Edinburgh, Scotland
by Jarred McGinnis © 2002

Edinburgh is one of the most enchanting cities you can visit. It is a regal city wrapped in its hills and crowned with its castle. There in that sentence lies the description of the city and its difficulty for wheelchair users. Edinburgh resembles an Escher painting. You can enter the ground floor of a building, cross the room and be able to look four floors down. It is hard to expect much else in a city where the area the locals call ‘New Town’ was started in the middle of the 18th century. It is not to say it is impossible. 

We stayed at the dorms of the University of Edinburgh. http://www.edinburghfirst.com/

Unfortunately, when I confirmed that two twin beds would be fine I assumed they were in the same room. Wrong. Although my room was perfectly accessible, my fiancée had to sleep in the room across the hall. This was a no frills accommodation. The buffet breakfast was very good, but a small consolation for the lonely night. On a previous occasion I stayed at the Parliament House Hotel, this hotel was much nicer. It had a true Scottish feel. The dining room is inaccessible, but the staff had no problem bringing meals as room service at no extra charge. 

The first place we visited is the castle. It is an arduous uphill jaunt along cobblestones and uneven sidewalks. The actual castle isn’t much easier. The Scots try to accommodate but the castle shows its age with steep steps and rough uneven grounds. After a van ride from the castle gates to the centre of the castle grounds, I was able to see the Scottish crown jewels, the world war memorial, and the fantastic view of the city below. We spent the rest of the day exploring ‘Old Town’. This is the area south and east of the castle. It is full of cobble stone streets, uneven sidewalks, and many of the shops have stair leading into them. I was worn out very quickly and we went back to our rooms early that day.

If I have scared you away from the castle, but you would like to take in a full view of Edinburgh try visiting Calton hill. It is still a big hill to surmount, but the road and side walk are much more even and smooth. If you are not the glutton for hilly punishment that I am, the Royal Museum and the Museum of Scotland are a low-impact and free way to spend the day (http://www.nms.ac.uk/). The Museum of Scotland is packed full of artifacts from Scottish history. Close to the museum is Greyfriar’s Kirk yard. It is a graveyard that houses the grave of the famous Bobby’s dog who dutiful sat beside his master grave for years. The graveyard is also famous for Mackenzie’s Poltergeist. Apparently, the spirit was so vicious they suspended tour groups until the paranormal activity calmed down. We were there right at sunset, and scared ourselves looking into the dark crypts. ‘New Town’ is an area packed with shopping. Along Prince’s street there are high dollar fashion stores, old standard’s like Jenner’s (The Scottish Harrod’s), and even cheap tourist shops. North of ‘New Town’ is the Royal Botanical Garden. This is picnic paradise. This is a very large park with ponds and streams. The ‘Glass House Experience’ is several different enormous greenhouses that all have a different climate. You start in the temperate forest, go through the desert and end in the Jungle. 

All the sites I have mentioned are free. Besides being disabled, I am also a student. The only exception is the castle. If you go with someone able-bodied, they get in for free. Although Edinburgh is not the most wheelchair friendly town, I had a wonderful time. It is an enchanting city. The locals are friendly and helpful. If you do decide to visit, I hope you enjoy it as well.

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