Updated: 1st August 2018
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It’s kind of shameful as a Brit but this is my first post about the land I call home, the UK. Edinburgh is a city that has been in my heart ever since I worked up here four years ago so I’m amazed it has taken me so long to visit during August for Edinburgh Festivals.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is famous world round but it was news to me that there are in fact five different festivals that happen in the Scottish capital during August.
The streets are pumping, the city is buzzing and the sun is shining (ok, this is still Scotland so no guarantees) making it the perfect time to soak up not just the history that this city is famous for but also the world’s biggest festivals.
Edinburgh Festivals in August… A quick photo guide
During August the population doubles as over 500, 000 people visit to marvel at this historic Castle city. By day the crowds come to soak up the street performers on the Royal Mile and cram in as many shows as possible. By late night it’s about sinking some bevvies in a purple, upside down cow, or one of the many pop-up bars throughout the city.
To give you an idea of just how big the festival events are in Edinburgh the only other two events that sell more tickets are the World Cup and the Olympics… crazy stuff right?!?
Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Perhaps the most famous of them all, the Fringe Festival literally takes over the city. The street performers and a mountain of flyers on the Royal Mile lure you in. Whether you opt for the big-ticket venues or the smallest back room pub a good time is for sure. The Fringe is the worlds largest arts festival and last year over 3000 shows took part with an unbelievable 50,000 + performances put on.
As well as the four main stages which host curated fringe shows there are tons of smaller venues, shows and artists around. The beauty of the Fringe is if you have an idea and can find a venue then you have a show. This makes it super accessible for performers to get their work into the spotlight without forking out heaps of cash. It also means for us we can take in free shows without the worry of buying tickets in advance. Remember, if you enjoyed it, leaving some cash at the end to pay these talented folks is the way to go.
Edinburgh International Festival
The International festival can sometimes get confused and blended in with the Fringe. This curated collection of performances are usually put on in the bigger venues and often with big name performers. I was lucky to snag a ticket to Alan Cumming live at the The Hub and his after show party and it was a brilliant night in an intimate but ornate venue.
Whilst Alan might be a Scotsman the International Festival gives talent around the world a stage in Edinburgh. This year there were performers from over 43 countries offering a huge varied program of events giving insights into performing arts and theatre from different cultures as well alongside the home-grown talent. I couldn’t help notice a theme of politics, travel and acceptance through many of the shows which on the back of Brexit and the emotions it has stirred up seemed rather apt.
Edinburgh Art Festival
Edinburgh is already an art filled city, with not just museums and galleries but also 150+ permanent statues and monuments dotted around. That coupled with the Castle, cobbled streets and historic architecture makes it one of the best places to visit in the UK for art lovers.
This year the art festival went well beyond the city walls. Jupiter Art world with its green hills and set against the impressive private residence of Bonnington House was one of my favourite places to visit. Surrounded by the greens and yellows of the Scottish countryside it’s sculpture garden was well worth the out-of-town trip for.
In the city itself you will stumble upon installations all over. From subways to Carlton hill and with art as varied as neon lights through to classical works. Trust me, you don’t need an art degree to appreciate how impressive the collection is.
Edinburgh Book Festival
I’m a sucker for books. When I travel hand luggage I’m bound to a kindle but nothing beats the feeling of getting stuck into a real hardback before swapping it with a new friend on the road.
With book signings, talks by famous authors and a huge on site shop it is no surprise that in the few weeks the event runs it sells more books than most of the permanent stores in the city. Located in the beautiful Charlotte Square Gardens it’s an awesome spot to chill on the grass, grab a coffee and get stuck into a few chapters of a new novel.
Edinburgh Royal Tattoo
I had to save the best to last as this show completely blew my mind! I’ve gotta admit, I have seen clips of it on TV but with a two-hour running time I had thought it might be over kill.
How wrong could I have been.
The Royal Tattoo is now so popular it tours, complete with Castle set, around the globe. Over 200, 000 people attend it live every year but the reach through Television is insane. If 100 million people tune in globally each year to watch it then it has got to be pretty damn impressive right!?!
From the projection lit castle back drop at the start to the closing fireworks those two hours flew by. Watching different army bands from around the world perform pieces as varied as the US army belting out some Aretha through to Jordan’s much more intimate performance which expressed their local culture.
If there is one thing you splurge on when you visit Edinburgh Festivals make this it!
Five festivals might seem like a lot crammed into one month but Edinburgh actually has 12 festivals throughout the year. From the famous new year celebration of Hogmanay through to Storytelling. The best thing is that Edinburgh Festival does not have to cost a bomb. I’m putting together a budget guide for anyone planning to visit in 2017 for its 70th Birthday Celebration so check back in a few weeks to read it or sign up for the newsletter.
WHERE TO STAY?
Accommodation can jump hugely in price during the August Festival season so advance booking is a great idea. Here are two options I tested out that don’t need to cost a bomb.
SYHA Edinburgh Metro Hostel: Dont panic! This isn’t your typical dorm hostel. During the summer months this University city hand many of their campus flats over to the SYHA to manage which means you can score your own room (share bathroom) within a flat right in the heart of the city for around £50 a night which given how expensive hotels can jump is a great option. For me it was better than a hostel as you still get a private room with plenty of space, your own wardrobe and desk as well as access to the flat kitchen so you don’t have to eat out every day.
Motel One: There are two of these chic, German based hotels in the city offering really chic designed rooms at a lower price than most boutique hotels. Don’t let the Motel name fool you, with plush bedding, designer features, amazing showers and a great breakfast buffet this is much more of a 4* hotel experience than a motel. Rooms start from £59 a night during the off season but can rise higher especially if booked last minute leading up to the festival.
HOW TO GET THERE?
By Train: If you are starting your journey already in the UK then train might be the best way to get up here. Our trains can be both expensive and packed but if you book in advance you can usually score a good price and get a seat reservation (try and go for one with a table for a charger as it could be a long ride). I love using The Train Line as a starting point for finding great fares.
By Air Edinburgh has a great airport located not far from the city and there is also an airport in Glasgow. Both serve International routes as far as Asia with both budget and legacy carries. Check out Skyscanner as allows to hunt down the cheapest flight deals – I have a super handy post on the best ways to get cheap flights as a good starting point.