Scotland July 2006
In July of this year I went to Scotland for week and just wanted to share with you my experience and access good-times and difficulties.
Our first stop was the only place around Loch Lomond area (which was just a 30mins drive away) that was totally accessible for me and wasn’t going to cost the earth. That was the Express by Holiday Inn in Stirling, probably not the most aesthetically pleasing of places, just basic really, but it was well designed for wheelchair users. See link: Express Holiday Inn There are disabled parking bays in front of the hotel with lowered curb access. The hotel is level access, though the front doors are quite heavy to open. Once inside the reception has an area for those in wheelchairs to check in, and a lift to the bedroom floor. Again the lift isnt too big, and quite short and I had to squeeze in, so anything over 58inches wouldn’t be able to cope. The bedroom had a wider door with space inside to leave the wheelchair and to move around. The bed was low for easier transfer, also they had rooms that were double bedded too for disabled guests. The bathroom the door was wide with a slight step over, the floor non-slip. The toilet had handrails either side and a space for transfer from a wheelchair. The basin was low and room to place a wheelchair underneath. The shower had a pull down seat with no arm rests, but handrails quite near, the seat however was a little small in width. Dining was sparse as there wasn’t too many options apart from the eatery next door to the Inn. The food was good but you did get a lot of it. Access was good though with level access and a disabled toilet if needed. The breakfast at the Inn was very basic and a self service, with continental breakfast. It was a little difficult to reach some things and carry and as there are no staff around if you are alone this could be a problem. Though I’m sure something could be arranged with the staff beforehand if help was needed.
Attractions around Stirling and Loch Lomond
Our first visit was to the Wallace Monument see link: Wallace Monument Although there are panoramic views from the top, and the gift shop, which I would hope would be accessible I didn’t actually go in there. The rest wasn’t accessible to me. Initially the monument as you would imagine is high up so either there is a long trek up there, which I wouldn’t advise, or alternatively there is a mini-bus service, which would be ok for those with limited mobility that can manage to get aboard the bus. However this was no good for me, yet the bus driver allowed me to drive up there and take in the views, which is all I could do.
The Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park was very accessible, see link: Loch Lomond national park The part we visited took us on an accessible walk by the loch and surrounding wooded area. The area had picnic tables and seating areas, and a museum and was free to park with good disabled parking with plenty of space to unload the wheelchair and open the door wide.
The next place we visited was a little place called Luss see link: Luss This was a quaint little village that had disabled accessible walks by the river and along the shore. The car park did however get very busy so you may have to wait a little while for a disabled parking bay. There are disabled toilets, cafes, gift shops and boat trips if you are able access a boat. Needless to say I didn’t even try!
Our next day we took a trip to Stirling Old Town Jail see link: Stirling Old Town Jail There is disabled parking if you go right up to the Jail and turn left in to it, down at the bottom there is parking just for disabled guests. You will have to come back to the gift shop where you buy your ticket from and they will show you the disabled entrance. Once in there, there is a play by one of the staff that is well worth seeing. The access can be a little tight but there is another way round if this is a problem. There is a lift up to the upper level however you need to be aware that there is a very tight right angle as you come out of the life, which I couldn’t manage so had to go back down. Though the best part of the visit is the tour so it is worth a visit just for that.
Our next stop was Stirling Castle, see link: Stirling Castle Another good site is: Stirling Castle The parking is pretty good, even though it gets very busy if you just ask the attendant that you need extra space then that will be left at the side and back of your car. The area naturally is very step in parts so this maybe difficult for those with walking difficulties, wheelchair users, manual or electric, as my wheelchair did slide quite a bit. Most areas are accessible with a negotiation, though some rooms such as the kitchen isn’t accessible, but the guide book will give you all this information, as will ticket sellers. It will take quite a while to walk round the castle, but there are places to sit and enjoy the scenery on a sunny day.
Highlands & Ben Nevis
Our next stop was up near the Ben Nevis range. We stopped at a lovely place called The Old Pines Hotel and restaurant see link: Old Pines Hotel This hotel though small does have accessible rooms for those with wheelchairs. There is one disabled parking space outside that can be reserved, and there is a slight incline up to the main door. The door to get inside is slightly tight, but can be done with good driving of your wheelchair. With mine being quite long at 58 inches, it was a little tight getting around the corners but I managed, though I couldn’t unfortunately get the wheelchair in the room without dismantling it as it was too wide at 25 inches. Though once inside there was plenty of room to store the wheelchair and enough room for transfer from the chair to the bed. The bathroom was complete with non-slip floor, though it was a little cold as it was slate. There was one rail at the side of the toilet, so it was a little difficult to get up, as there was one on the left on a wall, but none on the right hand side. The washbasin was small but not sure if you could have fit a wheelchair under there as I don’t use mine in the bathroom. The shower had a pull down small seat with no arm rests, and one handrail fixed to the wall on the left side. Unfortunately the seat isn't placed in the right position as you can not operate the shower on your own from the seat, so need someone there to help you do this. The meals are very very good, the breakfast plenty of choice for all, including vegetarians and vegans. The evening meal though expensive in my opinion was worth it as its high quality food and good service by the family who run the hotel.
On our first day we visited the Commando Monument see link: commando monument This is just a minutes walk (if that) from the hotel. It is outside so no problems with access, there is an incline up to the memorial but this can be reached with care.
Also we visited and travelled on the Jacobite Steam Train, (the train they used on the Harry Potter films) see link: Jacobite Train However this isn't the easiest for someone using a wheelchair. There is a ramp that you can use to board the train, however once on it, you can’t take the wheelchair any further (if it is an electric one-manuals would fine if to fold up) I had to leave mine on front of the souvenir shop and walk to the carriage. The corridor was very small not making it easy to walk down, and the carriage did have tables in, but if you sit at the end there is quite a bit of legroom for someone who maybe not be able to bend their legs too well.
On route to the final destination the train does stop at the village of Glenfinnan, however there wasn’t time for me to get off and view the Bonnie Prince Charlie museum. Once reaching the end of the line at Mallaig for over a hours stop, this wasn’t the best place for someone using a wheelchair as there was only one place due to the size of my wheelchair that I could get into to eat. On a rainy day as this was not an ideal situation to be in. Though it was a pleasant journey there was no disabled toilet on board and no way I could have accessed the other ones there, so its not something I personally would recommend.
Treasures of the Earth is another attraction that we visited. It has various gemstones, crystals and precious stones from around the world, see the link: Treasures of the Earth
The place is very accessible and concessions are available for a carer. The ground floor is accessible for a wheelchair, although some parts were a little tight, but with care its easily negotiated. The upper level is not accessible at all for wheelchairs as there are numerous steps, and it is slightly dark inside so anyone with visual impairment please check beforehand.
Another amazing experience if you can get along to it is to go on the Ben Nevis Cable Cars, see link: Ben Nevis These take you up the mountain to an area were there is a café and viewing points. It is possible to get on the cable car with a wheelchair and no need to book in advance. There are potable ramps that are used up to the cable car, this is slightly steep for anyone who maybe using crutches or any walking aid, but is manageable. There is also an options of your wheelchair going up in a cable car of its own, this was my plan. However if the wheelchair is wider than 24inches then it will not fit on the cable car due to the sitting areas. Once up at the top there is a small ramp out to the mountain side, and then a walk to the café entrance. I did find it quite a difficult walk due to the incline I had to walk on, plus the ramp up to the café couldn’t be accessed by me with crutches as the metal mesh over the ramp had holes too wide, so my crutches would fall through. However a wheelchair wouldn’t have a problem here. The staff were very friendly and accommodating and gave any help that a disabled guest needed.
Glen Nevis visitors centre is very accessible and has displays and information on he area, see link: Glen Nevis There are accessible toilets, disabled parking and accessible toilets. There is an accessible walk by the river and the woodland area. There is a bridge that is accessible but my wheelchair foot plates couldn’t cope with the slight lip to get on to it. There are very nice views there especially of Ben Nevis on a sunny day
In June 2011 I went upto Oban in Scotland and stayed at Port Selma Lodges. These are two lodges that have been especially built to cater for those with mobility problems. The lodge I stayed in had doors that are wide enough for even the largest wheelchairs (like mine) The main bedroom has a en suite bathroom with a walk in shower with shower seat. There two bedrooms, the other being a twin room with a smaller bathroom next door with bath. There is also a balcony that is accessible for a wheelchair user that looks over rolling fields and in the distance you can see the sea. www.portselma.co.uk/
Also whilst there I travelled over to the Isle of Mull and Iona, this does take a few phone calls to the ferry company, but they too were very accommodating and it was well worth the trip.
To get me up the mountain Ben Nevis, they had to take the doors off the cable car to get me and my wheelchair in there. It was quite an experience and worth the view at the top.