How to escape the Edinburgh Festival

The Maid of the Forth. Picture: Callum Bennetts
The Maid of the Forth. Picture: Callum Bennetts
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From the sea of tourists flocking to the Royal Mile and High Street and the congestion on the pavements of Princes Street and George Street to the queues of traffic and waiting lists for tables in bars and restaurants, there’s no escaping the fact that the Festival 2016 is here.

With more than 500,000 tourists visiting the Capital this month, Edinburgh once again feels as if it’s bursting at its seams. So, if you’re looking for places to escape the mayhem whilst still enjoying a bit of culture or even your very own staycation, here is our round-up of the best places to escape to this month.

Jupiter Artland shows of its new Art Pieces. Picture Toby Williams

Jupiter Artland shows of its new Art Pieces. Picture Toby Williams

TAKE A CRUISE

Venture out to South Queensferry and take a cruise on the acclaimed sightseeing boat trip, Maid of the Forth, to the historic Inchcolm Island, located just four miles from the Forth Bridge.

Ideal for families, visitors can ramble around the monastic abbey, explore the trails, relax on the beach with a picnic, meet the seabirds and even spot a puffin or two. And then there are those spectacular views of Edinburgh, Fife and the Forth Bridges. Passengers can enjoy refreshments on the Maid of the Forth, which contains two spacious decks, including the popular open-top deck ideal for spotting the abundance of marine life to be seen such as grey seals, porpoises, dolphins and even the occasional Minke whale. The daily sailings from South Queensferry all stop off at Inchcolm Island where passengers can spend 90 mins exploring before boarding the boat to return to South Queensferry.

ESCAPE TO THE SEASIDE

Foxlake Outdoor Festival, Dunbar. Elite rider Ryan Peacock. Picture; Toby Williams

Foxlake Outdoor Festival, Dunbar. Elite rider Ryan Peacock. Picture; Toby Williams

Only 30 minutes on the train from Waverley, North Berwick is a seaside town that has it all. Boutique shopping, cool cafés such as Steampunk and whynot?, not to mention ice cream parlours good enough for the likes of Ewan McGregor himself. Then there are those sandy beaches with views out to the world-famous Bass Rock. It was named as BBC Countryfile Magazine’s Nature Reserve of the Year, for two years’ running, and it’s easy to see why. Control the cameras and zoom in on the wildlife action on the Bass Rock from the Scottish Seabird Centre. As the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets, it’s a feast for the eyes. If you’re fast there’s still time to spot the puffins on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve and Craigleith, home to the Centre’s SOS Puffin Project.

Take to the seas with one of the Seabird Centre’s boat trips: there’s a catamaran and rigid inflatable boat to choose from, which means boat trips for all ages. Our vote is for the joint Discovery Centre and catamaran ticket, which means a discount on both!

FERRY IT TO FIFE

Fancy getting even further away from the Festival? Then why not pop over to Fife on the Forth Ferry. Departing from North Berwick, the 55-seat catamaran travels across to Anstruther, Fife, in just 45 minutes. It’s a passenger-only service, but bikes and buggies can be pre-booked so you can enjoy a stroll around the town or head off along the Fife Coastal Trail. Well-behaved dogs are welcome at the skipper’s discretion.

For top tips on what to do in Anstruther visit the Forth Ferry page on the Seabird Centre website – there’s a host of suggested itineraries created by Welcome to Fife. Top tips include the Scottish Fisheries Museum, award-winning fish and chips and Kingsbarn Distillery – staff will pick you up from the harbour if you give them a bell and fancy a tour.

UNEARTH THE JAPANESE GARDEN AT LAURISTON CASTLE

This award-winning Japanese Friendship garden, in the grounds of Lauriston Castle, is well worth a visit. Gifted by the prefecture of Kyoto, it’s a tranquil place and a hidden gem for those in search of some peace and quiet. Bring a picnic and relax or take a stroll around the impressive gardens.

JUMP ABOARD

If you want to stay in the city but just away from the frenetic hub, jump on the Majestic open-top bus tour. This entertaining and informative tour guides you through the history of Edinburgh, focusing on the New Town, Royal Botanic Garden, Leith Cruise Terminal, Royal Yacht Britannia and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Stop off for a stroll through the Botanics, work up a bit of an appetite with some window shopping at Ocean Terminal before lunch on The Shore then soak up the atmosphere from the open top deck as you venture back to the city centre.

COUNTRY ADVENTURE

Fncy a day of outdoor activities? Then head to Foxlake Adventures, Scotland’s first cable wakeboarding park and the only ropes course constructed over water within the UK. Located just outside Dunbar, it’s a world away from the hustle and bustle of the Capital in August. Nestled in on the edge of the John Muir Way, visitors can give wakeboarding a try, tackle the zip lines on FoxFall Rope Course, explore the woodland trails on Off-Road Segways or just chill out on the lake side with a coffee from Boardside cafe. Children under six are also catered for with the impressive Foxlake Play Park.

GET YOUR CLIMB ON

Kids climbing the walls? Take them to the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho. For little ones there is Scrambles Soft Play, with areas for three different age ranges (from 0 to 10) and a cafe so weary parents can have a cuppa and a cake while the kids blow off some steam. There’s the chance to get creative at Honey Pot Ceramics, an arts and crafts studio where kids can drop-in and paint pottery, make jewellery and more. But what makes the EICA really stand out is the dramatic climbing arena. As you enter, the vast climbing walls and the large bouldering rocks are an impressive sight. Towering above is an aerial assault course and hundreds of climbing routes for a range of ages and abilities. For the faint-hearted, the cafe looks over into this area, so you can relax and watch the daredevils in safety.

EXPLORE JUPITER ARTLAND

Shortlisted in the Museum of the Year Awards 2016, Jupiter Artland, which is just outside Edinburgh near Wilkieston, is a must-visit – and not just for art lovers. Visitors are given a map indicating the location of the artworks within the grounds, but there’s no set route and you can explore at your leisure with hidden gems and quirky treats hidden along the way. Not to be missed are the Weeping Girls, the very popular Cells of Life and The Light Pours Out of Me. There are also plenty of farm animals and they welcome a feed of the freshly cut grass. There’s a cafe, shop and different events on throughout the year.