August 21, 2017

Visit Scotland: Fringe, Festivals and Food

I’ve said it before, but Edinburgh is one of my all-time favourite places to go in the Summer time. August is synonymous with Edinburgh in my mind and I’ve been for the last three years in a row. There’s no other place quite like it.

Edinburgh is magical, comforting and so much fun to explore. I love returning to cities that I’ve visited before, I’m not saying I couldn’t still get lost, but I definitely know my bearings a bit better now. The food is wonderful, the vibe is buzzing (especially during July and August which is #festivalseason), and there is SO much to do. So I wanted to package up all the things we did and recommend some seriously brilliant things to do, places to stay and things to eat. We flew with FlyBe from LHR and it was a very short flight but I also recommend getting the train, in many ways it’s easier to just sit on a train and daydream. Oh and maybe bring an umbrella with you just in case. The joy of UK city breaks 🙂

Where We Stayed

I want to 100% recommend the Paul Kitching 21212 hotel. The interesting thing about this hotel is that it’s often described as “a restaurant with rooms” which I love. The location is beautiful too, the hotel sits in a listed Georgian townhouse in Edinburgh’s Royal Terrace. The restaurant received a Michelin star in 2010. The other thing I loved about this hotel is that it feels like a big friendly (luxurious) house. After dinner you go up the big lovely staircase to bed. In the morning, the breakfast is laid out in a big light-filled drawing room. I loved this communal aspect of breakfast. At first, I was a bit apprehensive (I’m not a morning person) but sitting around a big table chatting to the other hotel guests was just lovely. We swapped recommendations on what to see and which shows to get tickets for, and I felt very comfortable and happy there. The beds are huge (this is always so important to me, A GIANT BED!) and there are lots of rooms around the hotel to hang out in and read a book. It’s very tranquil indeed and only 10 minute walk to the Royal Mile.

Where We Ate

The dinner in the 21212 hotel was incredible. The chef, Paul, has a contemporary cooking style and I have no other way to describe than ‘eclectic’. Each bite has contradictory elements that compliment each other and the maître d’ said that the best description someone once gave was “a circus in your mouth”. The menu never has more than three choices for any course, but is changed up each week. It’s affordable too, with two course lunches starting at just £28 on weekdays. We have a favourite sandwich shop to nip to in between shows or if you are hiding out from the rain called Gannet & Guga, with great fillings, big selection on bread types with a Vietnamese street food vibe to it. I throughly enjoyed The BlackBird for lunch – it serves my favourite thing ever, all-day brunch! I had steak and eggs and it was delicious, everything had a simple yet delicious twist to it (also how amazing is their sofa). Another big recommendation is Mary’s Milk Bar (recommended by Glasgow blogger Forever Yours Betty) for amazing gelato.

Sights We Saw

One thing I was desperate to go and see (like the fangirl that I am) was the café that is named ‘the birthplace of Harry Potter’. Yes, it is the place where JK Rowling wrote her first pages of Harry Potter and of course it’s now turned into a bit of a tourist attraction. I wore my Harry Potter scarf from Alan Santry featured in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The hop on hop off bus tour is brilliant, and so is seeing the Royal Yacht Britannia. I didn’t go this time around but have been on previous visits. It’s the place that served the royal family as a residence for state visits and where Princes Charles and Diana spent their honeymoon in 1981.

Shows We Watched

Edinburgh is of course famous for its festivals, they are so many! The International Book Festival is always amazing, there is the Edinburgh Art Festival, Edinburgh Food festival, TV festival and the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues festival.

We were lucky enough to go to Edinburgh during the brilliant Fringe Festival, which celebrates it’s 70th year this year. I saw a range of shows, and here are a range of different recommendations, depending on your mood:

Digs by Theatre With Legs. An excellent comedy duo telling a story with multiple characters based on the often hellish moments of shared living spaces.
Cathy by Cardboard Citizens. A brilliant play which has received five star reviews about homelessness. It is educational, poignant and raises awareness. This play has been touring and has been performed at prisons, schools, day-care centres and even the House of Lords.
Sara Pascoe’s ‘LadsLadsLads’. Sara’s latest stand-up show about being single for the first time in forever. I love Sara, she’s vulnerable and fierce at the same time and it had a lot of feminist food-for-thought and in general she’s just so loveable.
Josh Pugh. This is a brand new stand-up act for me, I’d never heard of him. This is the joy of Edinburgh, you end up in tiny little backrooms laughing uncontrollably and discovering new talent. I want to tell you about this act but it’s a lot of “you had to be there” moments. Recommend.
Ballistic. This was a rather serious one. About a boy’s childhood and how we grew up to be a mass murderer. If you’re interested in seeing a dramatic one-man-show, I recommend this one. Disturbing and thought-provoking.
Tessa Coates “Primates”. I loved this. Funny, educational and smart. If you are interested in anthropology and love a weird fact, you’ll enjoy this.
– Daniella Isaacs “Hear Me Raw’. If you want to know how the ‘wellness’ trend can affect impressionable young women, this is a must-see. It’s funny but I also had a lump in my throat for most of it. Very powerful indeed.

Thank you to Visit Scotland for helping us organise this trip, for all your recommendations and for your #ScotSpirit.

My Book

“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”

– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE

"Funny, honest, and nostalgic!"

– The Debrief

“Emma Gannon is a bright spark of light in the world. I seriously dig everything she makes”

– Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Big Magic