Author Archive David

ByDavid

DRAGON FLY 25L BLUE ICE RUCKSACK: A REVIEW OF A GREAT LITTLE DAY PACK

Ice Blue Rucksack Review

The Blue Ice  Dragon Fly rucksack is a small 25 litre day pack that is extremely lightweight.

First Impressions A very nicely made little rucksack ideal for commuting or gentle days out. Its extremely lightweight making it ideal for getting around. It has a very thin back board and not very much padding to it. It has waist and a breast strap for extra comfort. Its made of very good quality material.
Features
  • Unusual, but simple, open and closing system
  • Pocket inside main compartment suitable for a hydration system.
  • Hole in the top for hydration tube
  • Small zip pocket on the front
  • Attachments for poles
  • A pocket at either side
  • Waist and chest straps
Comfort This is not the most comfortable rucksack to use
Pros
  • Ideal for day trips
  • Made of good material
  • Ideal for commuting or getting around
  • Comfortable to use
  • Lightweight and durable
Cons
  • Not very comfortable for longer days out on the hills
  • Not sure about the way it closes, could possibly let water in
  • straps are very thin and not much padding.
  • I has no rain cover with it.

Final Comments

I like this little rucksack a lot and will use it for getting around town or going for a picnic. I don’t see myself taking this out on the mountains for the day. I might take it on short day walks in good weather when I don’t need to carry much with me. It has an unusual open and closing system which, to be very honest, I’m not sure if I like it yet. It could be really helpful for people with less dexterity because it opens and closes fairly easily. However, I would need to stay out in the rain for a few hours with it to be convinced of it effectiveness.

If you are looking for a little day pack I would really recommend thins, I’m going to use it a lot!

 

 

ByDavid

TRX TRAINING: WHATS YOUR FAVORITE?

Background

Those who follow my blog will have an idea of the sort of struggles I have had recently with joint pain. Being a member of Nuffield Heath has been of tremendous benefit to me because I have been able to receive advice. Thanks to the instructors at the gym I have been able to try to address these difficulties. With a set of exercises designed to strengthen my core, I have worked hard to solve the problem.

Difficulty Walking

I have been experiencing difficulty in walking for a while and particularly while coming down a mountain. Most painful have been my hips and lower back and unfortunately this has been enough to stop me from walking. Explaining this to my gym instructor he suggested a range of stretches and exercises using a TRX. I hadn’t heard of this before but now I have been converted!

Discovered the TRX

The TRX is simply two pieces of cord that attach over head and used to support your weight and balance. There is a handle on each cord for holding on and adjusters for easily changing the length. When I started using the TRX I learned some basic squats and stretches. By doing lunges I am extending and trenching all my leg muscles which I find so helpful. When you have cerebral palsy as I do, sometimes muscles can feel knotted up, tight and tense. Being able to stretch in this way is a fantastic feeling. I’ve not been up on the hills yet to see if if has made a difference but I am really enjoying using it.

So Impressed

I was so impressed with the TRX I went out and bought one. I would have bought the whole company but couldn’t afford it! Now I can can attach it to a tree in the back garden and exercise to me heart’s content. When I’m done, it folds up neatly into a small bag for easy storage. What’s not to like? There are endless amounts of exercises you can do with it, just check it out YouTube.

Over to you

If you have a favourite piece of equipment, or an exercise you find particularly helpful, please take a few moments to put it in the box below. If you don’t exercise at all then please tell us why? Thanks

ByDavid

MY DELIGHT IN HAVING A MAGAZINE COLUMN IN A NEW PUBLICATION

I have been fortunate enough lately to have been given a regular magazine column to write. Shooting Scotland is a country sports magazine that has grown out of another publication called Farming Scotland. Having once been a supplement, Shooting Scotland is now a publication in its own right and I am delighted to be involved from the beginning.

Here is a link to the magazine with my first column in it, or you can read it below.  http://www.farmingscotlandmagazine.com/shooting-scotland-magazine/

 

ByDavid

EXPERIENCING THE WONDERS OF CAIRNGORM USING THE FUNICULAR RAILWAY.

Cairngorm Mountain is home to Scotland’s only Funicular Railway. Opened in 2001 the line takes thousands of visitors up and down Cairngorm Mountain to the highest cafe in the UK, the Ptarmigan Restaurant, which sits at over 3,500ft about sea level. Cairngorm is a hive of activity at all times of year with thousands of skiers in the winter time, and many visitors over the summer months experiencing the wonders of the mountain.

 

The funicular railway was, from its very inception, shrouded in controversy and to this day still somewhat divides opinion. From the moment it was first proposed it was vehemently opposed by sections of the environmental lobby on the grounds of its lasting impact on a very special and already very fragile site of scientific interest. First proposed as far back as the 1950’s, and then spoken of again in the 60s, only in 2001 did this project reach its completion because of all the challenges. When the railway finally opened in December 2001, many thought of it as the greatest Christmas present the Highlands had ever seen. Jobs on the mountain, and the increase in visitor numbers would bring long needed prosperity and investment for the tourist industry in the surrounding area. Others however mourned for what they saw as an environmental disaster.

Cairngorm itself is one of the biggest mountains in the UK. At over 4000 feet it is the sixth highest mountain in the United Kingdom and gives its name to the whole range of mountains. The name Cairngorm translates as ‘Blue Mountain’ and from a distance it is easy to appreciate why it got this name. Ironically however, anyone walking on the mountain will notice the geology of a very red type of stone so historically Cairngorm was know as the ‘Red Mountain’. Red or Blue, this mountain is very special for many different reasons and hundreds of thousands of people flock to experience its riches every year.

 

Being one of the highest peaks, and giving its name to the range, it is on many walkers ‘to do’ list. Mountaineers scale it at all times of the year either walking or climbing. I had wanted to experience the summit of Cairngorm for a long time so I took the opportunity and made use of the funicular railway to reach the top. One of my motivations was to see and experience the spectacular Cairngorm Plateau. I wanted to see for myself this great expanse of mountain which joins several peaks including Cairngorm and Ben Macdui. Infamous for its exposure, it attracts thousands of mountaineers each year in all weathers. Sadly, many have lost their lives there as a result of the changing weather and exposure to the elements.

We booked onto a guided walk which is the only way to the summit of Cairngorm while using the funicular railway. In order to satisfy the environmentalists, one of the conditions of building the railway was to minimise the impact of visitors. One of the ways this is achieved is by containing people and not letting them wander onto the mountain unless with a guide. Of course, if you walk up the mountain from ground level you are free to wander but, using the funicular railway you must book onto a tour. This makes sense to me, given how many people venture into the mountains without the necessary equipment or experience. Many lives could be put at risk by allowing ill clad, tourists in sand shoes to wander out onto the mountain. I was delighted to reach the Ptarmigan stop and have the opportunity to reach the top with the Ranger.

It’s a relatively short walk up to the summit from the Ptarmigan restaurant with only about 500 metres of ascent. The well constructed paths are sectioned off, again to contain people and minimise environmental damage. We were very lucky to be joined by our guide Gerry, who gave us a real insight into the geology and history of the mountain.

I was hoping to see, or at least hear a Ptarmigan. Very shy but very beautiful birds they spend most of the time on the ground and only fly if they have to. A grey brown colour in the summer they, like the mountain hare, change their coat in the winter and go all white. This gives them protection from predators from above. We did however see some beautiful reindeer. Although theses are wild animals, they were very tame indeed and allowed us to get very close to them. They live up there all year round and are a native species to Norway.

As we approached the summit, views were just spectacular as weather conditions were near perfect. Looking over Cairngorm Plateau was just amazing. This vast wilderness is inspiring. We could see many mountains in all directions and it was good to name many of them. It was a fantastic experience and it has left me with an enthusiasm for more.

I got the feeling that the funicular railway, far from being an environmental disaster, is a wonderful resource for many different reasons. As well as the enormous economic prosperity it brings to the area, it enables people of all abilities to experience the mountains. I don’t think mountains should be sacred places reserved only for the fit and able. The experience of being up a mountain is so motivating and inspiring I don’t think its fair to deny the experience to anyone who seeks it. Being able to use the funicular like this so that anybody can experience the pleasure of being up a mountain is a truly great thing. I felt very much at peace with the impact on the environment. It is very contained and only really impacts on one side of a mountain in a vast area. The ski area was there long before the train. Ski areas in the summer time never look pretty. The mountain organisation ‘Natural Retreats ‘do a fantastic job managing and containing its impact as well as keeping people safe.

I hope to return to Cairngorm and use the railway again in the near future. I would like to go further afield and even camp out on the Cairngorm Plateau. This would be a truly wonderful experience and one that I would treasure. I feel really hungry to experience the mountains. Unfortunately my walking ability has not enabled me to venture far recently without substantial amounts of pain, or indeed more than I’m prepared to tolerate. I will be looking into ways of making this dream possible soon and hope that I can report back on what a wonderful experience it is.

ByDavid

EXPLORING COUNTRY SPORT AND THE CHALLENGES OF DISABILITY

Country Sport has been something close to my heart from a very early age. I grew up in a rural environment where I was surrounded by opportunities for fishing and country sport.  After a long break I am now beginning to rekindle my love for the outdoors and am making the connections again to enable me to partake. This has been as a direct result of my work with Photographer, Writer and Business Coach Linda Mellor.  I am delighted to be working alongside Linda and exploring disabled participation in Country Sport.

I am grateful to have been asked to write for a relatively new magazine called Shooting Scotland. This magazine has grown out of a publication called Farming Scotland where the shooting section was produced as a  supplement. Now as a separate magazine Shooting Scotland is on its 3rd issue. I am delighted to have been asked to contribute and look forward to sharing more of my ideas and stories with readers in the future.

Below in a screen shot of my first article that was published in this months issue.  Hope you can zoom in to read it. If not, click in the Shooting Scotland link here, and go to page 32. Enjoy.

 

ByDavid

FERN COTTAGE IN KILLIN: REFLECTING ON A PLEASANT STAY THERE.

Fern Cottage.

It is always a pleasure to review holiday accommodation and last weeks stay in Killin was no exception. Fern Cottage is a two bedroom property right in the heart of the village of Killin, providing a great location to enjoy the delights of outdoor activities in the beautiful surrounding environment. ‘Cooper Cottages’ have a number of holiday properties throughout the Trossachs and Loch Lomond and I went to experience a short stay in Fern Cottage.

First Impressions

As soon as I entered the property it felt very homely and presented to a very high standard. The cottage was very well furnished and contained good quality furniture and soft furnishings. All bed linen and towels were provided and were of a good quality. I quickly settled in and felt very welcome thanks to small touches such as fresh milk in the fridge and the provision of tea and coffee.

The Cottage

This property is very comfortable indeed and has two bedrooms, a double and a twin, as well as a luxury bathroom and fitted kitchen. The living room is very comfortable with a television, a DVD and a wood burning fire. The cottage actually has a TV/DVD in both bedrooms and dining room, and has WiFi throughout. The kitchen is fitted and includes a dishwasher and microwave. It is well stocked with suitable utensils for cooking. There is a separate dining room with a table that seats four comfortably.

Location

Killin is a great location for exploring Perthshire and for pursuing Outdoor Activities. Surrounded by beautiful scenery there are spectacular mountains as well as Loch Tay on the doorstep. This makes it an ideal location for Munro bagging, shorter walks or water sports on the loch. Mountain biking is very popular as well as fishing and country sports. Easily reached from Edinburgh or Glasgow, Killin is an ideal location for a break away.

A few Comments

This cottage is generally suitable for a disabled person although one or two points should be mentioned here. There is a slight difference in the floor level in the hall leaving a slight step up to the bathroom and one to the sitting room. The step to the bathroom is obvious and easily seen, the change in floor height to the living room is not. I tripped and fell on this twice. This could be made a lot safer by something simple to draw attention to the change in floor height.

On the subject of accessibility, there are steps from the back door into the garden. Someone with mobility issues can reach the garden through the front door and down a gravel path. The steps would be fine but the only banister is a chain that is flexible. This is really not useful for someone like myself who’s balance is not great. It wouldn’t cost much to put up a proper banister. The cottage was perfectly suitable for me in light of my mobility difficulties. I don’t think it is suitable for a wheelchair user however.

Recommendation

I would definitely recommend ‘Cooper Cottages ‘ accommodation after my experience staying at Fern Cottage. Everything was spotlessly clean and of a suitable quality. Killin is a fantastic location from which to explore some spectacular places and enjoy the beautiful outdoors.

ByDavid

VENTURING OUT IN EAST LOTHAIN AND PADDLING A CANOE ONCE AGAIN

Venturing Out’

Based in East Lothian, ‘Venturing Out’ are a not for profit social enterprise whose aim is to encourage young people and adults into the outdoors. Offering a broad range of activities to key target groups, they provide the facilities and expertise required to deliver the service. This enables people to experience outdoor activities which otherwise might not be available to them. I joined a group of young disabled people recently for a canoeing session at Musselburgh Lagoons.

Disability Outdoors

Disabled young people and adults for that matter, are often overlooked when it comes to outdoor pursuits. Opportunities for disabled people to take part in Sport is gradually improving. This is in large part due to the success of the British Paralympic Team and London 2012. When it comes to Outdoors Sports however, there is still work to be done. I work to raise awareness and create opportunities for better access to the Outdoors for disabled people. This came about after realising how passionate I was about sport, but how difficult it has been in the past for me to find suitable opportunities. Realising the social and emotional benefits of taking part in outdoor pursuits, I wanted to help create the possibilities for other disabled people to do the same.

 

Canoeing in the Past

When I was a teenager I left school and went to special education in the Midlands. During this time I participated in a canoeing club. The college had an indoor swimming pool where we would practice in the winter months. We would go onto the river at Leamington Spa during the summer. With the help of some wonderful instructors, Geoff and Puffin, I leaned to paddle a kayak and a Canadian canoe. I even progressed to paddling K1 race canoes which were very good fun, but very unstable. All I had to do was to sneeze the wrong way and I would fall out. So when I got the change to join ‘Venturing Out’ to go canoeing, I was really delighted. I hadn’t paddled for 25 years so I didn’t know if I’d still have the balance!

Sailing the Lagoons

The Musselburgh Lagoons provides an idea and sheltered place for a group to learn to canoe. It was lovely to join a group of disabled young people and their parents on a Friday afternoon to have fun in the water. And what fun we had ! There was a selection of different boats provided for use. Kayaks, Canadian Canoes as well as open topped boats were available for people to try. If you were super brave there were even paddle boards for those who didn’t mind ending up in the water. I went straight for a kayak because I thought it would all come back to me. At first, I felt very unstable, no doubt due to the length of time it had been since I last paddled. I soon found my balance and I enjoyed being in a canoe again. I also had a shot of going solo in a canadian canoe. This is the type of canoeing I enjoy the most.

 

Float into the Future

It was lovely to watch many disabled young people and their families having so much fun.

Some were canoeing, some were on paddle boards while others just wanted to swim. Whatever they were doing, it was a joy to watch as they were having so much fun. This really highlights the importance of ‘Venturing Out’ and the service they are providing. Activities like this, as well as enjoying themselves, help young people build confidence, self esteem and support inclusion within their local communities. Therefore it is essential that young disabled people obtain access to this sort of activity.

I hope that by taking part and writing about Outdoor Sports, I can help in some way no matter how small. By highlighting the benefits to disabled people it might help develop opportunities. ‘Venturing Out ‘ show the need for a service and it is hoped that more disabled people will be able to take part. The Health and Well-Being benefits to my life have been extraordinary and I hope other people, both disabled and able-bodied have the opportunities to experience the joys and benefits of Outdoor Life and Sports

ByDavid

DISCOVERING KNOYDART: SCOTLAND’S LAST TRUE WILDERNESS

 

Knoydart is a very special place. A peninsula on the west coast of Scotland accessed only by boat, it has all the feelings of a remote Scottish island. Staying in the village of Inverie, I went there recently to explore Scotland’s last true wilderness.

 

 

 

Standing on the pier at Mallaig, I couldn’t believe how many bags we had. The pier was strewn with luggage, not just ours of course, but several families worth of bags. Everyone taking enough to survive the week. There are no grocery stores as such on Knoydart so it is essential to take provisions with you. There are, however, a couple of places you can pick up basic supplies. The post office sells a few household goods and provisions. The Knoydart Foundation has its own shop in the village and it has a freezer full of excellent venison and a small Off Licence for important stocks of booze.

You really get the feeling you are going somewhere off the beaten track particularly when you scan your eyes round the harbour. The boat to Knoydart doesn’t leave from the larger ferry terminal for the Caledonian McBrayne services sailing to the Hebrides. Surrounded by fishing boats a small vessel with a cabin big enough for a dozen or so people appears round the corner and docks discretely alongside the harbour steps. Men throw ropes to tie up, while others help passengers step over the side of the vessel and up the steps onto the shore on their return to Mallaig from Inverie.

We get the signal to board and before long a human chain had formed the length of the harbour steps. Bags of all shapes and sizes were passed from one pair of hands to another. There was something really lovely about how naturally a human chain formed between strangers and everybody helped out to put all the luggage on board. Bags, canoes and even a didgeridoo passed through peoples’ hands as the boat slowly loaded up. Once on the boat, the goods were covered with a thick tarpaulin to prevent them becoming wet from any spray that might come over the bow during the short forty minute crossing. The boat sailed to the right from the harbour and conversations began between people from several nationalities speaking in different languages.

 

 

The sail up Loch Nevis and into Inverie felt just magical. Surrounded by the most beautiful of Scottish Highland scenery, the whitewashed cottages that line the front of the village came closer into view. How lucky I felt, that this picturesque location was going to be my home for the next week. I couldn’t wait to explore the forests and rugged coastline that stretched into the distance. Bags were unloaded into the back of Landrovers that arrived onto the pier to meet the boat. After being a hive of activity, the pier was soon empty and deserted again as visitors were taken to their accommodation.

We were staying in a traditional style cottage called Tigh Na Feidh, in the village of Inverie. This had once been a crofter’s cottage and boasted magnificent views over Loch Nevis and to the hills beyond. It was very comfortably furnished inside in a very charming traditional manner. It wasn’t long before we settled in and looked forward to evening drinks in the sitting room around the wood burning fire.

Knoydart is a wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors. Whether its canoeing, mountain biking, walking or fishing, this is wonderful environment to be in. Many people go to Knoydart for its wilderness experience and enjoy the isolation in some spectacular scenery. We spent the first morning walking to explore the village and its immediate surroundings. Some beautiful woodlands line the road that takes you along towards the Kilchoan Estate.

I had forgetten how much I enjoyed sea fishing and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to fish again. When I was child I loved fishing with my father from his small boat. We would launch it off Dunbar on the East Lothian coast and often come back with lots of fish. Unfortunately, fishing is one of the few things I can’t do on my own due to the dexterity required to tie lines. So, I took advantage of having some help this week and spent a few evenings fishing off the pier. The mackerel I caught made a tasty supper one evening.

One of the things I most wanted to do was to climb Ladhar Bienne, the highest Munro on the peninsula. We planned to hire a Landrover to take us into the valley to the foot of the mountain so as to shorten the route. Unfortunately, I have been finding walking very difficult at the moment so climbing a Munro was not a option for me. People who follow my blog will have seen a recent post about the difficulties I am experiencing in walking. However, I discovered a new interest which I never knew could be so much fun, and that was driving the dirt tracks with a Landrover.

 

Of course, not having many roads suitable for a vehicle on Knoydart, there isn’t very far you can go. In an easterly direction from Inverie there are two roads, or should I say dirt tracks. One of them leads to a small cove called Airor. What a wonderful journey it was past the headland with some magnificent views over to the islands of Rhum and Skye. At the end of the road was the most remote of little cafes with a lovely selection of food and beautiful home baking. Situated in a lovely bay it had fantastic views over the beach and across to Skye.

The other road from Inverie leads six miles to a farm at a place called Inverguserin. A really beautiful journey through the wilderness takes you into the valley where walkers might begin the ascent of Ladhar Bienne. This was truly beautiful and felt very wild indeed. To add to the atmosphere we came across a stalker who was saddling up two ponies to go up and take the deer off the hill. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to go stalking, I find it a nice thing to do. I’m hoping to get the opportunity to do this someday. Although climbing the Munro wasn’t possible for me this time, the experience of being there was really wonderful.

 

I’ve visited many parts of Scotland over recent years and had some amazing experiences. I have to say however that Knoydart is a very special place and already I am longing to go back there. The isolation, the peace, and the feeling of true wilderness make it just magical There are no ferries arriving each day bringing hundreds of tourists. The majority of people there are those who live there. Although this is part of the Scottish mainland, it really feels like island life. Just things like the old cars, and the lack of road signs make it feel very isolated. There is a lovely farm shop on the Kilchoan Estate selling some nice things that has an honesty box for people to leave their money. Doors are seldom locked and keys are left in cars giving a beautiful feel of community and trust.

There are those who would like ferry companies such as Caledonian Macbrayne to begin running a scheduled service to the peninsula. This would indeed bring many people and money into the community. There would however be a price to pay for this. More infrastructure would be required to support a greater number of visitors and this would change the feel of the place. Before long Knoydart would require more amenities, shops and cafes. One can’t help feeling that something special would then be lost forever. I hope Knoydart remains a true wilderness and the already fragile community there survives for many generations to come.

ByDavid

MANAGING DISABILITY AND THE PHYSICAL DEMANDS OF THE SCOTTISH MOUNTAINS

Since I began writing my Disability Travel and Sports Blog over a year ago, my motivation to go out and have fun has gone through the roof. One of the things that has really come back for me, is my motivation to go hillwalking in the Scottish Mountains. Having cerebral palsy has of course made it more challenging. Although recently I discovered that my love for the mountains is as strong as ever. Unfortunately, I have run into a few barriers in this area. I find it very physically demanding and as a result experience excruciating pain in my joints. Whether the joy of the experience outweighs the discomfort is something I have yet to answer.

 

In the Past

I’ve always loved the outdoors and being in the hills. I was taken regularly into the countryside by my parents when I was young and I continued my fun in the outdoors with the local Scout Troop. When I got to university I joined the hillwalking society and started climbing Munros. I quickly made friends with others in the club who were a bit more patient and happy to proceed at my pace. We would regularly leave in the early hours of the morning to go and climb a particular mountain.

I became a post graduate student in Manchester where my hill walking career seemed to grind to a halt. I walked a little in the Peak District but my studies and career soon took over. When I retured to Edinburgh in the late 1990’s I joined a local club. However, I didn’t persevere for a number of reasons and I assumed that this was the end of my walking career.

20 years on

Recently I have taken the opportunity to go hill walking again and I have regained my passion for the wonderful mountains. Among other activities I have,

  • Joined ‘Walk Highland’, a fantastic Hillwalking community
  • Been on a ‘Walk Highland’ weekend
  • Been walking with friends in Fife and the Pentland Hills
  • Climbed a Munro in the Cairngorms

Although I enjoying being in the hills very much, there always seems to be a cost to pay. Each time I go walking I usually end up in excruciating pain. Much as I love being in the mountains I have to ask myself if it’s worth it. I find it very frustrating indeed for the following reasons:

  • I used to be able to do it, why can’t I now?
  • It wipes me out for a few days afterwards
  • The pain is too much and more than I am able to tolerate
  • I find it mentally draining

Things came to a head recently when I took on more than I could handle. Experiencing so much pain and being at least another 2 hours from the car, I called for help. The Breamar Mountain Rescue sent out a Landrover and picked me up  in Glen Callater. This is not a scenario I ever want to repeat. The physical and mental affects have a long impact and,  I can’t disregard them.

Onward and Up the Mountains

I would like to work with a therapist to get to the source of my joint pain. Regular physiotherapy might really help. I am aware that I could go through my GP and get referred to the NHS but there are two problems with that. First, I’d wait a very long time to be seen and secondly it wouldn’t be a long term thing. After a couple of visits I’d be discharged and back to square one.

If anyone knows of a physiotherapist in or around Edinburgh who may be prepared to help me then please get in touch. Thank You.

ByDavid

ACCESSING THE PAST ON ORKNEY

I have been lucky enough to visit Orkney lately and I had a really interesting time. My trip was to carry out detailed research. Funded by the John Muir Trust Des Rubens and Bill Wallace Grant, I went to Orkney to investigate disability access across the archaeological sites. The idea for this investigation came after the discovery that some tour operators specifically say their tours are not suitable for disabled people. I wanted to discover for myself and, thanks to the John Muir Trust Des Rubens and Bill Wallace Grant, that is exactly what I did.

 

 

Accessing the Past

Orkney is a wonderful place rich in archaeological sites. There have been many television documentaries and books written about them. Most people who know anything about Orkney have heard of Maes Howe, Scara Brae and the Ring of Brodger. Although these sites are very well known, there are many more sites both on mainland Orkney and the surrounding islands.

Ring of Brodger

Ring of Brodger

 

Site Management

Historic Scotland are a national agency whose remit is to protect the ancient relics and natural environment of Scotland. Members, like myself, obtain unlimited access to all the ancient sites of castles and monuments. Membership money allows Historic Scotland to protect the sites. They also make the places accessible by providing visitors centres and laying on events.

Being able to access and see for yourself the sites of ancient civilisations is really important for all of us. I feel that it changes outlooks on our lives and what we value about our society. However, these prestigious locations are a lot more difficult for disabled people to see. The preservation is very important, but can we strike a balance between preservation and access for all.

The sites are managed by Historic Scotland and I wanted to see for myself just how disabled people might access them.

Scara Brae

Scara Brae

On the Ground

Over the course of the week I visited as many of the archaeological sites as possible. It was a truly amazing experience. Below I have given a short description of a few of the sites and commented on the accessibility.

Stones of Stenness Collection of three large standing stones. Accessible over a grassy field but only a short distance from the roadside. The magnitude of these stones can easily be seen from the road.
Barnhouse at Stenness Remains of 4 or 5 small Barnhouses. A further walk past Stones of Stenness over grass. Once there, access into the houses is narrow although is possible to have a good over view from the outside edge.
Scara Brae A neolithic village very well preserved, a truly amazing site. This is the most accessible of all. HS have gone to a lot of trouble to build an accessible walk way. A wheelchair user could get a really good view and experience on this site.
Maes Howe The best preserved burial tomb. Not accessible. See my notes further on.
Ring of Brodger. The most amazing stone circle Accessible over a field with grassy covering. Once at the stones a rather narrow and tricky path surrounds it.
Broch of Gruness

Broch of Gurness

Accessibility

While discussing access to the archaeological sites, it is important first to recognise the importance of maintaining and preserving the integrity of the site. These sites date back 5000 years and really ought to be left exactly how they were found. Many of the sites therefore could not be made accessible without damaging them. Maes Howe for example, as well as the other burial tombs, could not be made accessible. One has crawl into them with a torch and even the most able of us might find this difficult.

Gurness

Gurness

Possible Changes

Although it is important to maintain the archaeological sites exactly as they are, this may be an excuse for Historic Scotland to overlook disability. There is an excellent visitor centre at Scara Brae that is fully accessible, and a good path around most of the site. Apart from this, one can’t help feeling that disability has been overlooked.

There are numerous sites that could easily be made more accessible for small amounts of money. For example, it would be so easy to create some walkways that would enable a wheelchair user to see The Ring of Brodger, Stones of Stenness or the Broch of Gurness. Gates could be made much wider and ramps could be built at places such as Birsay. All these changes would not in any way destroy the integrity of the site and make them much easier for people to see. This would benefit both disabled people and non disabled. Where sites are completely inaccessible perhaps modern technology could be utilised more to create a better visitor experience for less able people.

I think Historic Scotland need to take a look at all of their key sites and ask themselves what could be done to make them more accessible for all. One fails to see why this has been so badly neglected. It is so important for everyone, able-bodied or not, to be able to have a window into the past. I hope groups might start to put gentle pressure onto Historic Scotland to encourage them to consider increasing accessibility to other important places and not just Skara Brae.

Stones of Stenness

Stones of Stenness