If you love the arts then there are few better excuses for a campervan foray to Scotland than to pay a visit to the globally renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
With your festival guidebook at the ready and your insurance for campervans arranged, it’s a great time to start planning your cultural vacation.
Every year the Fringe sees over 55,000 performances of over 3,500 different shows taking place at over 300 venues dotted throughout the city. It’s easy to see why it’s so popular and why millions of people visit every year!
If you’ve never been to the Fringe before and are wondering how best to plan your trip then you’re in for a treat.
Read our guide to this fantastic festival, but also take note of some other great ideas for when festival season has ended and you want to continue your Scottish campervan adventure.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival – so, what’s it all about?
The Fringe was first established way back in 1947 when eight theatre companies turned up uninvited to the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival (sometimes called the Official Festival).
With performers from the Official Festival using Edinburgh’s major venues, the Fringe performers set up in alternative out-of-the-way spots and the name ‘Fringe’ was coined.
Its earliest years went largely unrecorded except through mysterious anecdotes. However, through the 1960s and 1970s the Fringe began to establish itself more and more in the view of those looking for something a bit different.
This went on until the 1980s with the arrival of so-called ‘super-venues’ and the alternative comedy scene which really began to see numbers building.
Despite ups and downs in the 1990s and 2000s today the Fringe is easily the world’s largest arts festival. Indeed, it’s surpassed only by the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in terms of global ticketed events.
Despite its worldwide fame and interest, the Fringe still takes place annually in Edinburgh in the month of August. And it’s still an open access performing arts festival. So there’s no stuffy selection committee, and anyone can take part, with any type of performance.
No artistic control is imposed whatsoever – provided you can afford the registration fee then you’re good to go!
If you’d like to know what’s on then the official Fringe Programme has a bewildering array of show categories. It has sections for theatre, comedy, dance, circus, cabaret, children's shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events.
Despite its theatrical beginnings, comedy is by far the largest section, making up over one-third of the entire show programme.
In modern times, comedy has the highest profile, due in part to the Edinburgh Comedy Awards – the most prestigious comedy prize in the UK.
If you feel like having a go yourself then the Festival Fringe Society, which also publishes the programme and sells tickets to all events, also offers year-round advice and support to performers.
What to see and do at the Fringe?
There are literally thousands of shows at Edinburgh Fringe, so it’s a big ask to get to see even a small portion of what’s on offer.
Here are ten top tips from the Fringe organisers themselves on how to get the best out of the Fringe:
Download the App to plan aheadYou don’t want to come all this way and miss the show you wanted to see. If you’ve got the app then it’ll not only give you details of all the shows, but also where they are and how to book tickets when on the move. An absolute necessity!
Wander the streets and soak up the atmosphereYou haven’t come all this way just to sit in your camper. Get out and roam the Royal Mile along with the rest this astonishing city has to offer. There’s no place in the world quite like the Fringe.
Be aware of ‘Fringe Time’Yes it really is a thing and if you’re not careful it could wreck your plans. For example, if you book tickets for a show listed as taking place at 1am on Friday night then it will actually be taking place in the early hours of Saturday morning. You have been warned.
Spare some time for the people handing out flyersThe weather isn’t always pleasant and people handing out flyers are working really hard to promote their show. Be nice and you might even get a free ticket to something amazing. Better yet, you might even find yourself chatting to a future international star!
Keep a map handy and plot your routeAs an avid traveller you’ll be used to finding your way from A to B and everywhere in between. But just because you’re on foot doesn’t mean you can relax when it comes to navigation. Edinburgh’s Old Town can be an absolute maze and you don’t want to get lost and miss the must-see show of the season.
Pack a raincoatYou’re in Scotland after all!
Try not to see too muchThe festival is huge and busy and can feel exhausting at times. So, plan in some time to have a snack, breathe, relax and escape into the less visited corners of the city.
Wear comfortable shoesThink of a day at the Fringe as an all-day hike and you’ll have some idea of what to wear.
Check out the awesome street eventsYou don’t need to get a ticket to be entertained at the Fringe. Buskers, jugglers, acrobats, fire breathers, escapologists and much, much more set up shop on the streets of Edinburgh throughout the month. Prepare to be amazed.
Be spontaneousTake a risk and try out something new. You never know, you might like it.
Elsewhere in Edinburgh
It isn’t just the Fringe that’s worth going to see. There’s a whole host of other festivals during the summer.
The Official Festival attracts some of the greatest international performing artists along with the world’s finest orchestras and opera, theatre and ballet companies.
Tickets aren’t cheap but if you’re looking for something a bit more refined, then it’s well worth it.
Be sure to stay for the Fireworks Concert where the Scottish Chamber Orchestra belts out classic tunes from the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens.
Don’t miss the spectacular fireworks display from the castle that takes place at the same time. The best vantage spots are Princes Street, Northbridge and Calton Hill but get there early to bag a great spot.
The world’s oldest continually running film festival runs for the last two weeks in June. Boasting everything from feature-length films and documentaries to shorts, animations and music videos.
It’s a great opportunity to see everything from big cinema hits to interesting reissued movies.
Every year the Book Festival takes place in the last two weeks of August within a magical tented village set in the beautiful and historic Charlotte Square gardens in Edinburgh’s world heritage listed Georgian New Town.
It stages over 900 star-studded author events, covering a huge range of topics, offering thought-provoking entertainment and inspiration for any enthusiastic book lover.
Running at the end of July, this is the perfect festival to get those feet tapping before the Fringe events take off.
There’s a huge programme of music gigs to enjoy in many diverse Edinburgh locations.
As well as ticketed events there are also great free events to attend such as the flamboyant family event the Edinburgh Festival Mardi Gras.
Not to mention the wonderful musical extravaganza that is Jazz On A Summer’s Day.
An annual series of military tattoos performed each August by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and international military bands, and artistic performance teams on Edinburgh Castle esplanade.
It’s an unashamed display of pomp and military pride and is a joy to behold. Witnessing the emotional climax of a lone piper on the castle battlements is something never to be forgotten.
Where to stay?
With the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and its smaller festival cousins attracting millions of extra visitors into the city every year, accommodation in August can be hard to come by.
With the population of Edinburgh effectively doubling during the festival season it’s better not to leave things until it’s too late.
While campervan and motorhome owners have an advantage over those visitors needing a bricks and mortar place to stay, it’s best to get booking well in advance.
Booking in the January before would be best to avoid disappointment, although the earlier the better.
Edinburgh Caravan Club Site is a popular site on the Firth of Forth within easy reach of the city centre.
The great thing is that while you’re well placed for festival fun, seaside strolls and other entertainment choices you shouldn’t be troubled by big crowds and lots of noise when you want to get some shut eye after a long day of culture.
Just to the south of the city is the peaceful and tranquil Mortonhall Caravan & Camping Park located in acres of country estate. Perfect as an antidote to the hustle and bustle of Festival going.
Whatever you do though, whenever you’re away from your cherished campervan you’ll want to make sure that it’s well covered by campervan insurance in case of any mishap.
Exploring further afield
As a keen festival goer, you’ll want to spend as much time as possible exploring Edinburgh and all it has to offer. But, if you really want to experience the true magic of Scotland, then a road trip is the perfect way to see this breath-taking country in all its glory.
Whether you fancy meandering past white-tipped mountains, gazing out at deer or spotting eagles in the Highlands or stumbling upon historic ruins there are many fantastic places to see in Scotland when touring in your campervan.
Oh, and did we mention there are over 1,500 castles in Scotland with architecture and styles reflecting the country’s exciting history? Plus, for the truly intrepid explorers out there, you’ll find the 10 tallest mountains in the UK on Scottish lands.
Is there a better place for those of an adventurous disposition? We don’t think so!
If you’re planning on exploring in your trusty camper (and we highly recommend that you do so) then here are some handy calculations of how long it takes to get from Edinburgh to different Scottish hotspots.
- Glasgow - 1 hour 15 minutes
- Perthshire - 2 hours
- Inverness - 3 hours 30 minutes
- Aberdeen - 2 hours 30 minutes
- Borders - 1 hour 30 minutes
- St Andrews - 1 hour 25 minutes
- Loch Lomond & The Trossachs - 1 hour 45 minutes
- Ben Nevis - 3 hours 30 minutes
- John O’Groats - about 6 hours
The roads in Scotland are great so the only real complications you might encounter on your trip are the weather and the islands.
The Scottish islands are all absolutely gorgeous and well worth a visit, but you will need to get a ferry with the additional cost in money and time.
But with stunning landscapes on the Isles of Arran, Skye and Mull on offer, you can’t come this far and not make the extra effort.
Campervan insurance for your festival foray
Whether you just travel to Edinburgh and back for the Fringe or take off for a stunning Scottish adventure, you’ll be sure to come across some amazing places.
However, to keep everything running on track you’ll always need to be well prepared with campervan insurance for any eventuality.
The Edinburgh Fringe will introduce you to many new experiences. But rest assured the team of insurance specialists at Motorhome Protect will always work to keep your campervan well covered in case something unexpected and unwelcome happens.
Cover from our panel of leading insurers can come with many benefits including:
- Cover for up to 365 days a year
- Up to £3,500 of cover for your camping personal effects
- Value up to £150,000
Get a campervan insurance quote from Motorhome Protect today.
Policy benefits and features offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.