For most people the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Scotland is whisky. Understandably since it’s a huge part of Scottish culture. Therefore a trip to Scotland’s capital city wouldn’t be complete without visiting The Scotch Whisky Experience.
The lovely people there invited myself, Allan and my Dad along to take part in one of their whisky tours and I’m now excited to share our great accessible day spent together at this five-star visitor attraction.
If you’ve read my other reviews of Edinburgh attractions then you’ll know that I’m a fan of taking the tram whenever I go into the city. It’s so easy and saves a lot of hassle finding a parking space. We always get the tram from Ingliston Park and Ride, which takes us straight into Princes Street.
We met my Dad at our tram stop and then we all headed up The Mound and Ramsay Lane. This is the second time in recent months that I’ve decided to go up this way and each time I regret it due to the steepness of the hill and cobbles. I even lost my favourite scarf while navigating its steepness, but didn’t realise until hours later when it was already long gone. Note to self: Don’t hang a scarf over the back of my wheelchair because it will get lost. Are you listening, Allan? RIP favourite scarf. On the bright side I ended up buying the scarf in the photo above and I love it. Next time I’ll take the slightly longer but easier route and go along by Bank Street and Lawnmarket.
As we reached the top of Ramsay Lane onto The Royal Mile, The Scotch Whisky Experience faced straight onto us. It’s easy to find, just head for Edinburgh Castle and you can’t miss it.
As we approached the building it’s difficult not to appreciate its appearance. I personally love the look of the building especially the mouldings and arches above the windows. I think its a really pretty piece of architecture.
The glass entrance has automatic doors and is completely step-free. Once inside you can either go straight into the gift shop on the right or continue down the entrance way to the reception/box office area. It was great to see a low counter desk area accessible for wheelchair users.
There was a queue for tickets, but a lovely staff member came across and asked if we already had tickets booked. As we were booked in for the 2pm tour and since we were a little early we were advised to take a seat. The seating area was located near the stairs/lift and was away from the crowds of people waiting.
There are various tours to choose from such as the Silver, Gold, Platinum and Taste of Scotland or the Morning Masterclass for a more in-depth tour. Tour prices range from £15 to £40 and last from 50 minutes to 90 minutes depending on which one you choose. We were booked in for The Silver Tour and had a lovely guide called Andrew, who was a ‘barrel’ of knowledge and made us feel very welcome.
Wheelchair Accessible Barrel Ride
The tour began with a fun and interesting Whisky barrel ride explaining the production of Scotch whisky. While my Dad got a barrel car to himself, Allan and I got a ride in the wheelchair accessible barrel car.
Getting into the wheelchair accessible barrel car was fairly easy, but did involve some professional reversing skills by yours truly (if I do say so myself). I recommend you take your time whilst reversing your wheelchair into the barrel as it’s quite dark and can be difficult to see what you’re doing properly, but there is an attendant there to help and operate the ramp. The attendant was very helpful and friendly.
The Silver Tour
After the barrel ride, we headed for the lift which took us upstairs where we met up with the rest of the tour group. From there we entered The Sense of Scotland Room for an introduction to the aromas in whisky. We were all given a ‘scratch and sniff’ card with a map showing five locations within the UK. Each location was indicated by colour and represented a different aroma.
There is a large screen that wraps around the room (think of a cinema screen but cooler) which displayed the interactive film. The room was spacious and had several wooden benches for sitting. I was able to position my wheelchair at the end of the front row beside Allan and my Dad. Throughout the film, our tour guide was explaining all about the aromas in whisky and we got to scratch and sniff the cards for each aroma and whisky he was describing. This was fun and made the experience come alive allowing us to decide which aroma we preferred before moving onto the next part of the tour.
We then made our way through to The Blender’s Sample Room, which reminded me of a bar due to the narrow benches and stools. Our lovely tour guide allowed me to go through first so I could sit at the front and get myself positioned comfortably at the bar top. The bar top is the height of a standard table so it is accessible for wheelchair users.
There were glass cabinets in the middle of the room displaying cool holograms and 3D images. We all received a crystal whisky tasting glass (which you get to take home) topped up with the whisky of our choice. Since Allan and I don’t drink we were given “Scotland’s other national drink” Irn Bru, which is our favourite. My Dad chose Lagavulin from the island of Islay. He described it as peaty and dry, but pleasant going down.
Next up was the ‘World’s largest private whisky collection’ and what a collection it is. You can’t help but be impressed by this incredible collection by Claive Vidiz from Brazil which was collected over a period of 35 years. It was later purchased from Diageo and brought back home to Scotland in 2009. Whether you like whisky or not, you’ll be stunned by the sight of the 3,000 plus bottles of whisky on display behind the large floor to ceiling glass cabinets.
Once we had admired the extensive collection of whisky and found out more about the whiskies, we then entered The McIntyre Gallery Bar and this is where the Silver tour ends. There are plenty of seats to relax with a wee dram or two or three. We waited here for a short time and then headed for the lift so we could find the toilet.
The toilets are located on the bottom level which is accessible by stairs and lifts. The first thing I noticed about the accessible toilet was how clean it was. This was an instant thumbs up from me.
The toilet had a fold-down grab bar on the right-side and the toilet roll holder was within easy reach. I loved the large roll-under sink as all too often accessible toilets have tiny sinks, but this one was a good size and height. The only downside was the space within the bathroom. Once the door is closed it can be difficult to move your wheelchair around, especially if you have someone in helping you. However, I was delighted with the positive response from the manager when I gave my thoughts on this and they are keen to look into his more.
Amber Restaurant & Whisky Bar
The Amber restaurant is also located on the bottom level and looks lovely. We plan on going for lunch or dinner the next time we are in the area.
The a la carte menu is seasonal and offers a great range of delicious food. If you fancy trying something a little different then there is also a seasonal ‘Taste of Scotland’ food experience. This could be a great gift for food-lovers.
The gift shop was our last stop before leaving The Scotch Whisky Experience. There was space for my powered wheelchair to move around between the displays so I wasn’t worried about knocking into anything (not like that would happen with my excellent driving skills).
The tartan carpet gave a true Scottish feel throughout the shop and it was easy to roll across too. I spotted a low counter at the till making it easy for wheelchair users when paying for their goodies.
The Scotch Whisky Experience is such a unique and fun way to learn all about Whisky. Not only is it unique and fun, it’s also completely wheelchair accessible. You don’t have to be a whisky fan to enjoy this tour and I’m sure you’ll have a good time whether you sample the whisky or opt for an Irn Bru. You’ll be stunned at the sight of the largest whisky collection in the world. I was also impressed by the level of accessibility throughout the building as well as the fantastic attitudes and disability awareness from the staff. I highly recommend a visit to The Scotch Whisky Experience on the famous Royal Mile during your time in Edinburgh.
*Thanks to The Scotch Whisky Experience for inviting us along, all opinions expressed in this honest review are my own.