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Exploring Scotlands East Coastline in a Wheelchair

Simply Emma readers, Julie Ann and husband Mark are guest posting today by sharing their recent road trip along the Scottish East Coastline. They visited many beautiful locations while staying in a wheelchair accessible hotel and caravan along the way.


As horrible as it was when my husband Mark had a massive stroke back in 2014, 6 weeks into early retirement, it transported us into a world we had no knowledge of, and sadly as with most people who hadn’t experienced disability, a stark realisation of how difficult it can be to live in that world! It made us realise how lucky we were and it also brought us a whole load of new friends too!

I’ve spent the last 6 years trying to make Mark’s retirement as enjoyable as it would have been if he had not had the stroke, albeit different. We were avid travellers and as soon as it was possible we were back doing that with all the difficulties that brings to a disabled person.

Hours spent researching accessibility beforehand, I hadn’t realised how difficult that was but during all of this, I came across people like Emma, who are trailblazers for disabled travelling and has helped me so much.

Driving Scotlands Scenic East Coastline 

Of course, this year our trips to Marbella and a cruise to Belgium and France had to be cancelled, and when the area we live in was put into a more restricted lockdown and we couldn’t see family or friends, we decided to quickly find somewhere in Scotland (not too far from us) to get away for a week.

We had good weather, good accommodation and just the best views ever! Emma has asked me to share, so here goes:

Hawick

Our first stop was to break the journey so we stayed at Balcary House Hotel in Hawick. A beautiful old Country hotel, hidden away in the trees. Not normally the sort of place you find having disabled access.

Balcary House Hotel in HawickAlthough there were steps at the front, there was a back entrance with a slope and an annexe at the back with a spacious bedroom, a kitchenette and a big disabled bathroom – with internal access into the big house, with bar, lounge and dining area.

Photo collage: Photo on left shows Accessible room with bed, sofa and high ceilings in Balcary House Hotel. Photo on right shows Accessible wet room in Balcary House Hotel with roll-in shower and shower seat.Photo collage: Photo on left shows Accessible room with bed, sofa and high ceilings in Balcary House Hotel. Photo on right shows A man with a walking stick standing in the lobby of the Balcary House Hotel. Photo on right shows The bar with a range of drinks in the Balcary House Hotel.

We didn’t explore Hawick as we were moving on the next day.

Melrose & Kelso

As the rest of our journey was not too far, we stopped off at a few viewpoints en route. Like Leaderfoot Viaduct at Melrose over the river Tweed, and Scotts View.

A man standing at the top of Scott's View with his camera enjoying the view across to the Eildon Hills.If you drive the B6404 from St Boswells to Kelso you can park right there at the top and see the fantastic view across to the Eildon Hills.

Mark was able to get out and take photos from here, something he still loves to do, though it’s a challenge with one working arm!

Dunbar

The next day we arrived at Thurston Manor Leisure Park just outside Dunbar where we stayed for four nights. We were really excited as we hadn’t stayed in a caravan since we were children and it was far removed from those days. Thankfully!

An exterior shot of the disabled caravan at Thurston Manor Holiday Park.

Very spacious and with a slope up to the door easy to access. Two bedrooms and a really big wetroom, it was perfect.

Photo collage: The first photo shows Lounge in the accessible caravan at Thurston Manor Holiday Park. Second photo shows a man with a walking stick standing in the twin bedroom in the accessible caravan.. Third photo shows wheelchair accessible bedroom.

The two disabled caravans on site are both situated near to the club/bar so really easy to get over there for an evening meal or a drink (although because of Covid19 we actually kept to ourselves).

Photo collage: The first photo shows  adapted kitchen with lower worktops in the accessible caravan at Thurston Manor Holiday Park. Second photo shows wet room bathroom in the accessible caravan at Thurston Manor Holiday Park

Read more: Wheelchair Accessible Caravan Holiday Review

The Coastal Route

The position of Thurston Manor was perfect to drive ‘The Coastal Route’ also known as the Golf Coast Road as there are so many golf courses along the route.

We drove North West the first couple of days and then South West the other two. Unless you’re a lover of golf, I’d suggest going no further than North Berwick.

Lovely place with three disabled spaces right on the front, overlooking the beach. Probably unlikely to find these free in the summer, but we were lucky.

Bass Rock & Scottish Seabird Centre

From there you are a stone’s throw from the Scottish Seabird Centre where they have an accessible café, and you can eat outdoors overlooking the famous volcanic Bass Rock, home to the worlds largest colony of gannets, with up to 150,000 there at one time! (apparently, they are very smelly! But we didn’t take the boat trip to get close).

A view of Bass Rock overlooking the beach.Man sitting on a picnic seat overlooking the water to Bass Rock. It is a sunny day with blue sky and white fluffy clouds.If you drive east from here along the coast road, right to the end there is a small parking area with picnic benches overlooking the sea, but if you go a little further, the road takes you up higher to a further parking area with benches to see the most fantastic views across the Forth of Firth.

Canty Bay

When you leave North Berwick heading east……plan ahead! Get a booking at Drift! Situated on a cliff at Canty Bay, just off the A198, It looks nothing from the road, but it is made up of six wooden-clad shipping containers perched on the clifftop offering panoramic views, with outside space for dog owners or on a sunny day.

We only managed to get coffee and delicious homemade cake outside as we didn’t know we needed to book.

From here you can see the imposing 14th Century ruins of Tantallon Castle which also requires forward planning i.e booking ahead, but it’s totally worth it.

Tantallon Castle

Ignore the car park on the road, if you have a blue badge, just keep driving down the (rather potholed road) and you can park right outside the entrance.

Tantallon Castle on a sunny day.Although it’s a bit precarious getting across the grass from the entrance to the castle (particularly on a windy day!) It was worth it.

A man in a mobility scooter at Tantallon Castle Close up of the entrance to Tantallon Castle A man in a mobility scooter at Tantallon Castle We spent probably more than an hour here – enjoying the views, the history and taking photos. If you’re physically able, you can climb up to the ramparts for an even more spectacular view! Entrance fees are particularly reasonable, with a free ticket for carers.

Accessible toilet at Tantallon Castle There are two disabled toilets right behind the entrance building that was both spacious and clean! I must admit I wasn’t sure this would be very accessible, but we were pleasantly surprised!

Seacliff Beach

The next stop…Seacliff Beach. Now I had read there was a road that could take you down to see this beach and I admit, even with the directions I found it a challenge, more than once turning into people’s drives by error. 

Man sitting on a picnic seat overlooking the water. It is a sunny day with blue sky and white fluffy clouds. Even when I found the correct road it wasn’t easy, but when we did manage it, we were able to just sit overlooking this wonderfully deserted beach to eat our packed lunch – all we saw were two people horse riding along the beach – idyllic!

Tyninghame

Driving south from here staying on the A198 take a break for another tea and cake!! (I know there’s a bit of a theme going on here) at Tyninghame Country Store. Turn right onto Main Street and you’ll find it on the right. A favourite for cyclists, but you can sit outside in the sun.

Although we didn’t spend much time in Dunbar itself, there is a quaint High Street with on-street parking in front of the shops and decent pavements. There is also a small harbour and a beach with hilltop parks with accessible paths.

Cove

The rest of our trip was South. Leaving Dunbar and heading along the coastal route we briefly stopped to look at the view from the tiny village of Cove.

This is one of the villages that lost men in the worst Scottish fishing disaster in 1881.

137 men lost their lives and there are memorials to represent the women and children left behind at Cove and also further south at Eyemouth and Coldingham.

Coldingham Sands

Our next stop was Coldingham Beach (we somehow missed St Abbs, which on reflection I wish we had gone to see as they seem to have a visitors centre and nature reserve). Much easier to find this one!

Coldingham Sands BeachBut when you reach the car park with the shop and St Veda’s Surfers Hotel and bar, if you have a disabled badge, you can actually get right down to the beach.

A man sitting on a camping chair at Coldingham Sands Beach eating a picnic overlooking the water.Drive down the path to the beach where there is two disabled spaces and decking to get you virtually on the beach.

A man sitting on a camping chair at Coldingham Sands Beach eating a picnic overlooking the water. We put our picnic chairs out and sat there with our lunch – fantastic! I left Mark for half an hour whilst I explored the beach.

A woman taking a selfie at Coldingham Sands BeachBehind us, there were beach huts to both sides, with paved paths to them.

Coldingham Sands BeachThere was also a disabled toilet, it’s on a hill, so not ideal, but at least it’s there! We didn’t need to use it, so I didn’t take photos.

Read more: Free Beach Wheelchair Scheme at Coldingham Bay

Eyemouth, Alnwick and Bamburgh

Travelling further South, we briefly visited Eyemouth, Alnwick and Bamburgh but as we’d visited before we didn’t stop long.

Bamburgh Castle

If you haven’t been, Bamburgh Castle is accessible. You can drive right up to it and park by the Castle.

Bamburgh Castle

If you haven’t been, Bamburgh Castle is accessible. You can drive right up to it and park by the Castle.

Inside you can access the ground floor, and if you can’t go upstairs, they will show you a video of the upstairs which Mark really enjoyed! It’s quite impressive.

Holy Island

Next stop…Holy Island. You can drive across the causeway, but be aware of tide times.  It feels like you are stepping back in time here.

A view from a Church yard across to The Holy Island of LindisfarneWhen you arrive, there is a large car park on the left, on the outskirts of the village, but if you have a disabled badge, you can ignore the signs and carry on until you come to another large car park for coaches and disabled badges.

A church building and yard. We were able to walk around the churchyard where the Priory is and you can get great views across to Lindisfarne Castle.

A man sitting at a table eating fish and chips and drinking a beer.I’m not sure what access is like up to the castle, we didn’t try, we preferred the wonderful fish and chips at the pub.

In a couple of hours, you can see pretty much everything, including the museum and the quaint craft shops.

We pretty much fell in love with the East coastline this week.


Thank you to Julie Ann and Mark Flicker for sharing their wonderful Scottish road trip exploring the East coast. It was a lovely read and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the beautiful photos. I must admit, it has made me miss road trips so much more. 

If you’d like to share your own accessible travel story in a guest post, please get in touch – I’d love to hear from you.

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Meet Emma

Meet Emma

Hello I’m Emma. My mission is to show you the possibilities of accessible travel through my travel guides, tips and reviews. I also share personal stories, live event reviews and more.

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10 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing Mark, looks an excellent trip and some good tips of places that I wasn’t aware of in terms of accessibility. Looking forward to seeing future adventures.

  2. Access up to Lindisfarne castle is impossible in a wheelchair, unless it’s changed from a couple of years ago. You can get to the beginning of a ramped way, but then there are steps to get up the very steep way into the castle.
    I also had issues with one of the churches where there was a beautiful ramp to take you down into the church, but it was only accessible if both doors were open, and the side that accessed it was locked with a lock way above even a standing person.
    Hopefully the disabled parking in the village is now better signposted as I complained that there was nothing about it when I visited so used the main car park.

  3. This is such a useful and interesting review. Thank you so much for taking the time to do it. I can’t wait to try all these places.

    1. Hi Gail. Thank you so much – I’m delighted you enjoyed reading Julie Ann and Mark’s post. Please stop by again and let me know if you manage to visit these places. I’d love to hear how you get on 🙂

  4. So enjoyed reading about your trip and will definitely be taking that route next year. Such good information and photos thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Hi June. Thank you so much – I’m delighted you enjoyed reading Julie Ann and Mark’s post. Please let me know if you do the route this year 🙂

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