Edinburgh’s famous ‘Seven Hills’ must be accessible to all – Angus Robertson

Edinburgh must be accessible to all residents and visitors
Edinburgh must be accessible to all residents and visitors
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People with mobility issues should be able to travel around Edinburgh like anyone else and organisations like Euan’s Guide are helping to ensure that they can, writes Angus Robertson.

Rome was famously built on seven hills, and so was Edinburgh. Over the years, there has been some discussion in the Scottish capital about which seven hills are included in the list, but the consensus seems to be Arthur’s Seat, Blackford Hill, Braid Hills, Calton Hill, Castle Rock, Corstorphine Hill and ­Craiglockart Hill.

Millenia ago, the retreating ice sheets deposited glacial debris behind the volcanic plug of the rock on which Edinburgh Castle was built, resulting in the distinctive crag and tail formation where the Old Town of Edinburgh stands.

Hemmed in by city walls to protect against southern marauders, Edinburgh was built upwards as space was at a premium, with steep closes running off the Royal Mile. It must have been a nightmare for the infirm and disabled then. It remains a serious challenge today. Add to that the hustle and bustle of festival time and it cannot be easy if you have mobility issues.

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Last week, the Evening News reported on one Old Town resident, Euan Andrews, pictured below, who has lived in the centre of town for 15 years and says that he “lives in fear for his life” due to the increasingly “out of control” crowds during Edinburgh’s festival period. After suffering a stroke some years ago, Mr Andrews says he feels trapped in his own home and when he goes out he worries because of the added difficulties his disability makes in navigating the busy streets in summer.

For all of us lucky enough to be fully mobile and able to enjoy Edinburgh, despite the physical hurdles and busy streets, we should spare a thought for those less able, and do everything we can to improve things.

Fortunately there have been major initiatives in the city in recent years to improve accessibility, not least through the efforts of Euan’s Guide, the disabled access review site, where disabled people, their family, friends and carers can find and share reviews on the accessibility of venues.

Euan’s Guide was set up in Edinburgh in 2013 by the inspirational Euan MacDonald, a powerchair user, and his sister Kiki after Euan was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and a lack of disabled access made everyday experiences stressful.

Since then Euan’s Guide has published thousands of reviews in an effort to improve access for disabled people. If you take a quick look at the website you can see the online reviews which help people with mobility issues better understand accessibility opportunities and challenges to venues, public buildings, shops, restaurants and any number of places that able-bodied people take for granted.

Recent changes in Princes Street Gardens mean that disabled people will now be better able to access the National Galleries. Without wanting to reopen the debate about the landscaping work and trees in the gardens, we should all be able to agree that it is a good thing to improve access for all.

Edinburgh might have been built on seven hills, but we must ensure that our capital is accessible to all residents and visitors. Supporting organisations like Euan’s Guide will go a long way to changing things as will being mindful of our neighbours and friends who face daily mobility challenges.