The Fringe, also known as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest Arts and Culture Festival in the world and anyone can take part in 2021.
Different to the Edinburgh International Festival which runs during the same weeks in Edinburgh, the International festival is by invitation from the Festival Director and showcases top class performers of classical music, theatre, opera and dance. Sadly due to the Covid 19 outbreak, the 2020 festival and fringe festival and royal military tattoo have been cancelled. The provisonal dates for 2021 are 6-30th August 2021.
Follow tweets on @edfringe. There is a very good Q&A page for anyone who has booked tickets or for performers who are unsure of the next step. Artists will have the opportunist for a full refund or roll over their ticket to 2021. click here for more details.
Planning your trip 2021.
Understanding the Locals, check out my new beginners English with a Scot.
August in Scotland is mad, crazy busy. Accommodation is at a premium as the performers are staying in the city plus camera crews. The Military Tattoo starts in August (dates for 2021 are 6th -28th), and did I mention the Book Festival? This tented village caters for over 1000 authors, in over 800 events for all ages.
TICKETS Edinburgh Fringe – Which show?
The first thing you need is a copy of the brochure. They are available in book shops, cafes and at the Edinburgh Fringe official store on the Royal Mile. It is impossible to scroll through over 3,000 shows without some sort of guidance. It is easier to narrow your search by comedy/music/theatre or children’s category.
The National newspapers post daily reviews, check out the Scotsman, the Stage or ask the staff at the booking offices.
Fringe App – one of the best apps to help explore the Edinburgh Fringe. This easy to download app, allows you to find shows nearby, buy tickets, it indicates your nearest ticket collection point and shows you what’s available that day at the Virgin half price hut.
It is very easy to use and you can select your show by genre – suitability, accessibility and of course find out the price. Years ago the Fringe cost around £5 a show, now with big circuit names like Al Murray, expect to buy up to £19. There is also a booking fee for tickets. I love the Inspiration machine at Edfringe, more details below.
Tickets must be pre booked as you cannot buy tickets at the shows. If the show is at a large venue there may be a box office onsite but some are unmanned and do not have booking facilities – only ticket collection points. To be on the safe side prebook online or go to one of the larger booking office sites and pay and collect tickets in advance.
Cheap Tickets Prices & Free shows @Edinburgh fringe
Edinburgh has a free Fringe and last year offered a record breaking 9,237 performances including comedy, cabaret, theatre, music and children shows. Details for these shows can be found at freefringe there is usually a hat passed around at the end of the show for donations.
Try and get your hands on the Wee Blue Book which will give you a list of all the free shows. They are often handed out on the Royal Mile by performers.
Some of the free shows are on licensed premises which means that under 18 are not allowed. Under 18 are permitted with a responsible adult before 9pm at select venue. Check the programme first. If you wish to tip a show online or from your phone you can now do so using the bar code at the back of the wee blue book. Freefringe.org.uk
The popularity of these has grown enormously and as such first come first served. You will have to give yourself some time to queue for the more popular free shows.
If you are on a budget here are some other tips to navigate the fringe cheaply.
1.Visiting the preview shows. These are offered at discounted prices usually at the start of August while performers test the water. However, remember that student and OAP are offered concessions on full price tickets only.
2. The Virgin half price hut is a must and can be found at the bottom of the Mound on Princes street. Unsold tickets are available here for same day shows and usually a good selection of shows for the next morning.
3. The fringe has an app which also offers 2 for 1 tickets on selected shows or join the friends of the fringe and you get 2 for 1 deals.
You may think how much to join? However the Canny Scott shares the expense with a friend and you both get to try lots of different shows.
There are free shows daily on the Royal Mile and it is a great place to soak up the festival atmosphere. Many people are confused if they find themselves on the Canongate or High street or Castlehill or the Lawnmarket, these are the sections that make up the Royal Mile. The free shows tend to be on the section of St Giles Cathedral, one block down from Edinburgh Castle.
There are box offices across the city and you can collect your tickets from any of these locations. You can collect your tickets from Edinburgh Airport, card machine only and Waverley train station.
Photo credit: lou armor@shutterstock
Navigating the Shows – Timing is everything.
Okay on a map you might think, we have plenty of time to get to the Pleasance or the Underbelly. Please, do not under estimate how much longer it takes when there are thousands of people milling through the streets of Edinburgh.
It can be over whelming at times and I would urge you not to travel by car in the city centre. Parking is already at a premium and unless you have £4.20 an hour to spare for parking, then walk. The local buses hardly move with the volume of traffic at the weekends and often Uber will be on surcharge. The local taxi have many ranks throughout the city.
Show times: The late shows go on until 3am and they can be really good fun if you are a night owl. These events tend to be at the Pleasance which is a fabulous venue, part of the University with outdoor bars, seating areas, food, good atmosphere and plenty of shows on offer. The other popular venue is the Gilded Balloon Teviot, also part of Edinburgh University and a great location with lots of outdoor bars, and great taster shows and fun street performers.
HOW MANY SHOWS IN A DAY? How big is your wallet? How many people are travelling with you and what are the age groups? Buggies and wheelchairs can be difficult to navigate through the huge crowds especially at the weekends. Children are usually early to rise, just get up and do early shows. Children will not want to spend all day traipsing through huge crowds so you will have to introduce some family ‘run about time’.
I would recommend Inverleith Park next to the Botanical gardens, then stroll into Stockbridge, plenty of cafe. Princes street gardens is undergoing extensive renovation work but the far end of Princes street, near the Waldorf Astoria has a great climbing frame, swings etc, outdoor cafe and the the newly renovated Ross Fountain.
Singletons and older people, it really depends on your preferences and fitness levels. Edinburgh is on a steep hill. There is considerable walking up and down hills. Navigating crowds and finding food & drink spots.
Free street shows and small children: These can be found on the Royal Mile and at the bottom of the Mound, please be aware that the crowds are huge and children can get lost. I recommend agreeing a meeting place in the event of getting separated. (My daughter and I always do this on London Underground).
During the day, many families enjoy the space and safety of George Square gardens and the meadows which has the Circus Hub. Previous years shows included – Earths Dinosaur Zoo, the Mister men show and Don’t mess with the Dummies. Details on underbellyedinburgh.co.uk
Choosing a show???
It is a minefield, take the easy option and go see a collection of performers, such as comedians. They have shows called the Best of Irish comedy or the Best Comedy new comers. This way if someone humour does not resonate with you, the next act might. There are usually 3 performers and you are bound to like one of them. Remember to check the app as some shows are not suitable for under 14. The best of the festival is a great show usually towards the end of August and the best shows compete for the overall winner. These tickets sell out quickly as its a guaranteed good night. Keep an eye out for the brochure.
Edfringe Inspiration Machine – The fringe has a machine that is free that will suggest three shows. You can do it online and a roulette wheel spins and chooses a show, some of these have short clips, its really good fun and easy way to pick a show. Edfringe.com
Pace yourself, plan ahead, make a schedule, work out your nearest ticket collection point or just fly by the seat of your pants.
I would normally only do 3/4 shows in a day due to the walking and crowds. Many of the fringe venues are in basements, small rooms and halls, they can get real hot due to lack of air conditioning so take this into consideration. Nights are cooler in some of these venues.
Dress attire/ safety. Wear comfortable clothes, good walking shoes, bring a cagoule, it will rain on and off. Bring a rucksack as you will be inundated with flyers from shows on the royal Mile or any big venue. Do not put wallets/purses near the top of a rucksack, make sure they are down at the bottom in case of ‘light fingers’ in the crowds.
TRANSPORT – A normal journey into Edinburgh will take longer. If going or returning to the airport, consider the tram. It is not affected by roadworks, crowds or traffic accidents. It takes about 30 mins and has many stops throughout the city centre.
There is a Airlink bus direct from the airport and two train stations include Haymarket in the West End and the main station Waverley, beside Princes street gardens and Princes street.
Cant find a Restaurant? This is an unexpected annoyance of having so many festivals at the same time. If you get no joy from calling the restaurants then try Opentable.co.uk or 5pm.co.uk – they have a very easy booking system.
DRIVING IN EDINBURGH – Edinburgh has green priority transport lanes for buses and taxi. Cars cannot drive on these at peak times, tourists be aware – you may be fined. Speed limit in the city centre is 20mph. To see my transport video with traffic tips on how to reach edinburgh city from the airport by car click here.
For driving tips and understanding the Greenways read this post:
I hope this gives you a few starting points and things to consider. It really is a fantastic month. Soak up the atmosphere, try a random show, change your usual genre, try something completely different.
Where to stay?
Accommodation Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Edinburgh is very popular for AIR BB as many families leave the city during the festival and let our their homes. Edinburgh University and others have empty halls of residence that are available to rent. Check out Universityrooms.com, accommodation.ed.ac.uk
Youth hostels are a great cheap option: St Christophers’s Inn or SYHA.ORG.UK or Euro-hostels.co.uk/edinburgh or hostel world.com/hostels/edinburgh. Their are camp sites and caravan sites http://www.caravanclub.co.uk .
Cheap hotels: Travelodge, Ibis, Premier Inn, local guest houses and bed/breakfast. Luxury hotels in city centre include: Waldorf Astoria, Principle George Hotel, Carlton Highland, Hilton group, G&V Hotel, Witchery Hotel Royal Mile, Balmoral Hotel, Kimpton Charlotte Square.
P.S If you have a favourite restaurant then book at least 3/4 weeks in advance. Watch my youtube video of my favourite places to see in Edinburgh. Half of them are completely free. Click on this link below. For your seating guide to the Military Tattoo, click here
For a list of free things and fun activities in Edinburgh click here.
Best of luck and thanks for your time. I appreciate it. to buy tickets click on edfringe.com