So I've gone ahead and booked several shows for this year's fringe. I've booked a few shows that I would consider to be worth the pre-book on account of selling out fast. I've left myself some time on each day I'll be there to check out word-of-mouth and well-reviewed shows, and I'm also trying to fit in a morning at the Castle, a day trip to Glasgow and an evening at the Tattoo.
So given all that, I wonder if anyone who's been there before has any tips on not only surviving but enjoying the festival. The official site has things like 'embrace the crowds and the queueing', 'wear summer and winter clothes at the same time to cope with Scottish weather' and other such nonsense, but I'd like to hear from people who've actually been. How do you find out about good shows (check out the Scotsman every day?) How do you get around? What parts of Edinburgh should be avoided? Is it as packed as they say it is? Are there any places off the beaten track that are historically a good bet?
Jun 16, 10, 7:12 pm
Are there any places off the beaten track that are historically a good bet?
Despite living 45 miles along the road for well over 40 years I never visited Edinburgh during the festival so not much help to you there I'm afraid but I'm sure "go with the flow" is good advice and will enable you to have a great time.
Enjoy your day out in Glasgow, many festival goers escape to Glasgow for a bit of peace and quiet at that time of year...loads to see and do.
As for another escape, Stirling or Perth are easily accessible on the train or bus from Edinburgh and are worth visiting for their sights. I actually rate Stirling Castle above its Edinburgh counterpart for historical value and views.
Jun 16, 10, 11:55 pm
Given the last two years have had heavy (and cold) rain and strong sunshine in the same day - which gave rise to the claim that Edinburgh was the only place you could get trenchfoot and sunstroke in the same day - the advice about clothing isn't as silly as it sounds. At the very least expect rain.
As for what to see, the reviews in the Scotsman are a good place to start but there are several freesheets that appear on a daily basis in various odd places, plus most venues will have reviews posted outside. Don't forget the half-price hut which will be somewhere on Princes Street - the last two years it's been by the Balmoral and by the National Galleries.
Virtually nowhere - except perhaps the Meadows at 2:00am - is especially unsafe if you take the usual precautions
And yes, it's as packed and as hectic as it's claimed
Jun 17, 10, 4:32 am
but I'd like to hear from people who've actually been. How do you find out about good shows (check out the Scotsman every day?) generally, yes. Scotsman has the most comprehensive reviews. If you like comedy, listen out for the comedy award nominees, but know as soon as the nominations are out, the shows will be sold out. Check out who was rated last year, and see if they are showing again.
How do you get around? Well, generally, I park close to the venue and walk! But I do live here, and so got the 'secret guide to parking in Edinburgh for Edinburgh residents only - including a comprehensive guide to out of hours parking and what is legal and what is illegal' when I arrived. However, there is a good bus service, with flat rate bus tickets - £1.10 if bought at the machine before boarding and £1.20 if bought on board (exact change only). Or you can buy day passes.
Think about how the venues are clustered - there's a north/south Princes St divide for the main venues. So Assembly Rooms and the Stand are easily walkable from each other and the numerous Underbelly venues are close to the University venues (Student's Union, Potterrow, Guilded Balloon) and also George Sq (usually home to the spiegel tent). It's also kind of walkable to Pleasance in a 'oh god, there aren't any buses between the two points and students do it all the time and I'd look silly if I got a taxi' kind of way :o
What parts of Edinburgh should be avoided? Mostly the bits you have no reason to go to (Craigmillar, Wester Hailes etc). The Festival/Fringe is well away from the dodgier bits of Edinburgh(although as alanR says, the Meadows is a bit notorious late at night).
Is it as packed as they say it is? It is the busiest time of year. Streets are buzzing. Tourists are everywhere. Ordinary Edinburghers are trying to get from A -> B with gritted teeth wishing it was September. Restuarants frenetically trying to throw you out so they can squeeze in extra sittings (note, if you want to eat somewhere good on a Thursday - Sunday, either book in advance or go to somewhere that doesn't take reservations during the festival (e.g. Maison Bleue). Turning up on spec won't work). As a resident, you sometimes feel like there are two different Edinburghs during festival - the festival world, and the normal world. They only meet if/when you have to go into the centre!
Are there any places off the beaten track that are historically a good bet? Not sure about 'historically', but the Botanics Garden has had some good events on in it - sometimes after hours. I'm still gutted that I missed Power Plant last year :( This years calender looks slightly less attractive however http://www.rbge.org.uk/whats-on/events?category=7
And don't underestimate how attractive it can be just to while a pleasant few hours away in some of the outdoor drinking venues in good weather - and plan your drink buying with care, as it can take some time to get to the front on a busy evening.
Jun 17, 10, 6:11 am
(although as alanR says, the Meadows is a bit notorious late at night). As is Calton Hill which has a lot of free "entertainment" at night
(Turning up on spec won't work
Most places have given up with reservations and just "chuck them in"
Jun 17, 10, 7:22 am
My experience is that some do, some don't. Those that don't are a god send though! :D
Leith Links has lots of entertainment at night, but of the paying variety :o
Jun 17, 10, 7:35 am
It's been several years since I've done the festivals, but here are a few thoughts:
1) I stayed at a hostel (specifially High Street Hostel) and they had a board where people wrote comments on what shows they did and didn't like. I found that at least as useful as the reviews in The Scotsman. There were also some performers staying there who gave away tickets to their shows. My experience with those was tha tyou get what you pay for.
2) A lot of performers will do excerpts of their shows outside the ticket offices to try to drum up publicity. So that is at least one form of free entertainment.
3) What I found most helpful was deliberately leaving myself some unscheduled time. I made a point of getting out of Edinburgh (a day tour to the highlands) and just leaving an hour here or there for sitting in the park reading. I can't really absorb more than 3 shows in a day anyway.
4) Another thing that I'm glad I did was deliberately seeking out some events that were not things I'd normally go to. I didn't enjoy all of those, but I did find a few eye-openers.
Jun 17, 10, 7:43 am
I wound up in Edinburgh by accident during Festival/Fringe one year (yes, it is possible to be that out of it). It was wonderful. I wandered around. I bought tickets to a couple of things at the half price stand. It was such a gift. Just walking around the Royal Mile was fun. I'd suggest don't try to hard to "do" it, just relax and enjoy the journey.
Jun 17, 10, 12:40 pm
Tks all. I'm based in Richmond Place which seems like it's fairly close to the main strip, I suppose I'm a little worried about staggering from town to there at 130 on a weekday morning, but I guess it's difficult to estimate if I'll run into trouble.
I've got plenty of unscheduled time (or more apt, time where I've got like 5 things planned, and I might do 1 of them, or none of them :))
On my busiest day, I've got 3 shows pre-booked with 2 optional in teh morning and a scout around a photography exhibit in the Exhibition Centre, but the shows are only an hour long, so I'm happy with that. I've kept the pre-booked events to evening time when I figured there was more chance of sell-outs - I'm trying to leave the daytime as open as possible, but it's sooooo hard. :D
Jun 18, 10, 6:44 am
Tks all. I'm based in Richmond Place which seems like it's fairly close to the main strip
Wouldn't call it close to the main strip, but would call it VERY close to to several of the main venues - Gilded Balloon, Pleasance Dome, Pleasance (same group, different location), Udderbelly, George Square & The Zoo Roxy as well as several of the independents - like Fawlty Towers at B'Est restaurant & the Bedlam theatre.
I'd suggest earplugs and a eyemask as it's going to be a tadge noisy round there to the wee small hours
Jun 19, 10, 2:07 pm
I hope your accommodation has been booked. Its all rather expensive at that time of year.
I think last year we did about 14 shows in 4 days - most were pre-booked and some we got based on reviews and the publicity we got on the Royal Mile. Some shows use the stages on the Royal Mile to provide a short preview of their shows. Lots of walking and "embracing the crowds".
This year we have two long weekends planned and are maki
Jun 20, 10, 3:44 pm
I think last year we did about 14 shows in 4 days
I spent some £500 last year on shows in the Fringe, main & book festivals. And all done without taking any time off work.
When I see the prices of some of the shows this year I'm appalled - one I saw last year for £5 is now £17 for exactly the same act. I'm paying less for stuff in the main festival
Jun 28, 10, 1:13 am
Its about 4 years since I last did fringe. However if you are there over a weekend (I think its the middle one), there is/was a "taster" event set up in the fields which was really good fun.
I chose the acts I wanted to see by wandering down the mile and seeing who was performing, who looked good, and who had the funniest spruik. Saw some good stuff. I think I went to 2? reviewed shows. I'm very much a go with the flow girl....see what happens, how I feel and whats my budget like. If you dont have Tattoo tickets already good luck with getting them...they are scarce if you dont buy when they open I have found.
Jun 28, 10, 2:45 am
Tks, all. Yeah, I have accomodation, Tatto and 9 shows sorted out now. Leaving the afternoons as free as possible to find hidden delights. I'm only there for the first week - figured it would be a little quieter than the rest of the month, so we'll see how that theory works out.
Have also booked a return train to Glasgow and just going to jump on the City Sightseeing bus for the day. No chance of seeing the highlands this time without stretching myself too thin, but it's my first time in Scotland, I'm sure I'll be back.
Jun 28, 10, 5:10 am
However if you are there over a weekend (I think its the middle one), there is/was a "taster" event set up in the fields which was really good fun.
Fringe Sunday is no more
I chose the acts I wanted to see by wandering down the mile and seeing who was performing, who looked good, and who had the funniest spruik.
The main venues will all have reviews of their shows outside from various sources. The Royal Mile tends to get people leafleting and there are numerous pillars set up for shows to stick their advertising to - and which rapidly get covered by other advertising