Multiple blog posts have been started since my last, but sadly I just haven’t had the time to finish them all. For those of you who know me or follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I have been away for a good chunk of the summer and I can’t wait to relive it by writing it all down. Even thought my holiday to Greece was prior to the Edinburgh Fringe, I am going to post about my journey to the Fringe and across Scotland first. Let me know your thoughts!
Edinburgh Fringe Festival
So I have volunteered at the Edinburgh Fringe for 2 years and this year I am returning as a Director, having been elected onto the board last year. 3 years into the Fringe and I still can’t get enough of it. I work for a company called Paradise Green, we run 2 venues that house 2 spaces each and have a super varied programme which this year consisted of 72 shows. As a volunteer I feel like it is the best way to experience the Fringe; free accommodation, tickets for shows, food from our kitchens and a lovely team of people to spend it with. This year was my worst for seeing shows, finishing the Fringe having watched only 32, but the quality of shows I saw was utterly incredible and so inspiring to meet such wonderful individuals and companies.
So that is a bit of context in terms of how I experience the Edinburgh Fringe. If you are attending as a punter it is a very different experience and you will probably not be there for quite as long, though either way it is such a brilliant thing to experience at some point in your life, whether it is as staff, performer or audience.
Now the prices in Edinburgh absolutely blow up for the Fringe, which isn’t really a big deal coming from London as the prices are almost a match. The Fringe is extremely good for independent business, most of which make enough during the festival to tide them over for the year and ensures that a lot of independent businesses actually manage to stay open. This is super exciting from a food/drink lovers perspective, there is nothing I love more then discovering new places and Edinburgh is a haven for it.
If there was a meal I could recommend for your time in Edinburgh it would be a proper Scottish breakfast, which you can get literally anywhere. There are lots of nice brunch spots such as The Birchwood, Urban Angel and City Cafe, but most places do a great breakfast at a very decent price. As a veggie, they mostly offer a veggie alternative such as veggie haggis and sausages, though I have found that the interpretation of “veggie sausages” is “mash potatoes and peas shaped like a sausage” but it is still delicious either way.
In terms of structuring your Fringe if you do go next year, my favourite day plan is to wake up (relatively) early (for the fringe) and see a 10am show. One that is on every year and is brilliant is Shakespeare for Breakfast at C Main, they also offer croissants and coffee with each ticket so no excuse not to really. After that I would head for a proper breakfast at a nearby cafe (both City Cafe and Angus Flynn are nearby) and then plan back to back shows from around midday. The great thing about the Fringe is there is always something you can watch if you have a gap, the bad thing is there is so much choice you often end up overwhelmed by the options and don’t see any of them. Always plan your day in advance and you might actually watch some shows.
My favourite place for coffee is Black Medicine on South Bridge. Their coffee is incredible, the staff are so lovely and they do the biggest muffins I have ever seen. They also operate as a Fringe venue during the festival (who doesn’t) though I haven’t seen anything there yet.
If you want to absorb some of the cultural influence then the Elephant House is said to be where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter and they also do lovely coffee.
There are a LOT of places to get a drink during the festival; most bars are open until 5am and pretty much every doorway offers you alcohol. My favourite bar is the Whiski Rooms near Waverley train station as they do the best amaretto sours there and are generally quiet compared to most bars with a plethora of delicious cocktails and drinks on offer. They obviously also sell a lot of good whisky…
Pop up food stalls
What I always love at festivals are the pop up food stalls, and the Big 4 have a lot to offer on this front. If you head to George Square Gardens you will be in the hub of Guilded Balloon, Assembly, Underbelly and Pleasance with tons of food stalls to suit most tastes. They have a delicious crepe popup as well as fish and chips, creme brûlée and burgers that I would all recommend. If you are ever looking for good cheesy chips at a reasonable hour then most of these places offer them.
Other places to go
I haven’t visited Makars Gourmet Mash Bar but I have been recommended it so many times, if you are there, GO!
Whenever I’m in Edinburgh and it isn’t utterly freezing, my favourite thing to do is visit Mary’s Milk Bar and sit on the grass at the bottom of the castle and watch the world go by. Not only is it one of my favourite ice cream places ever, from that position it almost feels as though you aren’t currently at the fringe and it’s definitely a good use of a spare hour as I feel so relaxed afterwards.
Other things you shouldn’t miss out on whilst you are at the festival is visiting Edinburgh Castle (either early before the tattoo or going to the tattoo as well) and climbing Arthur’s Seat to see the sunrise.
So after being at the fringe for almost 3 weeks, Edd and I decided to have a break week and see some of Scotland. As a birthday present, we went to a spa called Macdonald Inchyra Hotel and Spa for a night. We had massages, mudding and generally a day of recovering from the fact we had been partying until 5am most nights. It was absolutely lovely, and such an incredible birthday treat. We even had cream tea!
We then drove to a small B&B called The Shepherd’s House by Loch Lomond which was a stopping point on the West Highland Way hike. On our way, we stopped at the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel, which you need to get to before 5pm, but are definitely worth the visit.
Although we tried to combat the rain and climb up Ben Lomond, we didn’t get that far, but a day of hiking and climbing was definitely a nice break from the business of the festival, even if I did get about 20 bug bites.
From Loch Lomond we drove to Perth (just picking places at random by this point), being the drink lovers we are, our decisions were based around visiting distilleries. We visited Strathearn Distillery first, which is the smallest distillery in Scotland and produces both gin and whisky. This time of year is whisky and our tour was literally just the one room, but it was so brilliant to visit and see alcohol be created in such a small space.
We then visited Lindores Abbey, which is both the oldest distillery in Scotland as well as one of the newest. There is documented evidence that the monks who built Lindores Abbey were distilling a spirit called Aqua Vitae which means water of life, which is also the translation for whisky. After being destroyed during Henry VIII’s reign, these have been transformed into a new distillery that pays its respect to the monks that once inhabited the Abbey. Rebuilt by the family who still lives upon its land, it is an absolutely beautiful distillery that is definitely worth visiting. Though we cannot taste their whisky for a few years at least as they have only just begun, you can try the Aqua Vitae they are producing.
This distillery is also used as an event space for up to 50 pax for seated dinner, there are definitely not many distilleries that allow you to have your wedding reception surrounded by stills, so super exciting that you can do that here.
After Perth, we travelled to St Andrews, visited the famous golf course and ate a lot of food. My personal favourite was the St Andrews Waffle Company which do the most incredible savoury and sweet waffle combinations, as you will see from all their 5* reviews on TripAdvisor.
We also visited a really cool restaurant called Forgans, who do a variety of fun events on different days of the week, but it has a delicious menu, a quirky backdrop and a lot of character. I definitely found in St Andrews there was a huge divide between cheap pubs and expensive hotel restaurants without much in between, restaurants like Forgans bridge the gap and are exactly what we were looking for.
What I loved about St Andrews over everywhere else was the fact that there was such a push on locally sourced ingredients and relationships. Most restaurants listed everywhere they received their products from, and this was reflected in the quality of food we had.
We then head back to Edinburgh, saw the last day of the festival and then returned home as it began to convert to a normal city once again.
I absolutely loved driving across Scotland and definitely want to do the West Coast route up to Inverness next year if we get the chance. Have you ever been on a road trip across Scotland, I would LOVE your recommendations if you have any cities I should visit or places I should eat?
I will hopefully be upping my posting once again!