Accessible Accommodation

Just south of Cupar is an extraordinary project that began life as a battle – five long years of planning and funding struggles that resulted in the opening of The Rings in 2016. It is at Rings Farm, owned by David and Moira Henderson. We caught up with them to discover more …

The Rings provides holiday accommodation “for everyone“: firstly, it is known as being able to accommodate those with “accessible needs and neurodiversities“. Secondly, and perhaps less well know, their facilities are open to those living locally – especially their barn.

Moira explains the background to the idea: “It came from family experience. My cousin had a progressive illness which eventually required him to be hoisted to be moved. He was used to having holidays several times a year, and his only option was to go into a hospice to allow family to go on holiday.

Then Moira’s mother had a severe stroke. Moira says: “We realised it was virtually impossible to go on holiday with someone who required a hoist. We didn’t even know where to start looking.

David and Moira have farmed at The Rings for 35 years. Formerly, David taught at Elmwood College. Moira was a nurse – and then ran an egg production and retail business from the farm. After Moira’s mum passed away, she left a small inheritance.

Moira says: “We looked to use this to build a two bedroom cottage with one accessible bedroom. However, a friend asked if we might look to build something bigger. She told us that she had two brothers-in-law – both in wheelchairs at the same time – and that they had great difficulty in finding accommodation to meet her family’s needs.” The result? They ended up planning and building a three and a five bedroom cottage.

Five years …

In 2016, the accessible accommodation began trading – but not until five years of battling had passed: five years to win planning as well as to access a Scottish Rural Development Project funding grant.

Moira adds: “During that time, we were networking with those who have disabilities and took note of their suggestions, incorporating as many as possible into the design. The daughter of our architect, Chambers McMillan, has cerebral palsy. They had designed their own home – The Ramp House – to meet her accessible needs and when we described our vision, they came up with a very unique design.

Today, the farm and sheep rearing are supported by The Rings – their Accessible Tourism Diversification.

The cottage – which they call ‘one cottage’ because the three and five bedroom parts are connected – can subdivide 23 different ways. David explains: “Every bedroom has its own wetroom. Three have ceiling tracking and we can put in equipment such as shower chairs and special beds as required. Two of the four kitchens are also wheelchair accessible.

However, their strapline “enabling holidays for all” led to feedback from those who told them that the cottage wouldn’t be accessible for them. As a result, they identified some groups and families who needed “more secure accommodation” … having open plan kitchens, and french doors in every bedroom made escape or danger too much of a risk.

Overwhelming …

Throughout The Rings project, David and Moira have striven to make the accommodation the best it can be. Moira says: “As a result of the feedback, we sent out a survey asking those with neurodiversities or invisible disabilities what they might need to be able to have a holiday. The response was overwhelming.” It led to a wish-list – and new accommodation.

Six cabins were built and added to The Rings in 2022. These are more secure, and soundproofed so noise inside is not heard outside – and vice-versa. They can be stripped out if need be, for those with destructive tendancies. They are peaceful and have countryside views – which help relax those with anxieties or issues with certain noises. They work very well for those with autism, ADHD or challenging behaviour.

Bissett’s Barn …

Having built the cottage and cabins, the couple realised that their guests were limited in activities they could access in the local area. Moira explains: “Some need a full body changing place and hoist, others need secure boundaries with open space to let off steam.” And so it led to the next chapter: Bissett’s Barn.

Originally the idea was to have a big empty space which would be protected from the elements and offer closing doors to give security, but this has grown into a multi-purpose space. There is a sensory room, a hot tub room, a full body changing place including colsomat toilet, wetroom shower and rise and fall bath, two further toilets, a kitchen/dining space, two washing machines, and their reception office and cleaning store.

You don’t have to stay to play …

The Rings online booking system means that anyone can book the hot-tub room. Prices are based on use by the hour for up to 6 people at a time. David adds: “We’re also able to offer the kitchen space and multi-purpose space for hire.

The huge multi-purpose space can be used for a variety of purposes. In it’s standard set-up there are couches which divide the space between table toys and an open area for scooters and ride-ons. For toys, they have duplo and toy cars, as well as a toddler sized kitchen and tool station. There are cupboards with books for all ages and reading levels, as well as board games. David says: “We have table football and pool and are hoping to introduce air hockey and table tennis soon too. There are other activities which can be booked for a set up fee, such as floor curling, roller blades or dressing up plus lots more.

The kitchen dining space has tables and chairs for up to 20 people and although there is no cooker or hob (for safety reasons) there is a hostess trolley to keep food warm – as well as a microwave, kettle, sink and fridge-freezer. Moira says: “We find this space is especially useful to our campers who make use of this as well as the outdoor sink and shower rooms. The hot tub has a ceiling track hoist fitted above it which means that all abilities can access the relaxing warm water.

Ringing the changes …

The main aim of the Rings has been to allow the Hendersons to keep the family farm. Farming is uppermost in many minds just now: the broadcast of Clarkson’s Farm has showcased the complexities, challenges and costs of farming. Moira explains: “While 90 acres may seem like a lot to some people, unfortunately it isn’t enough to make a living.

Originally, David was an agricultural lecturer at Elmwood College. His was the family’s main income supporting the farm. A busy egg production business also contributed. When David retired, Moira said that diversification was essential: without additional income, the farm would have had to be sold.

Ring Farm continues with sheep and crop production. The two businesses co-exist well together as people visiting the accommodation enjoy seeing the working farm – and the farm provides activities such as Lambing Experiences which offer the chance for visitors to get up close to the sheep and lambs. Moira says: “This is especially valuable for our guests with additional needs or mobility issues, as farms are usually not accessible spaces. We love the look on the faces of those who hold or bottle feed an orphan lamb in our shed.

Beneficial to all …

The Rings’ USP is that they aim to be accessible to all. This can sometimes mean going the extra mile and taking unusual steps to meet the needs of a group or individual, but they want to be fully inclusive.

And the benefits of The Rings go beyond the family and the guests. Currently, they employ four part-time cleaners and one part-time office staff. David and Moira are employed full time running and maintaining the business. Daniel, their youngest son, is mostly responsible for the shepherding work. The Rings is also part of the Fife Disability Confident Scheme as a result of employing staff through Fife Council’s supported employment. One of their employees was nominated for an award last year – and made the top three.

Moira’s dedication and commitment to accessible tourism is well known across the industry. She was awarded an MBE for services to Accessible Tourism in Fife – presented to her by the then Prince Charles. She is still working on trying to convince Scottish hotels of the need for simple accessible changes and is happy to showcase these to anyone. She asks anyone who is interested to please get in touch.

Giving a break …

The Hendersons take enormous pride and satisfaction in providing holidays for so many guests. It is their greatest achievement and they get real pleasure in seeing people come for a break and who are then able to really relax. As Moira explains: “That might be someone who hasn’t had a holiday in more than 30 years, or who have several family members with a disability, or who have a life limiting condition.” And that’s is in tandem with the joy of observing the benefit a holiday can have for people, especially those who might ordinarily be anxious or agitated.

She adds: “Many of our guests speak of the calm here and the positive effect. We are glad to be able to offer that – it’s what people hope for when they go on holiday. Why should guests with additional needs or disabilities be any different? Being here is calming and revitalising. We call it – The Rings Effect.” David gives just one example: “A young boy who hadn’t slept a full night in around 10 years came to The Rings. He had been in foster care and as long as his carers had been caring for him, he had never slept. They brought him here and through using our special UrZone safe space bed, he slept from 7pm until 8.30am! We have others who come and this is the only place they can have a full night’s sleep.

And finally, as with all who feature on our Blog profiles, we asked David & Moira what they would recommend to anyone visiting Cupar and Country for the first time – or for the first time in a long time: “This is such a difficult question, because we work alongside so many businesses in the area, and without them we would only be able to provide accommodation. The businesses which offer a variety of accessibility options to our guests make the difference between a holiday including restaurants and days out, or a holiday stuck indoors. We love the Deer Centre, it’s fun for all the family and has so many different things to do. The fact that they have “rescued” activities from around Scotland also makes them special. Tina’s Little Cafe have also supported us with catering provision for some of our groups, and Tina goes above and beyond in this.”

Need more?

You can find much more on The Rings website via this link. They are also on Facebook.

Call them on 01334 828243, email them via this linkor message them via their online contact form.


Thanks for reading!