Edinburgh on Wheels!
We had decided that a weekend away in Edinburgh would be good for us all to do (Pete, me and the offspring) so I booked the hotel and we started looking forward to it. It was many years since I’d been and what I remembered were the wide streets, the old buildings and the Royal Mile.
Then I started to think some more … wasn’t Edinburgh the hilliest city we could have arranged to stay in … were we completely mad?! I decided that if I was going to make the trip then going with three healthy and helpful members of the family was the way to do it.
I really made the most of my support team: Calton Hill – no problem! The Royal Mile – no problem! Miles of Edinburgh streets – no problem! (Okay, total exhaustion by the end but totally worth it!)
There are a few steps at the start of Calton Hill which I successfully negotiated and the upward slope thereafter was well within the capabilities of my pusher – and it was only just off the main thoroughfare. There were great views at the top, as well as a cluster of great monuments, and the slight rain showers didn’t dampen our spirits.
The younger members of the party clambered around the National Monument which is pretty impressive up close. And all of us, as enthusiastic Proclaimers fans, just had to recreate their iconic album cover for ‘Sunshine on Leith’, looking moodily over to the coast towards Leith. Totally embarrassing but quite hilarious at the time!
We spent a sunny Saturday morning conquering the Royal Mile on our mission to get to the castle – a distinct effort was required by the team to get me there. Once we arrived at the castle entrance, wondering how we’d manage the next steep cobbled path inside, I was approached by a steward who said that I could be taken by car into the castle right to the top. Excellent!
I waited with a 92-year old woman who had walked to there under her own steam(!). We were taken by car round the side of the castle, through a tunnel which was bored through the ancient rock in the 1980s, and emerged at the sunny summit, with no effort required!
We generally mooched around enjoying the amazing views over the city, admired the huge gun, Mons Meg, and watched the ever growing crowds making their way into the castle.
My driver(!) had said that there was disabled access to see the Crown Jewels. I thought that this possibility ought to be investigated. We approached the entrance to the exhibition but all I could see were a narrow turret, steep stairway and long queue … not promising.
However, our daughter was not to be deterred. She went in search of a steward and came back (Miss Fixer that she is) with information and assistance. There was a secret entrance – we were taken via a lift right into the depths of the castle and emerged near the front of the queue. A very friendly but firm steward in the Jewel Room ensured that I had a great view of the displays. After we had finished, the whole queue was halted to enable me to exit via the lift. This must be how celebrities feel!
Although the collection is modest, the jewels are beautiful and an important part of Scottish history. The way through is narrow and the queue was long, and I would definitely recommend going on a quieter day than we did, especially if you can’t call on the VIP treatment.
In the afternoon the younger group headed energetically up Arthur’s Seat whilst we meandered at a slower pace down to Princes Street. There, I was able to lie on the grass and rest whilst listening to cheery jazz musicians. It was so good to lie down!
I was having a great time but was finding just watching the sheer number of people exhausting. I’m not used to being around crowds!
A friend had given me a recommendation to visit the Royal Botanic Garden and it was sounding ever more attractive as an antidote to the business of the morning. Fortunately, we could break up our journey by stopping off at our hotel en route as it was probably a 30-40 minute walk from the centre.
At every step we travelled north, the roads and footpaths grew emptier. We had wide Georgian streets flanked with parks to ourselves and before long we found ourselves in what felt like a village within a city, in Stocksbridge. There was bustle here, but of a much more relaxed Saturday kind.
We passed streets of cottages and followed a river. On we went, over cobbles (ouch!) and negotiating some unhelpfully high kerbstones, until we eventually arrived at the Botanic Garden.
It was wonderful, a real haven of calm so close to the city centre – definitely worth the journey. It was late afternoon when we arrived so it wasn’t too busy but there was so much space that I’m sure it would be difficult for it to actually look busy.
There were wide paths, lawns spotted with trees, hidden spaces behind hedges and well-tended bushes in full flower.
We’d been advised to visit the Queen Mother Memorial Garden. It was a circular garden, tucked away behind a 100-year-old hedge, and commemorated the Queen Mother’s long life, marking off the decades on flagstones with notable dates. All around the edge were little alcoves to sit in, hidden from everyone.
Elsewhere, there was an amazing conservatory, and next to it lay Britain’s largest plant fossil, of a tree that grew 320-340 million years ago.
Although the cafe was just shutting as we arrived, we were able to sit outside looking out towards the Edinburgh skyline. No hurry, no rush. Perfect!
Just a note about accessibility – I would not have been able to get about as I did if it wasn’t for my energetic pushers. I wouldn’t recommend the city for self-propelled wheelchairs – the kerbs were a real challenge. I don’t recall seeing any other wheelchair users and definitely saw no mobility scooter. However, taxis would certainly be way of getting about and the castle did well considering its great age.