Scotland is a diverse and thrilling environment to explore, and there are plenty of ways for disabled travellers to fully experience all that it has to offer. Euan’s Guide, the disabled access review website and app, offers some ideas for epic accessible days out north of the border.
Step into the great outdoors
Scotland has one of the best natural playgrounds in Britain. With around 10,000km of coastline, over 30,000 lochs, two national parks and the highest mountain; adventurers won’t get bored north of the border!
Castle Semple Visitor Centre & Country Park (search via: www.clydemuirshiel.co.uk) is a massive outdoor activity hub and Sailability centre in Lochwinnoch. At only 40 minutes from Glasgow, visitors can take the ultimate day trip from the city to have a go at kayaking, canoeing, rafting and much more. One visitor told Euan’s Guide that the centre is “brilliant fun” and that “very vigilant instructors ensure everyone’s safety”.
If you love water but would prefer to stay on land, you can hire adult and kids’ beach wheelchairs (www.beachwheelchairs.org) for free in North Berwick. A fabulous town for seaside fish and chips and accessible toilets close by, North Berwick is a great place to build a sandcastle with the family. A reviewer told us: “This experience allowed our son to explore rock pools, roll down the beach into the water and be lifted in for a paddle! He had a ball!”
Explore a country steeped in history
A journey through Scotland can be very evocative, and the daring travellers among you will encounter tumbling stone castles, abandoned railway tracks and barren battlefields. Even more-so in the cities, you can almost feel the history as you navigate your way past dense tenements or through dark closes.
While remnants of an inaccessible past may be laid bare in front of you, disabled access today can be second to none at many Scottish heritage sites and attractions. Eerie as it may be, a trip to Culloden Moor, the site of Britain’s last hand-to-hand combat battle is definitely worth a visit. One reviewer loved the Inverness attraction (www.nts.org.uk/culloden) saying: “There is a cinema room that has a film of a re-enactment of the battle which makes you feel as though you’re in the middle of it all”.
Back in the Capital, a bit of regal history doesn’t go amiss. Royal Yacht Britannia (www.royalyachtbritannia.co.uk) has been named Scotland’s Best Visitor Attraction, and is a fascinating ‘floating residence’ with excellent disabled access according to Euan’s Guide reviewers. One visitor wrote about his experience saying: “The most impressive feature was the clever use of ramps and lifts to move visitors between the decks of the boat”.
Sample the national drink – either one!
Whisky is worth over £5bn to the British economy, and there’s plenty of it in Scotland. Perched just beneath the top of the Royal Mile is The Scotch Whisky Experience (www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk), a fun visitor attraction that invites you to take a seat inside a barrel and view the distillery process from the inside! One reviewer loved the whole thing and told us that there was: “Good access throughout, including an accessible barrel on the ride which kicks off the experience”.
A favourite for many reviewers is the tasting experience itself. Another visitor wrote: “The palate discovery experience was my favourite part of the tour. We had to use our sense of smell to decide which whisky we would like to try. There is of course Irn-Bru available for younger people and non-drinkers”.
Broaden your horizons at top museums
Like every country, Scotland has its collection of famous literary geniuses, engineers and scientists to showcase, and there are many to boast about. Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, and his work are recognised worldwide. You can discover more about the Scot who wrote Auld Lang Syne at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Ayr (www.burnsmuseum.org.uk), which one visitor wrote about on Euan’s Guide saying: “The museum has excellent level access”.
Celebrating Glasgow’s legacy as a ‘maritime powerhouse’, the Riverside Museum (www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/riverside) is a great accessible attraction to visit with all the family, and admission is completely free. One visitor told us: “The museum has great access. There were plenty of loos, a massive lift to get to the upper level and exhibits arranged so you had a reasonable view from the wheelchair height. The icing on the cake were the lifts to get up onto the railway locomotives and experience the driver’s view”.
If you are venturing into the Highlands, the first British open air museum can be found amidst stunning scenery in Newtonmore. At the Highland Folk Museum you can learn about a different way of life and how things were for those who lived there from the 1700s until the 1960s. One person who visited told us: “A wheelchair accessible trailer takes disabled people to various parts of the folk park, including the Medieval Township”.
Discover Scottish legends made of steel
Driving through Scotland’s Central Belt, you might suddenly find yourself in the presence of world’s largest equine sculptures, two enormous horse heads breaking out of the ground and looming over unsuspecting motorists passing by the town of Falkirk.
These are The Kelpies (www.thehelix.co.uk), a stunning piece of artwork by Andy Scott and inspired by mythological creatures that possess the power of one hundred horses.
The Kelpies are part of The Helix, a vast green space with wide smooth walkways, cafes and accessible loos dotted throughout. It’s the perfect place to stop for a picnic, an ice cream or even for the chance to step inside one of the hollow steel structures. One visitor reviewed the attraction on Euan’s Guide saying: “I absolutely loved the access around the Kelpies attraction and the new visitor centre. There is just so much space!”
Wherever you decide to go in Scotland, you’ll soon discover that each location is different from the next when it comes to accessibility, and this adds to the variety and excitement of travelling around such a diverse country. Exploring the big cities of the Central Belt is great fun and there’s room to be spontaneous here as access is generally good. Regular train links connect the major cities, right up to Inverness, the gateway to the Highlands.
When it comes to venturing away from the comfort of central public transport, things can get a little trickier for everyone. Roads become bumpier, pedestrian areas diminish until all but the last path has disappeared from view. But that doesn’t mean there are no accessible places in rural Scotland. It simply means a little more planning may be required to get to where you need to go. It can be really handy to have your own mode of transport when exploring the more remote Scottish locations where there is plenty of adventure to be had.
Disabled Access Day in Scotland
Scotland’s capital was one of the four hub cities for Disabled Access Day 2016, and it demonstrated the creative ways that different attractions are becoming more accessible in the country. The event was a great opportunity for shops, restaurants, galleries, museums and more to showcase their accessibility, and many locals and visitors got involved to try something new on the day.
In true Scottish spirit, Dance Base (www.dancebase.co.uk) in Edinburgh opened their doors for an accessible ceilidh this year. They do in fact run inclusive dance sessions every week during school term time. In Glasgow, disabled visitors were invited to meet the Glasgow Tigers (www.glasgowtigers.co) professional speedway team after watching them in full flight. Of course Scotland was not the only country taking part, and there were many events across the rest of the UK and beyond. You can find out more at: www.disabledaccessday.com
If you’re planning a day out, why not check out disabled access reviews of places in Scotland on Euan’s Guide? Go to www.EuansGuide.com to read reviews or submit your own!