August and Edinburgh go together like gin and tonic and experiencing Old Reekie during Festival and Fringe time should be on everybody’s ‘to do before they die’ list. Whether your skint or flush, we have the top tips you need…
Fringe on a Budget: Where to Stay
Edinburgh certainly isn’t the cheapest place for accommodation but there are plenty of hostels within stumbling distance of all the action:
This is a city with a huge residential population in and around the city centre so there are many good B&Bs to stay in:
Fringe on a Budget: Eating and Drinking
At about £3.50 for a pint, many of the venue bars at the Fringe and Festival will be more than happy to fleece you for a badly served drink in a plastic cup. However there are some decent pubs near the big venues such as the Brass Monkey on Drummond Street where you’ll be less likely to be harassed by drama students telling you why you ‘simply must’ see their physical theatre interpretation of Dr Faustus.
There are more restaurants per capita in Edinburgh than any other city in the UK, so loads of choice. One local gem is the Mosque Kitchen, which caters for worshippers, locals and tourists alike. You can get an excellent curry, rice and naan for a fiver here. It’s strictly no frills but an authentic experience.
Foodies at the Festival is the place to be if you’re interested in all things culinary. With demonstrations by top chefs and plenty of stalls offering food and drink samples, Foodies make for a tasty day out. Not only can you sip your cocktails watching a Fringe cabaret, you might catch Madame Gin herself, Gintime’s Geraldine Coats, doing a tutored tasting.
Fringe on a Budget: Shows
Guess what? You don’t have to remortgage your home to afford Fringe tickets! In the past few years the Free Fringe and Five Pound Fringe have established themselves as great providers of affordable theatre and comedy and they both do exactly what they say on the tin. Sure, you’ll probably never have heard of any of the performers but that’s what the Fringe was originally about, not paying through the nose to watch vanilla comedians you’d already seen on telly.
- The Five Pound Fringe
- Free Festival
The Five Pound and Free Fringe have lots of music on offer and there are plenty of pubs showcasing with new bands. Whistle Binkies and Bannermans in the Old Town are two popular, free music venues.
Art lovers will be pleased to hear that only five out of the 46 main exhibitions in the At Festival charge for entry. Edinburgh’s Water of Leith has recently been graced with six bronze statues of Anthony Gormley. Walking from the Gallery of Modern Art to Newhaven Harbour to see them is a lovely way to spend the afternoon and explore the quieter part of the city.
Fringe on a Blowout: Where to Stay
Edinburgh certainly isn’t short of plush hotels but for a more exclusive experience we’d recommend the accommodation at The Witchery, one of Edinburgh’s most revered and iconic restaurants. Located a stone’s throw away from Edinburgh Castle, their seven individual suites are decorated with opulence that would make the Queen of Sheba blush. Rates vary but don’t expect change from £250 per night.
Fringe on a Blowout: Eating and Drinking
Ten years ago you wouldn’t have found an outdoor seat in a bar or restaurant in Edinburgh because in those days people seemed to recognise that if it isn’t raining now it will be raining very soon. Nowadays it’s all ‘café society’ here and even the old jakey pubs in Leith have outdoor seats and patio heaters – the best result of the smoking ban in our opinion. Skyscanner have taken optimistic al fresco dining to a new level this year with their Festival In The Sky experience. For £72 you can strap yourself to a funfair ride seat at a large communal table, be lifted 100 feet into the air over Princes Street Gardens and spend half an hour enjoying a cookery demonstration by one of Scotland’s top chefs. The food served is a ‘light lunch’, so you may be in need of a chip supper on the way home.
At Gintime we’re friends with some of the best bartenders in the business, right here in Edinburgh. Bramble, The Raconteur, The Bon Vivant, Dragonfly and Tempus are a few of the bars we don’t mind splashing the cash in, as they make very classy cocktails. However if you’re throwing caution to the wind, where better to let the moths out of the wallet than Missoni’s new hotel and bar. According to its spectacularly irritating website Bar Missoni is: “A Stage. Where life plays out.” Yes, two sentences when one would do. Can’t imagine the drinks come cheap.
Fringe on a Blowout: Shows
So you were thinking of going to see some unknown comedians to keep with the spirit of the Fringe and all that? Are you crazy? Your strategy should be to only see comedians who have appeared on Michael McIntyre’s Roadshow, and who better than the shouty Welshman Rhod Gilbert? Let’s hope he revives his ‘losing his luggage on Ryanair’ and ‘buying a duvet’ material. Groundbreaking stuff.
- Rhod Gilbert (£18.50)
The Edinburgh International Festival has some classy music this year. Porgy and Bess is unfortunately sold out but The Scottish Chamber Orchestra presents Idomeneo, Mozart’s opera set in the aftermath of the Trojan Wars. This is a ‘mythological story of love and jealousy, sacrifice and exile, natural disaster and divine intervention’. Sounds dead sexy!
- Idomeneo (Grand Circle ticket £40)
Although there’s plenty of free art on offer Impressionist Gardens at the National Gallery Complex is a major exhibition of around 90 works where the famous names of Impressionism are represented with works by Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Manet and Sisley.
- Impressionist Gardens (£10)
Every Edinburgh Festival goer has a dream at this time of year: to see a play that goes on to become a huge hit so that when your friends bemoan the lack of tickets you sigh and say, “Oh, we saw it when nobody had heard of it, can’t believe how fortunate we were!” And we all want to be that person, don’t we? The National Theatre of Scotland is a good bet for memorable theatre. This year’s production Caledonia, a story of greed and mass delusion, centres on financial adventurer William Paterson’s plan to found a Scottish colony on Darien in Central America and turn Scotland, one of the poorest nations in Europe, into an imperial power. Although it has an ending as predictable as Titanic I’m sure it will be a hit. The NTS premiered Black Watch a few years ago, which received rave reviews and still runs today. I saw it when nobody had heard of it, can’t believe how fortunate I was to get a ticket…
- Caledonia (Grand circle ticket £27.50)