Edinburgh, Scotland, is one of the most beautiful and historic cities in Europe. And it was built centuries ago, literally on an extinct volcano. So how wheelchair accessible can it be?

You might be surprised.

Cam’s dressed to impress in Scotland.

In 2011, I was lucky enough to get accepted into a veterinary student exchange program in Edinburgh, Scotland. I left the family at home to fend for themselves for a month while a classmate and I rented a flat in the heart of Old Town, Edinburgh. During the week, we rode the public bus and matriculated with the students of the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Medicine. And on the weekends, we did our best to soak in the sites, sounds and smells of the area. I fell in love with Edinburgh and left a piece of my heart when I left.

Eight years later – in a very Grinch-like style – I got an idea.

An awful idea. I had a wonderful, awful idea.

Why not go back to Edinburgh? And this time, bring the entire family? 

Then, the family got to talking and we decided, “Hey, since we’re hauling our cookies all the way across the Atlantic, why don’t we pop into London for a minute?” So we added that to our itinerary. A quick pop into London, I mean.

By now, my big kids were fourteen and twelve years old and Cam had just turned four. Cam was also non-verbal, hemiplegic, on a c-pap machine at night, was prone to bouts of pneumonia, was entirely g-tube fed, on several medications for seizures and endocrine disorders and could not control his temperature. I’ll admit now that we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into, but we were determined to go.

Edinburgh Castle stands guard over the city.

For fourteen days (eleven in Scotland, three in London), we crammed just about as much as five crazy, partially mobile, completely exhausted tourists could. We did a lot of stuff right and a lot of stuff wrong, but (SPOILER ALERT) We made it! And the trip was AWESOME! A lot of people have asked me how we pulled it off…

Here’s a bit of advice: break it into bite-size pieces. Planning an international trip for five people, one of whom needs more equipment and medical supplies that a small-town hospital, is a PROJECT! (Please click here for general tips on traveling with a special kid)

This is where I admit that when I planned this trip, I didn’t know what I was doing. And I cheated. My son, Cameron, was still small enough to carry, so when we came to a place where his wheels wouldn’t go, we pulled out the carrier. I didn’t do a very thorough job of researching ahead of time what was wheelchair accessible and what wasn’t and we had quite a few surprises that we just had to work around. What came out of it was a very fun, very athletic, hybrid accessible/not accessible vacation. I’m hoping I can help you figure out where you can bring your chair, and what may be suitable for small children you can carry or people who can walk a little. Again, PLEASE do your own research because things change!

***COVID ALERT: A lot of these places are currently closed to the public, so check it out ahead of time!***