Disabled Access in Callander, Scotland and beyond: A travel guide for wheelchair users
I am tentatively wheeling my way across a forest floor, with light dappling through the canopy of leaves and the unmistakable sound of water rushing somewhere nearby. Suddenly I come to a clearing, and ahead of me is the most beautiful waterfall. Using a wheelchair means I’ve never been able to access such natural tranquillity, and after all of the stresses and strains of 2020 so far, I’m so grateful for this moment.
I won’t pretend that accessible travel is ever easy, and travelling as a disabled person during a pandemic certainly brings an extra level of things to worry about – but, during my first trip of the year, the stars seemed to align, to remind me exactly why I love to travel. A September heatwave, comfortable accessible accommodation, an amazing piece of mobility technology, and stunning accessible natural environments all combined to make me fall in love with Scotland’s Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.
This was a trip that had been planned many times, first for March and then June, and finally, in September I had the joy of packing a suitcase. I had been invited by the owners of Wood Leisure, a caravan holiday business in Scotland, to review their new accessible caravan holiday home at Callander Woods Holiday Park in Perthshire.
Disclaimer: Wood Leisure provided my accommodation on a complimentary basis for the purposes of this review. This is an honest review and my opinions, as always, are entirely my own. This review is entirely based on my personal experience of staying at Callander Woods Holiday Park, as a manual wheelchair user who is able to transfer and is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to accessibility at the accommodation. The Trekinetic GTE all-terrain power was also gifted to me for the duration of my trip, for review purposes.
Wheelchair Accessible Caravan Holiday Home in Callander
Wood Leisure’s two-bedroomed accessible caravan holiday home at Callander Woods is modern, spacious and well equipped, with two comfortable twin bedrooms, a wet room, open plan lounge/dining room and accessible kitchen with lowered units. The larger of the two twin bedrooms has an overbed lifting pole to assist with turning and transferring, and the wet room has the usual support rails around the toilet, sink and shower, as well as a folding shower seat. The caravan is accessed via a ramp leading on to decking with outdoor seating, and there is a parking space alongside.
I have fed back to the owners about making some accessibility improvements – a threshold ramp for the door, and some adjustments to the shower seating would make it even more inclusive. I’m delighted to say that the feedback was responded to straight away and that Wood Leisure are committed to making improvements as soon as possible.
The holiday park itself is in the popular tourist town of Callander, at the gateway to the Trossachs and the Scottish Highlands. Facilities include a children's play area, fishing, laundry facilities and a dog walking area. The caravan holiday home is pet friendly, so my husband and I were joined on the trip by our little dog, Poppy.
Exploring Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park with the Trekinetic GTE all-terrain powerchair
This trip taught me that, for the outdoors to be truly accessible you need the right equipment. Some time ago the guys behind the amazing Trekinetic wheelchairs got in touch to ask if I’d like to trial their Trekinetic GTE all-terrain powerchair on my travels, and it seems that we picked the perfect trip for it. Forests, beaches, parks, and gardens; as well as shops, restaurants and pubs – the Trekinetic GTE meant I was able to get everywhere I wanted to go.
The chair’s front-wheel drive and reclined seating did take some getting used to, and I felt anxious about the danger of tipping forwards when going down steep slopes, however, the chair’s footplate doubles up as an anti-tip device – and those feelings of anxiety were soon replaced by the exhilarating knowledge that with this chair I could indeed go absolutely anywhere. It’s turning circle is deceptively tight, and a quick adjustment to the wheel camber means that it can manage well indoors as well as outdoors.
My husband found the Trekinetic GTE easy to dismantle and lift into the car boot (for reference, I have a Mercedes GLA which accommodated it easily) and at just 34kg including the battery it’s apparently one of the lightest powerchairs on the planet.
Fast Aid Medical & Mobility, based in Midlothian, kindly loaned me their demo Trekinetic GTE and delivered it to me at the holiday park.
Accessible places to visit in Callander, The Trossachs and beyond
Queen Elizabeth Forest Park Waterfall Trail
My magical waterfall experience began at the Lodge Forest Visitor Centre, Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Aberfoyle. Parking up at the centre gives panoramic views over the forest, with to a signposted accessible mile-long trail through the trees, leading to the waterfall which appears almost out of nowhere. There’s plenty of seating along the way, and the visitor centre has a great café and accessible toilets.
Aberdour Silver Sands Beach
I had an all-terrain powerchair, and miraculous Scottish September sunshine – I knew I had to spend some time on the beach. An hour’s drive from Callander brought us to one of the most popular and attractive beaches on the Fife coast – Aberdour Silver Sands. Parking was plentiful, but busy, even in the middle of the week. We enjoyed a lovely lunch at the beach café’s outdoor seating, overlooking the bay. Public toilets are available, including accessible toilets.
Callander Town and Meadows
Closer to our holiday home from home, we enjoyed walks around the tranquil Callander Meadows beside the River Teith. Paths are well surfaced and flat, with plenty of bench seating, and parking at the Meadows car park is free for Blue Badge holders.
Callander’s Main Street has lots of lovely little independent shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants, some with steps and some with level access.
Read More: Callander Meadows Walking Route
Wheelchair accessible places to eat in and around Callander
When it comes to tasty food with a gorgeous view, we really were spoilt for choice in and around Callander. All of the eateries mentioned here have level access throughout and accessible toilets – and they’re all dog friendly, too.
The Pier Cafe Stronachlachar
The Pier Cafe at Stronachlachar offers stunning views right on the shore of Loch Katrine. We took the scenic drive from Aberfoyle and enjoyed a delicious lunch.
Read More: The Pier Cafe Stronachlachar on Facebook
Venachar Lochside came highly recommended by a friend – and I’m so glad I followed up on that recommendation! The perfect venue for a special lunch, as we lingered over our meal on the sunniest of days, I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be than this lochside terrace.
Read More: Dining at Venachar Lochside
The Riverside Inn
A friendly welcoming pub in the heart of Callander, just a mile’s walk from Callander Woods Holiday Park with mostly flat pavements. This pub quickly became our ‘local’ for the week, with good value drinks and a very tasty Scottish macaroni.
Read More: The Riverside Inn, Callander on Facebook
COVID Safe Travel
Accessible travel during a pandemic is for me – to use that famous 2020 buzzword – unprecedented. I had no idea what to expect, and I was apprehensive. But I can reflect on this trip honestly saying that I felt safe – from the thorough deep cleaning of the caravan park holiday home to the enforcement of social distancing measures, temperature checks in restaurants and those around me wearing face coverings. This break gave me a much-needed reset, and I now feel ready to face whatever winter 2020 might bring.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Scotland quite a few times – read my other Scotland accessible travel reviews below.
Read More: The Rings, Fife: Access Review
Read More: Crowne Plaza Glasgow: Access Review
Read More: 10 Reasons to Visit Accessible Glasgow
Read More: 10 Reasons to Visit Accessible Edinburgh