Do the Edinburgh Fringe in the Year of Natural Scotland

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You’re fabulously artsy, you love a cracking play and a pint or two with your friends after to rip it to critical shreds or laud the performances, you read the five star reviews and snap up the tickets for the now-famous talent, and you vow over and over that, if you get the chance, you’ll get your mates together for a few days on the Edinburgh fringe to revel in all that not-quite-discovered arts and drama talent for yourself, for a few pounds at that.

But still, you’ve yet to get stuck in at the Udderbelly or in amongst the throngs of theatrical pleasure-seekers on the Royal Mile.  In fact, Scotland is a distant dream before August of every year, and a faint regret for the months after.

If this is you, 2013 is the year to renew your vows and get on up to Edinburgh for the fringe in a special celebration of the Year of Natural Scotland, taking place in Edinburgh and across this wild and wondrous land in the form of festivals, adventure trips, arts exhibitions, foodie trails and special events, all celebrating the lochs and wilds, mountains and moors of Scotland.

Seeing world-class plays, comedy, gigs and tricks, circus skits, burlesque or operas in Princess Gardens – in the theatres and on the streets in the carnival that is Edinburgh during the Fringe – is hungry and thirsty work.  This summer promises even sweeter nectar in the forms of Scotland’s famed seafood – from oysters, langoustines, clams and smoked salmon, to fish suppers after a night celebrating with a town full of players and artsy folk, in the jazz cellars or the pubs.

The distilleries are bringing out the finest for the Year of Natural Scotland, so whiskey-lovers will be sipping on tasty treats in the form of rich malts of the mountains or acidic charcoal blends inspired by the fresh lochs.  Especially hard-worked critics can test the free range, old fashioned farmed steak being celebrated in Scotland’s restaurants in 2013.  First timers to the Fringe will want to do the decent thing and tuck into hearty haggis, neeps and tatties along with a few other treats from Scotland’s bounty.

Natural spaces in cities, and reflections of these spaces in galleries and pop-up exhibitions, are being championed all throughout Scotland, putting the spotlight on Edinburgh’s volcanic roots, the Castle on the hill, gardens, parks and watery places, to enhance the festival atmosphere traditionally lighting up the city during the Fringe.

Celebration and pride in all things Scottish, wild and wonderful, is sure to liven up what is already pretty wild living on the part of the partygoers and arts lovers wandering the romantic streets of Edinburgh on warm, spotlighted summer evenings, fresh from a downpour, making the flowers smell and the chatter about the shows seen that day and night all the more memorable.  Year of Natural Scotland will make sure culture meets nature in some stunning ways in Edinburgh this August.  If you’ve been waiting to hit the Fringe, it turns out you’ve been saving yourself for a fine reason.

Treasure Island Adventure on the Isle of Skye

A swashbuckling tale full of magic, whimsy and a good helping of debauchery

Where’s the pub

If you’ve ever fancied plonking yourself into the pages of a storybook then a visit to the Isle of Skye is probably the closest you’re going to get. This mystical, misty island in the Scottish Hebrides is all about lighthouses, castles, wild beaches and watering holes where the whisky flows. In honour of the Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson (a famous Scotsman for those of you who didn’t know that:) whose father, grandfather and cousin built most of the historic lighthouses around Scotland, our party of merry rogues went on a pirate themed adventure to the Isle last summer. We packed up our eye patches, hip flasks and weapons (bottle opener), marked our cottage accommodation X on the map, and booked our passage on a fine vessel…

All Aboard!

Travelling in style

The Glenachulish ferry is the last sea going manually operated turntable ferry in the world. This basically means that she’s a fine looking vessel with the added excitement that she could sink at any moment. It was thus the perfect mode of transport for our pirate adventure (going across the Skye Bridge in a bus wouldn’t have felt quite so piratical, after all). The crossing from Glenelg to Kylerhea (£8.50 for car plus passengers) is short but very sweet, and gives you great views of the island’s rugged coastline and the famed Cuillin Hills.

Note: The ferry operates between Easter and mid-October. At other times of year you can either be land pirates or commandeer a larger ferry if you’ve had a wee bit too much to drink, but that’s Lambrini for you.

Note II: And of course, the Glenachulish wouldn’t really sink…or would it???

Note III: No.

The Fourth Best Island in the World

Is that the sun or a meteor heading our way

Treasure Island may be more of a desert island than a Scottish isle, but who cares when you’re visiting the fourth best island in the world? Yes, that’s right, Skye was voted the fourth best island IN THE WORLD by National Geographic magazine, better than loads of those palm-strewn contenders in the tropics. Known as Cloud Island by the Vikings, Skye has always had a special place in the imagination of the many who have encountered it. Lilac sunsets, deserted beaches and ruined castles make it just as magical, too.

To the Lighthouse

The Isle of Skye is home to several historic lighthouses and a tour of these coastal beauties is a great way to see more of the island. The most spectacular has to be the Neist Point lighthouse built in 1909 by RL Stevenson’s cousin.  The point itself is on the western tip of the island with gorgeous views over Moonen Bay and the isle’s beyond.

Sharks and Sea Monsters

Moo moo I’m a coo so sod off.

Situated on the most westerly point of the Isle, Neist Point is regarded as the best place to spot whales- we watched a small pod of them making around the bay- dolphins (smug little shits), porpoises and basking sharks. A variety of different seabirds are also sighted regularly in the area including gannets, razorbills, shags (giggidy) and guillemots. We also encountered a number of weird and wonderful creatures on a wildlife boat tour of the island including otters, golden eagles and a rather impressive sea eagle. Although we kept an eye out for the infamous Kraken he managed to elude us this time…

Everyone knows that pirates love a bit of grilled mackerel, so pirate trip would be complete without a fresh catch. Moonen Bay is the best place for a fishing trip, but the less experienced seamen amongst the group should take a sea sick pill to stave off the collywobbles.

What shall we do with a Drunken Sailor (blogger)?

After a day of fresh air and hunting for the isle’s sea monsters and ruined treasures there is nothing better than finding a traditional pub and making merry with the locals. Pirates may like rum the best, but cannot turn their noses up to the world’s best whisky. The oldest inn on Skye, The Stein Inn, was the best watering hole we found, located on the edge of a sea loch in Waternish. As there are 99 whiskies to choose from we spent the week finding out which ones were our favourites. And then there’s the wild venison pie…

The Isle of Skye is a truly swashbuckling place to spend a week, and there is so much to see, do and more importantly drink that you could easily spend much longer there.