Welcome to the world’s largest arts festival – and it takes place in Scotland’s much-loved historic city, Edinburgh.

Once a year – during the month of August – the world’s largest arts festival descends on the craggy, grey-stone tenements and grand boulevards of Edinburgh, Scotland‘s lauded historic city. The Festival Fringe, often referred to simply as ‘The Fringe’, was founded in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival. Each year it encompasses some 317 venues and thousands of individual shows. It is a wild celebration of laughter, art, and creativity. But with so much to see (and do, and laugh at, and eat), we’ve compiled our own brief guide to a festival that has caused more tears than any other (tears of laughter. This isn’t Euripides.)

What – and who – to see at Fringe Festival

If you go and see the names you already know, then you’re doing it wrong. Almost every show is listed in the official brochure (available online, in print and as an app), covering theatre, dance, music, comedy, and cabaret. Go off the beaten track and stay there. After all, it’s called the fringe festival for a reason. Personally, we always enjoy Summerhall – as a venue which consistently puts on the most boundary-pushing theatre. Monkey Barrel have among the best comedy line-ups or simply walk down the Royal Mile where performers will pitch their show directly to you. Sometimes the best plan is no plan at all.

But seriously, how can I tell apart the good and the bad?

Because there are so many shows and things to do – honestly, it’s overwhelming – it’s best to pick something that sounds interesting to you. If a show has hundreds of reviews it might mean it has the backing of a very active PR. What’s more, there is an underbelly to the reviews-writing scene, where free tickets might be exchanged for positive reviews. Trust your instincts. Follow the Fringe on social media, and the chatter surrounding it. The national Newspapers will have more resources to conduct in-depth coverage, but they won’t be able to cover it all. Keep your nose to the ground.

Is the Fringe free?

No, and yes. Some shows are ticketed (normally between £10 – £15), while others operate under free and pay-what-you-want schemes. For the latter, you might be asked for a donation at the end of the show (often the suggested donation is £5).


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Getting to Edinburgh for the Fringe

We’ve been on a lot of train journeys. A lot. But the train journey up from London is probably one of the world’s greatest. From the window you’ll glimpse the Scottish countryside at its most beautiful and bucolic. You’ll see the thorny peak of Durham Cathedral, and glimpse the haze-soaked seas of the North.

Where should I eat?

That’s a big question, and a controversial one. Mother India is one of the best restaurants in the centre of town. Book before you go. Brew Lab is a must for coffee lovers, while Valvona & Crolla is a superb Italian cafe hidden at the back of a food store.

I want a break from the fringe. What should I do?

Edinburgh is a beautiful city, so make sure you see more of it while you’re there. Only a few minutes away from the centre of the Fringe you can walk around picturesque Stockbridge (there is a fantastic art gallery there which has loads of work by Eduardo Paolozzi – and the most unusual toilets in the world). You can also go to Portabello Beach, and Cramond Island. There’s also Edinburgh Zoo, with its own quite perfect penguin parade. And – last but not least – walk up Arthur’s Seat for incredible panoramic views across the city.


There’s more to Scotland than the Fringe. If you’re up for exploring enigmatic lochs, craggy mountains, and stunning port towns, then call us today. Bagpipes are entirely optional.