My #ThisisEdinburgh24: Michael from Festivals Edinburgh

28 August 2015

Fringe George Square

Last month we launched our #ThisisEdinburgh24 campaign, where we asked you how you would spend 24 hours in Edinburgh. As part of the campaign, we've been out and about asking people who live and work in Edinburgh to write about their perfect day in the city.

Just in time for the last weekend of the August festivals, this special edition of our My #ThisisEdinburgh24 series comes from Michael Thomas, Digital Marketing Officer at Festivals Edinburgh. He tells us how he would spend the day making the most of this fantastic festival city...


Given a day entirely to myself to enjoy Edinburgh's Festivals, I'd really want to make the most of it - so much so that I'm going to bend the laws of time and space slightly to make sure I can do everything. Is that cheating? Oh well, it's my 24 hours, so there.


I'll start with breakfast at 9ish, and when it's a day to myself, that means strong black coffee, sweet orange juice and a tasty pastry. My favourite Edinburgh coffee spot (and there are a lot of them) is Coffee Angel on Nicholson Street, where the coffee is excellent (and huge), the pastries are scrumptious and the atmosphere and decor is calm and cool without being pretentious. The staff are lovely too, which always helps.

Edinburgh International Book Festival Reader

[Image credit: Edinburgh International Book Festival]

Tempting as it is to spend a whole morning there with a crossword, I'll instead hop on a bus at 10 o'clock, and head to Charlotte Square for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Here authors, celebrities and fans rub shoulders and there's bound to be something interesting on. And even if the timing somehow doesn't work for catching an event, the festival's great location, offering calm in the heart of the city, is worth it all by itself. I'd just head into the bookshop, find something fun to read, grab a coffee, pull up a deckchair and relax in the morning sunshine. Bliss.

Water Of Leith Plantlife

[Image credit: Edinburgh Festivals]

However the day's getting on, and it's soon time to head away for a walk down to lovely Dean Village, and on to the Water of Leith Walkway. It's a great downhill stroll and a tremendously peaceful way to cross the city on a route free of vehicles, and big on nature. The flowing water, the trees, the flowers and the wildlife (look out for the stork!) mean that the 2 hour route will fly by.


As I emerge at the Shore in the heart of Leith I'm ready for lunch - and conveniently the fantastic Shore Deli Co is just yards away. They've a range of tempting options, but for me, it's very hard to see past the house pulled pork and super slaw wrap. So, so delicious.

Edinburgh Mela Bollywood Love Story

And also handy for walking and eating as I head on towards Leith Links and the open air Edinburgh Mela. On arrival the aroma of superb street food on offer almost makes me wish I'd waited a bit longer for lunch. Almost. But besides food, the Mela is simply tremendous fun, with a couple of stages showcasing fantastic music and dance from across the world and from Edinburgh's rich and diverse communities. There's also the aforementioned aroma-generating food village (oh, who am I kidding? Lunch two coming up...), plus a the colourful marketplace to see and buy exotic fabrics and clothing.

Fringe Speigeltent Interior

As is becoming a theme here, I'll reluctantly tear myself away from the Mela and head back uphill into town and George Square where, with the help of some wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, stuff it's suddenly 2pm again and just in time for Best of the Fest Daytime at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe This collection of acts is a great way to see a digestible selection from the utterly overwhelming (in a good way) mass of shows the Fringe has to offer.

There is no way to even come close to seeing everything there is on offer at the world's largest arts festival - and that's ok. Compilation shows like this are ideal for deciding whose full show is a must see, and the element of risk-taking is definitely part of the fun.

Fruitmarket Gallery Phyllida Barlow

[Image credit: Edinburgh Festivals]

Fresh from the fast pace of the multi-act show, and now in the mood for something a little more contemplative, I'm heading north again, past the fire breathing unicyclists and quick fire comics of the Royal Mile, and down Martin Creed's beautiful Scotsman Steps (part permanent artwork, part fully functional staircase) to the Fruitmarket Gallery. It's one of my favourite art spaces, in a city with plenty to choose from, and a key venue for Edinburgh Art Festival, hosting fascinating and intriguing pieces of contemporary work. Love it.


Wedgwood Mirror

I've a date (of sorts) at the Castle at half seven, so it's time to get a bite to eat first - and I'll treat myself to dinner at the Wedgwood on the Canongate section of the Royal Mile. This is a great little place, with gorgeous contemporary cuisine, a light, relaxed atmosphere and staff who'll take good care of you without being intrusive. I'll aim for a window seat and watch the festival fans donder up and down the Mile with hands clutching more flyers than they could ever see shows.

Tattoo Band

[Image credit: The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo]

After finishing the last of my dessert (very likely to have been their amazing sticky toffee pudding) and draining yet another cup of coffee, it's time to head up the hill myself. Through the meleé of the crowds between the Tron Kirk and St Giles' Cathedral, across the top of the Mound and past the towering Hub I go, heading for my 'date' with the alluring Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

And so up into the Tattoo stands, assembled and removed year after year at the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade, enabling over 200,000 people to witness the spectacular show in person (while hundreds of millions watch on TV). It's a unique experience, and something every August visitor should try at least once in their life. The music, the performers, the ceremony - it's truly remarkable.

The night and beyond 

Edinburgh International Festival Fireworks

[Image credit: Stuart Armitt, Festival Photographer 2013]

And speaking of the remarkable, I'm going to cheat time again slightly, and decide that tonight is also the final night of the Edinburgh International Festival (even though that wouldn't really be the case...) After the Tattoo's final fireworks have faded it's off to Princes Street Gardens for EIF's own huge end-of-festival display.

With the castle towering high above the huddled thousands, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra poised to perform stirring classical pieces and about 4 tonnes of fireworks primed to set the Edinburgh sky alight, it's a wonderful way to round off the day.

The music soars, the rockets crash, the blooming, cascading light fills our collective field of view, and the only question is - when can I do it again? Well, all year round, since this is the world's leading festival city and there's always another one just round the corner. What a place this is.

PS - Oh, and having started with one (coffee) angel, I'm going to close out my 24 hours with another - namely the reborn La Belle Angèle in the Cowgate, where you can defy the night with some great dance music until the wee hours. 5am licenses are a great thing...

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