Great Scots! Upcoming festivals and more in enchanting Edinburgh

Great Scots! Upcoming festivals and more in enchanting Edinburgh

by Kristi Adams
Stripes Europe

Out of all of the cities I’ve traveled to so far, Edinburgh continues to be my favorite. Each time I find something new to discover, and I’m left wanting more. 

Scotland is an ancient country; its earliest recorded history began in 124 A.D. with the arrival of the Roman Empire. Historical artifacts date human occupation back to the Neolithic Age (3,000 B.C.) and Paleolithic Era (10,000 B.C.). There is history, legend and wonder to be found around every corner here, especially in the capital city of Edinburgh.

See historical sites

  • Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish Crown Jewels: Beat the crowd by getting there when it opens at 9:30 a.m.
  • Edinburgh’s Old Town, the Royal Mile and the National Museum of Scotland in the Grassmarket District: Step into a time machine as you walk along cobbled streets, dark alleys and winding lanes discovering iconic sites.
  • The Palace of Holyrood House and Holyrood Park.
  • For more to see and do, check Visit Scotland’s website. 

Take a ghost tour
See a different side of Scotland’s history through Mercat Tours. Mercat was founded by a history teacher, and the tour guides are expert storytellers. Tours visit the haunted vaults and cellars of Edinburgh day and night, in small groups or exclusive parties. The tours after dark are the most chilling. There are no "jump scares" or tricks on these tours; guides rely on true stories. This company has mastered the art of a story well told and delivers a five-star experience. If you’re not into ghosts, try one of Mercat’s history walks.

Stay in a central location
The Apex Waterloo Place Hotel and Le Monde are my go-to hotels in Edinburgh. Both are within easy walking distance of Waverley train station located centrally between the Edinburgh Castle, Grassmarket and the old town. Both hotels are near a plethora of restaurants, pubs and cafés making dining and sightseeing convenient. 

Visit the Edinburgh International Book Festival: August 12-28, 2017
Some of the world’s best literature and storytellers hail from Scotland — a good reason to host the largest public celebration of the written word. Charlotte Square Gardens turns into a story-lover’s paradise as it fills with book tents, authors and poets. Expect a delightful mix of literature and music. Soak up the atmosphere, kick back on the grass and enjoy an afternoon cuppa in the café or a wee dram in the Spiegeltent.

Join the party of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe: August 4-28, 2017
Each August, “the Fringe” transforms Edinburgh into a performing arts center with multiple venues across the city. It’s the largest arts festival in the world. In 2015, there were more than 50,000 performances and 3,300 shows spread across 313 venues throughout the city. Big names to up and comers performing theater, dance, musicals, cabaret, stand-up comedy and the spoken word (the latter two are my favorites).

The beauty of the festival is that events are everywhere. From large stages, bookstores, botanical gardens and steps to famous landmarks, hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs and more, you’re always close to an event during Fringe. Review the Edinburgh Festival Fringe program to zero in on the events that you prefer.

One of my favorite Fringe venues is the Banshee’s Labyrinth, which promotes itself as Scotland’s most haunted night club. Half of the club was once part of the infamous underground vaults, and it lives up to its name with low-slung ceilings, medieval torture relics and a crypt. I still can’t explain how a strand of hair was yanked from my head while sitting in the crypt bar, when no one was there. Or why my husband’s drink glass kept sliding around on a level table.

Take a day trip from Edinburgh
There are two attractions well worth a one-hour train ride out and back to visit. One is the Necropolis in Glasgow, and the other is The National William Wallace Monument in Stirling. Both are surreal for different reasons.

There are monuments of every architectural style in the Necropolis, home to more than 3,500 tombs. Citizens from all walks of live are buried here, and more than 50,000 people are interred in these hallowed grounds. Perched at the top of a hill overlooking modern Glasgow, it’s an interesting place to ponder life and history.

The National William Wallace Monument is a stunning 67-meter tower standing tall on the summit of Abbey Craig, overlooking the scene of Scotland’s victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. The Scottish people sought to overthrow England’s King Edward I, and a decisive turning point in their fight was the Battle of Stirling Bridge led by William Wallace. There are a lot of steep, winding stairs to reach the top, but seeing multiple galleries featuring history, heroes, medieval armor and weaponry used by both armies makes the trek worth it. The Wallace Sword is here, and it is surreal to see all 5 feet 4 inches of the weapon and realize the strength and agility it took to wield it. 

A final note on Scotland
The Scots like to say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes. The weather can fluctuate wildly over the course of your visit. We’ve experienced rain, chilling wind, gorgeous days and fall-like temperatures on the same summer trip. Hilltops, the Edinburgh Castle and the Wallace Monument are especially windy, and I learned long ago to wear a pair of shorts under my skirts to avoid making a fool of myself.

Take a look at the forecast before you go, pack layers and be prepared for the wild and wonderful beauty of Scotland. 

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