A sunny afternoon enjoying the views
This review is especially helpful for those who have or use the following: Long Cane, Wheelchair, Powerchair
The Collective sits atop Carlton Hill and overlooks the city and sea. With splendid views of the hustle and bustle of the city, the sprawling of Leith and the docks and the sea in the distance it's a great place to while away a moment or two, take some pictures or enjoy a relaxing coffee. Formerly the home to the observatories and the mariners time checking it is now a creative art space. At first glance you are drawn to the thought that access will be tricky but closer inspection changes this perception as you discover the thought that has gone into making a welcome for everyone.
Transport & Parking
It's actually very good once you know how. Walking up the hill by most of the paths requires negotiating steps. If you are looking for level access then it is a trek up the access road. The gates are directly opposite St Andrews House in Waterloo Place and you can be taken up by a taxi and dropped off. Blue Badge holders can drive up the access road and park outside the Collective at the top of the hill. Take care driving up the road as it can be busy with pedestrians who may not be expecting vehicles to be using the road. If like me, you are a wheelchair user, you can wheel up and down the road but it is a fairly steep gradient going up - I required the assistance of a willing helper to push me; but it was achievable. Just reward the accompanist with coffee and cake when you get to the top!
Once at the top you can access the Collective from the East Gate as it is level access; the South Gate has steps. The paths around are a mixture of compacted sand like compound and hard surface; easy to wheel on. When you get to the upper level around the observatory the surface is loose stone laid on matting and can be a bit trickier to negotiate. Fortunately, you only need to do this for ten metres and then you are on the access ramp to the frontage of the main observatory. A handy metal ramp helps you to negotiate the small step into the building. Once inside it is a smooth run to see the telescope, the library style room and the shop area. The paths around the complex run in a loop and you can do a one way circuit. On the way you will pass the coffee kiosk and outdoor seating area. It's hard to resist the sumptuous cakes and the chocolate brownie was delicious! You will pass the education room with the mariners' clock in the window where the captains brought their ships clocks to synchronise the time. A short distance away you can grab an ice cream on the patio or venture in to the restaurant for a fabulous dining experience with spectacular views as two of the walls are glass and you feel as though you are perching on the edge of the rock face with amazing view across Leith and the distant water. Go a bit further and the path unfolds to reveal the gallery space where you can experience the latest exhibition and often a great sensory experience. Leaving here you follow the path around to the second observatory space which hosts an exhibition and provides an amazing space with fabulous acoustics. Having marvelled at the space and the art work carry on along the path and you return to the coffee kiosk and the way out. Time for cake!
The Collective has three accessible toilets. All modern, reasonably spacious and well appointed. The first is in the main observatory just by the entrance, the second in the restaurant and the third in the main gallery. Conventional toilets are available under the restaurant and are signposted from the main pathway. If you are a Changing Places Toilet user your nearest options are the "Booking Office" Wetherspoons pub on Waverley Bridge or the Scottish Parliament.
The staff we met were very helpful and enthusiastic to tell us the stories of the site and the Collective.
Anything else you wish to tell us?
A great oasis of peace and tranquility amongst the hustle and bustle of a busy city. Fabulous views and a great spot to spend some time just enjoying the peaceful atmosphere, sunbath on the grass, have a coffee and enjoy the artwork. One of those place you'd go back to time and again. Top tip: If you can go on a day when the guided tours are operating I'd recommend it as the stories and the otherwise unnoticed features add so much to your visit.