Exploring the Fringe: Edinburgh – 09/08/2019 to 12/08/2019

Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Edinburgh. After a day of transit, Emily and I arrived slightly tired to Waverley station. Now we had the simple task of taking all of our gear across the city. A piece of advice. If you plan on visiting Edinburgh over the Fringe festival season, book early. Airbnb for our dates were few and far between. Still being on the outskirts wasn’t too bad. Only a 15 min walk from the North Sea made up for any initial Trainspotting impressions of our estate.

The North Sea, probably very cold!

The next morning, once fully rested we woke up to beautiful sunshine. A treat considering we were yet again forecast heavy rain that we managed to avoid. Taking full advantage we managed to head out Holyrood park and climb Arthur’s Seat – an amazing hike that I was so keen to do, but not sure we would get the chance.

Views across the park

A proper hill walk, this hike was a 20 minute incline rising 823 feet over the city. The most impressive peak for miles around, it is little wonder the place was the site for an ancient Iron Age fort and is intrinsically linked to Arthurian myth. It is said to be one of the sites of Camelot. Fact or fiction, today it is an amazing piece of nature in an otherwise massive urban hub of Scotland.

We made it to the top

Heading back down, we checked out (but did not enter) Holyrood Palace. A tour for another day, another trip. It was the starting point for our walk along the Royal Mile, taking in the best of Edinburgh’s Old Town and seeing our first real piece of the Fringe. Buskers. Performers. Touts. Thousands of people all milling around a compact area, there to enjoy a cultural festival like no other.

The Fringe in full swing

After watching a street performer climb through a tennis racket, and sampling some free whisky we made our way to end the of the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle. We looked to upgrade our tickets at Stirling Castle to Explorer Pass tickets (thus giving a discount) and despite some initial trouble, we were able to do so. So we had another castle to be explored!

Another street performer, a busking fisherman guitarist from a window – only at the Fringe!

Filled with museums, we decided to visit just the one (History of Scottish Warfare) and then take the guided tour of the castle. We love a guided tour. The extra insights given make the time spent wandering the complex all the more rewarding. Did you know that Edinburgh Castle has never been taken by force, only by a daring night stealth raid by Robert the Bruce’s nephew and through siege warfare? We didn’t, and wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for our guide.

The amazing Edinburgh Castle

We saw the old St. Margaret’s chapel and Mons Meg. The oldest location in the castle has the worlds most famous medieval cannon sat outside. Because the church and warfare always go completely hand in hand! The cannon is an absolute beast capable of launching 300lb balls of granite 2 miles. Total destruction!

Mons Meg – beast of a cannon

Our final stops in the castle were to respect the Scottish servicemen who died in conflicts from WW1 to present in the national memorial and then head to the Crown Jewels. A highlight of any European nation’s cultural and touristic repertoire, the Scottish crown jewels have the distinction of being the oldest in the UK. Fancy.

Another Game of Thrones-esque Great Hall

Once done we left the castle and began an afternoon of beer fuelled Fringe activity. We loaded up on a spectacular hog roll at oink before fully embracing the free Fringe festival atmosphere, joining a day venue, drinking beer and watching free comedy. An absolute riot. Between this and our final (and disappointing) comedy gig of the night we managed to get drunk, completely soaked (thanks for holding out Scottish weather) and overall fully into the swing of the festival ready for a second day completely dedicated to the cultural experience. Which I’ll let Emily chat about…

Views across the city that only battlements can give

Emily here! So, the Fringe. That was our plan for the day. The Fringe as Liam mentioned, is a cultural event unlike any other. There are what feels like a hundred shows happening at any given time on the royal mile. We picked a show to start off with and decided to let the Fringe current take us from there. All the shows we decided to watch were part of “the free Fringe” where comedians and performers of all kind put on a free show for about an hour and then at the end you pay a £5-£10 or more if you want, but the point is to get their act out there and make it more accessible to everyone attending.

My favourite stained glass window in St. Margaret’s Chapel

In total we watched four shows on this day, no two the same. Our starting show for the day was called “Brown Privilege” by Adrian Minkowicz, an Argentinian comedian. Not ready to face the rain, we decided to stay in the venue and watch whatever came next. Libertarian Love Songs. In this show a band creates the satirical country of Libertaria, and they tell the story of their country in song. Absolute riot and completely unexpected.

The Royal Mile in full Fringe activity

Adventurous as we are, we decided to go as far afield as the next pub along, where “The Watch” was about to start. This show was a fictional community watch meeting where all audience members live on the same street. The issue at hand? The local tuna factory has been turning people into sharks and it’s a threat to the neighbourhood. Obviously. Liam and I sat in the front so we got involved pretty quickly. Liam was Fishy Gary a tuna factory employee and myself Sheila an 80 year old Frazier fan. The creativity of the fringe is truly remarkable.

Cool Harry Potter street art between the various Fringe venues – Edinburgh is of course where J K Rowling wrote the Philosopher’s Stone

After a full day of beer and laughter we decided to head to our final stop for the evening: Whiski. A restaurant that has over 270 whiskies on offer. We made it our mission pretty early on in Scotland to try at least one whisky from each of the six Scottish whisky regions, and without this restaurant we would’ve missed the chance to try the elusive Cambeltown. With our nice whisky in hand we sat down to some traditional Scottish fare: a haggis stack on potatoes and turnip, and a venison steak with juniper berries potatoes and peas. Delightful. We will stayed for what was supposed to be traditional Scottish music that turned out to be southern blues. It was still a very lovely way to end the night. We put on our rain gear one last time for the day and bid farewell to the fabulous, behemoth arts festival that is the Fringe and, the following morning, Edinburgh. We will be back.

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Whiski Bar and some of it’s extensive range

Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur%27s_Seat

https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/

https://www.edfringe.com/

https://www.whiskibar.co.uk/