Lonely Planet names UK’s 500 ‘unmissable experiences’ - and an Edinburgh event comes out top

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THE EDINBURGH Festival Fringe has been named the UK’s top “unmissable experience” in a brand new Lonely Planet guide that puts the capital firmly in the spotlight.

Lonely Planet’s Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist, published today, ranks the 500 “most memorable, beautiful, surprising and compelling experiences” to be found across the UK - including 11 found in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Picture: Shutterstock

Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Picture: Shutterstock

The Fringe, described in the guide as “the greatest show of arts and culture on Earth”, takes the top spot, followed by London’s British Museum - “the envy of the world” - and the “timeless and unrepeatable” Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

But Arthur’s Seat (19th) and the Royal Mile (24th) also feature high on the list.

Indulging in a Burns Night haggis feast at Ghillie Dhu -- described as “Edinburgh’s unabashed temple to Caledonia” - comes in at number 165.

Meanwhile, “walking the gilded decks” of the Royal Yacht Britannia, anchored at Leith, ranks 270th. The guide recommends: “To lord it up like a royal, feast on a cream tea at the Royal Deck Tea Room”.

The new Lonely Planet guide has put the capital firmly in the spotlight.

The new Lonely Planet guide has put the capital firmly in the spotlight.

The Lonely Planet publication also highlights a “walk with the ‘living dead’ at Greyfriars Kirkyard (334th).

It states: “A burial site since 1561, it’s renowned as the place where Harry Potter author JK Rowling found inspiration for plenty of her characters’ names... That’s not to forget the final resting place of Greyfriars Bobby. The Skye terrier guarded his master’s grave for 14 years and inspired Walt Disney to retell his tale for Hollywood.”

Not to be entirely overshadowed by the Fringe Festival, “dancing until dawn in Edinburgh at the world’s biggest Hogmanay party” earns 356th place in the Travelist, while “seeking out angels and demons at Rosslyn” (377th) in Midlothian, also makes it on.

The Real Mary King’s Close, in the capital’s Old Town, is at 387. The guide warns: “Trust the residents of Scotland’s bewitching capital to do a fine job of scaring the pants off you... a walk here feels like falling through a trapdoor into a 17th-century time warp.”

Jupiter Artland near Wilkieston, also finds a place among the top 500 along with Little Sparta, created in the Pentland Hills by the late artist and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay and his wife Sue which at ten miles from Livingston falls just outside the Lothians but was included in the local attractions and events list as it is a popular day-trip destination for visitors to the Capital.

Lonely Planet’s “community of travel experts” heap praise on the annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe, however, citing knife-throwing unicyclists to “preening Thai ladyboys” and venues from the bustling cobbled Royal Mile to a the smallest comedy venue -- a chicken coop with a capacity for only three people.

They say: “Quite simply, the Fringe floods the city with art and nowhere beats it for spectacle or scale.

“There is theatre, comedy, dance, circus, cabaret, opera, music and spoken word, and whatever the time of day, an acrobat, trapeze artist, contortionist or tried-and-tested bagpiping busker will be pleased to entertain you.

“Simply step through the looking glass and prepare to be dazzled by the greatest show of arts and culture on Earth.”

Tom Hall, Lonely Planet’s Vice President of Experience, said: “Lonely Planet’s Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist brings together the UK’s most compelling sights and experiences, ranging from world-class museums and giant cathedrals to rollicking festivals, inky lochs and tiny pubs.

“We’re thrilled to name the world’s largest arts festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the UK’s top experience. It’s one of the most exciting and diverse destinations on the planet.”

Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, welcomed the accolade for the annual three-week-long event, which comes with over 3000 shows and around 55,000 performances stretched across 300 venues across the capital.

She said: “We are enormously proud to be named the UK’s top experience in Lonely Planet’s Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist, a true testament to the creativity, energy and imagination that Fringe artists and audiences bring to Edinburgh each year.

“What makes the Fringe so special is that everyone with a story to tell is welcome, and with a record 63 countries represented on stage this year and nearly 1000 shows from Scotland, this year’s festival is playing host to a truly unique combination of homegrown and international talent.

“The Fringe is a real celebration of Edinburgh and the people that make it.”

Scotland has a strong presence on the list, with Glencoe (17th), Skara Brae (22nd), the North Coast 500 (37th), the Fairy Pools of Skye (41st) and spending a night on ice in Cairngorms National Park (43rd). The Kelpies (153rd), near Falkirk, and the new V&A Dundee (199th) are also on the list.

Of stunning Glencoe, the guide says: “From every angle Glencoe offers a feast of Scottish storytelling... For all the silver-screen credentials, there is also an echo of grief and a hint of a macabre past.”

Meanwhile, Skara Brae is described as “the best-preserved Neolithic site in Western Europe” and “Britain’s Pompeii”; and Ben Nevis (66th) is a “mountain of heaven”. At Stirling Castle (217th), it promises, “the history steals your breath.”

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “Accolades like this highlight Scotland as a world-class destination.

“However, it is imperative that we don’t become complacent. We need to continue to create must-see experiences, events and attractions that continue to inspire travellers and keep up with the ever-changing demands of visitors.”

He added: “Scotland is home to many amazing experiences so it’s no surprise they feature prominently in Lonely Planet’s Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist.

“They are year-round activities that traverse the length and breadth of the country and we hope the guide will prove a catalyst for visitors to get out and explore the regions and create unique and thrilling experiences of their own.”

To create the “Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist”, the Lonely Planet team compiled every highlight from the Lonely Planet guidebooks to Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Lonely Planet’s list of the top 20 places to visit in the UK contains few surprises, but the only Scottish attractions are the Festival Fringe and Arthur’s Seat.

Top twenty Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist:

1: Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh

2: British Museum, London

3: Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

4: Bath, Southwest England

5: Hadrian’s Wall, Northeast England

6: Sunday Pub Roast

7: Tate Modern, London

8: Stonehenge, Southwest England

9: Windermere, Cumbria

10: Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, South Wales

11: Punting in Cambridge, East Anglia

12: Glastonbury Festival, Southwest England

13: St Paul’s Cathedral, London

14: The Scilly Isles, Southwest England

15: Stratford-upon-Avon, Midlands and The Marches

16: Borough Market, London

17: Glencoe, Highlands and Islands

18: Yorkshire Dales National Park

19: Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

20: South Bank, London

* Lonely Planet’s Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist is available now, priced £19.99