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Life on the Fringe

Updated: 2011-08-16 08:05

(China Daily)

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 Life on the Fringe

Clockwise from top: Edinburgh's annual Festival Fringe showcases thousands of comedians and other artists for three weeks at venues around the Scottish capital.

The Military Tattoo is one of the great spectacles of the festival, featuring both military and civilian performers.

The festival covers the full range of theatrical artistry, from street buskers and mimes to top-class singers.

The Fringe welcomes unknown acts and established entertainers from around the world.

A wander along the pedestrian-only Royal Mile will take you past numerous eye-catching street performers. Photos Provided to China Daily

Get a taste of Edinburgh's annual festival of delights and frights

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe offers everything from street buskers and mimes to top-class singers, actors, comedians and cabaret stars at hundreds of venues around the Scottish capital, and that's in addition to the international book, art and jazz festivals and Military Tattoo, which are all part of this cultural cornucopia in August.

Here, correspondents with local knowledge provide some helpful hints on how to enjoy 48 hours of crowds, comedy, theater, spooky tours, dance and art on the hilly, cobble-stoned streets.

Day 1

6 pm: After arriving - likely at the central Edinburgh Waverley train station, which lies under the brooding shadow of Edinburgh Castle - book into your hotel and then hit the streets. You can order a Fringe program before you go at The website is well worth checking out, as it also has advice on where and how to book tickets.

Start with a wander down the Royal Mile to take in the sights and sounds of a city where 21,000 performers are ready to entertain you in more than 2,500 shows.

One of the great spectacles of the festival is the Military Tattoo, which caters to 220,000 spectators over its three-week run to Aug 27. With more than 1,000 military and civilian performers, the Tattoo is sold out early in the year, but you can try your luck at the ticket office at No 33-34 Market Street, just around the corner from Waverley Station, or you ask at your hotel's reception desk.

8 pm: Time for some food and drink. Try the Royal McGregor pub in the heart of the Royal Mile (, which is run by the McGregor family and boasts links to the ancient MacGregor Clan. Have a pint of ale to slake your thirst and order from a menu bursting with traditional and modern options.

10 pm: Head to bed, because Saturday will be a long slog, running from show to show and seeing the sights. Or, if you're feeling like making a night of it, you could take in another Edinburgh treat, the Royal Oak pub at No 1 Infirmary Street (, which is a focal point for traditional folk musicians.

Day 2

10 am: Start your day with a hearty breakfast at any of the many pubs and restaurants catering to hungry festival-goers. A wander along the pedestrian-only Royal Mile will take you past everything from buskers, acrobats, mimes, magicians and dozens of other eye-catching street performers. Small theater troupes promoting their shows will also line the street, so don't be surprised if you happen upon people in pajamas, funny hats or dressed like giant poppies and crazy animals. Everyone will be clamoring for your attention, including the usual army of young women toting placards and handing out flyers. Drink it in.

Official Fringe venues are all clustered in the shadow of Edinburgh University's McEwen Hall, where giant tents are erected on open ground. The box offices for the Assembly Rooms, Pleasance and Gilded Balloon are all here, while ticket points for The Underbelly is on Cowgate, leading into the Grass Market under the castle's southern ramparts.

Of course, take time to visit the castle itself ( Perched on an extinct volcano, this World Heritage site is a fortress that has stood since 600 AD and it is still an active military base.

1 pm: If you hear a booming noise, then that's the One O'clock Gun, which has been fired from the castle almost every day since 1861. It not only signals tradition, but also more importantly lunch. Head to any sandwich shop nearby for a quick bite or make your way down to the pubs, restaurants and bars that line Rose Street (to get there from the castle, descend the Mound, pass the National Gallery and the Royal Scottish Academy, and cross Princes Street onto the parallel-running street).

Another alternative is to book a posh lunch at The Witchery (, which is located in a 16th-century building by the gates of Edinburgh Castle. The oak-paneled walls are covered with tapestries, mirrors and carvings. It is very popular, so make sure you have a reservation.

After lunch, take in another show or enjoy a spooky walking tour with Auld Reekie Tours (, who advertise on the Royal Mile or the nearby Mary King's Close ( Both take visitors to hidden and underground areas of the capital. See the old haunts of body snatchers, criminals and witches.

6 pm: By now, you are probably tired and hungry again, so it's probably a good time to stock up and recharge before a busy night of fun. Try some traditional Scottish grub: "haggis, neeps and tatties", which is sheep's offal boiled in a sheep's stomach and served with mashed parsnips, potatoes and covered with a whisky jus.

There are a number of places that serve this and other ancient dishes, although one close to the festival area is Doric Bar and Restaurant ( at No 15/16 Market Street, which bills itself as Edinburgh's oldest gastro pub.

The Doric was built in the 17th century and serves locally sourced homemade food in its ground floor bar and traditional fare like haggis in the wooden-floored restaurant upstairs. It also has an extensive wine and whisky list.

8 pm: Time for more shows or drop into a Free-Fringe show in any pub or restaurant. More than 500 free shows are available throughout the city during the festival. Just buy a drink and take in the entertainment. The performers will be grateful if you toss a coin or two into a waiting bucket.

11 pm: On the way to your lodgings, you won't be able to resist stopping in on one of the many late-night comedy and cabaret shows.

Day 3

10 am: Grab the newspapers over breakfast and coffee at your hotel or a nearby restaurant before setting off on another rollicking day at the Fringe.

11 am: Souvenir hunters can browse the stores along Princes Street, Nicholson Street and George Street for knick knacks and gifts for loved ones back home. Edinburgh is filled with shops selling kilts, tartan scarves, rugs, hats, clan badges and joke Scottish memorabilia.

1 pm: For lunch, wander over to Edinburgh's B'est restaurant on Drummond Street for some good, old-fashioned British hospitality brought to you by Faulty Towers, a performance based on the popular television show written by and starring former Monty Python John Cleese. Basil, Sybil and the bumbling Manuel serve up a hilarious three-course meal. There is also a dinner show.

2 pm: If you are in an artistic frame of mind, try the National Picture Gallery at the foot of the Mound on Princess Street. There is also a fine exhibition of Northern Renaissance Art from the collection of Queen Elizabeth II at the Queen's Gallery, nestled in the outside wall of Holyrood Palace, opposite the Scottish Parliament at one end of the Royal Mile.

You can also take a spin around the Scottish National Museum, which has just reopened to great acclaim after a refurbishment. It sits on Chambers Street, near the Fringe Center.

5 pm: As evening comes around, it's time to start winding down. Find a good place to settle and recount your trip to Edinburgh in a comfortable spot over whisky and dinner.

The 180-year-old Cafe Royal on West Register Street, just off Princes Street, has a bar and a restaurant. Take a seat at one of the booths surrounding the carved wooden bar and order some of its famous oysters, local beer and, of course, a wee dram of whisky (or two).

This Edinburgh institution is decorated with original stained-glass windows, Victorian plasterwork and irreplaceable Doulton ceramic murals. It is also said to be haunted, so keep your eyes peeled for mysterious goings on.



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