Accessible adventures in Scotland
Our first overnight stop was in Wark, Northumberland at the Battlesteads Inn. Actually, our very first stop was at Witton-le-Wear, County Durham,
to take a photo of the church in which my great-great-grandmother got married in 1859, then a brief loo stop at the Wentworth leisure centre (very civilised!)
Battlesteads is officially a hotel and restaurant although it’s in effect a pub with rooms and very good it is too, being accessible, eco-aware and dog-friendly. We had a ground floor room with an adapted bathroom ie it had shower seat and grabrails and the room, although pretty compact had a couple of chairs. There were very nice biscuits and a bowl of fruit and they made it clear they were happy to provide fresh milk – I can’t imagine wanting a cuppa made with ‘plastic’ UHT milk!
The whole of the ground floor was accessible – a couple of tight turns but nothing my scooter couldn’t handle. The décor was traditional pub style but with lots of great railway posters on the walls, advertising local attractions.
Dinner was tasty, not gourmet but not stuff we’d cook at home, so fine by me! Breakfast was good too, we had smoked salmon and scrambled eggs but they did the full English and various other cooked options plus some ‘continental’ choices – ham and cheese, some fruit but not a great deal else. It was served in the conservatory, which was pleasant and would normally have a view of the garden but this was mainly taken up with gazebos for their forthcoming beer festival.
The staff were mainly Eastern European and were very pleasant and efficient. When we checked out it seemed to be the owners we were dealing with – they were local anyway and very jolly and friendly too.
The next day we headed through gorgeous, rolling scenery and made our way to Peebles and Cringletie House with a brief stop at Galashiels’ Tesco for a newspaper and also via a short detour to see the famous gates of Traquair House which were closed after a visit by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 to only be reopened when there is a Stuart on the throne!
Cringletie House is a baronial castle which you would not expect to be
accessible but it is! Getting to the ground floor involved a platform lift, other than that, it was all level or you used the normal lift to get to the first floor restaurant. For more details on this, see my review or look on Euan’s Guide.
The restaurant has fabulous views and the food was pretty good too – we had a late lunch then dinner later and both were good without being fabulous. The dinner included various ‘amuse-bouches’ which were actually better than the starter, but what with the jolly staff, the great view and a nice glass of wine, the whole experience was excellent!
Breakfast again was ‘good in parts’ – I ordered scrambled egg and while what I had was perfectly nice, it was much more akin to an omelette. Pete’s full breakfast was suitably filling!
The room, Traquair, a junior suite, was spacious and pleasant and we had fun playing with the ‘rise and recline’ chairs! The bathroom was spacious with a walk-in shower, grabrails etc and lovely toiletries. There seems to be a trend away from little bottles of toiletries – all the places we stayed had large bottles of very good shower gel etc that you use but leave in place – much greener than all those small plastic bottles.
The grounds look lovely – it was a bit chilly to explore but they looked good from inside!
Next day we headed for Oban to stock up before heading for our base for the next week at Benderloch. I’d already checked out that Oban had a supermarket, (with accessible loo – top marks, Tesco for your very good loos!) so we did our shop and made our way to Benderloch. We’d checked on
Streetview how to get to the place we were staying, so found the lane we needed to follow off the main road without too much hassle and there were the two wooden lodges, Port Selma Lodges, created by Jan and Willie Orr a
few years ago to accommodate both disabled and non-disabled guests in some style! They look good on the website but even better in reality – really high quality and in beautiful condition. Willie and Jan had heard the car so came to meet us – just as well as we had no ‘phone signal! – and showed us in. They told us everything we
needed to know and answered our questions about accessible things to do and made it clear they were there to help if we needed anything. There was a ‘welcome pack’ of a bottle of wine, cheese and oatcakes, local fudge, chocolates, milk in the fridge and tea and coffee supplies as well as fresh flowers!
The weather was rather drizzly at the start of the week – we looked at it as a good excuse to chill out and have a break from driving. On the Monday we ventured out to check out the local stretch of the Oban to Fort William cycle
track and as if by magic, the sun came out just as we got out of the car! From the carpark you could go in two directions for a fairly short distance before the (beautifully smooth!) track joined the road so we pootled along admiring the wild flowers then came to a viewing point with a great view of the sea. We back tracked and came upon an information board near the carpark explaining how the track was part of a disused railway line. You could follow it for miles but in places it is right next to the road or actually joins the road so we left that to the many cyclists who were following it – some complete with back packs, camping gear, the works!
We didn’t do a great deal during the week – drove around and took in the lovely scenery mainly, including the view of Castle Stalker – even in the
drizzle, it’s one of the most fabulous settings imaginable for a castle (it was used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, apparently!) and visited Dunstaffnage Castle (the sun obligingly came out again as we arrived!) which has a terrific setting by the harbour and we also did a gorgeous drive along the side of Loch Etive. Our return from that was blocked by some stubborn cows until a lorry driver who came along advised driving at them rapidly! We let him do that and we followed him through – it worked! We got a chance to try out the lodge’s verandah one splendidly sunny afternoon and watched the swallows flying in and out to their nests above the French windows.
The week went all too fast then it was time to move on to the next adventure. We decided to take a different route to our next destination and went via Loch Lomond. The drive there via Inveraray and Loch Fyne was through absolutely beautiful scenery. Once we were at Loch Lomond, this being a sunny Saturday, you could see how it is a popular daytrip from Glasgow – the traffic going the opposite way to us was really heavy! Next it was motorways to get us around Glasgow, then we found our way to New Lanark, home of New Lanark Mill Hotel, mainly associated with Robert Owen, an enlightened factory owner in the style of Titus Salt or the Rowntrees, which is now a World Heritage Site, with a visitor centre and hotel.
There was a wedding going on when we arrived and it was sunny which
added to the atmosphere – I can imagine in rainy weather it might look a little bleak to some, but generally the effect was charming. Who could resist somewhere with an ‘Institute for the formation of character’? After checking in someone came to our room to explain the emergency evacuation procedure which was an interesting touch – never experienced that before in a hotel.
After having some lunch, we explored the site with its great views of the Falls of Clyde and later had dinner in the restaurant which has quite an imaginative menu and was jolly good.
It was really interesting how elements of the mill buildings are incorporated into the hotel and restaurant. The rooms are actually a bit bland, but the bathroom had a solid iron post, part of the original fabric, and there were iron braces in the vaulted ceiling, plus there are gorgeous photos everywhere of the mill at all times of year. It’s all easily accessible, and again, the staff were all very good about accommodating you – no fuss made, for example, when we preferred to sit at a different table to the one they directed us to a breakfast, which, as I’ve said before, is just how it should be. Here’s my full review and my Euan’s Guide review.
From there we headed back to York and were surprised it only took four hours!
Our accessible Austrian adventure …
… actually started in Germany as we flew into Munich airport. We were with BA and they looked after us well. Although at Munich airport they don’t bring your scooter/chair etc back to the aircraft door, they had a wheelchair at the ready and were very good at looking after me while we collected our baggage and my scooter was returned to us in the baggage reclaim area (it hadn’t been put on the conveyor belt: I think that would have destroyed it!). We then picked up our hire car and
after a slight contretemps with getting out of the carpark set off for Kufstein in Austria following directions we’d printed from the AA which worked well.
The hotel in Kufstein was a little unprepossessing on the outside but very nice inside and the staff were lovely. Most of the hotel was accessible and the room was specially adapted. For a full review of the hotel, click here. After two nights’ relaxation we set off for the Achensee, a beautiful lake 3000 feet up in the mountains.
We were staying at Maurach, in an apartment. It had fabulous views and although it was quite basic, it was perfectly comfortable and very clean and in excellent condition. There was a supermarket with bakery in Maurach (MPreiss) and also a bakery delivered bread to the house every day – you put your order and the money in a bag and hung it on the outside light at the front of the house and fresh bread and croissants would be delivered first thing in the morning! We spent a lot of our time scooting / walking round the lake as there is a path most of the way, suitable for bikes, rollerskates, segues, buggies, you name it: wheel-users’ heaven! It was smoothest near Pertisau, but fine near Buchau and Scholastika on the other side of the lake too. Here’s a full review of the apartment.
If you have ever read the Chalet School books, those names will sound familiar as Achensee is Elinor M. Brent-Dyer’s Tiernsee and Pertisau is Briesau. For more details, see https://tiernsee.wordpress.com/ This was the reason we came to this particular place and also because it is gorgeous; the lovely, scootable lake-path was an added bonus! The boats which ply up and down the lake were perfectly accessible and give you fabulous views all around.
After our week here, we spent two days at the Brauereigasthoff Hotel in Aying, back in Germany which was a lovely place with pleasant staff and great food. See my review here for more details. Again, accessibility was pretty good although the room, which they called accessible, was not specially adapted.
What I really liked with the places we stayed was that even though scooters did not seem to be common (I don’t think we saw another one the whole time), the staff did not bat an eyelid when they saw it but simply took it in their stride and were really helpful. This of course is how it should be but it is still refreshing when it happens.
It was an easy drive back to the airport. Handing back the hire car was chaotic but easy and we had no problems with accessing the plane, I was able to stay on the scooter to the aircraft door, although both here and on the way out, staff don’t seem quite to know how to deal with the scooter and ask all sorts of questions about size, weight, battery type etc which I had already registered when I booked the flight. This made me worried the first time we flew with the scooter, as I thought they might refuse it but of course they don’t, it is simply a question of does it go on board or in the hold, do they disconnect the battery or leave it in, bring it to the aircraft door or convey you to baggage reclaim. A member of the BA staff explained they have a ‘duty of care’ to look after you so you wouldn’t ever be left anywhere with no transport.
At Heathrow they took me by wheelchair and one of those electric mini-train things to the reclaim area where we were reunited with my scooter. After that the plan was to retrieve our car and drive off to a pub where we had booked a room and dinner. We made the mistake of getting a black cab from the airport – a bad move in two ways, one because the minimum fare is a rather steep £35, the other because black cabs are really difficult to get in and out of easily if you are not very mobile. We used to have the number of a local mini-cab firm and used them – must remember to do so in future!
Unfortunately, our car made very peculiar noises when we started to drive off, so we ended up staying at the Hilton Heathrow T5 where we had left the car, having stayed there the night before we flew. For details of the palaver that involved, see my review here. This time we had a better experience; I bet they don’t often get people requesting a particular room number! We also ate at Mr Todiwalah’s Kitchen which was fabulous: great food and staff. The pub I had chosen in High Wycombe had looked great and they had assured me it was accessible, however, before we went, I saw on their website that they were closed for a refurb, only opening shortly before our projected visit, so I e-mailed them to check we would be OK to stay and got no reply and only an answerphone when I rang to cancel, so who know? Maybe if we had turned up there we would have found we couldn’t have stayed after all. Perhaps the car issue, which was resolved by the AA that evening confirming the issue and the ATS place over the road fixing it the next morning, was actually a blessing in disguise!