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How did it begin?

Back in 1947’s post-war Britain, the Edinburgh International Festival was born in a bid to celebrate diverse European culture. And, y’know, to cheer everyone up a bit. Alongside this, a bunch of theatre troupes turned up uninvited and performed on the streets and in unlicensed venues, and nobody went to much effort to stop them.

The next year a whole load more followed suit and the Fringe gathered momentum and morphed in to the all-encompassing song and dance that we see today. Now it’s a bit more official, with tickets and a society, but there is still an event for every inclination and budget. Performances remain uncensored which can, at times, bring the organisers out in a rash.

Get in the spirit:

There’s no obligation to wear tartan - although kilts are obviously encouraged. Characters come dressed in all kinds of costumes, Scots or not, and you can join them without anyone batting an eye. For a real taste of Scotland, many of the restaurants serve a menu of local grub. Get stuck in to black pudding and haggis with a Michelin star attached.

Whisky bars run tasting evenings, but most of the city’s bartenders will be able to talk you through their tipples, and pubs on every other corner serve a range of locally brewed beers. Be aware that some bars don’t allow fancy dressers in. Also remember that there is no better hangover cure than a deep-fried Mars bar.

What to expect:

The Fringe is ridiculously popular with locals and tourists alike, so accommodation can get quite pricey. Hostels will be buzzing and especially sociable, or groups can look for self-catering apartments to share. For the same reason, there can be quite a lot of queuing involved, whether it’s for tickets, drinks or just a cash point. Also, some of the more popular shows are likely to sell out, particularly those with celebrity names attached.

That said, the atmosphere is electric and spirits are high, so just relax and enjoy it. In bonny Scotland the weather is predictably unpredictable, even in August. A well-prepared festival-goer will have sunnies, sandals, wellies and a raincoat at the ready at all times.

What else?

Edinburgh is immersed in a festival fever that is tricky to avoid, but there are still bits and bobs to do outside of theatre-land. It is home to loads of museums and art galleries, or you could take a day off to explore the castle before the troupes of pipers descend.

Day trips whisk explorers away from the bustle and off to the highlands and lochs that inspire Scottish creativity. Some even traipse around the distilleries sampling a dram at every stop-off.

If you’ve got a sunny afternoon to spare, take a hike up to Arthur’s Seat for sweeping views to the castle, the city and the Firth of Forth beyond.

Images: Supplied, Getty and Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society


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Festival guide: The Edinburgh Festival Fringe
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