Attending the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Ah, Speyside. Cue the misty eyed, dreamy state that’s taken ahold of many a traveller, drinks connoisuer and social butterfly to have ever visited. Home to around half of Scotland’s world-renowned whisky distilleries, it is our Golden Triangle of 50+ whisky houses, with brands from the legendary to…
On the last tour in Scotland I couldn’t get anywhere near Fringe Festival, the month long Arts fest that has been going strong for 70 years. All accommodations were booked up that I could afford. My trip to Edinburgh ended up being the week before and after talking to a few residents, realized I would need to book about an year in advance for best lodgings. This is of course if you want to deal with a large European city that has its population swell about three-fold in four weeks. Had to think about that. I lived in San Francisco where this came close to happening every summer. When you live in a large tourist destination, it’s your least favorite time of year. Some stay, some go on their own vacations.
It’s the 70th year, so the festival is gearing up even bigger. This festival is insane. I picked up the program last year and spent an hour or two combing all the acts and theatre performances. It’s packed and overwhelming with something for everyone. I decided I would have to try to make it this year. Now, how do you navigate one of the largest festivals in Europe for your first time and if you only have three days to spare? Research, of course.
Step 1 Book Accommodations Way Ahead
As I said before, last year I just couldn’t get reasonable rooms. Everyone I talked to said book early. Edinburgh is the most expensive of the cities in Scotland I found to spend time in as far as accommodations go. So shopping early is a great choice. You can always adjust later. Other festivals in the UK also require early bookings, and don’t count on camping accommodations as those will have been snagged up, unless you have some traveling companions in the know. You can however book in adjacent towns and ride in on the train, which runs extra trains during August.
Step 2 Enroll on Fringe Website
Most festivals have a website and you should join early. You will get updates to performances as new lineups happen. I am checking in as I heard many popular shows sell out quick. I am not be familiar with many of the performers, but I am only in the city for three days and have to cram. And some US performers do make it to the marathon. I see there is a Fringe society planning group for your visit. Ooo, I have pals.
Looks like I may have to book my train run early ish as well. ScotRail has festival trains for the month, but they may be a bit packed, so better book the to the festival run at least a month out. What a contrast is will be from the tranquility of Skye where I will be coming from.
Did I say marathon? Yes, for the performers and the patrons. Many a US comic has lamented that they survived the Fringe Fest. It’s a month of shows and you may have 2-3 a day to do, and your venues can be spread out. Search for some comedy on Netflicks with Fringe Fest in the title and see what I mean. Get a perspective from a comic, and of course YouTube.
Step 3 Research, Who to See, or How to See Them
Okay, so here is the thing. There are thousands of shows and performers. Many of them trying to make it, new to it, feeling it out. It’s a festival, that means experimentation. You may find some names you are familiar with, but it’s not going to be a headliner affair like you may be used to in your home town. So, how to pick things to go to and not strike out. Go with an open mind. I know I like impromptu theatre. So, I can probably be highly amused regardless. How to do this on a limited budget? Look for free and discount shows. Go during the day. Wait for reviews. Get the App for the Fringe. Sounds like a lot of ways to get overloaded. Most of what I have read has said to wait to find deals when you get there. Keep an eye out for the daily reviews of shows. Talk to a more experienced attendee near you. I plan on interviewing people while there to get their take on the festival.
Step 4 Make Sure Your Accommodation is Really Booked.
Your accommodation should always be booked well ahead in any place you stay, but I have had weird things crop up while traveling overseas and had rooms get overbooked, and computer glitches happen. Confirm you have a booking. If you would like to go but all things are booked up, you can find accommodations in bordering towns and take the train in. Extra transit is provided during this month.
Step 5 Enjoy
With all the craziness of any festival like this, sometimes you need to pull out and decompress. Edinburgh has so many great little spots, courtyards, district areas that you can take a few streets to the left or right and find a smaller space to eat some great Pop-Up restaurant food and just let go for a bit. Making a decision on whether to cram every minute with theatre, dance, music, and all other arts can be and exhausting stimulus. That fear that you may have to choose between 3 things is a bit much for us. Remember, spontaneity can be living in the moment and just breathing.
Prepare for weather. My summer experiences in Edinburgh were that they were very close to San Francisco/Portland weather. Changeable within a day, check your weather app. Bring light rain gear, also suncream and your brelly. Hopefully the performance you are seeing is in shelter.
DOWNLOAD THE APP. As we get closer to August, the festival puts out an App that is very useful for booking and getting up to the minute information. You also have a feature where you can check shows via your location to see what is about to start near your location. You can also purchase tickets via the app. Keep an eye out for this App appearing in July in the Android and Apple Apps stores.
Sitting in a cafe in the PDX, listening to Reggae on an Easter afternoon, I ponder the traveling adventure I am about to embark on in two months. I often find traveling alone has it’s drawbacks. One is that you sometimes try to share out what a great experience you are having with some fellow traveler nearby and they give you the glare, the what are you doing disturbing my vay cay thing. Really sad. Then there are the ones that if you even say “Good Morning” to want to glom onto you and vampire your day. It’s one extreme to another sometimes. I usually hang in public with myself, people watch and probably smirk too much to myself. It’s amazing how much complaining some will do while on vacation. Rooms suck, food sucks, whatever. Usually they are ‘Mericans and a few pensioners from the UK really had me in stitches last trip. Travel is a work. Seriously, getting to any destination is going to take effort, and with the luck I have had, rail strikes and whatnot, it will be again. The trick is to just let it go as part of the adventure. Don’t get me wrong, I drip of sarcasm most days and can outdo many a person on that front. I just try so hard to not do it when traveling because I have just waited too long to get back at it, why waste the time? But there is some fun in commiseration if done right. So maybe meeting up intentionally with a group is the ticket.
So, if you are stuck on your own traveling, or by choice, but would still like to maybe meet fellow enthusiasts and just talk about fabulous experiences, try to arrange a meet up in a city you plan to visit. But how? There are plenty of web resources out there. If you have used one not listed her, let me know and I will add it to the list.
2017 Trip July 19 to August 5
Galway: Arts Fest, are you going?
Edinburgh: Aug 5-8 Fringe Festival, are you going? 70th Anniversary
Website offers a travel meeting/dating like arrangement thing. You can arrange to either meet or start travels together with other people. Granted, in looking at this site I see an awful lot of good looking women and would caution that some may be using this as a pure hook up situation. Hope that’s not the case, but if that’s what you want, hey.
Go Girl Guides
Women travelers meet ups, and travel tips. They are expanding to having travel groups meet in various cities so you can meet others planning to travel, maybe find some compatible people to travel with.
Solo Traveler World
Website dedicated to the solo traveler and many great articles or travel. You are alone, but not alone here.
It’s worldwide and many people create groups. Each city has it’s own flavors, but most have a travel meetup group or a few. Contact a bit ahead of time and see if they are still meeting and get on the list if it’s a day you may be in that city. Everyone has an adventure to share.
Note: Always proceed with caution on any site where meeting strangers may happen. Sadly there are some real toads out there, to downright villains. Sadly I have read of travelers getting harmed in their travels, so just be cautious. Look at reviews on the site if they have them, see if there have been any complaints. Good luck.
It’s Spring. It may be taking a while to crawl in, but the desire is there to celebrate. And that means festivals. All around the upper hemisphere we are screaming time for a break from the winter. So what’s your flavor in a festival?
Festivals are huge in Europe. The university students explode just like in the US, running off to Spring Break. It’s much the same, full on rave for some. The festivals have gotten bigger and more media intense, and getting there and back can take days. And you thought Burning Man was intense here. Whatever size or flavor, there will be one in some Euro city you visit. Hey, the bird are chirping.
March 16 – 19 Dublin St Patrick’s Festival and St Patrick’s Day Parade
March 16 – 19 Mar Kilkenney Trad Fest
March 30 Limmerick Fringe Fest
May 22–30 Fleadh Nua, In Ennis
May 29 Spring Bank Holiday
May 28th April to 2nd Feil na Bealtaine (Beltain) Spring Fest
March 24 Bonobo Glasgow Music Fest
April 26 Edinburgh Trad Fest
April 27 Speyside Whisky Fest
May 1 Bank Holiday Festivals
May 18 The Great Escape Brighton
Late May Bath Music festival
May 27 Love Saves the Day Bristol
June Bath Fringe Fest
And Glastonbury already sold out.
And just wait until school gets out! Music Fests.