Visiting Edinburgh Castle with a Manual Wheelchair
Recently, my sister, dad, and I took a father-daughter trip to Scotland. Originally, we had scheduled a tour to include multiple cities and natural spaces, but after arriving in Edinburgh decided to spend the entire week there. We aren’t typically big on tourist sites, but we couldn’t miss the castle, which can be seen from many points around the city. With the oldest building in the castle dating back to the 12th century we weren’t sure if and how parts of the castle for me to explore in my manual wheelchair. A good starting place to plan your visit is their accessibility guide.
Getting to the Castle
Getting to the castle is the first challenge. The Edinburgh Castle sits at one end of the Royal Mile, which as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city can be extremely crowded. In most cases, vehicles must stop before continuing up the steep incline to the castle. However, we spoke with the official at the base of the hill and explain your accessibility needs, this individual allowed our Uber driver to drive us up to the castle. He was able to drop us off at the mobility van pickup.
Getting into the Castle
Originally my dad and sister had planned to ride the mobility van to the top of the castle with me, since companions are welcome to ride the mobility van as well. However, during our fairly long wait for the van to return from the top of the castle, several other travelers joined us, who also required assistance. Since the mobility van only seats four passengers, my dad and sister walked the path from the main entrance to the castle up to the top, where they waited for me to join them. Getting into the van requires one step, which was difficult for me, so instead they used a portable ramp to help me in. Although likely not as scenic as the footpath, the mobility van gave a rare glimpse of the Queen’s private limo tunnel, which allows her to have a private entrance into the castle.
Exploring the Castle
To see the Honours of Scotland and the Stone of Destiny it’s likely best to ask your driver for assistance. Since only one wheelchair can be in the room at a time and the accessible entrance is separate from the main entrance, the driver needs to radio one of the docents come out and guide you into the exhibit. The space is very tight and crowded, but and a fellow visitor in a motorized chair both were able to see the main aspects of the exhibit, which required using an elevator no stairs. Most aspects of the main buildings such as the War Memorial, the Great Hall, and the Tea Rooms are accessible. Getting into the Tea Rooms, however, requires asking someone to open a side entrance. This is also one of the three spots with accessible bathrooms, the other two areas are the ticketing area and the Redcoat Cafe. Although there is a step-free path to St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh, the cobblestones on the steep incline were particularly difficult to traverse in my chair. For me, it was easier to get out and walk it slowly with support from my dad and sister than for them to push the chair even with the help from some kind strangers. In addition to signage, you can get an audio guide for your visit.
Getting back to the main entrance of the castle requires getting the attention of one of the staff members who can then radio for assistance. There are a fair number of staff stationed around the site, so typically this shouldn’t be a problem. On the way back down my dad and sister rode the mobility van with me and we spent the remainder of the afternoon slowly making our way down the Royal Mile.