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Short trip to Edinburgh at start of Fringe Festival


Sep 4th, 2012, 11:19 PM
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Short trip to Edinburgh at start of Fringe Festival


I recently went up to Edinburgh a few weeks ago for a friend's wedding and took the opportunity to spend a couple of days mooching about as I've never been to Scotland before. It also coincided with the start of the Edinburgh Fringe festival (and tattoo although I didn't go to that), and I managed to pack a lot in to a few days. Came home with aching legs (oh those hills!) and finally got round to writing a report for you all.

I did no planning at all before going other than having a couple of vague ideas in mind.

Travelled up from London by train and paid £15 to upgrade to first class - my first time and Soooo worth it on a long journey. I'm now a first-class convert. The staff were amazing, we got complimentary meals, drinks (including alcoholic ones) and snacks the whole way, along with plenty of space. I was at a nice little table with two seats and no passenger sharing with me. We started off with a full English breakfast with tea served on proper plates/cutlery, then teas/coffees all morning with biscuits and snacks. Lunch (with wine) was a selection of sandwiches, crisps and cakes, followed by more tea and coffee.

Stayed at the Travellodge on Waterloo Place. Cost me about £100 a night for a double room (I was there on my own, but it would have cost the same with two), which I found a bit steep for a Travel Lodge but really I was quite lucky to find anywhere at all during the festival. The hotel was a bit of a curate's egg - 'good in parts'. Actually, the only really good thing was the location. 3 minutes walk from the main train station, and a few minutes walk from the Royal Mile. Other than that, it was ok, acceptable, average, it'll do.

The room was small (comparing to other Travel Lodges) and of course very basic but clean and comfortable. To start with.

I was there 3 nights and the room wasn't cleaned once/restocked and talking to the chap on reception got me nowhere, just a big moan from him about the new cleaner and how the other staff don't talk to him(the receptionist) and blah blah blah, without a word of apology or any action. He was such a dreadful receptionist it became quite funny. He was a nice lad really, just clueless! when I have to go and ask for more tea and milk as my room hadn't been done, I just want you to say sorry and go get me some. Not stand there moaning about your own problems and not moving until i ask you again to fetch me some teabags. Oh, and I was on my third kettle too by the end of the stay, the other two mysteriously stopped working (not from misuse).

But if you can laugh off stuff like that, the location is fantastic!

the hotel was also my first introduction to the wonder of Edinburgh hills and architecture. I was a bit dismayed to be given a room on Level -1. Was I being stuffed in a basement? Would I have a window? In the lift I noticed that the level went down to -3! But my room turned out to have 2 big bay windows and I was about 5 floors above street level at the back. There were only 8 rooms on my floor so that tells you how steep the hills are - the front of the building is at ground level on that street, but then going down a level you still end up far above ground level to the street at the back of the building.

More later...
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Sep 4th, 2012, 11:48 PM
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I was 1.5 hours too early for check-in at the hotel but hoped to leave my luggage there anyway. No. Not possible. Great. So grabbing a map off the counter with one hand (see? no planning!) and my wheelie case in the other I spotted I was near to what looked like a park. Calton Hill. So I trotted off up the road, keen to stretch my legs a bit after all the time on the train.

Wow. I'm now so glad they wouldn't look after my luggage for me as I'm sure otherwise I'd have headed into town and missed out on a treat. Calton Hill is a BIG hill but with its gently winding paths not too arduous, even dragging my bag. Incredible views over the city, the Firth of Forth behind in one direction, and Arthur's seat behind in the other. What a quirky city Edinburgh is, I loved it from the moment I saw those views; a city with a mixture of modern and ancient, surrounded at close quarters by peaceful and wild looking countryside, water, and mountains. A mountain right in the middle of the city! (well, it looks like a mountain to me, I'm used to flat little Essex). One of my vague ideas had been to walk up Arthurs Seat but the look of it from here put me off! In any case I'd mainly wanted to go for the views and I had those already.

At the top of the hill are several buildings and monuments, including the National Monument, which is an unfinished copy of the Parthenon.

All this only 10 minutes walk from the city centre. Very much recommend it to anyone visiting Edinburgh.
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Sep 5th, 2012, 12:21 AM
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Thank you, very interesting review. I have never been in Edinburgh, but reading your article gave me a whole impression about this sity
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Sep 5th, 2012, 12:53 AM
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Travelodge has financial problems http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6a70e6fe-f...#axzz25a0B6Sj0
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Sep 6th, 2012, 04:21 AM
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In no particular order, I also did:

The Fringe Festival
On the first evening there were a few 'pre-fringe' events happening and found myself a comedy showcase of 5 of the comedians appearing at the fringe. Went down to the basement of the pub where it was being held to be greeted by an absolutely delighted host at the door of a small room with a small number of people sitting in the audience. Sat down then found out total audience was 3 and the rest were the performers. Who were all excruciatingly not funny at all, but I didn't have the nerve to stand up and walk out. One hour of my life I'll never get back..
On another day went to a show by a group of young people who were individually singing 'songs from the musicals' under a rough framework of acting that they were auditioning for us. They all did a good job and it was a nice little show.
Other than that I didn't have time for any of the shows, but enjoyed a few walks up and down the Royal Mile watching the buskers and those who were performing on the street. The whole area had a real buzz.

Edinburgh Castle
Didn't get a ticket for the Tattoo (although I think I heard fireworks one night) but found the Castle very interesting and spent about 4 hours total in there. The exhibition about the Jewels of Scotland was the best part, and it was also interesting to see the prisoners of war accommodations. At one point a man in full-on kilted uniform came marching through with bagpipes and started playing off one of the battlements. There's a lot there to see and I think it was worth the £16 entry fee.

The Real Mary King's Close
This is a tour of the closes that were built over by the local authorities, so they were once above ground but are now underneath. This was all due to those hills again, it's very sloping ground so they levelled it off by knocking down the buildings to a certain level (so down to ground level at the top, and down to about 4 stories at the back) and then using that for the foundations. At first I was rather disappointed and found it all a bit 'hokey' but as the tour moved on it improved and became much more informative, and there was much more to see of the old homes. I'm not sure the idea of having a costumed guide who at times went in to first person mode pretending to be an 18th century merchant, and at other times went back to speaking as a modern guide in third person, worked for me. But otherwise, well worth the £12.95 entrance fee. The best gift shop I saw on the trip as well, not just the same old same old stuff everywhere else had.
One brilliant tip for anyone visiting the Royal Mile and in need of a loo - their loos are right at the entrance before you go through to the ticket hall, so you can just be cheeky and nip in and out without being seen.

St Giles' Cathedral
Also on the Royal Mile. A beautiful, peaceful retreat from all the Fringe madness outside. Gorgeous stained glass windows. No entry fee but they do have donation boxes out, into which I popped a quid.

The Closes of Royal Mile
Fascinating to wander off the main street down one of this little alley ways and many of them have information boards at the entrance telling you a little bit about them. The architecture is really unique - I think Edinburgh invented the skyscraper, again because of the hills, as you go down the steep closes the roof of the buildings around you - sometimes only a gap of about 3-4 foot for the close (alley)- stay level but the number of stories increases. Also the spiral staircases up the steepest buildings are encased in round towers attached at the back, which along with the little wooden doors, make it look like something out of hobbit-town.
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Sep 12th, 2012, 09:06 AM
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North Berwick
Had a short trip out of the city as we all met up there for fish and chips on the beach.

North Berwick is a pretty little town on the Firth of Forth and is about 30 minutes from Edinburgh by train. If you make the trip out then make sure you check the return train times, I didn't bother and just missed one. As they only ran once an hour at that time I had a rather boring visit to the station waiting room. The train station is very prettily decorated with flowering plants in the name of the town, tucked into model train engines, in the baskets of bicycles etc..so a few photos did kill about 5 minutes of that time.

The town has a lovely sandy beach with a 'prom' behind. There is a large paddling pool that remains filled with seawater even when the tide is out so I was happy to have a little paddle. The water was certainly cold but we are a gritty bunch. (The wedding party went swimming right out at 7am on the morning of the wedding!). The sea was beautifully clear. This is a novelty for me as living on the Thames estuary I'm more used to 'sea' being liquid mud.

The town is extremely popular with commuters from Edinburgh and a nose in the estate agents windows made our eyes pop at the prices. There are quite a lot of holiday lets there too, and it would actually make a nice base for visiting the area/Edinburgh if you didn't want to be in the city. It's very clean and tidy and the inhabitants clearly take a lot of pride in the place, it has a very genteel sort of air. I would say it's the Frinton of Scotland if I wanted to be a bit cruel (but it's not quite as stuffy!).

There are a couple of fish and chip shops by the beach and we went in and ordered our 'fish supper'. That's what you ask for if you want fish and chips. There's no selection of different types of fish,if you are in Scotland, Haddock is what you get. It was beautifully cooked and the chips were wonderful, real traditional cooked in dripping ones, crispy outside, fluffy inside, and tasting like heaven. There were other food options - including deep fried battered haggis that was flying out the door with the locals.
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Sep 12th, 2012, 09:20 AM
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Thanks for sharing.

I went to the fringe festival a few years ago and was so caught up in it that I didn't see very many tourist sites in Edinburgh. Planning again for next August, and maybe I'll do better this time.
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