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Bagpipes and drums - Edinburgh FestivalPut simply the Edinburgh Festival is the world’s biggest, brashest and most eye-catching arts extravaganza, a nefarious, incandescently fun fiesta that takes over the Scottish capital every August. How did it all start and why is it no longer just one festival? These are the sort of questions I’m about to answer for you in our Ultimate Guide to the Edinburgh Summer Festivals.

The Edinburgh Summer Festivals began life as such with the launch of the Edinburgh International Festival back in 1947. Then it was seen as a way of breathing a bit of life into a city struggling with post-war austerity. It soon became a massive success and this landmark International Festival is still at the core today, with its high brow diet of globally famous opera, classical music and ballet performers.


Edinburgh Summer FestivalsEdinburgh Festival

The spin off event that even more people attend these days is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe ( This began life as a raucous, more left of centre alternative to the main festival and in many ways it holds true to this pioneering spirit today with some seriously daring performances that both tackle the topical issues of the day and often seek to provoke too. The Fringe also has a more mainstream edge at venues like the revamped Assembly Rooms where you can savour the sort of stand-up comedy acts who have successfully graduated from smaller Fringe venues into UK-wide sell out tours and TV shows like Michael McIntyre and John Bishop.

Perhaps the most dramatic of events that comes under the Edinburgh Summer Festivals banner is the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The setting could not be any more spectacular right on the Esplanade beneath the landmark castle. Military and police bands and performers from around the world come here to entertain and entertain they do with their colourful shows. The highlights, though, remain the more traditional sights and sounds of the massed pipes and drums and the lone piper who brings proceedings to a close with a dramatic lament on the ramparts.

Edinburgh Festival at nightEdinburgh International Book Festival and Edinburgh Mela

A more cerebral festival takes place in the heart of Edinburgh in the form of the perennially popular Edinburgh International Book Festival. Scottish authors and poets, as well as global talents, offer talks, workshops and do book signings too. Local favourites such as Ian Rankin and J. K. Rowling are always especially popular when they attend.

One of the most vibrant August festivals is the Edinburgh Mela. This eclectic event sees acts from all corners of the world descend on Edinburgh to stage a range of shows that bring out world music and myriad mediums and styles. There is dance too, as well as fashion, and food is an integral part of the festival.

The beauty of the Edinburgh Festival today is not just that it is the biggest festival of the arts staged anywhere in the world. It is also the sheer diversity with a range of Edinburgh Summer Festivals now bashing through the cobbled streets with a roster

that really does offer something for all tastes, no matter how alternative or surreal! What are you waiting for? Go on and treat yourself to that trip you’ve always promised yourself and join in the Festivals fun.

Further Information

The umbrella website has information on all the above August festivals as well as some events on the shoulder of the main festivals such as the Jazz and Blues Festival and International Film Festival.

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