Edinburgh in August: Ten-step survival guide

This article is from 2010

Edinburgh in August: the ten-step survival guide

Leith is just one of the many more peaceful retreats during the festival

Essential insider knowledge you'll need to survive the festivals

1. If you’re in the Old Town and need to use a cash machine, you’d probably be drawn to the four in a row on North Bridge. However, these are almost always mobbed – you’d be better going to the Clydesdale ATM, discreetly located across the road opposite Cult.

2. The best technique for dealing with flyerers is to accept everything they give you on the first day, then use this pile of publicity as a decoy for the rest of the festival. You can either wave them around, saying you’ve already got one, or pretend you’re a flyerer yourself, and pass unheeded.

Don’t bother using The Mound steps or the Royal Mile if you’re heading anywhere in a hurry – instead, go for the sneaky News Steps, located just opposite St Giles’ Cathedral, and leading down to Market Street.

If you choose not to walk the Mile, though, you will miss out on a lot of two-for-one offers that the flyerers are giving away. It’s also worth hanging about the venues: the Pleasance Courtyard, the picnic tables in front of Gilded Balloon Teviot and inside the Pleasance Dome are all likely places where tickets to undersold shows will be passed out free of charge.

5. Do not buy an umbrella! As well as being wet, Edinburgh can be quite a windy city, and will destroy any umbrella you care to erect. Instead, get a jacket with a hood, a plastic poncho, or – even cheaper – a bin bag with holes cut out. The best bit about this last option is they can be guiltlessly binned if and when the sun comes out.

6. When you start suffering from Festival Fatigue, it can be good to find a quiet green space to relax for a bit. Every tourist and their handbag-sized Chihuahua will be in the Meadows or Princes Street Gardens; instead, Cramond in the north of the city and the Hermitage of Braid in the south provide more peaceful environments in which to enjoy the countryside, and it’s rumoured that there are areas on Arthur’s Seat where you can’t even hear the traffic.

7. For those not cut out for all this nature malarkey, there are more peaceful urban areas to check out. Leith is packed with excellent bars and restaurants less than half an hour from the city centre, yet remains slightly separate from the hustle and bustle of the Old Town.

Green Yonder Tours provide an opportunity to explore the quiet spaces in the heart of the city: the Royal Mile is surrounded by hundreds of wynds and closes, many of them harbouring secret gardens with their own history. Tours leave Sunday to Friday from outside John Knox House; see www.greenyondertours.com for more info.

9. Restaurants will be bustling with international visitors, so it’s advisable to pick up some food on the go: Palmyra and Mediterranean Gate are two excellent city centre felafel joints, and Café Lucano on George IV Bridge does fresh half-price cakes and sandwiches from 3.30pm.

10. After a hard day’s Fringing, it’s good to relax and knock back a drink or two. Instead of attempting to elbow your way past the thronging bars on the High Street, we recommend Black Bo’s on Blackfriars Street, the Secret Arcade on Jackson’s Close or – if you’re brave and need some early-morning fortification around 6am – Penny Black’s on West Register Street, just behind Princes St: a legendary establishment among Edinburgh’s post-club, party-hearty drinking elite.