Tips for Seeing the Islands and Highlands in a Wheelchair
In July and August of 2009, I traveled through Scotland with friends, one of whom has a spinal cord injury that caused incomplete quadriplegia. These are some of the resources we found useful. In discussing accessibility, I am not taking bathroom facilities into account, as special accommodations were unnecessary in my friend’s situation. We were most concerned with having a spacious room that could be reached by built-in ramp or with the aid of a portable sidewalk ramp, and doorways and hallways that were easy to navigate. When making your own reservations, let the establishment know your specific needs. I hope our experiences might help others plan their own adventure through Scotland.
Accommodations — Continued
Stonefield Castle Hotel, Tarbert. This was an emergency lodging. We were booked for the night in our B&B on Jura. However, the wayward UPS package made it to Edinburgh on the day we were departing, and we had to wait for it. The delay caused us to miss our ferry.
The furious drive across Scotland made for a very difficult, tiring day which was shaping up to be an even worse night, as we had no place to sleep. Dale suggested we sleep in the van in the Caledonian MacBrayne parking lot. Sara Jean and I weren’t too keen on that idea, but it was difficult to find a wheelchair-accessible B&B in the pretty village of Tarbert. The always-prepared Eagle Scout was not to be deterred — Dale found us a castle. A rather pricey castle, which we could enjoy for only about ten hours before our departure. Would it be worth it?
Van … castle. Van … castle.
Hmmm…. Tough decision.
We dragged into Stonefield Castle too late to appreciate the beauty of the place, but we were able to get a bite to eat in the bar and to sleep in a real bed. We had another rush to the ferry in the morning, but we did have a nice breakfast before we left. It was a beautiful hotel in a gorgeous location. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you can stay long enough to enjoy the atmosphere.
Glenora B&B, Isle of Jura. The Isle of Jura may not be on the top of your list of places to visit, but it should be. This beautiful Hebridean island is home to the Isle of Jura Distillery (said by experts to be the best Scotch in the world – among the experts, Sara Jean), 185 human residents, and thousands of red deer. George Orwell retreated to Jura to write 1984, and other writers and artists have followed his example. Jura continues its literary tradition with an annual writer’s retreat. Jura is also a great place for camping, hiking, angling, and sailing.
Glenora was a lovely B&B run by Mr. and Mrs. Logan. The accommodations were clean and comfortable, and breakfast was good. The Logans were extremely nice and helpful. They also keep a few pet sheep in the yard – that earns points from me. And Mrs. Logan is a fan of Karen Rose – double points! If I ever make it back to Jura, I would love to stay at Glenora.
Navigating the Western Isles — There are no bridges to Jura – or any of the other Hebridean islands with the exception of Skye. However, the Caledonian-MacBrayne ferries are accessible, extremely comfortable, and well-run by crews of hunky if camera-shy Scots. You should make ferry reservations in advance and let them know your needs so that they can accommodate you. If you plan to tour the Hebrides, your life will be governed by the Cal-Mac timetables. Know them, love them, be there on time. Otherwise, you might find yourself sleeping in a parking lot — or maybe a castle.