Even though shielding has paused, I’m not quite ready to get back to ‘normal’ yet. I’m happy to continue being at home and sticking only to non-busy outdoor places if/when I do leave the house. And as I mentioned recently, I’m lucky to have beautiful outdoor places to explore without having to travel far from home, like a wheelchair accessible walk around Linlithgow Loch. So after reading about Jupiter Artland Edinburgh and their COVID-19 visitor guidelines, I decided to visit this unique visitor attraction to see what it was like to visit in a wheelchair.
What is Jupiter Artland?
Jupiter Artland is a contemporary sculpture park and art gallery in the outskirts of Edinburgh. To be more precise, it’s in a small village called Wilkieston in West Lothian.
Despite having been open for many years, I’ve only known of Jupiter Artland in the last year. To my surprise, it is only a short drive from Edinburgh Airport and very convenient for us to get to from where we live, so it was ideal. Why hadn’t I known of this place before now?
Jupiter Artland is set across 100 acres of woodland and meadows within the grounds of a massive old mansion house, which the owners still live in. So there are certain restrictions and boundaries in the park to respect their privacy.
Booking a visit to Jupiter Artland
Due to the current pandemic, visits to Jupiter Artland must be booked online. You must select the time you want to visit and the number of people visiting. We were able to select the option for discounted entry to blue badge holders which are priced at £5 plus free entry for one carer.
We drove through the entrance gates and continued along a narrow road until we stopped at a small wooden shed. A member of staff who was sat inside the shed checked our booking and issued our tickets. There was no direct physical contact with the staff and we didn’t even have to leave the car. Appropriate physical distancing was maintained.
Parking at Jupiter Artland
Still within the car, we continued the drive into the sculpture park by following the sign for the disabled car park. There were around eight or ten disabled parking bays.
It wasn’t busy so we were able to get parked up easily as several bays were available. The disabled car park is on the small side, which can make it difficult to manoeuvre and park your car when full.
Wheelchair Accessibility at Jupiter Artland
Terrain condition and accessibility
Once we had parked we then headed up a gentle tarmac slope which then led us to cobblestones (a wheelchair users worse nightmare). This brought us to the Steadings area with a shop, gallery, toilets and a cafe.
There are no signs giving directions for the trail so we mistakenly continued up the cobblestone slope (bumpy ride, to say the least) and realised it was a dead-end with the toilets and a private party taking place.
We made our way back down again and walked around the back of the gift shop into the woodland. Now we were on the right path to begin the hunt for the sculptures dotted around the woodland.
Jupiter Artland sculpture park isn’t wheelchair accessible in all areas, but I was able to manage the majority of it in my powered wheelchair. Most of the woodland path was a hard compacted surface with a mix of flat and gentle slopes.
However, I also found the ground surfaces in some areas difficult due to being uneven. I have a weak upper body, which makes manoeuvring over uneven bumpy ground exhausting for me. (because my muscles are weak it means my body has to work extra hard to keep itself upright which is even more hard work when the ground is uneven.)
Although it wasn’t raining when we visited, parts of the grass were still slightly wet from the rain the previous day, so my wheels got quite muddy.
For example, there isn’t an accessible path up to the Antony Gormley sculpture ‘Firmament’ (photo above) and my nephew desperately wanted me to go up and get a closer look at it with him and being the awesome Auntie that I am, I couldn’t disappoint him.
So wheel skidding in the muddy grass was the consequence but “it was worth it” in my nephew’s opinion. Haha.
Oh, the joys of enjoying the outdoors when you have wheels and live in Scotland.
There is an unnecessary stone bridge placed in the middle of the woodland path. The bridge is wide at the beginning and end but tapers in narrowly in the centre, which made me feel like I was some kind of stunt person performing a daredevil trick making sure my wheels didn’t slip off the edge.
I know this bridge may be fun for non-disabled people to walk across but for wheelchair users it is dangerous. My wheelchair is quite compact, but one of my wheels were slightly overhanging as I drove across. Wheelchairs or powered scooters that are a little wider will find it impossible to cross.
The photo doesn’t show the height of the stone bridge very clearly, but it was fairly high and high enough to cause injury if a wheelchair user was to cross and tip over.
For those who can’t cross safely will have to back up and go the opposite way to see the art installations and then come back on themselves again to avoid the bridge again. There is no signage indicating the way to go or whether the path is accessible or not. I definitely think signs are needed.
Wheelchair access around the park and art installations
The first half of the sculpture park has a range of art installations that have a slightly creepy/horror feel to them.
There is a cage with a giant hole, a giant gun leaning against a tree, a cemetery with a narrow entrance (which I couldn’t fit through) and creepy girls weeping in the woods with their hair hiding their faces.
Then you enter the second half of the park, which I feel has a much lighter and prettier feel to it. This part of the sculpture park is more dreamlike with massive swirly mounds of grass, an outdoor altar with pretty roses, animals and more.
The swirly mounds are called ‘The Cells of Life’ and they are really striking and impressive to look at. I even braved the climb up one of the giant mounds – I was feeling adventurous.
Although, they aren’t very wheelchair accessible, so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are certain your wheelchair can manage it. The grass paths are also very narrow in areas so extra care when walking or rolling up/down is essential.
There were art installations that we didn’t see like Nathan Coley: You Imagine What You Desire because we couldn’t see an accessible path to it. One of the most colourful artworks is called Gateway and is a cool design in the swimming pool.
This artwork is closed due to COVID-19 so we didn’t get to see this one, but again, I’m not sure where the accessible path is to access this part.
Accessible toilet at Jupiter Artland
A wheelchair accessible toilet is located in the steadings area next to the shop, gallery and cafe. The accessible toilet doubles as a baby changing facility. I didn’t use the toilet facilities while I was there, but this is a photo of what it looks like inside the accessible/baby-changing toilet. It seems quite compact so there may not be a great deal of space to manoeuvre a wheelchair plus a companion. The toilet has grab bars on each side.
Although it’s not wheelchair accessible in all areas, Jupiter Artland is a cool place to visit for a couple of hours. Since it’s predominantly outdoors, I wouldn’t recommend visiting when the weather isn’t great or if it’s been raining the day before as the paths can be muddy, making it difficult for wheelchair users and those with walking difficulties.
The park and woodland are beautiful, but I can’t help feel a little underwhelmed by the art installations. I expected them to be more unique and striking. However, we had an enjoyable time outdoors together walking around the park. Jupiter Artland prices are reasonable especially with the disabled discount rate and free carer ticket making it an affordable day out.
Have you been to Jupiter Artland? What sculpture did you like the most?
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