Edinburgh Festival 2023: Don’t graffiti the Castle and other holiday advice on being a good tourist

Tourists are as divisive as Norwegian brown cheese. Every Edinburgh Festival, their presence seems to provoke a contrary response, and you’d imagine that we either adore them or detest them. I’d say this reaction is mainly reserved for online, and that most locals are happy to thole the August influx. After all, if they get a paper cut from a Fringe flyer, do they not bleed?
A lot of people in front of Edinburgh Castle Pic Jaroslav Moravcik/AdobeA lot of people in front of Edinburgh Castle Pic Jaroslav Moravcik/Adobe
A lot of people in front of Edinburgh Castle Pic Jaroslav Moravcik/Adobe

You could almost imagine that they are human, with the same traits and foibles – lovely, cheeky, selfish and annoying in equal measure.

I know, because I am one of them.

Although I’ve never worn any of their traditional fashions, like a golf visor or bum-bag, I did once get up early to elbow my way to the edge of the Trevi Fountain.

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I’ve asked for “fromage” ice-cream, instead of fraise, at a van by the Eiffel Tower, only to be publicly mocked by the vendor. I’m one of the many who have nearly been run over by a scooter in Rome, while trying to cross the road without the prerequisite cavalier attitude. Just don’t try to turn back, if you’re a third of the way across.

Whenever I go on a city break, I tick off the main attractions consecutively, without really learning about or absorbing what I’ve seen.

I suppose at least I visit things that actually exist. My mum once took the Soutars on an expedition to the BT Tower in London and it had been closed for about ten years.

It’s okay, we all make holiday mistakes. This behaviour can be forgiven.

Not that everyone will be let off. There are a few who will be taking their selfie stick directly to Hell, where Beelzebub will find plenty of creative uses for it.

The extra bad tourists include those who complain on TripAdvisor that there are no toilets at the top of Ben Nevis or Arthur’s Seat.

I gripe about the visitors who rub Greyfriars Bobby’s nose, but I don’t think you can blame them. They think it’s good luck and don’t realise that doing so actually curses you for seven years, if you even survive that long, which is rare. They’re just misinformed.

My personal bête noire is when people say they’ve loved their trip to Edinburgh, and they’ll come over to finish the rest of Scotland when they next get a weekend free.

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We love the American tourists who know how to tip. I had a friend who worked as a doorman at a hotel in the Old Town, and, if his work uniform had been a thong rather than a kilt, it would’ve been stuffed with crisp banknotes. That was thanks to their large contingent of US guests.

I’m less keen on holidaymakers who head straight to a global chain, rather than supporting independent restaurants. I know they’re comforting and familiar and you’re craving a double cheeseburger, but you can still get into the sea.

I’m also thinking of those who are still going to places like Rhodes, despite the current wildfires.

Earlier this week, an EasyJet pilot told 37 of these travellers that they could get off the flight, as it was a “terrible idea to go there on holiday”, and only seven disembarked.

However, one of the worst tourists of all time must be the guy who, last month, carved “Ivan + Hayley 23” into a wall of the Colosseum.

An outraged bystander filmed this particular incident, then, after a four day search, the offender was tracked down to Birmingham. His excuse was that he was unaware of the building’s antiquity.

If I saw someone graffitiing, say, Mons Meg’s barrel, I would happily do a citizen's arrest before reviving the Scottish art of hanging, drawing and quartering. If there weren’t sufficient B&Q tools immediately at hand, I’d do what I could with the leaky Biro, lip balm and spare hair bobble that are in my handbag. The quartering might take quite a while, if I were to use my Visa Debit card for sawing through the gristly bits.

I’m always happy to punish extreme examples.

One of the lighter and more common forms of failed tourist etiquette might be a lack of spatial awareness. Contrary to popular belief, it turns out that you can get run over when you’re on holiday, so don’t wander blithely into the path of the number 10 bus. (Also, the drivers of those vehicles do not double as tourist information experts).

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Be aware of peripheral travellers, who are not on vacation and might be on the clock.

Don’t be like the girl at last year’s Tour de France, who held up a sign saying “Allez-opi-omi!” and knocked over the entire peloton. Or, this year’s dodgy spectator, who tried to take a selfie and in doing so, clipped a rider’s handlebars, thus causing 20 riders to crash.

Also, when you’re in a building or gallery, be conscious of objects that surround you.

Recently, a pal told me about spotting a woman wandering around The Burrell Collection in Glasgow.

She stroked Rodin’s The Thinker, because she “couldn’t contain herself”. I would’ve been fizzing. I'd rugby tackle her to the ground and roll her out of there like a carpet. I’m always on high alert, as I used to work as a gallery invigilator, and it’s amazing how many people will finger valuable artworks, lean against paintings, or swing their giant backpacks around like drunken Ninja Turtles.

I think they should’ve provided us with tasers.

Anyway, if you are visiting our beautiful country, have a marvellous time.

Welcome to Scotland! Slainte!



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