The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival, and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!
Edinburgh Festival Fringe is synonymous with the performing arts—it’s where you can catch a famous stand-up comedian, an incredible circus act, an edgy play in a small room, and a big, technically ambitious musical all in the same day. But the world’s largest arts festival is an expansive celebration of the arts, and the city it calls home. So if you’re looking to change up your experience of the festival, don’t worry. There are cooking classes, ghost tours, distillery tastings, dances, and more for you to explore.
The easiest way to see all that’s on offer is through this year’s new Fringe app or via the website where you can filter the listings by genre. In the advance search, select “Events” to find more of the unusual and interactive events that’s available this year at the festival. We’ve curated a selection to enjoy below.
For the Cooks
Krua Thai Cookery School is offering five classes as part of this year’s Fringe. Maybe you want to learn how to make a specific curry? Select from one teaching the process for green curry and coconut rice or another teaching how to make both red curry and panang. There’s a class for learning how to make pad Thai and Thai dumplings, another for Thai street food, and the final offering is a masterclass on three dishes. Classes are offered over the course of August multiple times a day.
For the Ghost Lovers
Edinburgh is old, and its history certainly has a dark side. It’s a prime combination for those who love all things spooky. There are many tours on offer across the city that will take you inside the graveyards and into Edinburgh’s famous vaults with haunting tales of witches burned and the ghostly apparitions that continue to walk the streets. It can be difficult to decide on just one (and who says you can’t see more?), but several of them are available as part of Fringe. There's the Terror Tour, which takes you in the secret underground tunnels of Edinburgh and is guaranteed to make you jump with fright. There's also the City of the Dead Haunted Graveyard Tour, which...it's all there in the name.
For the Avid Readers
Let’s say you’re splitting your time between your love of the performing arts with the Fringe and your love of the written word with the Edinburgh International Book Festival which runs August 12-28. Good news! You can combine the two with this Fringe offering: Book Lovers’ Tour. Allan Foster takes bibliophiles on a walking tour of the city to see the places where famous authors like Sherlock Holmes’ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Potter’s J.K. Rowling, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s Robert Louis Stevenson penned their works, called a street home, or found that much needed drink while staring at a blank page.
For the Dancers
Get ready to kick up your heels and take in a bit of traditional Scottish culture with a cèilidh. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a cèilidh is a gathering where people enjoy drinks, laughs, and a bit of traditional group folk dancing. Cèilidhs were a precursor to much of American square dancing. Don’t worry about knowing the steps—cèilidhs are for beginners and experienced dancers alike You’ll learn the steps, go around a time or three, and enjoy some traditional Scottish music while you’re at it. Two cèilidhs at the Fringe this year to check out are The White Heater Club’s Fringe Ceilidh and the Stramash Daily Ceilidh.
For the Imbibers
As Scotland is home to scotch whisky, of course there are tastings on offer as part of Fringe such as The Dram Good Whisky Festival and Arbikie Whisky Tasting at The A Club at the Merchants Hall. But did you know that about 70 percent of the gin drunk in the United Kingdom is made in Scotland—not England? So, fans of a stiff drink who would like to pass on whisky, rejoice!
At the Fringe, you can also enjoy the Arbikie Gin Tasting or linger at Summerhall before or after a show to enjoy one of two experiences available at its distillery. For those wishing to sample offerings straight, enjoy the Summerhall Distillery: Samples at the Still Room of its gin, vodka, and whisky. For those looking for something a bit more decadent, sign up for Summerhall’s The Speakeasy Experience. You’ll have to give a secret password to enjoy this 1920s cocktail experience that comes with two cocktails from the Prohibition Era: one using Pickering’s Gin and another using The Broody Hen Scotch Whisky.
For the Music Buffs
Want to learn more about Edinburgh’s music scene? This is the walking tour for you. Explore the city with a history of which performers have played the Scottish capital, the gigs that have transformed the city’s music history, and the places where it’s all happened on the Edinburgh’s Greatest Hits Music Walking Tour. From folk and funk to pop and punk, this one is for music enthusiasts who want to traverse the hills of Edinburgh through a different historical lens.