Escaping the madness at the Edinburgh Fringe

Escaping the madness at the Edinburgh Fringe

By Jo Caird 08/08/12

There are many adjectives that could be applied to the Fringe, but relaxing isn’t one of them. If you need to take a couple of hours to recharge, read our guide to the spots where you can chill out away from the crowds… 

The Edinburgh Fringe is an experience like no other, but what makes it unmissable – the sheer scale and intensity of the festival and the endless variety of things to see and do – also makes it exhausting. 

Whether you’re performing, teching a show, working front of house or reviewing, you’ll probably find that the combination of late nights, busy days, constant networking and worry about reviews, running times or deadlines takes its toll on body and mind. 

It can be hard to take a step back when you’re enjoying yourself and feel like you should be making the most of every minute, but the occasional break from the madness can work wonders in terms of restoring a sense of perspective and recharging your batteries.

Packed schedules can make it hard to get away for more than a couple of hours, but if you have the luxury of a whole day off, there are plenty of places a short distance outside the city that provide the ideal counterbalance to life inside the Fringe bubble. 

Rosslyn Chapel may not be quite as tranquil as it used to be, thanks to The Da Vinci Code,which features a scene set in the beautiful 15th-century church, but it’s still well worth a visit (admission £9 or £7 for concessions). Admire the elaborate stone carvings covering the interior of the chapel and make time to explore the gardens and the ruins of nearby Rosslyn Castle too. After a visit to the chapel in 1803, William Wordsworth was inspired to write his sonnet Composed in Roslin Chapel During a Storm. Perhaps you’ll be inspired too.

For an escape to reconnect with the elements, several beaches and seaside resorts are easily accessible from the city. The closest is Portobello, once a vibrant resort in its own right, but now an eastern suburb of Edinburgh. Walk along the promenade, watch sailboats in the bay and have a coffee or a pint in the Dalriada (77 Promenade; 0131 454 4500), an old pub with panoramic views of the Firth of Forth. Further afield is North Berwick, where you can take a boat ride from the harbour (from £15), ramble along the cliff-tops or go for an invigorating swim off one of several gorgeous sandy beaches. 

For those who consider a dip in the North Sea a punishment rather than an escape, there’s the Glenogle Swim Centre, a recently refurbished Victorian swimming baths back in the city. Physical exercise is an excellent way of dealing with stress and there’s a sauna and steam room at the centre too to magic away your Fringe-related aches and pains.

Also in the New Town is the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Make your own way around or join an hour-long guided walk (£5) to learn about some of the 12,000 species plants on display. Don’t miss the Glasshouses, which will have you thinking you’re on holiday somewhere warm and sunny, even if Edinburgh’s weather is playing its usual tricks (£4.50 for adults, £3.50 for concessions). 

For a soothing artistic experience, there’s the Mansfield Traquair Centre, an enormous former church that’s now home to an extraordinary series of murals by the leading artist of the Arts and Crafts movement in Edinburgh, Phoebe Anna Traquair. Apart from during the Fringe, when it’s open most days (although hours are limited so check the website before visiting), the centre is only accessible to the public for a few days a year, so you’ll feel like you’re in on a glorious secret. 

Of course the ultimate Fringe getaway is Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano that rises to a height of 251 metres over the city. You can climb it from a number of different routes, the easiest of which takes just 15 minutes. The panorama is spectacular and the feeling of being battered by strong winds hugely energising. Just the thing to blow away those cobwebs and make sure that when find yourself back in the wonderful chaos of the festival, you’re raring to go.


Image: Arthur's Seat Summit by Yiseol Kenworthy on a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

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