1. Discover Scots aren’t so thrifty
The Scottish Parliament building is the pride and joy of Edinburgh’s architecture: we all adore it and you should endear yourself to Edinburgh residents by remarking on its beauty at every opportunity. Initially budgeted at a paltry £50m we ended up splashing the cash and forking out £414m on this elegant, understated and classic structure. It even has bamboo on it. We asked Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs to come up and film the construction work but sadly he had plans to nail his eyelids to the floorboards that day.
2. Eat some traditional Edinburgh fare
It’s believed that in the 16th century Mary Queen of Scots demanded an interesting condiment for her fish and chip supper. The Royal chef, having only some brown sauce and vinegar to hand, mixed the two and ‘Chippy Sauce’ was born. I think you will find it to be the food of the Gods. In Glasgow you only get vinegar and, legend has it, in Aberdeen they charge you for salt, so enjoy the luxury that Edinburgh chip shops have to offer. And for dessert, my gourmands? A deep fried Mars Bar is my recommendation. The addition of batter and vegetable oil make this humble sweetmeat a delectable treat. Everyone in Scotland serves this at his or her weddings by order of Alex Salmond.
3. Find the ‘next big thing’
It’s a little known fact that the ‘credit crunch’ was caused by Edinburgh residents re-mortgaging their houses to pay for Fringe tickets. In the early days of the Fringe you could see Monty Python, Pete and Dud and Alan Bennett – and still had change from a tenner. Why not try the £5 Fringe and some free shows. Sure, you might see some dreadful stuff, but you might also be the first to see the next comic or theatrical genius: that’s what the Fringe was for in the first place. What? Did you really think it was about coming up to see your fave TV comics? Honestly! The Fringe launched some of these people when they were nobodies – and didn’t they do well?
4. Wander the streets, taking in the atmosphere…
If a plethora of jugglers, fire eaters and human statues is what you’re after, Edinburgh in August is the place for you! We also have plenty of street vendors selling ethnic jewellery and ‘novelty’ hats. My advice is purchase one of said hats and wear it everywhere, we locals will think you are so wacky. Rumour has it that Anna Wintour (or perhaps some other bobbed haired, thin woman) once bought one. Walk up the Royal Mile and experience desperation as the many unknown Fringe acts press flyers into your hand, begging you to come and see their shows. Be kind now: drama students from Huddersfield have feelings too!
5. Look around you.
There’s an arts impresario dude called Richard Demarco (a big cheese in these parts) who once remarked: “Edinburgh! It’s all aboot the gaps!” He was spot on. Edinburgh natives still find themselves marvelling about a sight they see through the spaces between buildings. Glancing around you might catch sight of Salisbury Crags’ raw majesty between two office blocks or the view over the Firth of Forth to Fife as you gaze down through the New Town, or the narrow closes off the Royal Mile. Edinburgh, though small, is truly one of the most spectacular cities to live in and can take your breath away when you least expect it.
6. Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside…
You may be only visiting for a couple of days and have no time to take an out of town day trip. No worries: Edinburgh will bring the seaside to you! Luckily for out August visitors, our bin men are currently on strike, so there are seagulls everywhere. You can marvel at their ability to break into bin bags and how scarily huge they look at close range, with their nasty, murderous eyes. The rubbish on our streets is also an opportunity to take a sneak peak into the private lives of Edinburgh residents. Only the other day I noticed that one of my neighbours had bought loads of Calvin Klein underpants, eaten an abnormal amount of broccoli and read many a Guardian newspaper. I’m knocking on his door, bottle of Plymouth in hand soon, I tell you… That said, the train to North Berwick, or ‘Northy’ as we locals call it, makes for a lovely day out – look out for the Luca’s ice cream van. Yummy! Ask for a scoop in an ‘oyster’: they’ll think you’re dead classy when you desire this nougaty, shell-like serving. And check out the Fringe by the Sea for lots of cool events.
7. Visit our neighbouring city
Go on, it’s not so far away! Leith is not a suburb of Edinburgh but a Burgh in its own right – and a vibrant community to boot. Visitors might like to sample the Shore area where there are plenty of fine drinking establishments and eateries. A word of advice: don’t go to a pub in Leith wearing maroon and declaring: “Heart of Midlothian is the best football team in the world!” Unless, that is you want to be lifted onto the shoulders of the friendly locals and dropped into the nearest wheelie bin. Any night out in this district should end in the legendary Port Of Leith pub where you’ll find yourself suspiciously familiar with the lyrics of The Proclaimers’ back catalogue and singing them at the top of your voice. Since they took it off Her Majesty The Royal Yacht Britannia is also parked in Leith. Want to see how the other half live? Chintz, I tell you! Makes my Granny’s house look like Habitat.
8. Art, darling!
Edinburgh has some beautiful galleries with wondrous collections. Of course we’ve all been breaking into our piggy banks so you can still admire the Titians in the National Gallery on The Mound. You could take a walk down the water of Leith, passing the beautiful St Bernard’s Well, to the Dean Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art, which are across the road from one another. There you will see Turner Prize Winner Douglas Gordon’s ‘Everyone I’ve Ever Met’ list, and I challenge you not to look for your own name in it! Then have a delicious lunch in the café (best fruit scones and homemade jam in town), though woe betide anyone who takes a seat and bags a table before they’ve got their food – your whole party must queue or you will get a big telling off, and no mistake!
9. Drop in on some of our chums
There are some absolutely cracking bars to go to in Edinburgh. Why not drop in and see?? at Bramble, or Dragonfly, Chris at Tempus and Stuart at The Bon Vivant will mix up your favourite cocktails with the best gins in the business. They’re also very foxy boys too…
10. Relax, unwind…
As I’ve already said, Edinburgh is a beautiful city and there are a few places you can see all its unique glory. Calton Hill is a short easy walk but one with rewarding vistas. There you can pay your respects to father of the Enlightenment David Hume, who is buried on the east slope and visit the ‘Folly’, Edinburgh’s best waste of money! A bracing climb up Arthur’s Seat will reward you with some amazing views of Edinburgh. A relaxing stroll round the Botanic Gardens is a sure way to blow the cobwebs off the previous night’s festivities and you can also enjoy some stunning aspects of the city from here. Edinburgh, like most cities, has a few ‘spas’ with many a therapist willing to give you a back rub and facial in elegant surroundings. At Gintime, we know that most of you come to the Fringe for a laugh. So why not visit the Sheraton Spa, where you will find soothing Cleopatra Baths, aromatic smelly rooms and an ‘o-zone’ swimming pool. There you can marvel at the audacious spirit of the architect, who not only thought it a good idea to put a rooftop, outdoor, heated whirlpool in Scotland, but one that looks over a Standard Life office block. As my father, who comes from Glasgow, would say: “Typical Edinburgh.”
Enjoy your stay!