Edinburgh is a beautiful, historic city where there’s always something going on, and it’s host to some of the world’s most exciting festivals. For disabled visitors its unusual layout and many cobbled streets can create barriers, but there are still ways to get around and enjoy a great deal of what it has to offer. You certainly won’t need to worry about running out of things to do.
Getting Around in Edinburgh
The main way people get around in Edinburgh is by bus. Buses have a fixed fare no matter how far you are going and there is a map with advice on every major bus stop, making routes easy to understand. Unfortunately they are often crowded so you may have difficulty getting a seat, and drivers don’t always wait until vulnerable passengers are seated. Not all buses are wheelchair accessible but the tram service currently being developed will be.
Taxis in Edinburgh offer discounts for disabled residents and although this is not strictly available to tourists many drivers will discount your fare anyway if they can see that you have difficulties. Because the centre of the city is quite compact, using taxis to get around can be practical, even though full prices are higher than in some cities.
Waverley station is wheelchair accessible and will give you almost direct access to Princes Street. Going up Cockburn Street is the easiest route from the station area to the famous Royal Mile, but you should be aware that much of the Mile itself is cobbled. These routes will give you access to most of the city’s most famous attractions.
Places to Stay
Edinburgh has many beautiful hotels, but a lot of them, especially near the centre, are in listed buildings and don’t offer good disability access. Others are accessed via steps or steep streets which can make them difficult to get in and out of.
Whilst hotels further out tend to have better access, staying in such a place may make it harder for you to come and go and get breaks during the day. A better bet is to stay in one of the big hotels to the north of Princes Street or on the streets at the bottom end of the Royal Mile.
If you like big, fashionable chain stores and high end fashion boutiques, you’re in luck. Edinburgh has lots of these and they are mostly off Princes Street, which is level and flat with benches on its garden side where you can rest as required. These shops almost all have lifts and are easy to get around, though they can get very crowded on Saturdays and during festivals.
If you’re looking for souvenirs or tartans, the place to go is the Royal Mile. Unfortunately many of these shops are in old buildings with narrow entrances and they tend to be very cluttered. The good news is that staff members are often outside looking for business are are generally happy to bring out items to show you where there is more room.
Places to See
Most visitors to Edinburgh are keen to see the castle at the top of the royal mile, which is a fascinating historic building and provides stunning views across the city. This has a level front courtyard which is free to access and easy to move around in. Access to other areas is restricted to tours and may be difficult for wheelchair users, though staff do their best to help.
Edinburgh has several famous museums and galleries. Most of these can be accessed via level, cobble-free central streets, and they’re relatively easy to get around. You can also visit the beautiful Princes Street Gardens, a great place to relax and enjoy a picnic.
The Edinburgh Festival is always exciting, with a huge number of events happening all around the city. Most of Edinburgh’s larger theatres are fully accessible; some smaller ones are not, but if this is a problem or money is tight, bear in mind that you can watch good theatre productions and comedy in the streets for free. There are also lots of interesting stalls to explore. The problem is that the streets get very crowded, so it’s inadvisable to walk alone if you have difficulties.
Edinburgh also has an international film festival each June. All but one screen in one of its venues are fully wheelchair accessible, but you should be aware that it can take a while to get between venues. The city’s other big event is its Hogmanay (new year) celebration. This is accessible but can be difficult to get in and out of, so you may need to take your own seating. Lots of stewards are available in case you need assistance, and you’re bound to have fun.