Festivals & events in Edinburgh

The fun doesn't end with the Edinburgh Festival, but it's a great start

Festivals & events in Edinburgh The Beltane Fire Festival - © Olivia Rutherford/Time Out
By Keith Davidson

The concentration of cultural events that takes place in Edinburgh during August captures the headlines (see The Edinburgh Festival & Fringe Festival), but plenty of other festivals brighten up the rest of the year.

The revival of Beltane has turned into a late-night spectacular with an audience of thousands; summer sees Scotland’s best breweries take over the Assembly Rooms for a few days; Doors Open Day is a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of otherwise inaccessible buildings in the autumn; and winter brings the Capital Christmas and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. All are worth taking into account when planning a trip. Note, though, that dates can vary; always check the website before making plans.

Critic's choice

Royal Highland Show
Edinburgh International Science Festival
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay

Reviews and information below.

The Edinburgh Festival & Edinburgh Festival Fringe
See Edinburgh Festival & Edinburgh Festival Fringe for more information.


Mary King’s Ghost Fest

Where: various venues, Old Town
When: late Mar
Tel & website: 08702 430160, www.marykingsghostfest.com
Ten days of talks, bus tours, clairvoyant gatherings, ghost-hunts and vigils. It’s either the city’s most feeble excuse for a festival or a spooky excursion into the paranormal, depending how sceptical you feel.

Ceilidh Culture Festival

Where: various venues
When: Date late Mar/early Apr
Tel & website: 228 1155, www.ceilidhculture.co.uk
Backed by the local authority, this is a community-focused celebration of traditional Scottish music, dance, song and storytelling. City-wide over a period of nearly four weeks, prices vary by event.

Edinburgh International Harp Festival

Where: Merchiston Castle School, Colinton Road, West Edinburgh
When: 9-14 Apr
Tel & website: 468 0593, www.harpfestival.co.uk
Six days of concerts, classes and workshops with the harp – or clarsach – taking centre stage.

Edinburgh International Science Festival

Where: various venues
When: 2wks, early Apr
Tel & website: 558 7776, www.sciencefestival.co.uk
This hugely enjoyably festival gives an accessible slant on difficult subjects without dumbing down. Running for more than 20 years, it’s the UK’s largest science jamboree, attracting more than 60,000 people to its many talks, events and workshops.

Beltane Fire Festival

Where: Calton Hill, Calton Hill & Broughton
When: 30 Apr
Tel & website: www.beltane.org
An ancient tradition marking the transition from winter to spring, Beltane was revived in the 1980s and has grown into quite a drama: fire, costume, body-paint, dancing and drumming on the late-night backdrop of Calton Hill. If the weather holds, it can attract up to 12,000 people. Tickets cost around £5 in advance from the Hub; a limited number are available for £7 on the night.


Royal Highland Show

Where: Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, West Edinburgh
When: June
Tel & website: 335 6200, www.royalhighlandshow.org.uk
The Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland was founded in 1784 to promote the regeneration of rural areas. Nearly four decades later, it chose to do so by staging a little event in Edinburgh. The first ever Royal Highland Show was held in 1822 at Holyrood, the site of the modern Scottish Parliament. Nearly two centuries later, it’s one of the biggest events on the local calendar, and its appeal isn’t limited only to farmers.

The Royal Highland Show moved around through the years before, in 1960, settling on Ingliston (next to Edinburgh Airport) as its permanent home. The site is now officially known as the Royal Highland Centre; for four days towards the end of June, it’s the centre of the universe for all things agricultural. Farmers show their animals in competitions; trade exhibitors sell everything from tractors to slurry-handling equipment; and there are displays on equestrianism, falconry, drystane dyke building and other rural crafts.

If the show was just a bunch of farmers talking about milk yields, the public would not have taken it to heart. In reality, it’s both a serious agricultural event and, for the outsider, a lot of fun. Getting close enough to touch thoroughbred beasts – Aberdeen Angus, Highland and other cattle breeds you can’t even name – is surprisingly enjoyable. The rare breeds of sheep and goats are even more novel and beguiling to uneducated urban eyes. And there’s plenty for kids, too, which is one reason why the show is more popular than ever. In 2009, it drew the biggest single-day crowd (51,307 visited on the Saturday) and the largest four-day aggregate attendance (176,522) in its history.

Airport expansion had threatened to push the show from its Ingliston site, but those plans were shelved in 2008. Instead, the existing site is soon to get a £75 million upgrade, starting immediately after the 2010 show and due for completion in 2014.

Scottish Real Ale Festival

Where: Assembly Rooms, George Street, New Town
When: late June
Website: www.scottishbeerfestival.org.uk
Beer enthusiasts take over the Assembly Rooms for three days each June, getting to grips with around 130 different ales from 30 Scottish breweries based as far afield as Orkney and the Borders. The entry price of £5 includes a free beer glass.


Doors Open Day

Where: various venues
When: wknd, late Sept
Tel & website: 557 8686, www.cockburnassociation.org.uk
Each year, heritage body the Cockburn Association collaborates with organisations and individuals to allow public access to buildings that few people usually get to see – everything from private homes to lighthouses. It’s all free.

Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair

Where: Out of the Blue, the Drill Hall, 36 Dalmeny Street, off Leith Walk, Leith
When: late Oct/Nov
Tel & website: 662 9112, www.word-power.co.uk
Five days of readings and discussions, focusing on independent and radical publishing houses. For more, contact Word Power.

Samhuinn (Hallowe’en)

Where: High Street, Old Town
When: 31 Oct
Website: www.beltane.org
Samhuinn marks the end of the Celtic summer, six months after Beltane. The Beltane Fire Society takes to the streets once again, from Castle Esplanade, down the Royal Mile to Parliament Square, where the summer court, led by the Green Man, is banished to the magical realm for winter.


Bonfire Night

Where: various venues
When: 5 Nov
Guy Fawkes was a Yorkshire-born terrorist, part of a Catholic group who were opposed to the Protestant establishment and decided to try and blow up Parliament while James I & VI was inside. The plot was foiled on 5 Nov 1605; ever since, bonfires have been lit on that date to celebrate. The big fireworks display is at Meadowbank Sport Centre; it focuses on pyrotechnics, not Jacobean politics.

St Andrew’s Day

Where: various venues
When: 30 Nov
St Andrew’s Day is nowhere near as debauched for the Scots as St Patrick’s Day is for the Irish, but it’s still a decent reason to raise a glass. In 2007, the Scottish Parliament designated it as a public holiday, and efforts are now being made to make it a little more festive than it’s been in the past.

Capital Christmas

Where: various venues
When: late Nov-early Jan
Website: www.edinburghschristmas.com
What started out as a few casual events has grown into a large, popular, city-wide festival. The centrepiece is the Winter Wonderland in Princes Street Gardens, complete with fairground rides, crafts market, skating rink and the Edinburgh Wheel (a Ferris wheel next to the Scott Monument).

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay

Where: throughout the city
When: 29 Dec-1 Jan
Website: www.edinburghshogmanay.org
Edinburgh’s modern Hogmanay celebration is a four-day festival, featuring a torchlight procession, bands in Princes Street Gardens, street performers, fireworks and even, for the hardy, a mini-triathlon on New Year’s Day. The street party on the evening of 31 Dec sees the city centre cordoned off for safety reasons, with a maximum of 100,000 ticket-holders admitted; see the website for details on how to book tickets. Some locals love it; others, though, view it as an open-air binge drinking session for young singles and couples, and prefer the more family-friendly events. The last few years have seen a few problems hit the party – last-minute cancellations because of severe weather, cutbacks following loss-making years in 2007 and 2008 – but the event is still worth tens of millions of pounds to Edinburgh’s economy.

Burns Night

Where: throughout the city
When: 25 Jan
Website: www.visitscotland.com
In his short life, Robert Burns (1759-96) built a reputation as a fine poet, but it was only after his death that he came to be regarded as Scotland’s national bard. Burns Suppers, dinners in his memory, have been run for more than 200 years by Burns societies, churches, masonic lodges and other community groups. Held around the anniversary of his birth (25 January, Burns Night), they follow a traditional format, including recitation of the poem ‘Address to a Haggis’, and a meal including haggis, ‘chappit neeps’ (mashed swede), mashed potatoes and whisky. There’s no single, set-piece Edinburgh event, but watch out for themed exhibitions and Burns Suppers in hotels and restaurants.

Public holidays

Edinburgh shares some public holidays with the whole of the UK and others with only the rest of Scotland, and even has one holiday of its own. Many shops remain open on public holidays, but public transport services are less frequent. Virtually everything is closed on Christmas Day, and most businesses are shut on New Year's Day.

New Year's holidays 1 (or following Mon if it falls on a weekend) & 2 Jan (or first non-holiday weekday if it falls on a weekend)
Good Friday varies
Early May Bank Holiday first Mon in May
Spring Holiday last Mon in May
May Day first Mon in May
Victoria Day (Edinburgh only) Mon before 24 May
Summer Bank Holiday first Mon in Aug
Autumn Holiday second Mon in Sept
St Andrew’s Day
30 Nov (or following Mon if it falls on a weekend)
Christmas Day 25 Dec (or following Mon if it falls on a weekend)
Boxing Day 26 Dec (or first non-holiday weekday if it falls on a weekend)

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By Sound Collision - Feb 28 2014

Do not miss Edinburgh Alive Event at the Caves - Saturday 15 March 14.
7:30 – 3AM
Event created to support musicians and artists from Edinburgh.
Live music entertainment by: Lyndsay Shields, The Deadly Winters, ThinkTank, Victorian Trout Conspiracy & Birdhead.
DJ Astrojazz.
Additional entertainment: Tarot Cards by Aoife, Face painting by Stina Sprakles Entertainment, Elliot Bibby the magician & PyroCeltica.
Free glass of Prosecco for the first 50 through the doors.
Advance (discounted) tickets and more info at http://www.soundcollisionevents.co.uk/wp/buy-tickets/
Look forward to meeting you all.
Rosie :) x

By Sound Collision - Feb 28 2014

Do not miss Edinburgh Alive Event at the Caves - Saturday 15 March 14.
7:30 – 3AM
Event created to support musicians and artists from Edinburgh.
Live music entertainment by: Lyndsay Shields, The Deadly Winters, ThinkTank, Victorian Trout Conspiracy & Birdhead.
DJ Astrojazz.
Additional entertainment: Tarot Cards by Aoife, Face painting by Stina Sprakles Entertainment, Elliot Bibby the magician & PyroCeltica.
Free glass of Prosecco for the first 50 through the doors.
Advance (discounted) tickets and more info at http://www.soundcollisionevents.co.uk/wp/buy-tickets/
Look forward to meeting you all.
Rosie :) x

By Richard - Feb 25 2014

Thursday, March 13th 2014
Edinburgh,we are throwing open a few boxes of samples
7pm at cafe Camino, Little King Street, Edinburgh free, (please pre-book) Grog 0131 555 0222
Tuesday, March 18th
Grog South American Wine Dinner at Edinburgh School of Food & Wine
please call the E.S.F.W direct to book or for more details on 0131 333 5001 . Prices are £55 (per person per dinner!)

Friday, April 11th 2014
French Wine Dinner at Edinburgh School of Food & Wine
please call the E.S.F.W direct to book or for more details on 0131 333 5001 . Prices are £55 (per person per dinner!)
Saturday, April 26th
Grog's Beer-bottled-brilliant Festival 1-6pm at Cafe Camino, Little King Street, Edinburgh
£10 for 100+ beers, please book via Grog BottleShop 0131 667 2855 Buy Tickets Online.
Friday, May 2nd 2014
New World Wine Dinner at Edinburgh School of Food & Wine
please call the E.S.F.W direct to book or for more details on 0131 333 5001 . Prices are £55 (per person per dinner!)

Friday, May 23rd
Edinburgh Spring Wine Fair
6-8.30pm, at the Merchant's Hall...It is a biggy, 220 tickets, 100+ wines wander around UN-Tutored tasting.
Tickets £16 (£16 redeemable against a case of wine purchase!) call 0131 555 0222 Buy Tickets Online.

By Edinburgh Macmillan Art Exhibition 2013 - Oct 8 2013

Edinburgh's Macmillan Art Exhibition is taking a new look at Scotland's landscape art in the forthcoming show 'Art of Nature' from 21-24 November at Bonhams.

The theme 'Natural Scotland' is being celebrated by over 100 artists, from recent graduates to established artists and in a wide variety of media.

Final year students from the jewellery department of Edinburgh College of Art will be presenting new designs on the theme and two free talks will be delivered by noted experts Susanna Beaumont and Bill Hare.

All works are for sale with profits going directly to help people with cancer. To see some of the artworks, and for information visit www.macmillanartshow.org

By ELTMSA - Apr 18 2013

Another festival to consider:
Northern Streams 2013 - music, song & dance from Scandinavia and Scotland
26-27 April 2013

FOR TEN years, the Northern Streams Festival has been bringing award winning and emerging artists from Scandinavia and Scotland to Scottish audiences.

In 2013, we welcome:

• Marit Fält and Rona Wilkie (BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2012) - Norwegian-Scottish Fiddle/Mandola/Voice Duo and Celtic Connections Danny Kyle award winners
• Irmelin - Swedish folk singers - Eva Rune, Karin Ericsson Back and Maria Misgeld, with North Sea traditional songs
• Danish Folk Award winners - Hal Parfitt Murray & Nikolaj Busk, back by popular demand with their fiddle, vocals, piano and feet skills.
• dancing male Danes - ‘3 Men and a Bottle’ return with accompanist, Pia Nygaard.
• Scottish/Swedish fiddler: Kirsty-Jacqueline Lingard.

More details about the concerts and workshops visit: www.northernstreams.org; Twitter: @northernstream1; Facebook: TMSAEdinburghandLothians or t: 07951 918366. Tickets available from the Scottish Storytelling Centre www.scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk; 0131 556 9579 or on the door. Usual concessions plus Young Scot + TMSA members.

Northern Streams takes place in the Pleasance and Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh. It is also part of the new Tradfest umbrella festival (replacing the previous Ceilidh Culture) and is supported by the Royal Norwegian Consulate General and Embassy of Sweden.

By SCDA Edinburgh - Jan 16 2013

The Edinburgh round of the SCDA One-Act Festival will be held at St Serfs Hall, Clark Road, Edinburgh from 14 to 16 Feb 013m -7pm start. 8 plays over 3 nights from pychological drama to hilarious farce. Professional adjudication for 3 teams to progress to the next round, and BESTof theFEST audience award for season ticket holders to vote for the one they simply enjoy most - not marking, just voting.
£8 single night £21 3 night season.
Book online http://www.scdaedinburgh.org.uk/page33.html.

By Asia Sawicka - Dec 6 2012

The Moscow State Circus brings its latest & most spectacular show to date to Scotland with this sensational Christmas extravaganza
‘The Gift of Christmas’

The especially designed seasonal show takes us on an incredible journey in the company of, without a doubt the greatest circus performers on earth.
A Mammoth cast of Russia's greatest and most talented circus artistes, transform the most famous circus in the world, combining contemporary & classical circus in way never before witnessed

The newly devised show includes The beautiful queen of Russian Circus Yana Alievia on a revolving Ariel Chandelier. The breathtaking Stalkions, 3 men & 2 girls walk, back flip and perform unbelievable pyramids 30’ in the air on the legendary High Wire.
The Whirlwind Rubsovsm troupe who acrobatically catapult themselves across & high into the big top at breakneck speed. The juggling Sherbakovs on the reverse pyramid of St Petersburg.
The Doktrov, flying & spiralling in the apex of the auditorium with grace, beauty and elegance. The unbelievable vertical pole balancing of The Alikanov & the high flying bouncing bamboo bravados of The Perushkins.

If all this isn’t enough to keep you sat on the edge of your seat then the
Hilarious clowns, Pavlik will have you falling off them with laughter.

In addition to this outstanding show the sensational production is housed in a specially designed, centraly heated chapiteau big top and is uniquely domed to accommodate the complex rigging for the aerial acts, it is supported by only four “king” poles so as not to obscure the audiences view.

The Moscow State Circus
Ocean Terminal
Wed 19th December to Sunday 6th January
For tickets & information please call
Ticketmaster on 0844 856 5555

By Charlotte Fairbairn - Aug 4 2011

One World, One Chutney - International Chutney Festival at Neidpath Castle, Peebles EH45 8NW on October 22/23rd, 2011. A festival of food, words and lots of sauce. International chutney awards. Events include tomato-hurling, themed gala dinner, live music, stands selling delicious cheeses, meats, pickles, preserves, mustards and chutneys. www.oneworldonechutney.com for more details.

By Lindsay - Jul 19 2011

Lest we not forget the fabulous Autumnal entertainment the Scottish International Storytelling Festival offers every October, celebrating the magic and joy of live, oral storytelling with a jam-packed 10 day programme of tale-weaving, music, song, dance and sharing.

www.scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk for more details.

By Art Roch hostel.com - May 4 2011

Don't miss the inaugural Edinburgh International Haggis Eating Championship, Sunday 19th June from 11am at Art Roch, 2 West Port, The Grassmarket, Edinburgh.
A fun-filled day centred around Scotland's national dish to help kick of the Edinburgh festival season with a Guinness World Record breaking attempt to eat a pound of haggis in under two minutes.
Lots of prizes on offer including free accommodation at our cool new hostel, Art Roch on The Grassmarket (home of Britain's first butler for backpackers) and certificates declaring any non native contestants honorary Scots for their achievement - plus a few surprises. £1 to take part (proceeds to Help for Heroes). Places for contestants strictly limited so please register your interest asap by emailing info@theprcompany.biz