Edinburgh will continue to shine long after the Festival spotlight
- Credit: Archant
The world’s largest arts festival will take over Edinburgh for three weeks from this weekend.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe started in 1947 when eight uninvited theatre groups arrived to perform during the new Edinburgh International Festival. Not being part of the official programme didn't hold them back. The 'Fringe' festival has grown year on year and now boasts over 50,000 performances in more than 300 venues.
Household names perform alongside unknown artists in the festivals which includes theatre, comedy. Dance, circus, cabaret, children's shows, musicals, opera, poetry, exhibitions and events.
This is the time of year when the spotlight shines on Scotland's capital city and prospective visitors start planning for next year's big event.
It's not just the Fringe which attracts visitors. The city wows 3.85 million national and international guests every year with its attractions.
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The imposing Edinburgh Castle dominates the city's skyline. Stunning hills hug the 12th century building which stands above the Royal Mile. The road links the Castle with Holyrood House - the Queen's official residence in Edinburgh.
As well as it's medieval architecture and Georgian New Town squares, Edinburgh is luring in visitors for its Harry Potter connections, famous zoo and port regeneration areas.
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The city has a special buzz which makes you feel as though there is a secret party happening on every street you turn into. Months away from the Festival weeks, bands still play in local bars, the comedy scene is alive and poetry evenings midweek are not an unusual occurrence.
The question of when to visit Edinburgh is a tough one. There is no off season and the energy of its people never dips.
The other question to answer when planning a trip is where to stay. Famous hotels are wrapped in stories of years before. The Glasshouse Hotel was converted from the 170-year-old Glenorchy Church. This boutique beauty has 77 rooms, The Snug bar selling 100 different whiskies and a two-acre rooftop garden with views of Carlton Hill. Guests enjoy a friendly welcome from one of Edinburgh's best general managers Tom Gibson.
His extensive city knowledge and industry expertise make The Glasshouse stand out from a crowded hotel market. The rooftop garden hosts pop up bars and events and even spa treatments.
The Old City Observatory on Carlton Hill high above The Glasshouse is nicknamed The Athens of the North. It was designed by William Henry Playfair in 1818, inspired by a Greek temple. Here, Astronomer Royal Thomas Henderson discovered in 1834 how to measure the distance between stars.
Edinburgh is full of its own shining stars and it would be easy not to leave the central area during a trip. But it doesn't take much effort to explore further using the easy bus routes.
We enjoyed a trip to Leith on the shores of the Firth of Forth. It served as a port for hundreds of years and is now packed full of lively bars, restaurants, and shops. The area is also home to Royal Yacht Britannia where visitors can gaze at how the Queen sailed around the world for four decades.
Another portside delight is The Fishmarket in Newhaven. Freshly caught fish is loaded straight from the boat into the restaurant which serves the best fish and chips in the city.
There is so much to see in Edinburgh, the jewels you have missed list will always be longer than those you have explored.
One thing we couldn't go without seeing was Sunshine, the giant panda at Edinburgh Zoo. His real name is Yang Guang and he shares his Scottish home with Tian Tian (Sweetie).
Watching Sunshine munch on a pile of bamboo he was sitting on was mesmerizing. The pandas are active day and night and it's pot luck which, if any, panda you see on a visit.
We went back twice during our visit to watch the characterful animal enjoy his lunch.
The Fringe will be the focus of Edinburgh in the weeks ahead. The city itself will deliver a unique trip at any time of the year.