Add a Scottish twist to your Edinburgh Festival

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There’s no denying it – the Edinburgh Festivals are now in full swing. Wander along the Royal Mile and you’ll be swept up in a sea of excitement and wonder as you wade through crowds, watch dramatic street performers in awe and collect more leaflets than you could ever possibly look through.

August is the month where you can enjoy the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Edinburgh International Art Festival, Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Edinburgh Art Festival, as well as the Royal Military Tattoo. There are literally thousands of things to see and do, with hundreds of venues all across the city hosting shows, special events, talks and exhibitions.

When it comes to deciding how to spend your time, it can often be a difficult decision. With it being the Year of Homecoming 2014, we thought that we’d give you a flavour of some of the events with a distinctly Scottish element, so you can take in the best of Scotland’s arts, culture, history, and food and drink.

For a song and dance

Get your festival experience off to a bang and join in with This is Ceilidh every night in the Spiegeltent. The brainchild of Stuart Cassells from Scottish bagpipe rockers Red Hot Chilli Pipers, it’s a ceilidh with a difference, combining music and dance with theatre, comedy and cabaret to create a wonderful, truly Scottish spectacle.

A Scotch, A Song and A Sing-a-long, held at Upstairs @Le Monde, blends blether, banter and auld Scots song, which you can enjoy while tucking into a scone and a wee dram, which is all part of your ticket.

WHISKI Bar and Restaurant hosts Footstomping Traditional Scottish Music each evening in August. Enjoy the mishmash of fiddles, accordions, guitars and whistles and discover what traditional music is all about at this free event, whilst the acoustics of Canongate Kirk magnify the rich sound of the fiddle when the Alastair Savage Trio perform live.

For fans of folk music, catch one of the two performances from Adam Holmes and Friends at the Gilded Balloon, or get tickets to see folk balladeer Rachel Sermanni at her Queen’s Hall performance on 14 August.

For wee festival-goers

Let the kids blow off steam at the Ready Steady Ceilidh, hosted by CBBC TV presenter Iain Stirling. From the same team as This is Ceilidh, this fun lunchtime event mixes Scottish dance with family-friendly comedy and theatre.

Hear mystical tales of giants, broonies and selkies from raconteur Calum Lykan at Brave and Free: Traditional Tales of Scotland at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, where sessions take place twice daily.

At theSpace@Symposium Hall, there are two great theatre productions to check out. The Fantastical Return of Greyfriar’s Bobby will spark the imagination of wee ones and let them discover Edinburgh’s famous historical four-legged resident in a fun, new adventure. Enjoy the retelling of a classic tale of lost boys and magical fairy dust at Peter Pan, based on the tales of Scottish writer JM Barrie.

History and Scottish icons

Decipher the language of Scotland’s Bard at Burns for Beginners at the Acoustic Music Centre @ McBride’s, where poems and songs are performed to live musical accompaniment and are followed by discussions which will let you get to the heart of his famous works.

Hear the Arthur Conan Doyle Experience, a talk on the writer who is one of Edinburgh’s most famous sons. You’ll learn about the writer in the Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, an original Victorian townhouse which is dedicated to the author of Sherlock Holmes.

Uncover the funnier side to Scottish history at A Brief History of Scotland – We Done Loads! at the Sweet Grassmarket, or step into Edinburgh’s past on one of the many walking tours, some of which are free.

Tastes of Scotland

Bring an appetite with you to Haggis, Haggis, Haggis at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Sample Scotland’s most famous dish and enjoy this theatre piece which takes a unique, and sometimes surreal, look at the humble haggis.

There are a number of festival events where you might just discover your favourite malt whisky and learn a few interesting things about Scotland’s iconic drink. In the Valvona & Crolla Scottish Foodhall at Jenners, join in with Bad Boys: Whisky Theatre, or in the luxurious setting of the Pommery Champagne Café Bar, enjoy a tutored tasting with The Whisky Belle, Annabel Meikle at Single Malt Sundays.

Scotland on stage

Alba – A New Scottish Musical, held at theSpace @Surgeon’s Hall, is accompanied by an original score and is infused with traditional Scottish influences, or hear the many hits of the Proclaimers in a new production of the Sunshine on Leith, the feel-good musical which was made popular with the release of the 2013 film.

Game for a laugh

Catch the camp kilted wonder and Festival Fringe favourite Craig Hill in his new stand-up show, Craig Hill: Give Him An Inch… at the Underbelly, or book a seat to see Elaine C Smith, one of Scotland’s most popular entertainers, at The Assembly Rooms.

Check out Scotland’s Pick of the Fringe, where three of Scotland’s best comedy talents take to the floor at The Beehive Inn, or get to grips with modern day Scottish identity at the entertaining one-woman performance entitled How to Achieve Redemption as a Scot Through the Medium of Braveheart at the Underbelly.

Visual arts

Don’t miss GENERATION, a ground-breaking new exhibition to celebrate 25 years of contemporary art in Scotland. During August, you can see retrospective works and new commissions at 16 venues across Edinburgh & The Lothians.

Amongst the dozens of artworks is Craig Coulthard’s The Drummer and the Drone, which can be viewed at Trinity Apse. This film installation imagines a futuristic commemoration ceremony, and explores contradictions through romanticised images of Scotland.

20 Years of Real Life by Ross Sinclair is a mixed media work, part of which involves giving instruments to young musicians to start a band. Sinclair uses art to consider the nature of identity, at time focusing on issues of Scottish identity. See his multimedia piece Real Life Rocky Mountain (2006) at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art or check out the new film which reflects on the last 20 years of Ross’ art at the Collective Gallery on Calton Hill.

But that’s only a tiny slice of what’s available across Edinburgh this August. Before you get stuck into planning how you’ll spend your time in Europe’s festival capital, download our new Edinburgh Festivals Survival Guide for excellent tips on how to really make the most of your festival experience.

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Amy Robertson

Amy is media executive at VisitScotland. Hailing from the west coast of Scotland, she's rather fond of music festivals, coastal walks, whisky and coal fires.