August in Edinburgh is simply thrilling. The Festival City’s busiest period, you won’t be left wanting for things to do. In fact, it might all seem a bit overwhelming, what with five festivals taking place throughout this one month and literally thousands of events, from plays to parades, to attend.
There’s the world-famous Fringe, the International Book Festival, the Art Festival and the International Festival – not forgetting the spectacular Military Tattoo. If you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh during the height of the festival season, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to enjoy 48 hours in the Festival City this summer.
Edinburgh's gothic beauty never fails to impress © Shutterstock
Dive into the culture: Grab a coffee to-go and head right to one of the many exhibitions that are part of the Edinburgh Art Festival. This year sees Grayson Perry showcasing a series of tapestries at Dovecot Studios, and David Bachelor’s celebration of all things Bauhaus at Ingleby.
If multimedia is more your thing, you’ll be awed by James Richards’ six-channel electro-acoustic installation, Migratory Motor Complex, at Collective in the City Dome. There are exhibitions at venues all over the city, so take in a couple of of others if you have time.
Make a pit stop: You’ll likely have worked up an appetite soaking up all that culture, so duck into El Cartel on Thistle Street for a spot of lunch. Try the tacos – with charred mushrooms or pulled pork – and don’t miss the plantain chips. There are even frozen margaritas if you’re in the mood.
Ariel view of the book festival village © Edinburgh International Book Festival
Get bookish: Head over to the pretty Georgian Charlotte Square where the International Book Festival will be taking place in its own mini village of tents. Here you’ll get the opportunity to hear talks and readings by both world-famous and up-and-coming authors – the likes of David Walliams, JK Rowling, Jesse Jackson, George RR Martin and Pussy Riot have graced the stages here – all in a relaxed setting.
From world affairs to poetry to gripping fiction novels, there’s something to suit everyone (including the kids), so prepare to be inspired and be ready to grow your reading list.
Go to a show: Duck into the nearby Ghillie Dhu auditorium to see a quick show before dinner where you might hear the healing music of Brian Kennedy, or stop at St Cuthbert’s Church to see an LGBT a cappella group or The Really Terrible Orchestra. Both are venues for the Fringe, so whatever’s on is bound to be a little out of the ordinary and utterly excellent. Also around the corner in the Lyceum Theatre, you may come across the International Festival’s global artists programme You Are Here.
Live music is a big part of the summer festival scene in Edinburgh © Shutterstock
Wine and dine: Actually, beer and dine at the Innis & Gunn Brewery Taproom. Taste some classic Scottish ales and indulge in some seriously filling dishes all cooked with a beery bent.
Party all night: Head south to the Argyle and Cellar Bar – another Fringe venue – for one of the 'Round Midnight Sessions, promising toe-tapping jazz and songs from Scotland and Canada until the early hours. It's in Newington, just by Edinburgh University, so there are plenty of bars to keep the party going once this one wraps up.
Edinburgh's iconic Victoria Street, Scotland © Shutterstock
Stumble upon something: Start the day with some spontaneity – the Fringe has well over 50,000 performances of over 3,000 shows across 300 venues throughout the city, plus plenty of street performances. Take a walk down the High Street or Royal Mile and you’ll no doubt find something interesting to stop for, from living statues to buskers to magicians.
There’s also a stage set up offering 20-minute previews of Fringe shows, so if you’re not sure what to go for, stick around there and you’ll find the right performance in no time.
Artist performing at the Fringe Festival on the Royal Mile © Shutterstock
Grab a snack: Move away from the crowds of the city centre and grab a quick to-go lunch at Oink, the ultimate Scottish hog roast. Succulent, spit-roasted pork in a bun with plenty of apple sauce and stuffing is the way to go here.
Get classical: If you want to see some of the city’s bigger production shows, head to one of the venues for the Edinburgh International Festival such as the Festival Theatre or St Cecilia’s Hall to catch a concert or play. You might see Simon Rattle conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, or even a Scottish ballet performance of The Crucible. Make sure to book ahead for these.
Eat up: For dinner, go to 56 North – part gin distillery, part restaurant. They serve gourmet burgers and flatbreads and have a range of gins to try. Even the salads are spectacular enough to get excited about.
Go out with a bang: To top off a spectacular couple of days, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a must-see. This year’s theme celebrates kaleidoscopes and guarantees to wow audiences with incredible displays of symmetry and precision. Expect booming drums, precision movement and awe-inspiring fireworks.
Fireworks at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Edinburgh Castle © DiegoMariottini/Shutterstock
For more information on these festivals in August, and the others that take place in Edinburgh throughout the year, head to www.edinburghfestivalcity.com
Top Image: Classic view of Princes street, Edinburgh with summer fun fair © Shutterstock