28 February 2020
Castles and battlefields might not always seem the most obviously accessible historic attractions, but many provide a surprisingly enjoyable experience, as this top five pick demonstrates.
Did you know that historic attractions are often considered to be more accessible that pubs and bars? That was the view of disabled people who took part in the annual access survey run by disabled access charity Euan’s Guide.
Following this revelation, Euan’s Guide has highlighted five castles and battlefields across Scotland which are surprisingly accessible.
1 Culloden Battlefield, near Inverness
Named as the Northern Scotland Venue of the Year by Euan’s Guide, Culloden Battlefield should be high on your list of places to visit if you’ve not already been.
The battle of Culloden brought an end to the Jacobite rising in 1746 and history of the time period is brought to life as you explore the battlefield and modern visitor centre near Inverness.
The attraction offers wheelchair accessible paths and an impressive accessible rooftop walkway. Wheelchairs and powered scooters can be borrowed free of charge to tour the battlefield and browse the centre. Culloden Battlefield also offers audio guides or large print text for those with visual impairments.
One reviewer commented how “Culloden is one of those places where you can easily choose how much you want to do or get involved as it has plenty of open space to rest a while and reflect.”
2 The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre, Stirling
Another site honouring an important battle is the attraction built to commemorate the Battle of Bannockburn, when Robert the Bruce was victorious in defeating an English army in 1314.
The visitor centre has been designed to be step-free and makes prominent use of 3D and immersive technology to explain the tactics and weapons used in the famous battle. This modern approach appeals to a wide range of audiences and makes the information easier to digest. Visitors get the chance to rewrite history as they take part in the interactive battle game before exploring the outdoor commemorative rotunda and admiring the iconic statue of Robert the Bruce.
Entry to the 3D experience is paid for and allocated in time slots. The atmospheric experience is dark and loud, which may not be suitable for those who would find this kind of environment uncomfortable. Visitors are welcome to explore the Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre’s outdoor grounds and access the café and gift shop for free. Access to the rotunda is via a lengthy sloped path which some manual wheelchair users may prefer assistance with.
Reviews left on Euan’s Guide comment on how “the staff were very helpful and welcoming”, they also noted that “there was lots of disabled parking” and felt that it “was all very accessible.”
3 Stirling Castle
Just a few miles from Bannockburn you’ll find this popular castle, which is home to one of the best-preserved Renaissance buildings in the UK, the Royal Palace. Make sure you leave plenty of time to visit this attraction steeped in history as there are lots of things to see and do.
It might be worth arriving early or looking at transport options as accessible parking bays here fill up quickly. The grounds are heavily cobbled but a mobility vehicle can be requested in advance to reduce the amount of cobbles you’ll need to negotiate. The castle has a dedicated Access Gallery in the Palace Vaults where people can discover parts of the castle that can be hard to access.
You can choose to take part in their daily free guided tour, which can be adapted to suit the group. Occasionally they also offer a BSL tour around the castle, and at times you will find costumed actors performing in and around the castle. Visitor audio guides, guidebooks and braille guidebooks are also available.
One reviewer was “pleasantly surprised at the wheelchair accessibility in and around the castle.” Although there are some areas which aren’t accessible to wheelchair users, they said that “most of the rooms were accessible with either level access or wooden ramps.”
4 Urquhart Castle, Highlands
The picturesque and alluring Scottish ruin perched on the western banks of Loch Ness is made accessible thanks to its modern visitor centre and friendly stewards. On arrival you walk through a turret-shaped entrance, pick up your tickets and take the lift or the stairs down to the main visitor centre.
From there, stewards will be on hand to point you in the direction of the accessible toilets, café and shop. They will also direct you to the audio-visual theatre – the best way to start your visit!
On leaving the visitor centre there is around a 300-metre sloping path down to the ruin, it is fairly steep but you can take it slowly and enjoy the scenery. The centre also has mobility scooters available to borrow.
The ruin itself can be admired from the grassland or one of many viewpoints. There is a visualisation book which is offered to mobility impaired guests and features detailed drawings and pictures to give you a clearer sense of how the castle once appeared. Visitors can choose to climb the steps to reach the Grand Tower to discover the best-preserved part of the castle.
Urquhart Castle received a glowing review from someone who said that the staff “were among the most attentive and understanding that we have ever met in our years of exploring.” They added that “the attention to detail and the consideration in making the visit a great experience for us was exceptional!”
5 Edinburgh Castle
The iconic Edinburgh Castle is home to Scotland’s Honours and the Stone of Destiny, and in August it also hosts the famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Although the castle grounds can be steep in places with lots of cobbled sections, the majority of buildings are accessible for wheelchair users. The Crown Jewels can be reached by steps or a lift, and there are tactile replicas of the Crown Jewels and information available in Braille for individuals with visual impairment.
Audio guides, large print and braille guidebooks are available. A mobility vehicle can take visitors from the esplanade to Crown Square, however, this service is restricted in the peak summer months.
As the most popular paid for attraction in Scotland, accessible parking spaces are limited. There are no local buses that stop at the castle, which is located at the top of Castle Rock. There are lots of places to stop and rest as you make your way up the hill or a taxi will be able to drop you off close to the entrance.
Overall, Edinburgh Castle has received great recommendations from Euan’s Guide reviewers with one reviewer calling it “an amazing visitor experience with superb access considering it is an ancient fortress dating back to the 12th century.”
We all navigate the world in different ways, having access to good quality disabled access information gives everyone the freedom to explore. Euan’s Guide is the charity making it easier for disabled people to find great places to go.
EuansGuide.com is the disabled access review website is where disabled people, their family, friends and carers can find and share reviews on the accessibility of places around the UK and beyond. It’s an invaluable tool for everything from planning somewhere to take the kids at the weekend to picking a last minute place for lunch.
Find more ideas of historic places to visit by looking at Euan’s Guide’s Castles and Battlefields Guide for Disabled Visitors. Visit EuansGuide.com to find disabled access information for places you’d like to visit and share your recommendations on the website. Follow @EuansGuide on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.