Here at Accomable, we know you love browsing our listings to find the accessible holiday destination that’s right for you. We also know that when it comes to choosing the perfect accessible property, the devil really is in the detail - so we’re bringing you more of it.
Meet The Vendors is a series of interviews designed to take you behind closed (fully accessible) doors and give a more in-depth look at some of the properties we feature. Our guest blogger, Rob from The Bimblers takes you behind the scenes with Moira from The Rings in Scotland.
Hello Moira, can you introduce yourself and your property?
I’m Moira Henderson and I own The Rings in Cupar, Scotland, and I have written a book The Journey to the Rings: you couldn't make it up.I wrote the book because we have quite a story behind The Rings. The proceeds from the sale of the book have so far helped us to buy equipment, so far a profile bed, mobile hoist, shower chairs and other bits for the property.
Moira and husband David
I trained as an RGN nurse (SRN equivalent in England) and grew up in a very caring family. We were inclusive before the word was coined. My hubby was an agricultural lecturer at an FE college and to relieve stress we rented a few fields and bought 190 ewes in lamb. I had a steep learning curve into being a shepherdess with a toddler daughter and 6-month-old son in tow! There are many humorous stories in the book around this.....
Then we managed to buy a small farm and when my hubby bought 6 bantam chicks instead of flowers that got a bit out of control too and the flock grew to 20,000 hens and another steep learning curve into poultry keeping. I was Chairperson of Scottish Egg Producers Retail Association (SEPRA) and during that time I fought the Food Standards Agency and got a positive result. Well, more of a negative result as it was to do with salmonella testing of eggs. Out of 22500 eggs tested no Scottish eggs were found to have salmonella and only 9 eggs had salmonella on the shell - none internally, a food scare was averted.
It was through a family illness that I started to think about what I now know as Accessible Tourism. That was over 10 years ago.
Wow, what a story. . .what’s the history behind The Rings?
After my Mum died, I was ill with a post viral syndrome and had to give up the hens. When Mum had stayed with us, she had had a severe stroke and needed full body hoisting, I would have loved to have taken her on holiday but how can you go anywhere with all the equipment which was needed? I thought "we can't be the only family with this problem". My cousin had also needed ceiling tracking hoist and he could no longer go on holiday with his family.
The Rings started out in my mind as a two-bedroom cottage. But, my friend Mairi raised the point that her brothers-in-law had Muscular Dystrophy, and both were in wheelchairs at the same time. She asked could we build something with 3 or 4 bedrooms, she was sure other families would appreciate this. Over time, my health returned and my desire to provide something increased.
In brief to summarise the difficult journey we have had:-
- We failed to get a grant.
- Got planning permission in principle. - Got grant on second application (blood, sweat and tears involved). - Lost the bank support, had to find another bank.
- Almost lost the grant as it took 5 planning committees and a failed planning appeal to finally get to the point where we could build.
- The last grant payment was to be Dec 2013!
- Wrote email after email pleading with everyone up to Alex Salmond who was the 1st minister at the time, to keep the grant on the table for us.
- A further 6th planning committee to alter the road and 6 years since the actual start to try to build, we had a building and were welcoming guests!
The build actually only took 9 months, significant given the size and complexity. We had a fantastic builder, Dougie, whose sister had spina bifida. We were only 11 days into the build when the devastating news that Dorothy, Dougie's wife, only had 3-4 weeks to live...... she died 3.5 weeks later with Dougie tasked to "Finish Building The Rings". In memory of Dorothy, we will have "Dorothy's Break", this will take the form of gifting or subsidising a break for someone who has been brought to our attention with a particular need for a break.
My hubby's pension pot, all my inheritance and a large mortgage have been needed to build The Rings.
Thank you for sharing your story Moira, it's clearly been quite a challenge, and a personal one to everyone involved. How have you enabled people with disabilities to stay?
We also received a "Commendation" in the prestigious Saltire Architectural awards in June.
All the bedrooms are en-suite and three have ceiling tracking hoists, we have a mobile hoist too. Electric profiling beds are also available. The en-suite bathrooms with the tracking also have a bath as well as the wet-room shower area. We have one wheeled shower chair available on request, and also a Sidhil Inspiration cot available to hire. There is also an Argo Huntleigh shower chair which tips back, a compromise on a shower table. The decking makes for an easy transfer from the accessible gravel (it is on a grid to keep it stable) into the house.
The building can be one large venue or broken down into smaller self-contained apartments. They can be three bedrooms, two bedrooms, or studio apartments, there are 20 different combinations so we have amazing flexibility but it's difficult to market so happy for people to contact me and ask! (you can see some of the examples of the layouts on The Rings' Accomable listing)
Floor plan for The Rings, multiple options available for creating the perfect property for your booking
Effectively, if there is availability, you can book the number of bedrooms you need and these will come with a lounge, kitchen and dining area. Two of the four kitchen areas are wheelchair accessible and the Henderson lounge has a rise and fall worktop with inbuilt hob and sink. We've done our best to make The Rings suitable for as many people and group sizes as possible!
Why did you think it was important to have the level of accessibility you have?
My focus was on a design that was accessible but not clinical. I wanted to have a very special lovely place where individuals, families and groups could come and recharge their batteries and build memories. I wanted a beautiful place that was easy to get to and easy to get around in.
Have you ever had anyone famous stay?
Not yet, we only opened at Easter, but Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson wrote the foreword to my book. Fergus Ewing, the then Scottish Minister for tourism, came and marked the start of the build and has been invited back to formally open the building. We have also been mentioned at least twice in the Scottish Parliament.
That's a great start, we're sure you'll be welcoming some famous guests in no time! What is your favourite thing to do in the local area?
I don't have time for much recreation. I am Chair for Cupar & NE Fife Tourism Association, our local area and Fife in general, which has a load of stuff to do. I recommend our visitors check the Welcome to Fife website.
Are there any exciting activities in the area that are adapted for people with disabilities?
Fife Council and Visit Scotland launched AT (Accessible Tourism), Fife. We are actively encouraging businesses to become part of Visit Scotland AT. Registration is free but does involve attending workshops and completing access guides. When we have sufficient companies on board, Euan's Guide will come and do a 4-day itinerary for wheelchair users.
The Scottish Deer centre and Anstruther Fisheries Museum are two more places of interest which are very accessible. Blown Away are very interested in making their activities as accessible as possible. And Inspire Falconry have visited The Rings and facilitated archery and handling birds of prey, or you can travel to their business at Anstruther to participate there. Anstruther beach
Also, Fife has more Changing Places' than any other county in Scotland.
Wow, there's plenty to keep busy with! Have you got any tips for travellers staying with you?
Being Scotland, the weather can be changeable so bring plenty of "layers".
We can also provide guests with a full access guide and are happy to talk through any specific requirements by email or over the phone beforehand.
Depending on where our guests are travelling from, we are delighted to say that Edinburgh Airport (closest to us) has an "Eagle Lift" to make air travel easier.
We are rural but only 4 miles from Cupar and 20 min from St Andrews. Your own transport is advisable, but we do have a wheelchair accessible taxi company who can give a good service if pre-booked. Cupar railway station is wheelchair accessible and then guests can use the taxi company to bring them to The Rings.
Moira, this has been a very informative interview, is there anything else you'd like to share?
The Rings have been specifically designed to be accessible, we are "Inclusive but not Exclusive" so please don't think you have to break a leg to come and stay.
What a fantastic insight into the journey Moira, her family and friends have been on to bring The Rings to life. Most people would have given up, but Moira’s determination demonstrates her passion for accessible tourism. Through her tenacity, Moira has created a truly accessible property, a place to relax and enjoy beautiful surroundings, and I for one can't wait to visit.
If you'd like to find out more, or book a stay at the Rings click here.