It’s been a while since I’ve written about spending New Year in Edinburgh – mainly because we’re usually booked well in advance. We’re all booked up again this year, so don’t delay if you’re looking to bring in 2016 in Edinburgh.
We really like the questions which have been chosen for April 2014’s #ScotlandHour, so we’re writing an article for our guests at Craigwell Cottage who may be interested in using our city centre cottage as a base for walking or other outdoor adventures in Edinburgh or around central Scotland.
Prepare to be surprised by the discoveries you make during Previously…Scotland’s History Festival.
Genealogical research can lead one in so many different directions, and is a hobby which has been growing over the years with programmes such as “Who do you Think You Are” demonstrating the incredible stories which make a family history. I’ve dabbled with collecting stories from my own family history over the years: having conversations with relatives and snatching time every so often to work on a particularly stubborn bit of the story where I get stuck and can’t get further. There’s one particular ancestor who had 12 children and who lived from 1870 – 1945 whose story pulls me back every time I pick up the threads to continue my research.
It was a tale about this member of my family which led me to book for one of the events at Warriston Cemetery during the 2013 Scotland’s History Festival led by Caroline Gerard, one of the Friends of Warriston Cemetery. There’s a Facebook Group you can join too.
On arrival at the event, we were offered the opportunity to contribute an additional £2 over our ticket price (of £4) for the tour to become a Friend of Warriston. As I’d already seen some of the work the group are doing, I was happy to make this small donation. The tour on the 16th November 2013 was the first of two being offered. The next is on 30th November 2013.
One of the surprises about the tour of a graveyard was that it wasn’t at all gloomy! Caroline has such enthusiasm for her subject, and told stories of astronomers and Celtic crosses, solicitors and architects, flora and fauna, musicians and anesthetists – as well as giving some quick sketches of the great and the good of Edinburgh’s bygone days.
The connection to the Beatles song from which I’ve taken the title for this post is the stuff of urban legend. One of the graves which has been recently uncovered by the work undertaken by the Friends of Warriston Cemetery in cutting back ivy from memorials which had disappeared has the following inscription:
“Sacred to the Memory of William Batty Patrick Darby son of William and Elizabeth Darby Professionally known as Pablo Fanque who died 1st February 1852, Aged 13 Months Also of Elizabeth, their Daughter who died at Tuam Ireland 30th Oct. 1852, Aged 3 years and 4 months”
It’s the PABLO FANQUE name which takes this headstone from a memorial of family tragedy to the connection to John Lennon and the Beatles… for Mr Fanque was a Circus Proprietor for 30 years in the golden age of the circus, and is quoted in the song from Sgt Pepper, “For the benefit of Mr Kite” for which John Lennon took inspiration from a poster advertising one of Pablo Fanque’s Circus Performances. The lyrics include the lines:
For the benefit of Mr. Kite
There will be a show tonight on trampoline
The Hendersons will all be there
Late of Pablo Fanque’s Fair, what a scene
An inspiring tour from Caroline Gerard whose stories brought the walk to life. Her enthusiasm for the subjects shone through, for the human and social history; the biodiversity of the area; and the craft of the sculptors on display in the graveyard. Thanks Caroline! I’ll be returning to other aspects of this tour in future blogs.
If you’re inspired to come to Edinburgh to find out more about your own family history, consider coming during November when Previously…Scotland’s History Festival takes place – experts like Caroline are a joy to meet and learn from and could help you take further steps in your own research.
We do hope that you’ll get in touch in your search for accommodation – Craigwell Cottage is very conveniently situated for researching at Scotland’s People Centre (under 15 minutes walk) as well as being next door to New Calton burial ground – a subject for another day.
We’ve been anticipating the arrival of Brave, the new Disney Pixar animated film, since earlier this year. Tomorrow evening, it’s the European Premiere as the closing event of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Since we heard that Visit Scotland was encouraging Scottish Tourism businesses to find ways to create a tie-in with the film, we’ve been wondering how best to achieve this from our base as a holiday cottage in the middle of Edinburgh. Aside from donning a Merida wig and offering our visitors a warm welcome when they arrive, what should we do?
Last week at the Royal Highland Show we noticed that Bartlett’s foods were offering an opportunity to visitors to their stand to try their hand at some target practice with toy crossbows and longbows, and our son was eager to have a try.
We’re heading to the premiere tomorrow night to find out what its all about – maybe this will spark some ideas for a tie-in. In the meantime, the film goes on general release here on 3 August 2012 (revised date). As Craigwell Cottage is just a short walk from the Edinburgh OMNI Centre our guests will be able to stroll over there to see it.
PS – we really enjoyed the film!
Our 2edinburgh blog is designed to give a flavour for things to do and places to go when visiting Craigwell Cottage, our little city centre cottage (with parking) right in the heart of the city of Edinburgh.
We occasionally review special events and happenings in Edinburgh, but as a family we’re not able to cover a vast range of different types of event, preferring to focus on little news items about permanent attractions or events which are annual occurrences in the Edinburgh calendar.
This year, our family was given the opportunity to undertake a very special assignment – that of guest reviewers at some Festival Fringe performances on behalf of the review site Edinburgh Spotlight. We were very excited to be asked, and as soon as the Fringe Programme was issued we pored over it working out and planning which shows we would ask to review, and fitting reviews in as best we could with other holiday activities we had planned.
As first time reviewers we really had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for, but the owners of Edinburgh Spotlight were very helpful and patient with us, explaining what would be required. We also opted to go to some shows simply as ‘the audience’ so that we could relax and enjoy them without having to exercise our critical faculties.
Our first reviews of CBBC’s Dan and Jeff in Potted Panto, and the West End Glee Club have now been published, and you can find our other reviews by following the links below We hope you enjoy sharing our experiences.
As a frequent visitor to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo over the years, our family has got into something of a routine in planning our trips to this amazing spectacle, so when asked for some advice about where to park if coming from out of town, I realised that our experiences probably had enough ‘old timers’ knowledge in them to merit a little article on how we do it. Families frequently make this the first experience of Edinburgh’s August Festivals, so we’re including some advice particularly for visitors who are bringing children to the Tattoo.
Edinburgh Castle survived by being a difficult place to attack, and that means few ways in! On the night of the Tattoo, the only access route is via the upper section of the Royal Mile: Castlehill. To get there you will approach on foot either via Lawnmarket or Johnston Terrace. Organised tour buses will probably drop their passengers in the vicinity of Chambers Street and you’ll walk via George IV Bridge and then into the Lawnmarket.
If you’re coming by car, our recommendation would be to park at the Kings Stables Road/Castle Terrace car park (see map). Time your arrival to get there after the daily shopping traffic has left, but before it gets filled by Tattoo visitors – and make sure you have a debit/credit card or a large supply of change (at least £10), for even in the evening this car park is expensive. The chances of getting a free parking space in any streets within reasonable walking distance is slim.
The Tattoo takes place in the late evening and although it is August it will be COLD up there – to accommodate the huge crowds which flock there every year, giant stands are erected on three sides of the Castle Esplanade. These stands are high up above the city and even a slight breeze will mean a chilly night as it gets dark and the temperature dips. Remember also that you will be sitting still in a small space, so you won’t be able to move about much to keep warm.
This means layers: lots of lovely layers of clothing. It may be August, but dress all the family as if you are going out to play in the snow. This means hats, scarves and gloves too. A good thick pair of socks and stout walking shoes or trainers (sneakers) will be appropriate footwear. I’ve seen people come here with summer sandals and flip flops – their feet must be blue by the time the show ends. And remember, the Castlehill is cobbled and you will have lots of stairs to climb in the stands so no high heels!
We also find that taking a travelling rug each is a bonus. You can wrap it round your knees and then wear it shawl-like over your shoulders on the way home for added warmth. When our son was small, it was also useful for wrapping him up in to carry a sleeping bundle back to the car.
I’m the niece of a man who wore a wet suit under his clothing one year when attending the Tattoo. I’m not advocating that, but if the forecast is for rain, don’t forget that the Edinburgh Military Tattoo has never been cancelled because of the weather – the show will go on!
Hope this is helpful for visitors planning a visit to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Next time you come, stay a little longer – maybe at the lovely Craigwell Cottage from which you can walk to the Tattoo! And here’s some more if you’re thinking of attending Edinburgh Festival Fringe events.
If you have more helpful hints – add them to the comments.
The Edinburgh International Film Festival is now firmly established in the calendar as taking place in mid-June each year. Films are screened in many venues throughout the city, with the focus being on The Filmhouse, but this year the Edinburgh Festival Theatre was the venue for the opening event. A red carpet event earlier in the evening set the scene, but for the general public, the first event of the 2010 Festival was a screening of The Illusionist, an animation directed by Sylvain Chomet.
I had read a preview of the movie, and as the centre piece of the movie is the City of Edinburgh itself, I was eager to go along to see how my home city had been depicted.
I shall leave film critics and reviewers to the technical details and simply say that I loved it. I shall want to see it many times over to catch little details I have missed, and I’m sure that the stills from the film will become popular motifs gracing postcards of the city and used to advertise Scotland as a destination. That sounds like I am belittling them, and this is not the case – they are rich in detail and beautifully drawn, but the nature of animation lends itself to use in that way. I shall buy the DVD as soon as it is released and put it in Craigwell Cottage for my guests.
This evening as I returned home after the event, I was seeing Edinburgh through different eyes, and I thank M. Chomet for opening up new vistas for me. I wonder when the big curly lampposts disappeared from Princes Street? I caught glimpses of them in the movie and was transported to the Edinburgh of my childhood. It even made me nostalgic for the Jenners of old – in the days when it was an independent Edinburgh institution.
If you’re thinking about attending the Edinburgh International Film Festival in future years, be sure to take a look at Craigwell Cottage to see if we might suit your requirements for accommodation. We’re within walking distance of The Festival Theatre, and at the opposite end of the city centre from The Filmhouse.
I must confess to having had ‘Fringe Fatigue’ last year (sorry!), and having spent a week of August out of Edinburgh just to escape the hustle and bustle, and because it was a ‘last summer’ for a chapter of our family’s life story (but that’s an entirely different tale).
June 12th saw the launch of the 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme, and my enthusiasm has returned. In all the rushing about I was doing, I had a moment of quiet reflection about what the Fringe has meant to me over the years, and indeed how I was originally introduced to it by my Dad.
When we were children, Dad worked in a building society and was busy during August with things that building societies did (honest, trustworthy institutions that they were back in the ‘friendly society’ days). But he took time out to take us to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. A very exciting experience for young children who were used to being tucked up in bed by 8 o’clock. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo was our first experience of outdoor events, spectacle, massed Pipe Bands and usually a scary centrepiece involving gun fire or speeding motor bikes. No matter that we had to be huddled under blankets and even carried back home sleepily afterwards – we’d had great fun, been thrilled and in awe, and even cried when the Lone Piper made us feel what it was to be Scottish.
Later, as we grew up, Dad would be involved in organising some special days out at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for us. He loved the challenge of organising a day where we would start at 11.00 am and finish at 11.00 pm and have managed to cram in samples of many different types of entertainment in a day – he’d only have a whole day off every second Saturday, so it was really important to make the most of the day. So we’d start at a children’s show, have lunch with a cabaret or musical event going on round about, take in an exhibition or two if the schedule allowed, see a serious theatre piece in the afternoon, find time for tea somewhere swanky, or unusual, and then off to a Footlights performance or a revue type show and something more risqué in the late evening. We usually managed to cram in around 6 performances in the course of one of these days, and over the years we found our favourites. We’d always have ‘Instant Sunshine‘ (in the Miles Kington days) somewhere on the list, and either the Cambridge Footlights or Oxford Revue, a puppet show and the main exhibitions plus whatever The Scotsman reviews suggested was worth seeing. Was it easier to get tickets in those pre-information-revolution days?
After the rest of the family moved away from Edinburgh for various reasons, I stayed on and by this time was working and living in the city Centre. I’d loved the format of cramming so much into a day so much, that I started working it out for myself. Finding the weekends usually too busy, I’d take a weekday off in each of the three weeks of the Festival – with the bank holiday being a given, so only two more to take out of my annual leave. I continued the pattern of trying to fit around 6 shows in during a day, and of course doing it all ‘on foot’ as the centre of Edinburgh lends itself to that too. Having discovered the power of coloured marker pens and a big piece of paper for planning, I was in stationery heaven. As soon as I got my copy of the Programme, I’d pore over it, marking all the ‘would like to see’s’ and then adding them to a big list and working out how to fit in as many as I could. It seems on reflection that there were more ‘one week runs’ then, rather than shows being on for the duration, so you had to jiggle about sorting through the lists until you had something approaching a plan, and then of course you had to go to the ticket office in person, there being no ‘on-line’ ordering in those heady days.
So here I am in 2010, the Mum now. For the last few years I’ve been taking my own children to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. They’ve had that late night excitement, and we’ve had our turn going to the pre-school, pre-reading ‘baby’ entertainments. We’re also past the stage where one of the children is ‘too young’ and the other ‘too old’ for the majority of the children’s entertainments. And we’re also excited by the range of things we might experience – all on our doorstep, all within a short bus ride or walking distance. We’ve got our Edinburgh Festival Fringe enthusiasm back – hurray! And with the advent of the Excel Spreadsheet, and on-line ordering, we did lots of planning, sorting and ticket buying from the comfort of our home. We can’t wait for the magic to begin.