August is my favourite month of the year, as it means leaving behind the big smoke – alongside most of London comedians and entertainers – and heading up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!
The Fringe beats a holiday in the sun for me hands down, for the variety of stuff on offer, the buzzing atmosphere and the open nature and friendliness of the people there. Even the five hour train journey is saved by amazing views of the Lakes or Berwick, depending which way you get there.
Every year we visit Edinburgh, my boyfriend and I stay at a holiday park a few miles up the estuary, in a little wooden lodge. This year we upgraded to a ‘hexilodge’, which looks similar to a hobbit residence but was a bit of a tardis inside. We like staying a little out of Edinburgh, as it means we can explore the area a bit more – plus the buses from here run all day, and night, along a gorgeous route besides the coast!
First plan was working out what we wanted to see at the Fringe. Predominantly into our comedy, we’d jotted down a few people we’d seen in passing in London gigs, such as Yorkshireman Ian Smith and crazy one-liner comic Adam Hess. There’s some great places to check out comedy in London, such as Invisible Dot (a tiny venue near Kings Cross where comedians try out their new material), Soho Theatre and Soho Comedy Club (ironically more in Covent Garden than Soho). In the warm up to the Fringe, we’d been to a few gigs in pubs around and about too, and got to see Matt Winning, who I’d definitely recommend.
Some big show highlights for us were John Robins’ hilarious show, mainly about the highs and lows of living with his girlfriend and Aisling Bea on growing up in Ireland and living in England. We loved the sketch comedy of Daphne Do Edinburgh – three young guys with a variety of interlinking stories and songs. We went to see Absolute Radio’s Christian O’Connell again, and if you like his breakfast show, you’ll enjoy him charm his way through the hour! We even had a throwback to the ‘90s by joining a packed audience for Dave Benson Philips in ‘Get Your Own Back Live’ one afternoon too – my boyfriend got to meet him afterwards, leaving him smug for life (!)
If you’re a fan of musical comedy like us, we saw ‘Ushers’, a musical which was on in London before the Fringe. The grand venue was worth going for alone, but the cast were fab and the songs a little bit catchy. Don’t go if you hate cheese though – it felt as though they could burst into S Club 7 at any time. We saw a great free musical show too – ‘Cinemusical’ by Laurence Owen. Laurence sang us through an hour of his very own musical, pointing out the ironies of Disney – it was both funny and mesmerising and he really is an amazing singer…
There are also many free shows at the Fringe – which are very hit and miss. From swanky coffee shops, to temporary partitioned rooms, to grotty club rooms, we saw a lot of venues and some dodgy comedy, but we also saw some great people. Amongst our favourites were ‘Shaken Not Stirred’, a hilarious James Bond improve team of two guys. They were funny, creative and made a great show, including the kids in the audience too. Some other fantastic shows we saw were Chris Martin (not THAT one!), Ali Brice’s sketch comedy and Mike Wozniak in a tale about a stowaway cat. We also went to ‘How to win a pub quiz’ led by Alex Love – with half a comedy show and half an actual pub quiz (and prizes!)
Away from the Fringe, we explored the rest of the city too. Climbing ‘Arthur’s Seat’ one sunny afternoon, we were rewarded with stunning views over the city and the estuary. It may only take about 20 minutes to climb but, man, those steps are a challenge!
We also dropped into the National Museum for the David Bailey photography exhibition. I expected Bailey’s celeb friends to be the main highlight but there were some great sections to the exhibition, including a room on East London (with shots of the Kray twins too) – which was a treat!
We had chance to sample some great restaurants, coffee shops and bars around the city during our trip – I think it helps that the Fringe takes you down allies you’d never normally go down. We had a delicious traditional Italian at Gennaro Pizzeria in Grassmarket. We tried buffalo burgers at Cambridge Bar just off Princes Street. We went to Tangs, a Japanese near the Grayfriar’s Bobby statue, which was great (and forced me to improve my chop stick skills!). For a quick coffee stop, visit the Fruitmarket Gallery for a traditional Scottish Breakfast Tea or the Hula Bar for some Sweet Potato and Chocolate Cake (it’s to die for!). The rest of the time, we managed to grab snacks from the Street Food stalls around the Udderbelly and Pleasance Dome areas. We hung around this area a lot for drinks between shows (the gin and processo bars were enough to lure me in…!).
It’s sad to be able to summarise our break so easily – because we really did have a great time! To anyone considering going to the Fringe this year, or even in the future, you definitely should. There’s so much to see, so much to do and whether you want to fill your day with shows or escape sometimes to the surrounding towns, areas or the seaside, you can mould a trip to Edinburgh to suit you.
It’s a beautiful city with lots of hidden nooks… and it’s a holiday that will send you home truly chilled and refuelled (if not with an addiction to Edinburgh Rock, bagpipe music and Scottish Breakfast Tea).