Scotland, United Kingdom
101 people found this review helpful
For our 30th wedding anniversary, our children bought us a trip to Edinburgh to see the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, something that my husband has always wanted to see first hand. My husband is 65 years old and uses a wheelchair or mobility scooter to get around due to severe arthritis. The tickets purchased were for one person in a wheelchair and one helper (me). We decided to make the trip really special and purchase First Class rail tickets. We are not used to travelling by public transport, as mostly we drive, and we rarely take the wheelchair, so we had not arranged any help from railway staff ahead of our travel. We were travelling from Feltham, Middlesex, to Kings Cross, then on to Edinburgh. Upon arrival at Feltham a member of staff noticed the wheelchair, and immediately called for a porter to get the ramp to enable the wheelchair to be pushed on to the train. Unfortunately my husband’s wheelchair was a little too wide for the ramps, so he had to step up onto the train with the aid of his stick, whilst I folded the wheelchair and lifted it onto the train along with our suitcase. We were due to change at Vauxhall in order to get on the correct line to Kings Cross, but decided that it would be better for us to continue to Waterloo, then get a taxi to Kings Cross, and we did this without any trouble. At Kings Cross we discovered a First Class Lounge which was fully wheelchair accessible and very comfortable, with drinks, snacks and newspapers available free of charge. There was a departure board so that we could keep an eye on the progress of our train, and a television with rolling news. Once the train arrived and was ready to board, we made our way to the platform and once again a member of staff offered to help with the wheelchair, but we decided that my husband could manage to walk onto the train, and we asked for the wheelchair to be stored in the guard’s van. By now I was a dab hand at dismantling and folding the wheelchair! I have to say, first class train travel is very good, with food and drink available free of charge, including alcoholic drinks if required (and it was)! We had a very comfortable journey, arriving at Edinburgh Waverley station some 4.5 hours later feeling refreshed. When it came to collecting the wheelchair, however, we found this to be a bit of a challenge. As my husband cannot stand for long periods, he had to stay seated on the train whilst I went to collect it. Everyone’s bags came off first, and there was a mad rush of people trying to get their luggage. Eventually I spied the wheelchair in the carriage and implored the porter to lift it off so that my husband could alight from the train. Once off the train we made our way to the disabled exit and found a taxi to take us to our hotel, The Best Western Braid Hills Hotel, in Morningside. Once again, as proof that we are not used to travelling with the wheelchair, our hotel had been booked through a third party booking agent, and no account was taken of disabled access. Consequently our room was on the second floor of a lovely hotel with no lift. This presented a challenge in as much as my husband had to walk, albeit slowly, up and down the stairs each time we went out or came back. To be fair, most hotels were fully booked as the Edinburgh Festival was on, so we were lucky to get any booking! There are two things you very soon realise when pushing a heavy man in a large manual wheelchair in Edinburgh: it’s very hilly and very cobbled! The fact that I had recently had wrist surgery (the week before) and was still recovering made this all the more difficult, and I am just very glad that we both have a sense of humour and were able to see the funny side of this adventure. Then it rained. We had remembered to bring an umbrella, but it is impossible to push a wheelchair, carry a handbag, and hold up an umbrella all at the same time. My husband tried to hold the umbrella but found it too hard to lift his arm aloft high enough to cover me with the umbrella, so that was a non-starter. There was nothing else for it, raincoats had to be purchased. We found some lovely pubs and restaurants in Edinburgh, most of which were wheelchair friendly. We ate the obligatory Haggis, Neaps and Tatties, washed down with beer or in my case cider. On the Saturday evening before the Tattoo, we were able to catch a comedy show from The Fringe, and once again had a ticket for one person in a wheelchair plus carer (I could get used to getting in free everywhere)! The show was held at the Assembly Rooms, where the disabled access is excellent, and the staff were very attentive and helpful. After a very funny show, we made our way with some difficulty and a short taxi ride up to the castle, to find that the hill up to the entrance was closed to traffic. We both knew that it would be impossible for me to push my husband in the wheelchair up that hill, and we were considering what to do when one of the guides led us towards a friendly looking policeman who just took over and pushed the wheelchair all the way up the hill and into the castle, leaving me to just walk along beside them. It was great! We saw a fantastic show, and when we were ready to leave, once again a policeman took my husband in the wheelchair all the way down the hill again to a place where it was flatter and I was able to take over the pushing once more. We could not have asked for more from the boys in blue! Trying to find a space in one of the restaurants after 9pm during Festival is a very hard thing! Most places don’t take reservations during this season. We moved off the beaten track and happened upon a tiny family-run Bistro called Pasta Fresca down a side street where we had a great meal and a bottle of wine for a really good price. They were very friendly and attentive and we had a fantastic experience. The journey home was fairly uneventful save to say that at weekends (we travelled up on Friday and back on Sunday) alcohol is not freely available on the train in first class. There was a buffet car though so all was well. Coffee, tea and sandwiches were free. Whilst we had a great time in Edinburgh, we have learned a lot about travelling by public transport, and if we do it again, we will definitely go first class, but we will hire motorised mobility scooters whenever we can and avoid the need for a manual wheelchair.
101 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.