Andrea Reaves and her husband pose in front of the famous Greyfriars Bobby statue.
Andrea Reaves, a disability advocate in her home state of Arkansas and the mother of a 2-year-old, is the wife of a native Scotsman. She is also a C6-7 quadriplegic due to a car accident as a teenager. Last year she traveled to Scotland with her family using a rigid frame manual chair.
“I wanted to go and see for myself all the things my husband has told me about from his childhood,” Reaves says. “And after having my daughter, I wanted her to meet her family.”
Reaves flew into Glasgow and stayed at the wheelchair-friendly Glasgow Holiday Inn. Only 47 miles east in the capital city of Edinburgh is the most visited tourist destination in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle. “I was amazed at how much they try to accommodate people with disabilities. I thought the wheelchair accessibility was wonderful,” Reaves says. “Many areas throughout the castle were accessible. Considering we spent eight hours there, I was perfectly fine with the few areas that were not accessible.”
Paul Ralph agrees with Reaves. Ralph is the founder of the United Kingdom’s Disabled Access Day and an affiliate of Euan’s Guide, the fabulous tourist review website for people with disabilities. He is also a native Scotsman who resides in Edinburgh and uses a power chair for mobility. “Edinburgh castle is a really good attraction to visit,” says Ralph, “particularly as it has an excellent mobility vehicle that will take you personally around the site, as and when you need it.”
When Reaves arrived at Edinburgh Castle, staff took her via the accessible van from the parking area to the top of the volcano where the 384,000 square foot castle is sited. She toured gardens, trails and grounds around the castle. Nine sites on the grounds are wheelchair-friendly, including the Crown Room, St. Margaret’s Chapel and the Museum of the Royal Scots.
Located opposite of Edinburgh Castle along the Royal Mile is Holyrood Palace, the main residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century. “Holyrood Palace really goes the extra mile,” says Ralph, “little things like being invited to use the Queen’s private lift to access the upper floors, and discovering with the help of friendly staff that there was a different route leading out of the Abbey that gave ramp access into the building.”
Of the hundreds of castles throughout Scotland, Cawdor Castle, made famous as the setting of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, was also a must-see for Reaves. It is located in the beautiful Scottish Highlands near Inverness.
“I wanted to go there basically because of its history,” says Reaves. “It’s quite accessible … the gardens are full of beautiful flower beds, there’s nature trails. Those areas are all easily wheelchair accessible. There are many areas within the castle that are.”
Near Inverness, Reaves made sure to visit Clava Cairns, an ancient Bronze Age burial grounds. She needed some help to navigate around tree stumps and across grass, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. “My favorite, favorite TV series is Outlander,” Reaves explains. “I wanted to go to where it was filmed and to some of the sites, like Clava Cairns, where the character Claire touches one of the stones.”
In the TV series, Claire is mysteriously transported from the 1940s to the 1700s by touching a stone at Clava Cairns. “I’m not sure if I touched the exact stone as Claire did, but at least I got to go and touch them.”
Kindness and warm hospitality is a theme that runs through stories from those who have traveled Scotland.
Barry Long, an inspirational speaker and president of Talk and Roll Enterprises, traveled the United Kingdom for five months in 1995. Long, a T5 paraplegic from a motorcycle accident, backpacked in his manual wheelchair re-fitted with common, easy-to-replace bike tires.