7 Ways to Escape the Fringe

With the second and most exhausting weekend of the Fringe nearly in the rearview mirror, it’s time to have a rest day. It’s tempting to curl up in bed and succumb to the hangover that’s been building for a fortnight, but there are other options to get a few hours respite from the crowds and the flyers for less than the cost of a show. Frankie Goodway takes us through the options.

No one expects you to applaud at the end

1 Go to the beach

The weather has been fair enough this Fringe that the sea has been visible from the Mile and the Roxy almost every day. Walking almost dead east from the centre of Edinburgh for a little over an hour will take you to Portobello Beach – stop once you reach the sea. You can take a more lingering scenic route through Holyrood Park, if the mood strikes you. There’s also a swimming pool and a turkish baths for those not keen on a dip in the North Sea.

If the beach appeals, but stopping at the sea does not, head to Cramond Beach. At low tide a walkway to the island is passable, although visitors must keep an eye on the weather and the time. Noticeboards show the proper times to cross. On the island there are ruined farm buildings and gun turrets built during the Second World War. Oh, but it’s not entirely festival free – there’s a secret punk rock concert on the final Saturday of Fringe. No, really.

2 Enjoy sunshine on Leith

There are a few venues to dodge here if you want to keep free of the Fringe, but you’ll leave plenty of punters and tourists behind as you walk down the increasingly gentrified Leith Walk. There’s a Trainspotting tour, for the truly uninspired, or the Royal Yacht Britannia, for those with cash to burn (entry is £15.50) and an unlimited tolerance for kitsch.

3 Get high

Climb Arthur’s Seat. Wear decent shoes – you’ll need your feet for the rest of the month – and if you want to completely avoid the festivals, check that Barry Ferns isn’t mucking about on it first. There are several routes up to the top, of varying difficulties, but set aside at least a couple of hours to get up and down again. Choose this escape for the views, the exercise, and being able to smugly drop it into conversation for the foreseeable future. If you like a bit of history with your hiking, or feel like taking an atmospheric Instagram, stop by St Anthony’s Chapel in Holyrood Park.

If that’s a bit much, try the Walter Scott Monument – for for those who like views, but not climbing. Steel yourself and tackle the 287 steps to the top (which is barely more than you’ll climb trying to find the Bunker in Espionage). It costs £5, and it’s best to go early to avoid the crowds of Pokémon hunters (yes, they gather still) on Princes Street.

Or, for a slightly less exposed experience, between 9am and 10pm you can visit the Edinburgh Camera Obscura, which is as eccentric as it sounds, with collections of 3D holograms, a mirror maze and a vortex tunnel. It’s pricier, at £15, but there’s a vortex tunnel.

4 Go west

Walk far enough along the Union Canal and you’ll end up in Falkirk, or horribly lost (or both). It starts in Fountainbridge, but you only have to get a little way along it before the distant din of the city fades to nothing. There’s a cycle lane along the towpath, so watch out for commuters speeding by, but otherwise it’s a lovely walk, especially once you get to the aqueduct over the Water of Leith.

Don’t bother the boat people though. It’s not worth it.

5 Get on yer bus

Sink into a seat in the knowledge no one expects you to applaud at the end. A £4 day ticket from Lothian buses is cheaper than most shows and well worth the price of admission. A No 22 will take you to Edinburgh Zoo, while a No 37 can take you to Roslin and Penicuik. The first is home to the intricately carved Rosslyn Chapel that has been associated with the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail, not least by Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code, which has led to something of a revival. It’s open 9.30am to 6pm on weekdays and admission is £9.

If you want to dodge Brown’s fans, head to Penicuik. The grounds of Penicuik House are open to visitors at all times, for free – the house itself, a burned-out and then restored shell, plus stables block, is open on Sundays between 2pm and 4pm. More importantly, Penicuik is home to several good pubs.

6 Dungeon diving

I’ll be honest, you’ll probably have to endure tourists, dodgy scripts and the occasional actor if you go on one of the many underground or ghost tours, but you’re at the Fringe, you love it really. Tickets to the Edinburgh Dungeon hover around the £10-15 mark depending on the tour, and for that you can savour some dark, musty rooms without having to bung a fiver in a bucket at the end. Breathe it in.

7 Stay in bed

If all the above holds no appeal, you probably need the sleep.

Photo: Frankie Goodway on top of the Scott Monument

Articles by Frankie Goodway