Here we have our lovely Emma; Emma has written a blog about her recent visit to Edinburgh Castle.
Visiting Edinburgh Castle should be on your list of top tourist attractions to visit especially if you’ve never been to the city before. It’s also fun to do even if you’re a local. I’ve been to the Castle before, but it was during my school days, which sadly, was more than a few years ago. I couldn’t really remember much about it and I really wanted to take my Nephew to see his first Castle. So the week before Christmas we decided to take a trip through to Edinburgh for a tour of the Castle and visit the Christmas Markets. We ended up not making it to the Christmas Markets, but I’m happy to share my experience of visiting Edinburgh Castle in a wheelchair.
ARRIVING BY TRAM
As we were planning on spending the day in Edinburgh and having previously enjoyed the accessibility of Edinburgh trams we decided to take the tram instead of driving. We parked our car at Ingliston Park and Ride and got the tram to Princes Street. I love everything about the tram. It’s cheap, hassle-free, comfortable and most importantly wheelchair accessible.
THE WALK TO EDINBURGH CASTLE
We got off at Princes Street and made our way up to the Castle. We walked up The Mound passed the Scottish National Gallery, then along Mound Place and Ramsay Lane before reaching The Royal Mile. I have to be honest, this wasn’t the most accessible way to get to Edinburgh Castle. It was a combination of steep paths, high kerbs and cobblestone paths. Even though my powered wheelchair has suspension it still rattled like crazy over every bump. On the plus side, it gave us plenty of photo ops with the beautiful buildings etc. There is an easier and more accessible way to the castle, which I’ll speak about next.
CASTLE ENTRANCE & ESPLANADE
Disabled visitors can drive to the Castle and park at the Esplanade, but only a limited number of spaces are available so it’s important to book in advance by calling 0131 310 5114.
It’s easy to enjoy the beauty of Edinburgh Castle from the Esplanade. From there you can look across the city from both sides and take in the amazing view. This is also where the Military Tattoo takes place.
Once you’ve enjoyed the views and taken that all important selfie in front of Edinburgh Castle, it’s time to head into the Castle itself.
As we approached the concrete bridge to enter the Castle grounds a helpful staff member asked if we’ve like to use the mobility car to take us up to the very top. The mobility car is perfect for wheelchair users and people who are unable to manage the steep slopes and cobblestones. We didn’t want to miss anything on the way up so decided to give it a go ourselves.
Since we already had our tickets printed we didn’t have to queue at the ticket office. We continued up the cobblestone slope until we reached another staff member who checked our tickets. We were asked again if we’d like to use the mobility vehicle, but we were still keen to try the walk up ourselves. Tickets can either be booked online or bought from the ticket office once you arrive at the Castle. Disabled visitors will pay the standard admission fee and an accompanying carer will receive free admission.
When you think of a historic castle, the last thing you’re likely to think is that it’s going to be accessible. You probably expect to see very little of the Castle if at all. As with a lot of old buildings, it’s sometimes not possible to be wheelchair accessible. However, Edinburgh Castle has made a real effort to make access for all an important feature throughout the Castle.
The most challenging part of visiting the Castle is the slopes and cobbles, but it is possible for wheelchair users. Power wheelchair users like myself will likely find it easier, whereas manual wheelchair users will need strong arms or someone strong to push.
Our first stop was The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum and once inside we took the lift upstairs. The lift is operated by pressing and holding the button until you reach the top and vice versa. The lift isn’t very big, but there was enough space for the three of us.
We then headed across to the Upper Ward to see Mons Meg and look across the city from the viewpoint. St Margaret’s Chapel is right beside Mons Meg, but it was very busy inside so we decided to skip going in. There is a wooden ramp allowing access for wheelchairs.
Next up was Crown Square where The Great Hall is located and to be honest I was a little surprised that I was able to access this area. The information on Edinburgh Castle’s website states that The Great Hall is unsuitable for wheelchair access due to the width restrictions. However, I was able to enter via the ramp and move around freely without any problems. There was a lovely big Christmas tree, which made the spacious room feel festive.
The Great Hall was completed in 1511 for James IV and was used for ceremonies. It was then used as solider barracks and nowadays for state and royal occasions. It is one of the more spacious rooms in Edinburgh Castle as there wasn’t too many other people in the room at the same time as us.
The Castle staff were very helpful and happy to offer assistance. This was especially evident when we were approached in the Crown Square and asked if we’d like to visit the Crown Jewels. Since the entrance is accessed via stairs, we were guided to the accessible route where there was a lift. We got to see the exhibition and the Crown Jewels themselves. Make sure you go and take a look during your Castle visit.
The Crown Room was quite small and crowded, but I managed to go in and take a look without much difficulty. We were then escorted back out and down the lift. Before leaving this area I spotted an accessible toilet, which was a fairly good size.
The Scottish National War Memorial also located within the Crown Square is completely wheelchair accessible. The Memorial commemorates the Scottish soldiers who fought and lost their lives in both World Wars and more recent conflicts.
The high ceilings, beautiful stain glass and mouldings create a peaceful place to reflect on all the lost lives.
As the night drew in we headed to The Prison of War. This is where the many prisoners of war were kept including French, American, Spanish, Dutch, Italian and more.
I was able to navigate my wheelchair through the prisons tunnels and I was pleased to see wooden thresholds were in place to help wheelchairs cross uneven surfaces and steps.
Before leaving Edinburgh Castle we popped into the Gift shop for a look around where we all had fun trying on some hats and helmets. It was dark by this point so we managed to see the Castle illuminated and enjoy the beautiful view of the city including the Christmas Market. It was magical.
As I mentioned early there was an accessible toilet in the Crown Square, which was clean and provided enough space for wheelchair transfers. Accessible toilets can also be found at the main entrance and in the café.
Edinburgh Castle exceeded my expectations and I was impressed with the level of accessibility. It’s great to see that Edinburgh Castle work with the fantastic Euan’s Guide to make the sites accessible for all. Although the steep slopes and cobbles are a challenge (not to mention uncomfortable) for wheelchair users, it can be done and there is always the Castles mobility vehicle that will take you to the top of the main area if needed. I do wonder if there is some way of absorbing the impact of the cobbles not only for wheelchair users but also prams. Is it possible some rubber matting could be placed across parts of the cobbles while still protecting the look and history of the Castles paths?
Slopes and cobbles aside, I highly recommend you stop by Edinburgh Castle during a visit to Scotland’s Capital. Unfortunately, we missed the one o’clock gun, so make sure you’re there for that and prepare yourself for the bang. I’m sure it will be worth it! The Castle is a great attraction to visit for all the family with lots of beauty and history. Our three year old Nephew enjoyed his first visit to Edinburgh Castle. Just look at the cheeky little monkey posing!
*Although I received complimentary tickets to Edinburgh Castle, all opinions expressed in this honest review are my own. Thank you to Edinburgh Castle for having us along for the day.
Have you been to Edinburgh Castle?
How did you find the accessibility?