo is “clear in its vision and dedicated to making its site accessible for all”. 

They praised the “detailed and thought out plan” to make sure the experience of those with additional needs and abilities is “seamlessly incorporated into the experience from the moment visitors arrive”. 

Eastern Daily Press: ROARR! is a dinosaur-themed adventure park in Lenwade, NorfolkROARR! is a dinosaur-themed adventure park in Lenwade, Norfolk (Image: ROARR!)


Located in Lenwade, Norfolk, ROARR! is a dinosaur-themed adventure park with dozens of attractions and rides, including indoor and outdoor play. 

It is open year-round as a daytime attraction and offers a range of seasonal events at peak periods including Dippy’s Halloween and Dippy’s Christmas Celebration. 

Originally opened as Dinosaur Park in 1984, the park was purchased in 2006 by the Goymour family. They rebranded it to ROARR! in 2018, with a vision to attract visitors from across the region and beyond. Numerous additions and improvements have been made to the park since 2006, each to improve the guest experience and place ROARR! consistently among the most-visited attractions in the region.

Key milestones include the addition of the Dinomite indoor play area in 2012, Dippy’s Splash Zone in 2016 and the completion of the Valley of the Dinosaurs renovation in May 2023. 

ROARR! now employs 80 people covering management, guest services, entertainment, groundskeeping, animal care, maintenance and catering.

Praising its “impressive” award application, the judges said ROARR! is “taking great strides to be an inclusivity champion”. This ranged from “good staff training” to investments in technology and the environment that are “making a clear impact and difference for visitors”.

The winner of the Accessible and Inclusive Tourism Award will be announced at the East of England Tourism Awards ceremony at Snape Maltings, Suffolk on Thursday, February 15. For more information, or to purchase tickets for the event, please visit

To see the finalists in all categories, click ​here.