IT’S A STOCK soundbite that the population of Edinburgh doubles during August, as performers, festival workers, agents and PR execs, journalists and reviewers, show-goers and tourists descend upon the city for the month.
We’ve put together a survival guide of practical info for these temporary residents – after all, if you’re in it for the long haul, you might need to know more than just the location of the latest pulled pork emporium.
Here are the basics of which you might need to avail yourself between the jazz bars and the five-star shows.
A little respite
In need of respite from the madness that results from more than a million people filling a city more accustomed to less than half that number, at least a third of whom will be trying to give you flyers? Right in the eye of the storm, just off the Royal Mile on Cockburn Street, is The Whole Works , which has been doling out massages, acupuncture, aromatherapy and good vibes for 20 years, and also happens to be housed in a warren of turrets that bring to mind Gryffindor Tower. Also close to the heart of the festival action is the Bristo branch of Zen Lifestyle where you can get a facial, a massage, a manicure or even a set of HD brows if that’s what restores your equilibrium. Almost next door, Napier’s herbalist clinic stocks a dazzling array of vitamins and supplements and offers alternative therapies from Chinese medicine to hypnotherapy, reiki to reflexology.
For more conventional medical needs
For more conventional medical needs, Edinburgh’s A&E department is located at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (commonly referred to as ERI) at Little France, 15 minutes south-east of the city centre. A&E for children under the age of 13 is located at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children (commonly called Sick Kids) on Sciennes Road in the South Side of the city. There is also an A&E department at St John’s Hospital in Livingston, half an hour’s drive west of the city centre.
There is a walk-in Minor Injuries clinic at the Western General Hospital on the west side of the city, open from 8am to 9pm, which deals with cuts, burns, sprains and fractures. For emergency dental care for those not registered at a local surgery, there is a walk-in clinic at Chalmers Dental Centre beside The Meadows, which is open till 3pm. From 5pm, and at weekends and public holidays, call the Lothian Dental Advice Line on (0131) 536 4800.
For 24-hour medical advice over the phone or information on out-of-hours pharmacies call NHS 24 on 111. To see a GP or a dentist, you can be seen as a temporary patient at a surgery in the area in which you are staying – for a list of practices covering your address call NHS Practitioner Services on (0131) 275 7038. The Chalmers Sexual Health Centre is at Chalmers Street beside The Meadows and has a walk-in clinic Monday-Friday 8.30am-10am.
24 hour shops
Essential services aside, Edinburgh is not a 24-hour city and you will struggle to find shops open later than pubs and clubs (although given Festival extended hours, this will be pretty late). The 24-hour Scotmid on Nicolson Street is the notable exception in the city centre. Asda has three 24-hour supermarkets in Edinburgh, although none of them central – in Leith, Chesser and The Jewel. The most central of the 24-hour petrol stations are the Esso at 23 Canonmills, on the edge of the New Town, and the BP on Causewayside on the South Side, a short walk from The Meadows.
For those nights when you just can’t face another food truck queue, or anything in the outside world, La Favorita delivers the best pizza (and pasta, if you are that way inclined) in the capital and has branches in Leith and Morningside, covering the north and south of the city.
Cinemas and entertainment
Sick of seeing actors in the flesh? Head to Tollcross, where you’ll find three cinemas in which to catch them on celluloid – the Odeon will fulfil your blockbuster needs, while the Filmhouse and the very picturesque Cameo cater for fans of the foreign, the art-house and the cult hit.
For those wishing to offset the effects of a month-long binge on pretty much everything but sleep, Edinburgh Leisure runs the city’s public sports venues. You’ll have to wait till Tom Daley’s finished with it on the 15th of August to swim at the Commonwealth Pool, the city’s flagship facility, but there are multiple other pools, as well as gyms, golf courses, climbing walls, pitches, tennis courts and fitness classes on offer – as well as Turkish Baths if you head to Portobello’s beautiful Victorian pool. Membership is on a rolling contract so can be cancelled after a month.
Edinburgh has a large network of local libraries, all of which offer free internet access and can be joined by anyone with ID, and the most atmospheric (and central) of which is the Central Library on George IV Bridge.
Transport for Edinburgh runs the excellent Lothian Buses and the infamous Edinburgh Trams – adult fare for a single journey is £1.50 on both, or you can buy a Ridacard, which can be used on both and entitles you to unlimited travel, for one week (£17) or one month (£51). For coach travel across Scotland the rest of the UK, Edinburgh Bus Station is located on Elder Street, with an entrance on St Andrew Square. The main train stations are Edinburgh Waverley, at the east end of Princes Street and Haymarket, in the city’s West End. Edinburgh Airport is eight miles west of the city, just off the M8 motorway at Ingliston, and is served by the Airlink bus service as well as Lothian Buses service 35, and the Edinburgh Trams. Taxis in Edinburgh are black cabs and there are several ranks in the city centre, although expect monumental queues at night during the Festival, and be warned that they are among the most expensive in the UK. The two main operators are Central Taxis (call (0131) 229 2468) and City Cabs (call (0131) 228 1211).
Places of worship
There is no shortage of churches of all denominations in Edinburgh. St Giles Cathedral, “the Mother Church of presbyterianism” on the Royal Mile, St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral on Palmerston Place in the West End, Duddingston Kirk in Duddingston Village at the foot of Arthur’s Seat and Canongate Kirk are among the most beautiful. The Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation is based at the synagogue on Salisbury Road in Newington on the South Side and can host visitors to the city for meals on Shabbat. The Guru Nanak Gurdwara Singh Sabha Sikh Temple is on Sheriff Brae in Leith, in the former St Thomas’s Church. The Edinburgh Hindu Mandir and Cultural Centre is also based in a former church in Leith, on St Andrew Place. Edinburgh Central Mosque is on Potterow, opposite Bristo Square.