Edinburgh’s Old Town is facing problems with the sheer number of tourists and festival-goers. The answer lies in telling visitors about other great places nearby, writes Steve Cardownie.
It has been perfectly evident for some time now that certain parts of the city can be seriously overcrowded during the summer festival season, with parts of the Old Town in particular facing severe problems when it comes to managing festival-goers and sightseers.
With the castle at the top of the Royal Mile, and Holyrood House and the Scottish Parliament at the bottom, it is no wonder that this route is particularly busy, but when you add St Giles’ Cathedral, Fringe performers and various museums such as The People’s Story and The Museum of Childhood to the mix then the scale of the problem is massively increased.
That the Old Town is a magnet for tourists and visitors is obviously a given as it forms the very fabric of Edinburgh’s history and culture but what, if anything can be done to address the issue and dilute the crowds? One way of course is to showcase other parts of Edinburgh and its environs by aggressively marketing what is on offer to the visitor. No doubt the relevant agencies are doing just that but can more be done to help their cause?
Many columns ago I wrote about this very issue and highlighted some of the visitor attractions that may benefit from assistance in their promotion. I’m sure that readers will have their own favourites so forgive me for listing a few of mine.
Craigmillar Castle, where Mary, Queen of Scots convalesced following an illness after the birth of her son, who was to become James VI, is just three miles from the city centre and is open to the public.
Portobello with its newly refurbished bars and restaurants offers an uninterrupted view of the Firth of Forth and Fife. A brisk walk or a picnic at Arthur’s Seat offers interesting views of the city and East Lothian and provides a contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Royal Yacht Britannia takes care of itself and has proved to be a very successful visitor attraction but what about other parts of the port of Leith and Newhaven harbour? Further east, a walk along the foreshore to Cramond village not only provides a scenic route but is also steeped in history with the Roman encampment.
One of Edinburgh’s hidden jewels is Lauriston Castle, the 16th century tower house that overlooks the Forth which is open to the public, as well as the Japanese Garden that nestles beside it, both making a visit extremely worthwhile.
Queensferry has a great deal to offer and in West Lothian, a short trip from the city, Blackness with its castle and Linlithgow with its palace where Mary, Queen of Scots was born give another insight into Scotland’s history. I am aware that I have broached this subject before but nevertheless I feel that it is worth repeating as the clarion calls bemoaning the popularity of our city appear to be getting louder from some quarters, who seem to be long on criticism but short on ideas other than to champion negative so-called ‘solutions’.
The impact of festivals on the Old Town in particular must obviously be addressed but I humbly contend that what is needed is positive, creative thinking if we are not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.
Initiatives like those of the International Festival director Fergus Linehan, who has programmed shows outwith the city centre and wants to see more of the same, is welcome and perhaps lays a path that other producers will no longer fear to tread. Promoting alternative attractions across the city and its environs may help to drag visitors away from the city centre but festival shows in other areas certainly would, so it is hoped that the Scottish Government, national and city agencies, along with festival directors and Fringe promoters will successfully deal with the problem that overcrowding brings to some parts of the city.