Up close with a still or two
This review is especially helpful for those who have or use the following: Long Cane, Symbol Cane, Wheelchair, Powerchair
It's rare that you meet a newly opened attraction that has thought so much about the experience for disabled visitors. Holyrood Distillery has raised the bar in several ways; it's not perfect but the good bits outweigh the odd glitch. A visitor experience where you don't have to do things differently, be wheeled down some random corridor, or forced to view things from afar. Here you really can get up close and intimate with a still or two!
Transport & Parking
Holyrood Distillery is situated toward the end of St Leonard's Lane which is just off St Leonard's Streets along the side of the Police Sation. A traditional cobbled street there are good pavements on either side with dropped kerbs. When you arrive at the distillery gates you have to cross a bank of cobbles before reaching the tarmac area or the access path. Not the greatest experience but worth the effort as from the path onward the access to get in is good. If you are arriving by car you can be dropped off by the door and then you driver can pop to the nearby street where there is on street parking. Several sections have yellow lines and so are handy for folk with Blue Badges.Taxis can drop you off at the door too. If you are coming by bus you can get a Lothian Buses number 14 which will drop you off at the Police Station some 100 metres along the lane.
Arriving at the Distillery's visitor centre you have two large glass doors. These can be a wee bit heavy but staff were watchful and quick to lend a hand. Once inside a warm welcome awaits and you can decide whether or not to take one of the tours. Holyrood is unusual in that they are producing both Whisky and Gin on site; hence the choice of tours. While you wait there's a great shop area to browse and everything was on display in easy to see units - no wondering what was lurking on the upper shelves or behind other things. The two till areas made for easy access too - no fiddly counters to rest your chin on here! I went on the tour having decided to 'see everything' and was instantly charmed by the amazingly large lift. It's not often I can wheel my powerchair in a lift and then do a complete three hundred and sixty turn. I think my guide thought I had lost the plot when I did three quick rotations! The lift quickly takes you up to one of the upper levels and the start of the tour. It was a sharp intake of breath when we entered the first room - all to do with scents and smells - but with an appearance of something of a cross between Hogwart's, a chemistry lab, and Merlin's den! Accessible benches laid out with intriguing glass containers, small bottles, colourful wall charts, and a big black wall of iconic rune like interpretation. You'll have guessed by now that I loved this room. Moving onward, we moved to the next section, each being cleverly masked from view until you sweep into them. A view down on to the two beautiful shiny copper stills - I'm sure they have a name but that bit escaped me as I pondered on the idea of how few distilleries create this 'gallery' style of view which is so helpful for wheelchair users who otherwise spend a lot of time peering up at stuff. The enchantment continues as I saw another colourful room explain the amazing flavours that are infused in to the gin making process. I will leave the surprise element of that room for your visit, suffice to say it was vibrant, easy to wheel around and complete with great interpretation walls and panels. I fully intend to bring my visually impaired pal along on a visit - he'll love this magical room. Oh yes, I nearly forgot... in this room sits an amazing work of art - although many will call it the gin still or something similar. It was great to be able to get so close to it. We meandered on to different levels and were able to revisit my two friendly whisky stills but this time on the same level as the stills. Again very easy to wheel up to and get a sense of the scale. After a pause to admire the stills and the irresistible peering down through the grated floor we moved on. Going through what looked like a wooden door we were plunged into a dimply lit, aromatic, chamber ... no, not a Harry Potter one but a warehouse style room where casks sat on shelves and upturned barrels formed high level tabes and the atmosphere recreated that of the typical whisky warehouses we see dotted throughout Scotland. The atmosphere, the aroma, the temperature here was so right, I imagined myself being in one fo the many warehouse I have visited on my travels. From here, where you get a wee dram, we moved into the bar area where you can sit a while, enjoy the view of the Craigs and then the final descent back down to the shop area and time to say good bye.
The toilets were modern well laid out and bright and cheerful. The one I visited was spacious and had enough room for my powerchair and a couple of other people. The doors were wide and painted / treated with bright yellow finishes which made them easy to see. No feeling of sitting in a white box with this room.
What can I say ... Welcoming, cheerful, enthusiastic and happy to take their time to make sure our visit was amazing.
Anything else you wish to tell us?
The new Holyrood Distillery might have been created in an old Engine Shed but the experience was amazing. This is certainly one of my favourite finds for 2019 and I will be going back soon with my friends!