August is festival month in Edinburgh. It has started already with the Edinburgh Art Festival running from 28th July to 28th August, the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Edinburgh Military Tattoo all join in from 5th August and the Edinburgh International Book Festival brings up the rear from the 13th. It is a busy, and potentially expensive, time in the city.
Perhaps the two best known festivals are the International and the Fringe. Occasionally confused with each other, the International hosts ballet, opera, theatre and other performing arts events, the Fringe, well it hosts anything you can possibly imagine, though the headline acts tend to be comedians. If you try, and not particularly hard, you can spend a full 24 hours going from show to show. The costs can soon mount up and, whilst attending performances is probably the main reason many visitors come, there are things you can do in Edinburgh during August that will not break the bank; over the next few weeks I will share some of my favourites with you.
I’ll start, as any festival visitor to Edinburgh should, with a walk along the Royal Mile, which is the collective name for the succession of streets that flow down the hill from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood park. Head first for the stretch between Cockburn Street (pronounced Co-burn for anyone who might be asking directions…) and George IV Bridge. Here the Fringe Society operates a street performance space with organised free events. The area has become a magnet for anybody looking to advertise their show, competing with each other to put on the most eye-catching display and hand out the most leaflets. It is a good way to get a flavour of what is on offer and to hear pitches from performers that you would not otherwise have considered, all the time soaking up that unique Fringe atmosphere for free.
If the colour, the noise and the people all gets a little too much, venture along the rest of the Royal Mile, up towards Edinburgh Castle or down towards Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament building, where the crowds will thin out (a little). On route there are a number of good, and free, museums to visit including the Museum of Childhood, Museum of Edinburgh, the People’s Story Museum and the Writers’ Museum. There are also plenty of photo opportunities to be had amongst the cobbled streets, narrow ‘closes’ and higgledy-piggledy architecture.
Done with sightseeing? Grab a sandwich or picnic provisions from one of the many eateries that line the Mile (for cheaper supermarket options the nearest is Tesco on Holyrood Road a short detour away) and head for the greenery of Holyrood Park, home to Arthur’s Seat, to rest tired feet, mull over the flyers you have collected and plan your Festival itinerary.