disability cruising, Handicap, Traveling with disabilities

Disabled Cruisers Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

The disabled cruiser visiting Edinburgh will discover that Edinburgh sits on an extinct volcano and the steep streets on this hill create the greatest obstacle for disabled access in Edinburgh. Manual wheelchair users visiting Edinburgh should plan each day to start at a high point in the city and work their way downhill during the day.

The Edinburgh castle contains numerous historical buildings and several museums. Getting between them requires going up and down steep streets covered in cobblestones. Several parts of the historical city center have cobblestone streets including Edinburgh Castle and parts of the Royal Mile.

Although hilly, the streets and sidewalks in Edinburgh are generally smooth with curb cuts. While most of the attractions and charm are located in Edinburgh’s Old Town, the best accessibility is located in Edinburgh’s New Town.

The Edinburgh black cabs have wheelchair ramps and provide an excellent option for avoiding the hills in Edinburgh. Several accessible bus lines run through the center of Edinburgh. Because of the hilly nature of Edinburgh, manual wheelchair users should make sure that the route between their destination and where they get off the bus is flat or downhill.

Edinburgh is a tender port – Ships have to anchor off Edinburgh and tender passengers ashore by boat. When tendering is required, guests using mobility devices will not be transferred into or out of the tender. Many tender ports do not provide wheelchair access so even if the guest can board the tender they may not be able to disembark ashore. Again the shore-side facilities, movement of the tender, weather and tidal conditions can also preclude tendering.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, in the United Kingdom, is located in the south east of the country, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Dating back to the 12th century, Edinburgh’s Old Town is where most of the major historic monuments and attractions are, many on or just off, the Royal Mile, the main road.

Edinburgh Castle dominates the City skyline from its vantage point high on an extinct volcano. The castle guards the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Great Hall has a striking arms and armor display. Don’t miss the firing of the 1 o’clock Gun and St Margaret’s Chapel, Edinburgh’s oldest building.

Tours and tastings are available at the Scotch Whisky Experience on Castlehill.

The Palace of Holyrood house is the official Scottish residence of Her Majesty The Queen.

In the New Town area, which dates back to the 18th century, you’ll find The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, The National Gallery of Scotland, the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Royal Scottish Academy.

For breathtaking views of Edinburgh, climb the 800 foot high Arthur’s Seat (near Holyrood Palace).

Further afield, the Port of Leith is home to the Royal Yacht Britannia, a former private vessel to the royal family.

Edinburgh Zoo is situated 3 miles to the west of Edinburgh city center. Set in 82 acres of parkland, there are over 1,000 rare and endangered animals here.

Where You’re Docked

Edinburgh is an anchorage port. Passengers transfer to shore via ship’s tender.

Cruise ships use two ports to access Edinburgh.

Smaller ships use the Ocean Terminal at Leith Port. Edinburgh is a 10 minute drive away. Adjacent to the port is the Ocean Terminal Shopping Center with shops, cinema, cafes and restaurants. There is also a taxi rank.

Large cruise ships anchor in the River Forth and tenders take passengers to Hawes Pier in South Queensferry, which is 18km from Edinburgh.

The nearest train station is up the hill at Dalmeny Station.

Your cruise ship may offer shuttles into Edinburgh.

The nearest bus stop is about 10 minutes walk from the port.

Good to Know

It rains a lot, which gives the city some of its allure, but you will get wet.

Be careful when crossing streets because the Scottish drive on the left-hand side of the road. It’s easy to forget that you need to look in the opposite direction for oncoming traffic. Same goes for mass transit. You need to board on the opposite side of the street from what you may be used to. Many streets change names from block to block, so don’t let this mix you up.

In July and August, especially out of town, Scotland is plagued by small biting insects called midges, so take plenty of insect repellent.

Getting Around

On Foot: Once in central Edinburgh, you can walk anywhere. Old Town and New Town are separated by the easily traversed Princes Street Gardens. For the Disabled Cruiser walking/rolling around Edinburgh bear in mind that some streets are flat and easy; Princes Street for example. Some streets are an incline and quite long; the Royal Mile for example. The Royal Mile is a lot easier heading downhill. Some streets are really quite steep; the Mound for example.

By Taxi: Central Taxis offers 24/7 service, and cabs can be booked in advance. Edinburgh Taxi also accepts bookings for mini-buses and chauffeur-driven cars. The Edinburgh black cabs have wheelchair ramps for easy entrance and exit for the Disabled Cruiser.

By Bus: Buses are easy to figure out, and they’re trackable on smartphones. Drivers do not make change; plan on exact fares. It’s also possible to purchase a day pass for unlimited combined travel on both buses and trams. All Edinburgh buses are wheelchair accessible for the Disabled Cruiser.

Points of Interest

  • Royal Mile & Edinburgh Castle – This imposing castle dominates the cityscape from atop its rocky perch. Situated at the end of historic Royal Mile, its dramatic, medieval design remains largely unchanged since the 18th century. For the Disabled Cruiser visiting the castle grounds all areas of the castle are accessed from a steep (slope of 5 degrees on average, 15 degrees at its steepest point) and curved central route that is about 350m long (from entering the castle to the top level at Crown Square). The route is surfaced with cobbles, which can be uneven. A mobility vehicle can take visitors unable to manage the steep slopes from the esplanade to Crown Square (and back again later). The service runs on a first come, first served basis. The One o’Clock Gun is on the level, next to the Redcoat Café, but its exhibition is down 29 stone steps, with handrail. The courtyard of the National War Museum is down a cobbled ramp with a 12-degree slope. The museum has a level entrance and there is a lift to the two floors. St Margaret’s Chapel and Mons Meg are further up the central route, through Foogs Gate. The area around the chapel and gun is cobbled. The chapel is entered by a small ramp. Access to the Honours of Scotland is via a ramp and then a lift to the first floor. The Royal Palace and apartments have no wheelchair access. The Great Hall is currently accessed by a small ramp. The Scottish National War Memorial has a ramp entrance from Crown Square. The Prisons of War exhibition has step-free access from Dury’s Battery. Access to the vaults is down numerous short flights of steps, with handrails on both sides. There is step-free access to the lower part of the exhibition from Dury’s Battery.

  • Princes Street – Delight in the lively atmosphere and scenic beauty of Edinburgh’s most popular thoroughfare in the “New Town” area. Browse the colorful shops and fashionable boutiques and enjoy the many sidewalk cafes. The Disabled Cruiser walking/rolling down Princes Street will see that it houses many great shops and department stores and has easy access for wheelchairs.
  • Royal Yacht Britannia – Explore the fine art and ancient artifacts at Edinburgh’s exceptional museums and view the monarch’s personal possessions on the Yacht Britannia, the Royal Family’s former seagoing palace. The Disabled Cruiser will enjoy that the Royal Yacht is a highly accessible visitor attraction with lifts and ramps between each deck and a tour route, which is accessible for wheelchairs of up to 67cm wide. 
  • Holyrood Palace – Dominating the end of Edinburgh’s famed Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace is the official home to the monarch while in Scotland. Its hallowed halls have witnessed some of the most turbulent times in Scotland’s history. For the Disabled Cruiser the Palace is wheelchair accessible with a lift to take you upstairs resulting in very little of the Palace that can not be accessed. The only downside was a lack of dropped kerbs on the access to the palace but it just meant a little linger walk. The palace and gardens were lovely.
  • Stirling – Located at the crossing point of the River Forth, Stirling has seen much of Scotland’s tumultuous history. Tour its famous castle and battlefields and view royal memorabilia and military artifacts. The Disabled Cruiser visiting Stirling Castle will encounter rough cobblestone walking/rolling to the castle and pushing a wheelchair up to the top can be tiring as it is steep in areas. There are a number of view points that can be easily reached. Accessible toilets are available, most of the halls are easy to navigate and there is a lift to get to an upper level. 
  • St. Andrews – Known worldwide as the birthplace of golf, this charming medieval town is home to the legendary Old Course, the venerable Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the exceptional British Golf Museum.
  • Floors Castle & Dryburgh Abbey – Travel south from Edinburgh to explore the Lowlands, the famed Border Country. Visit stunning Floors Castle, the largest inhabited castle in Scotland, and explore the ruins of 12th-century Dryburgh Abbey. For the Disabled Cruiser the castle is visited by entering through the shop where the staff will direct you through a couple of side doors, you are met there by another staff member who will take you down some back passages that the public would not see and to a lift. The lift will take you up to the next level and allow you to tour this magnificent building. There are disabled toilets available. One of the downsides is the deep gravel outside which is unsuitable for a wheelchair.  
  • Glamis Castle – A royal residence since 1372, the castle is thought to be haunted. Tour Duncan Hall, made famous in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, view the medieval royal rooms, and look out for the legendary ghosts. For the Disabled Cruiser the tour of the castle is not wheelchair accessible as there are no lifts. You are limited to viewing a film of the castle in the “castle room”. There is a disabled car parking area, but the gravel surface presents a challenge for wheelchair users, however the parking is close to the entrance.

Edinburgh Accessible Excursions

Defined by hills and beautiful cathedrals; steeped in Celtic and medieval history; Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the United Kingdom. Often referred to as the very heart of Scotland, this spectacular historic city is an all year round travel destination with endless things to see and do, including art galleries, theaters, sightseeing, Blues and Jazz Festivals and the world renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Essential Edinburgh Private Accessible Walking Tour

This 3.5 hour accessible Edinburgh walking tour explores the Old Town area which is the oldest part of the city. You’ll also see the beautiful Edinburgh Castle known to have been the heart of Scotland’s life for well over 1,000 years. Your friendly, licensed Edinburgh guide will share interesting information and anecdotes with you as you walk/roll your way through the city.

Escorted by your guide, you will see the impressive Edinburgh Castle. Admire the beautiful structure as your private tour guide shares the fascinating history of the site with you. You will also enjoy a leisurely stroll around the Castle Esplanade, where you will see historic memorials, statues and plaques, and have an opportunity to capture some beautiful photos of the best views in Edinburgh.

The Essential Edinburgh Private Accessible Walking Tour follows a step-free route and your guide is experienced in navigating the city while touring with disabled clients. You will encounter some cobblestones along the way due to the hilly and old nature of the city, there are numerous steep streets that can be challenging without your guide’s expert help. The walking/rolling length of this tour is approximately 1.5 miles. Please note that St. Giles Cathedral is accessible via ramps at the west door, which is the main entrance into the building. Inside, the Thistle Chapel and the downstairs café are the only areas which cannot be accessed.

Edinburgh Royal Mile Wheelchair Accessible Walking Tour

This 8 hour accessible walking tour is similar to the Essential Edinburgh Walking Tour, you will experience the Royal Mile area and visit the magnificent Edinburgh Castle but with more time on your hands. There will be an option to enjoy a delicious lunch in an accessible restaurant (cost not included) and a visit to the famous Holyrood Palace.

The Edinburgh Royal Mile Wheelchair Accessible Walking Tour follows a step-free route and your guide is experienced in navigating the city while touring with disabled clients. You will encounter some cobblestones along the way due to the hilly and old nature of the city, there are numerous steep streets that can be challenging without your guide’s expert help.

The Royal Mile streets are covered in cobblestones while the sidewalks are smooth and paved. The castle contains numerous historical buildings and museums. Getting between them requires going up and down steep streets covered in cobblestones. Your private guide, who is experienced in touring with disabled clients, will assist you with navigating the area. You will also visit the Palace of Holyrood, which is almost completely accessible. Mobility scooters can be used in the Palace grounds but not inside the buildings. Manual wheelchairs are available to borrow free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis and there is a lift inside the building. It measures 108cm in depth by 107cm in width. 

Highlights of Edinburgh Private Accessible Driving Tour

This 4 hour Edinburgh accessible driving tour is a great way to experience the highlights of the city without having to walk/stroll longer distances between the attractions. While it is an accessible driving tour, there will still be plenty of opportunities for you to get out of your accessible van and experience the Scottish capital firsthand. 

Onboard your accessible van you won’t have to navigate the hilly terrain of Edinburgh on the Highlights of Edinburgh Accessible Driving Tour. You may encounter a few hills and cobblestones when you get out to experience the sites during your photo stops. Your expert guide will lead you through wheelchair accessible paths to avoid curbs and other accessibility challenges.

This accessible driving tour will take place in a comfortable accessible van with a wheelchair lift and ample space to fit your group and your mobility equipment. 

For Edinburgh Accessible Excursions please click here.



1 thought on “Disabled Cruisers Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland”

  1. Interesting post. I’m glad there are ways for disabled travelers to visit these places, it seems like people are thinking of this more often as time goes on. Thank goodness.
    I’ve not yet made it to Scotland, but hope to.


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