It’s noticeably colder up here. Scotland is, on average, 3˚c cooler than my home country of England. As I continue my Great British Tour in Groggy the campervan, taking in the history, culture and scenery of England, Wales and Scotland, I am becoming increasingly aware that the British summer time is finite.
With only a few weeks left before the cold creeps in and the evenings turn dark, there is still a lot of ground to cover and I don’t want to miss anything or rush through certain places, so I decided I would stay just one or two nights in any given location.
At least, that was the plan; then Edinburgh happened. Eight days later, I was eventually released from the vortex of Fringe fun which kept me returning to the festival.
I arrived in Edinburgh knowing that the famous festival would be in its final week of celebrations and that parking in the city centre would be impossible so, instead, I followed signs for the Royal Yacht Britannia.
As ships go, the Royal Yacht Britannia is a beautiful specimen. Before she was decommissioned in 1997, Britannia cruised over a million nautical miles during her 43 year span. She now has a permanent berth in the north of Edinburgh and is open for visitors to explore.
Typical tourist activities are usually something I avoid, but I was intrigued by the underground vaults tour beneath Edinburgh’s South Bridge. When the bridge was built in the 1700s, houses were erected either side of it creating large vacant spaces below the arches of the bridge. These were converted into workshops and taverns but eventually fell into the hands of body snatchers and prostitutes. The authorities later filled in the caverns with rubble and they remained untouched for years until they were completely forgotten.
Above ground, the atmosphere has a very different feel. Swarms of people from around the world gather to appreciate comedy, performing arts, music and the revered Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Predominantly based on the Royal Mile, but spanning large parts of the city including bars, comedy clubs and squares, the festival vibes are unavoidable and addictive.
Between the market stalls, the streets are filled with thespians forcing their flyers into your hand and silent disco tribes who sing at the top of their lungs to the music in their headphones. Competing with the noise and the bustle are the weird and wonderful street performers who draw in crowds with their honed skills.
I met some phenomenal people at the Edinburgh fringe; people who don’t wear suits or commute to the office or say things like ‘I’ll ping you an email’, ‘close of play’ and ‘blue sky thinking’. Instead, these creative individuals make their living out of entertaining others. They have rare and impressive talents which stop passers-by in their tracks and generate smiles from just about every creed, colour and age group.
Aside from the chainsaw juggling, fire eating, sword-swallowing, portrait sketching and magic shows, there was live music which left me pining for my microphone. Incredible musicians occupied official busking slots around the city or just pitched up under bridges and down alleyways to give a little part of their soul to the public with every performance in the hope that a few coins would be tossed in their guitar cases.
Edinburgh Fringe (and its tireless volunteers in their red uniforms) provides a stage for international street performers to busk their way into the memories of tourists and locals alike. It was thanks to these artists, and a sprinkling of fabulous locals, that I kept extending my self-imposed curfew of ‘one or two nights’. If it weren’t for these performers who light up the borderlands of painfully conventional society, the world would be a darker place.