To Scotland and Back

In July i travelled from Portsmouth to Edinburgh to see how i would get on
being visually impaired.

I started from Cosham around 09.15 in the morning and i was met by Southwest Trains Customer Services where they were very helpful and pleased to see me.

I was helped onto the train and placed in the disabled area which was handy as i had a suitcase and a back pack to find a place for but as there was plenty of space i had no problem.

The train was very busy as it was the first day of Wimbledon, by the time i reached London Waterloo there was only standing room, i thought how lucky i was to board the train at Cosham.

So i reached London Waterloo in just under two hours and my next part of the journey to get from London Waterloo across to London Kings Cross, i thought i needed to find the customer service help desk, but no to my delight someone met me off the train and escorted me to the underground, where i was then handed over to the London Underground customer service staff who then escorted me over to London Kings Cross.

I got to London Kings Cross around 11.45hrs and was ready for a coffee and a bite to eat, as you can imagine London Kings Cross was extremely busy and there were no available seat once i got my coffee and sandwich, even though people could see i was visually impaired as i had my cane with me, no one offered me a seat, so i had to stand and eat my lunch.

Now i am not saying i have the right to have a seat because of my disability, i just noticed how people when travelling are in their own world and can not see the full picture.

By the time i was refreshed i approached Virgin Trains customer Service desk and said i had booked assistance to board the 13.00hrs train to Edinburgh, and WoW the Gentleman said hello Mr Taylor, well that’s a first someone knowing who i am before i gave them my name i was to say the least very impressed.

I was promptly escorted to my seat on the train 20 minutes before departure, i was told that they do this so that i could sort myself out before the train got too busy, a little thought goes a long way in my book.

My journey to Edinburgh took around 4 hours 20 minutes, once we left London and headed out into the countryside the views were pleasing to the eyes and with little vision i have i can still appreciate it.

On arrival at Edinburgh and may i say the train was bang on time, again i was met by another member of the Customer Service staff who escorted me to the meeting point so my nephew could meet me, through out my whole journey from Cosham to Edinburgh i can not express my thanks to Southwest Trains and Virgin Trains for their total professionalism in dealing with me to ensure my journey was trouble free.

Now my adventure begins having plans for the weekend my Friday night was a quiet one as my nephew and i had to be up early to travel to Kingussie which is in the Scottish Highlands about three hours by train from Edinburgh.

Saturday morning arrived sooner than i liked, my alarm was set for five thirty as our train was due to depart at six thirty, I could not eat breakfast as i never do that early in the morning, so a quick cup of tea was in order, and it went down very well.

We got to Waverley train station thirty minutes before our train was due to depart, so time for a coffee and now i was ready for a breakfast so i had a nice crusty sausage bap with my coffee.

Our train departed exactly on time and we were heading for Perth to change trains to continue our journey to Kingussie, the views were amazing the Scottish countryside is breathtaking even when it rains.

It took just over an hour to reach Perth and around twenty minutes waiting time for our connecting train to Kingussie, and the views from Perth to Kingussie did not disappoint, i reckon to see the Scottish landscape by train is certainly recommended.

Kingussie welcomed us with another rain shower, how thoughtful of them, but our hotel was not too far way so we did not get very wet, it was around nine forty in the morning when we got to our hotel and a taxi was booked for Ten so there was plenty of time to check in before going to The Wild Life Park just outside Kingussie.

If i had a negative about Kingussie that is that there is only one taxi company in the village and they were very expensive, to travel from our hotel to the Wild Life Park which is less than five miles, it cost over Ten Pounds each way.

Once we got to the wildlife park i was excited to to get in and take some photos, the park is designed for not just driving but walking around, which i have never seen before.

The Highland Wildlife Park is a 105-hectare safari park and zoo near Kingussie, Highland, Scotland. The park is located within the Cairngorms National Park. The park is run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria.

The animals on show are the Amur tigers, Polar Bears, European Grey Wolf to name a few, i would suggest you take a visit and indulge your love of animals, during the day the keepers carry out talks which you will find interesting.

We spent the whole day there and must have walk over five miles so it is also great for your health, if you wish to adopt an animal please go the their website for more information.

http://www.highlandwildlifepark.org.uk/support-us/adopt-an-animal

The RZSS are a charity and are always looking to raise funds to support their projects, one thing i did notice is that all the animals were well looked after and looked so healthy plus the staff love their jobs.

Staying in Kingussie for one night i would say is probably long enough unless you wish to base yourself there whilst exploring the Highlands, but there are plenty of Bed and Breakfasts or other Hotels you could get into, however the Highlands is a very popular place to visit and your spoilt for choice for places to stay.

We returned to Edinburgh the following morning with great ease on the train despite there being a strike on the railways all over the country, but you would never know, Scot Rail made the journey as painless as possible, so this was the end of my first weekend in Scotland the rest of the week was too follow and WoW what a busy week i had.
Check out issue 4 in January to read about the rest of my trip to Scotland.

Getting around Edinburgh was really easy they have a reliable tram and bus service, for me being visually impaired I had no problem navigating around this wonderful city.

The Royal Mile is the main area where they hold the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the August, and the whole area is turned into a pedestrian area, fortunately I was there in the July but it was still arty busy.

Princes Street is the main shopping area which you can find all the major shops in one area, including Apple Store, wear suitable footwear as Edinburgh can be quite a hilly place and I suggest you visit Arthur’s Seat which is the highest point in Edinburgh, it has several paths you can walk up and they vary in difficult levels, I followed the road all the way round to the far side where I not only found an easier route but in my opinion the most scenic route as well.

At the top the view was well worth the effort and i had a nice clear and sunny day which was lucky for me, whilst you are in Edinburgh you are tempted to many museums plus art and craft stalls, restaurants are plentiful and they are catered for all tastes.

Another attraction I went to visit was Edinburgh Zoo, where you can see the panda bears, but when I went they were sleeping so i did not get to see them properly, but the zoo is massive and they have plenty of other animals to look at, I loved the meerkats and the otters, they have a tiger as well but again that was sleeping too.

If you travel to Edinburgh either by train or plane you will have no problems getting into the city as mentioned earlier the transport system is very good, you can also buy daily, weekly or monthly travel cards.

My only disappointment apart being the weather which is unpredictable, is if you hold a Concessionary travel card which is funded by HM Government with your local authority you are unable to use it in Scotland so something must be done because Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom, and you should be able to use it anywhere in the United Kingdom including Wales and Northern Ireland.

Overall, I can certainly recommend visiting Scotland and explore this beautiful part of the country.

By: Dave Taylor

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