24 NOV 2014: Revellers around Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, sure know a thing or two on how to party. Come every New Year’s Eve there’s a three-day Hogmanay celebration. The streets by fabled Edinburgh Castle are ablaze in a star-studded pyrotechnic parade heralded by blaring bagpipes toted by kilted performers and choruses of “Auld Lang Syne,” the New Year’s Eve anthem penned by Scotland’s own Robert Burns.

Another Scottish “invention” is the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival (http://www.eif.co.uk/) which is only the world’s largest international arts festival and that’s just a start.

The Edinburgh Festival City (http://www.edinburghfestivalcity.com/) is a mega-HUGE group that oversees an umbrella of 12 citywide festivals ranges from arguably one of the world’s oldest international festivals of its kind - the Edinburgh International Festival, to the city’s youngest, the Edinburgh Art Festival. It’s no surprise then Edinburgh is known as “the world’s leading Festival City.”

VisitBritain’s Cathy Stapells recently hosted a pair of festival directors from Edinburgh who paid a visit to Toronto to showcase their upcoming happenings to local media.

Summer time is quite rightly the peak festival season when folks from home and away converge on Edinburgh to festival hop as seven festivals take place simultaneously each August.

“Our population (only 500,000) doubles during that period,” starts Faith Liddell, director of Festivals Edinburgh, describing the population profusion in August and adds, “We like to say you can sleep in September, pull yourselves together, and in October, it’s the storytelling festival (the Scottish International Storytelling Festival).”

We learned there’s a huge appeal of the city for festival goers. The backdrop with its medieval closes, cobbled streets and Georgian grandeur; and direct flights with Air Canada rouge.

Here’s what not to miss.

Edinburgh International Festival

Edinburgh’s festival family has lineage. What started as a make-them-feel-good-now-that-WWII-is-over move with the debut of the Edinburgh International Festival in 1947, has over the years evolved into the Rolls Royce of festivals that draws A-listers and international celebrities featuring opera, music, theatre and dance.

Expect renowned celebrity actors and tickets starting as low as £8 ($14). Faith encourages early reservations for this festival sell-out.
Dates: August 7-31, 2015

Edinburgh International Fringe Festival

Ironically as international performers descended on the rocky slopes of this historic capital in 1947 to charm the masses, a bunch of disgruntled local artists who weren’t invited to the party decided to start their own event in the shadows off the beaten path in unconventional locations. Picture squares and streets. Amazingly what began as a protest movement with eight theatre companies as Faith likes to describe “an act of revolution,” has surged, she says, “into the biggest international arts festival in the world.” This year 49,497 performances were staged across 299 venues.

There are plenty of free shows during the festival. Check the website for more Fringe planning tips.
Dates: August 7-31, 2015

Edinburgh International Film Festival

Film snobs appreciate the film festival circuit. Some ascertain Venice as the film festival prima donna but talk to a local from Edinburgh and they’ll tell you otherwise. “We have the oldest continuously running film festival in the world,” notes Faith.

Like the aforementioned two festivals this one has its roots in 1947.
Dates June 17-28, 2015

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Nothing beats a success story more than hearing about a single mom who penned a children’s book and read to a small group in a tented camp somewhere in Charlotte Square Gardens, one of Edinburgh’s stunning Georgian square backdrops. Internationally acclaimed best-selling children’s author J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, as Faith points out, got her start first being promoted at this book festival.

Today the book festival is revered as the largest public celebration of ideas and the written word in the world. Over 900 participants from 47 countries gather around Charlotte Square Gardens in the historic heart of Edinburgh, the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature.
Programme announced in June.
Dates: August 15-31, 2015

Edinburgh International Science Festival

It’s no surprise the backdrop that inspired a wave of creators from the arts to the sciences would serve as a setting for this two-week event. Be dazzled and amazed. Organizers report Edinburgh’s annual science festival is the world’s first celebration of science and technology.
Dates: April 4-19, 2015

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Watch a cast of thousands perform in the city’s majestic esplanade in front of the castle for this “greatest show on earth.” Edinburgh Festival City says this event of a lifetime attracts over 222,000 visitors every year, and then there are the additional 100 million TV watchers who tune in worldwide to see this toe-tapper.
Dates: August 7-29, 2015

Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival

A musical array of hypnotic blues and sultry jazz are showcased in this 10-day music event. Faith notes this festival appears at “the most intense period.” Discover 140 gigs at 13 venues in the U.K.’s biggest festival of its kind.
Dates July 17-26, 2015

Edinburgh Art Festival

The UK’s largest annual celebration of visual arts is also Edinburgh’s new kid on the festival circuit block. Only 10 years-old, organizers say some of the most compelling installations take place in extraordinary venues, many of which have been off-limits to the general public. Last year, attendees marvelled at Ayrshire artist Christine Borland, a former Turner Prize nominee, and Brody Condon who resurrected a former graveyard watchtower in the New Calton Burial Ground to create a piece titled, Daughters of Decayed Tradesmen, a series of laced together long looping arcs of hundreds of jacquard loomed punch cards. The art installation was dedicated to the last surviving alumni from Edinburgh’s trade maiden’s hospital, an institution founded in 1704 to provide board and education to the daughters of decayed tradesmen who were unemployed until their death. It’s definitely a heavy topic in surreal surroundings.

“We are interested in rich lively conversations with contemporary culture and the historical environment that we are operating in and using contemporary artists to enable people today to engage in their history and heritage,” says Sorcha Carey, director of the Edinburgh Art Festival on the evocative installation.

The majority of the festival has free admission.
Dates: July 30-August 30, 2015



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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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