Ever since visiting for the day, more than 20 years ago, I’ve held a romantic view of the City of Edinburgh. From stepping off the train at Waverley Station, the cobbled streets winding among centuries old architecture, from Medieval to Georgian, captivated me.
And yet I’ve never had, or made, the chance to go back until last week.
Knowing we were heading to Scotland for a week of walking lochs and glens, I suggested we break up the journey by stopping in the country’s capital for a wander, lunch and to revisit some landmarks I’d stopped by first time around. And maybe take in a bit of the Fringe.
The Fringe Festival, if you are unfamiliar with it, is the world’s largest arts festival, held annually in Edinburgh for almost the entirety of August and showcases anything from comedy, street performances, theatre and caberet to busking, dance and spoken word. Anyone can participate and there are loads of free performances for the public to watch.
This was Sam’s first time in the City, so I was hopeful that he would also fall instantly in love with the place, if I dragged him to various landmarks and throw in some comedy. What I hadn’t realised however, was that August is not only the month of the Fringe but also the month for the famous Military Tattoo.
So it was busy. Which we admittedly anticipated but not to the level we witnessed. We were like Scottish salmon trying to reach our spawning grounds as we made for the castle, inch by inch, against the torrent of tourists flowing down the Royal Mile.
I made it clear that should I ever suggest spending New Year’s here again (it happens once every couple of years) that someone should slap me with a kipper and bring me to my senses!
And unfortunately, once we reached our destination, it was pretty obvious I was not going to get any of the city views that I had remembered, unless we paid the high price to enter the castle, due to the stadium seating erected to watch bagpipe and kilt parade!
Oh well, let’s go and look for Greyfriar’s Bobby, I said. He’s nearby…
Sam was not versed in who, or what, Bobby was until I brought him up to speed. Which I will kindly do for you now, too! Here’s your crash course: Greyfriar’s Bobby is the story of a Skye terrier, who guarded his master’s grave (purportedly a police nightwatchman) for 14 years until he died himself. Locals looked after him and then had a fountain made to commemorate him, which is now a tourist attraction.
On my first visit, it took me over an hour to find the statue once I’d located the correct street in the city…only to realise I’d been stood next to it for a very long time. I blame my height and the fact that I don’t generally look up.
So you’d think this time would be easier, wouldn’t you? Yeah…me too!
I’ve not grown much and as such, when something is surrounded by a throng of people, it’s difficult for me to see what is at the centre. I mean, the large group should have been a clue, but then pretty much every corner in Edinburgh has a large group snapping away with an array of devices.
But once I’d spotted him I was able to take a pic of the wee little doggie and rub his nose for luck. Which Sam found hilarious as he says I was the only non-foreign tourist to do so. Plus, he didn’t really get what all the fuss was about.
We moved on.
Passing, apparently, where JK Rowling penned her first Harry Potter. I felt a little guilty at not knowing this fact but then reminded myself that I was a fan of HP and not JKR…
So after a Mexican midday snack, we ventured into the Fringe to be entertained. As we knew we only had a few hours in Edinburgh, we opted for the free street shows situated around the Royal Mile.
Okay, I get that art is subjective and what one person doesn’t understand, another will rave over. But I was expecting some kind of quality. Or humour. Hopefully a smidge of both.
Instead, we got weird. And I doubt very much we got the weirdest!
Boys walking around in their pants anyone? Cast of Magic Mike, you ask? No. But we do have some pasty, gangly teens who might be about to start a monologue lamenting their lack of chest hair.
Dance: Two performances, one with lots of moody looks and red silk. The other…quite possibly just a bloke from the crowd who thought he’d try to embarrass his kids with some full-on ‘dad dancing’ and a few impromptu lunges and waggles of his tongue.
Then we have the woman singing to Kylie. Everyone loves a singalong and a bit of cheesy pop, right? Wrong. Because what I can’t get out of my head is Kylie’s track of a similar name, sung by a woman on top of a bucket, in a shower cap, pretending to be a seal. (Perhaps there was some ironic twist / reference to another singer she was going for…)
Oh yes, and nobody could hear the track, as it was being played on her headphones. But the beat was unmistakable. La, la, la…
We were saved by a group of A cappella chaps, who weren’t supposed to be performing to the crowd but saw the opportunity of an empty stage and grabbed it. Which I guess is part of what the Fringe is about: spontaneity.
But I have to say I was expecting more – a melting pot of eclectic performers to wow the masses. What we got was more like a bad episode of Britain’s Got Talent in the rain (yes, after months of glorious heatwave, we chose a week of damp and drizzle!) So I doubt we’ll be rushing back, unless we have more time and can plan in some paid shows that we’ve researched.
Edinburgh on the other hand, is still up there for me in a top list of cities I like to mooch around in. So I will return and perhaps stay longer than a few hours. Sometime in the next twenty years, I reckon!
Have you been to Edinburgh or experienced the Fringe? I’d love to hear what you think of the place if you have. Am I just old? Did I get it wrong?
IMAGE CREDITS: All my own, so please be sweet and ask before sharing! 🙂