Lonely Planet Writer

Pathfinder pics: exploring Edinburgh's August festival season


Lonely Planet Pathfinder Daniel Clarke recently visited the Scottish capital to check out the festivities that take over the city in August. Here he shares the highlights from his trip.

'I fell in love with Edinburgh on my first visit and returning for the summer festival season firmly cemented that. Once I realised it was going to be impossible to see and do everything that the city had on offer, I settled into the perfect pattern of show hopping by day and soaking up the atmosphere at the quirky pop up bars by night.'

Get ahead of the game

'Scotland's capital is rich in history, character and cobbled streets with stories to tell. It's home to 12 festivals (edinburghfestivalcity.com) throughout the year, with five alone happening in August. During the month, the city’s population doubles in size so planning ahead of time is essential.'

Don't miss the showstoppers

'The Edinburgh Royal Tattoo is one of the most impressive events on the Scottish calendar. This year’s theme was 'Tunes of Glory’ which paid tribute to the Queen's 90th birthday. From the US Army band belting out ‘Freedom’ (which had me pulling some dodgy dances moves) to a moving David Bowie tribute, it was a night filled with emotion that I’ll never forget.'

A trip back in time

'The small houses, narrow streets and colourful rooftops of Edinburgh's Old Town are picture-perfect. The city also has a network of underground City Chambers that have remained intact for over 250 years. I took a tour of the most famous, Mary King's Close, which gave a fascinating insight into what life was like in 17th-century Edinburgh. You also can’t miss visiting the world’s biggest collection of Scotch Whisky, I opted to take the masterclass to learn (and sample) the diversity of the spirit. Top tip: if you go for the morning tour, have a hearty breakfast first!'

Prepare for crowds

'The historic Royal Mile, which leads up to Edinburgh Castle, comes alive in August with street performers which draws in huge crowds. To score a ticket for the Free Fringe shows, I made sure to arrive 30 minutes prior to show time. If you know your show is popular, book ahead online to save time (and disappointment) at the ticket office on the day. But don't get too caught up in booking every part of your trip, some of the best performances can take places in quaint pubs, quirky basements and on the street.'

Escape the city limits

'Edinburgh's Art Festival isn't just restricted to galleries. Sculptures, curated walks and underground exhibitions pop up all over the city, making Edinburgh's art scene accessible to everyone. My personal favourite was the Jupiter Artland sculpture park, located just outside the city, which seemed to perfectly compliment the surrounding Scottish countryside.'

Soak up the atmosphere

'When the festival madness gets a bit too much, Princes Street Gardens is the perfect place to escape to. With Edinburgh Castle towering above you it’s the ideal spot to grab a bite to eat and savour the celebratory atmosphere.'

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