Edinburgh Fringe festival had been on my travel bucket list for some time. This summer, I was pleased to get media accreditation** to cover the world’s biggest arts festival. After our initial accommodation plans fell through, I managed to bag a last minute deal for Edinburgh on Air B&B. Armed with a chunky Edinburgh Fringe festival guide, and loaded Kindles for the journey, we packed our bags and headed for Scotland.
Our trip was a whirlwind three days and two nights in which Edinburgh captured our hearts and imaginations. The people were cool, the architecture is stunning and the weather played nice mid-August (although it’s famously changeable, so take layers, brollies and wellies). In a post-Brexit Britain, I felt comfortable in Remain territory and I could imagine taking up roots in Edinburgh. Of course it helped that there was so much to see and do during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, we had no chance of being bored.
Flights from London to Edinburgh take just over an hour (driving from London is around 5 hours), but we went by train — 4 and a half hours from King’s Cross St Pancras to Edinburgh Waverley Station. Despite sitting on the ground in an overbooked carriage from London to York (tsk tsk Virgin Trains), the rest of our journey was pleasant and scenic. The Scottish coastline is spectacular.
On arrival it was raining so we booked an Uber to our destination. Our driver recommended shows to look out for at Edinburgh Fringe. We settled in quickly at the Air B&B — a lovely en suite room in a well-kept flat, with a warm and welcoming family who made us feel instantly at home.
Our Air B&B was just up the road from the Royal Botanic Garden, a magical setting that’s definitely worth checking out if you’re visiting Edinburgh.
From the flat, it was just a short bus ride to the city centre. Edinburgh Festival Fringe is seriously buzzy, with thousands of visitors from all over the globe. You’re bombarded by people with flyers for any one of 3,269 shows (and 50,266 performances in 2016)!
What To See
If you’re a fan of historic buildings, you’ll love Edinburgh city centre and particularly the Old Town. Most of the action is walking distance which is helpful if you’re accompanied by little feet (although prepare for some steep climbs). Take a stroll along the Royal Mile that stretches from Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle (Edinburgh’s top attraction). Here you’ll find cutlass jugglers, barbershop quartets, mime artists and other street entertainers throughout festival season.
You can follow the footsteps and haunts of popular writers like Robert Burns and JK Rowling on a Literary Tour of Edinburgh. We didn’t have time for the tour, although we did come across a Silent Disco Walking Tour, part of the Edinburgh Fringe programme. Hilarious!
August is also when the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place in the Castle Esplanade. On our first evening, bagpipes, drumming and fireworks from the Military Tattoo blasted out over Edinburgh Castle. I’ve never been a fan of bagpipes but hearing them in Edinburgh through the castle walls, they suddenly made sense. The effect was spine-tingling, actually.
The babes were excited to spot posters of comedian Tony Law (father of Jed’s best friend at school) who was playing at Assembly Hall. His show was for ages 12+ so we couldn’t see him on stage, but we had some fun times with the family during our stay.
I saw Tony Law at Leicester Square Theatre as a special treat for my birthday and he was absolutely brilliant. He’s got this goofy, somewhat unhinged style of humour that had me literally crying with laughter.
We had invites to some fantastic sounding shows at Edinburgh Fringe, but there’s only so much you can see in 48 hours. Here are our top picks:
Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016 Highlights
360 All Stars
I was intrigued by the concept of 360 All Stars, a dynamic collective exploring various forms of rotation. This show was fire! All at the top of their game, the 360 All Stars include the world’s top basketball trickster (dribbling 5 balls at once — yup, believe that!), a Cyr Wheel expert, two B-Boy champions, a BMX stuntman, an MC/DJ and drummer. The music was performed live and my favourite was MC Sam Perry who used nothing but his voice, decks and live-looping to create a rich, immersive soundscape. Jed liked B Boy Leerok (pictured) best.
A free show featuring ‘maths magician’ Jason Davison leading us through clever calculations. The show was interactive and the boys picked up a trick or two. It was held in the Hispaniola, a cool and quirky restaurant with a Christopher Columbus meets Pirates of the Caribbean look and feel.
Bedtime Stories by Upswing traces the nighttime adventures of a young girl, her imaginary friend and her workaholic mum, borrowing elements from The Emperor’s Nightingale. Kids snuggled up on beanbags around the arena to watch this intimate performance that blends aerial arts, circus and dance, with shadow projections. Bedtime Stories is playful and yet touches on poignant themes, such as the pressures on modern families, and what we lose as we grow older. It’s beautifully pitched for younger audiences; the boys were enthralled throughout and gave it four thumbs up.
It means ‘catch me’ in French and we were catching our breath throughout this incredibly vibrant and funny display of circus stunts. One of Quebec’s most exciting new troupes (all the best circus seems to come out of Canada), Flip Fabrique showcase everything from trampolining to crazy diabolo and juggling, and their antics seem to get wilder and wilder until by the end my heart was leaping into my throat. Simply dazzling.
Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music
After gawping at so many gravity-don’t-care acts, we settled in for an evening of Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music. It’s one of my favourite films (having watched it almost daily as a child in Nigeria). At first the boys weren’t too keen on a karaoke version of singing nuns. But before long, we were all booing the Nazis, waving our Edelweiss (and other props) and having a total blast. If you’ve never seen a Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music (or indeed a Sound of Music) put this on your to-do list.
Special mentions to Showstopper! The Improvised Musical and the Showstoppers Kids Show, also on our must-see list until we ran out of time!
What To Eat
‘I’m not eating sheep’s stomach!’ Luckily for the babes, there’s a variety of tasty options in Edinburgh, especially during Edinburgh Festival when street food is in abundance. We had yummy noodles and gyoza dumplings from Harajuku Kitchen, and tasty sausages from a Bratwurst cart. Another popular choice is Ting Thai Caravan in the Old Town although we didn’t get to try it. On day one, we picked up dinner from La Favorita Pizza stall, touted as the best pizza in Edinburgh. They sell delicious thin and crispy pizzas and you can order by the slice. Needless to say, boys passed on La Favorita’s haggis pizza!
Before we left, we were eager to try the chicken wings at Wings on Old Fishmarket Close but sadly they’re closed on Mondays until 4pm. So we had lunch at the Whistle Stop Barbershop, a funky new bar/restaurant with hip hop soundtrack, modern diner vibe, and super fluffy waffles with chicken tenders. Yum.
Edinburgh Fringe was a feast for the eyes, mind and belly. We will most certainly be back.
P.S. Jed even discovered his own town in Scotland. What’s not to love?!
Edinburgh Festival Fringe takes place in August every year. Visit www.edfringe.com
**I received media accreditation and press tickets for some Fringe Shows but covered my own travel and accommodation.
Linking up with Cultured Kids
Nell (the Pigeon Pair and Me)
The Festival’s such a whirlwind, isn’t it? You’re right, there are literally 100s of performances and it’s very difficult choosing what to see. Bedtime Stories sounds good, and I think my son would enjoy Maths Magic. hanks for joining in with #CulturedKids!