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Friday, 9 September 2016

Edinburgh In August

I had an email asking for information on staying in Edinburgh in August for the festival and the fringe. I passed on some information, but then decided that I may as well post up a personal guide for both August and other months:

Firstly there is in fact a BBC guide to doing Edinburgh on the cheap …… it contains a few snippets although is aimed at a slightly different audience. So now you’ve read that and you are still wanting more …..

Edinburgh Attracts Visitors From Around The World

Edinburgh in August (or anytime) is not a cheap city to visit. Its Scotland’s capital and prices in the centre during August (especially at authorised festival venues), reflect that fact (like London). The festival pulls in hundreds of thousand of tourists every week, until it feels like the city is bursting at its very seams. However you should not let that put you off, and indeed that rush of human activity is part of the buzz and vibe during August. So whether its August, or another time, it is still thoroughly recommended for at least one decent visit if you can.

There are ways to manage it without breaking the bank, even during the festival month.

Places To Stay During The Festival:

The festival is incredibly popular so ideally you planned your visit a year or more ago, and booked your accommodation way back when! No, you didn’t? ….. So there’s just three weeks until your visit …..eek! …. Still don't panic it may not be too late.

Step 1: You Might Be Lucky:

If you’re interested in city centre hotels:- these can be as cheap as a B&B if there's a deal, and have the advantage of the room being open all day. However there is never a deal on in August, as they are fully booked, but its worth ringing a few to see if

(a) There are any late booking cancellations.
(b) You can agree the price (it may still be too expensive), and
(c) If no cancellations, but you are happy to pay, if you can go on a cancellation standby list.

Here's a couple of examples of city centre hotels (and there are many others to pick from):
  1. Hudson Hotel - 9-11 Hope Street Edinburgh , Midlothian , GB EH2 4EL (near Princes Street, Edinburgh City Centre).
  2. Holiday Inn - 300 Cowgate, EDINBURGH GB EH1 1NA, Edinburgh  (near Old Town, Edinburgh City Centre).

However there are plenty of others on the google maps - remember outside of the festival there are deals offered at many of the hotels - so its worth a few phone calls e.g the rate may come down per night if you stay longer, or they may match a quote if you mention it. Especially before Summer or in September when they are empty after the festival.

B&B'S In The City Centre:

There are B&B's all over Edinburgh city centre

I can't say how good or not they are, as I haven't stayed in any, but they should be mostly OK (competition keeps them on their toes) ... There are loads on the link above - you need to check the rates carefully, and the locations - Princes Street and the Old town (and the Lawn market and the Grass market for example), are the two main tourist areas, and that’s where you want to stay round ..... but not Leith. Remember, the very cheap accommodations are likely to be 'backpacker' places, and may not be 'family' orientated, so ring and check before booking. However during August these will have long been booked up, but again you may get lucky so its worth a ring.

B&B's Out Of The Centre:

The 'resort' area for Edinburgh is Portobello .... I have stayed there in August and know it can be done with little notice and its OK. For 'family' orientated accommodation ring and check before booking. 

Its 3 miles from the city centre, and is about 20 mins on the bus .... this bus link includes times tables - maps etc. From memory it’s the X26 (*Waverly Railway Station steps to Portobello Town hall) *about a 19 mins journey .... and runs every 20 minutes or so, right up until after 12 midnight (but check).

This search pulls up links to a lot of the B&B's .... (under the Google adverts). I have stayed at a couple of these ..... but can't remember which ones: They sometimes have spare rooms even during August (that’s how I got to the centre when I first arrived there). They offer a reasonable chance of getting at least a room for a few days midweek …. But again, if booked early enough are an acceptable alternative to city centre accommodation.

An example of the type of accommodation rates, can be obtained via the websites for these few: Note Prices always quoted are per person NOT per room.

Stravern Guest House - 0131 669 5580
SeaBreeze - 0131 - 657- 3842
Joppa Turrets - 131 669 5806

Finally there are also serviced apartments e.g. Canon Mills Apartments are about 10 mins on bus from centre (downhill 15 mins walk), which is good for walking back, but a bus up!! - again, the rates vary and can sometimes be cheaper than hotels if staying for a week with a few people. Last minute.com Edinburgh - is a good source for hotels and apartment but avoid areas like the Waterfront (Leith), and the Gyle – these areas are a long way outside the city centre, and are only technically 'Edinburgh' … so check on a map, or you may be very disappointed to find yourself in what feels like another town.

Out Of Towners:

Finally – If all else fails and you haven’t got city accommodation, then there is the ‘out of town’ approach. As the joint centre of the Scottish universe (along with Glasgow), Edinburgh has very good rail / road links with the rest of Scotland. You can therefore look at staying in another city such as Glasgow and commuting in to Edinburgh by train (car parking in Edinburgh is difficult, as is driving in August, so avoid it). But be warned, there are two types of trains available ‘express’ and ‘stoppers’ ~ avoid stoppers as they are slower ... because they stop at every stop!

An example express train is the 15:45pm from Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow. It is the express (51 mins) £12.50 single one way.

There are other places to consider are nearer than Glasgow e.g.
  • Burntisland in Fife which is on the rail route but is not everyone's cup of tea. North or South Queensferry are also close by, and North Berwick is also a possibility. Finally, St Andrews - is an hour by train from Edinburgh, although you need to get the connecting bus to Leuchars and catch the train from there.

But note of caution - The last trains out of Edinburgh to some places can be inconveniently early if you want to go to late shows, as with the buses, so check timetables for these if that’s a factor. Also some of these towns can be an acquired taste that you may or may not want to pick up .... St Andrews is probably the most scenic (Google Earth allows for a virtual inspection).

Official Food Sites Are More Expensive Than Street Venues

Food:
  • Edinburgh caters to the most expensive and cheapest of tastes – this means that even a backpacker budget will get you through a week or so. Most restaurants and cafes are full during the main eating times (early evening) in August, but not all, and tables can be found in many with a little patience.
  • Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Indian and about every other international flavour can be had … Nepalese anyone?
But if you just want to eat on the go:
  • Greggs shops (on many streets), do hot pasties, and cold sandwiches at good prices e.g. £1.50 for a steak pasty and the Cheese and Onion pasty offends no one’s taste buds, nor their wallet at £1.30
  • Fish and Chip (fries) shops abound – they all do pizza slices, as well as the usual items.
  • Nearly every public house does food and the standard is normally very good (but backstreet pubs may be a bit more problematic).
  • Supermarkets all do sandwiches … and of course there are venue outlets such as the Assembly Gardens, Udderbelly, the Pleasance Courtyard etc BUT these are considerably more expensive than non-venue food outlets.

So food is simply not an issue (even if you’re a vegan!)

Travel:

Edinburgh has an Airport as does Glasgow but many international travellers go to Manchester Airport and its 4hours by train from there.

Other things - there are two Rail Stations (Haymarket and Waverly) - Waverly is the one you would think of as centre e.g. nearest Festival main areas, but Haymarket is about 20 mins walk away.

Bus tickets - get the all day tickets available:
  • The Day Ticket costs approx £4.00
  • Family DAY ticket approx £8.50 - All-day travel for up to 2 adults and up to 3 children!

Other Attractions Outside The City Centre:
  1. Leith and the Royal Yacht Britannia at Ocean Terminal - Take the 22 bus from Princes Street instead of taking the Majestic Tour. It drops you off at Ocean Terminal. After doing the Royal Yacht Britannia tour, you can walk around the docks area and maybe have lunch in one of Leith's Waterfront pubs and restaurants.
  2. Royal Botanical Gardens - Take buses 23 or 27 from Hanover Street. Ask the driver where to get off. After visiting the Botanical Gardens go out the same way as you came in and cross the street to take the bus back to Princes Street where you can continue your tour with a *stroll along Princes Street Gardens. *Strolling is perhaps not the word in August, where its just a sea of humanity on the pavements (side walks).
  3. Edinburgh Zoo - Take bus 26 from Princes Street. Ask the driver where to get off. It takes approx a good half a day to do a full tour of the Zoo. Take the same bus back to the City Centre - not cheap though.
  4. Cramond - Take the 41 bus from George Street. The journey takes about 30 minutes. Cramond is apparently a picturesque village on the Firth of Forth and very popular with tourists. You can also visit Dalmeny House, Cramond Tower and Kirk.

And that’s about it ……Oh, the weather. It goes from wet and miserable, to hot and sunny in the space of minutes, and then back again in August. A light waterproof jacket with a hood, carried in a rucksack, along with a thin fleece, for the dry but cool moments, are good ideas. A water bottle is also a good idea. Here's the official guidance on all things discussed above in relation to the festival fringe.

Here's a link to a festival map (there is always an updated version in the back of the festival main catalogue), but this one covers most of the main areas, which don't alter much. Its bigger than this version below.


So there you are. All you wanted to know (and more), about Edinburgh in August (and other times). I hope this was useful and that if you go, you have a really great time.

8 comments:

  1. Many thanks for this. I have been thinking about going to Edinburgh for quite a while and this has given me the confidence to try for next year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment ..... I hope you do, and then have a great time. As I said, booking accommodation now gives you the greatest choice and chance.

      Delete
    2. When do you go? I mean what's the best week for the fringe?

      Delete
    3. Hi Kerri .... for a moment I thought I had a date ..Ha Ha. Errm that's a tricky question. I tend to buy all the tickets when the catalogue comes out and trust to luck/judgement that I picked winners as I go last week. The reason for this is that usually any glitches in the shows are ironed out by then ... but equally performances can have staled (especially on bad shows).

      Best advice .... not the first week.

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. Have you ever been to the festival or fringe?

      Delete
    2. No, I like the idea but the crowds put me off. I really should make the effort though, there's nothing like a live performance.

      Delete
    3. I would recommend that you do it at least once, crowds or no crowds.

      Its one of our major world class events, with something for every taste. I would also say that it requires a certain level of fitness (up and down hills), so don't leave it too late if you have any fitness or health issues.

      Delete

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