Edinburgh Festival brings Princes Street wheel

The Ferris wheel will return for a seven-week summer appearance. Picture: comp
The Ferris wheel will return for a seven-week summer appearance. Picture: comp
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A GIANT Ferris wheel will tower above the city centre as the centrepiece of Edinburgh’s Festival for the first time in its history.

The colossal attraction – standing at 42 metres – will offer “unrivalled views” of a bustling Capital at the height of the festival season and even air clips from must-see performances into each of its 36 pods.

Run by Underbelly, the big wheel is identical to the one featured at Edinburgh’s Winter Wonderland and will be fixed at the same location next to the Scott Monument.

It is understood the city could reap a £250,000 windfall from leasing the big wheel plot to the Festival promoters, with the cash pot being ploughed into maintaining monuments at Princes Street Gardens.

Capital residents – with ID to prove their EH postcode – will secure a 20 per cent discount on the £8 fare.

Up to 216 short extracts from headline shows featured in the Jazz and Blues Festival, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, International Festival, Fringe Festival and International Book Festival will be broadcast in the six-person pods.

Heritage watchdogs have warned against any plans to make the Ferris wheel a permanent fixture – which is decorated with more than 20,000 lights – but were relaxed about a one-off appearance.

Underbelly co-director Charlie Wood said he hoped to eclipse the 120,000 big wheel visitors achieved over its six-week Christmas run.

“It’s a wheel for all, really,” he said. “I think it will be a good addition for the summer as well as winter. By playing the extracts from shows, it will help bring the festival together.

“During Christmas it gets dark at around 3.30pm. In summer it doesn’t get dark until 9pm so you can enjoy the view all the way round.”

Marion Williams, director of heritage body the Cockburn Association, was lukewarm about the concept.

“It works to an extent,” she said. “We’re not overly worried at this stage about it, but if it’s going to become a more permanent feature then you’d think we should be looking at somewhere else to put it.”

She added: “The site is so prominent and a very important and special place. I don’t think next to the Scott Monument is quite so acceptable for an all-year round prominent feature.”

Edinburgh’s festival and events champion, Councillor Steve Cardownie, said the Ross Fountain, which has been defective for years, and shabby Ross Theatre could be revamped through the Ferris wheel funding.

He said: “This summer, music and content from some of the brightest and best Edinburgh Festival acts will be played in each of the wheel booths, allowing revellers to experience the sights and sounds of the Festival while promoting some of the acts that will perform in the city.

“The revenue raised from the Edinburgh Wheel will also directly support future improvements to the Gardens, including funding of the Ross Fountain and Theatre, with the aim of maintaining the park as a beautiful place to visit in Edinburgh.”

The Big Wheel will be open from July 14 to August 31, from 10am to 10pm, and tickets are on sale from July 1.