Surviving Edinburgh Festival Fringe with kids

You’ve missed the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for 2016 but that means plenty of time to prepare for the 2017 Fringe Festival, when the Scottish capital’s cool arts and entertainment extravaganza is celebrating its 70th anniversary. Is it possible to have fun at the festival with young children? Just about, as SIMON DONOHUE, fresh back from a trip with his own clan, explains.

We’re watching fringe parenting personified on the Edinburgh Mound, as a mum and dad street theatre duo juggle parenting duties with… flaming torches and machetes.

Their babysitter disappears with minutes to go before showtime, causing all manner of chaos to the act but somehow adding another dimension. The crowd is thin but I feel compelled to stand and support them. After all, they’ve been waiting to go on since 6.30am and it’s now almost 9.30… pm.

The act occasionally falters as the apologetic daredevils return a youngster to the stroller she’s fallen out of, or bribe the siblings with sweets. But our hapless heroes emerge from the experience relatively unscathed (although the marks on her back from the bed of nails look genuinely painful) leaving me with the perfect analogy of a holiday with young children in Scotland’s capital city come August.

It’s possible… but it does come with its stresses and strains.

Our Edinburgh debut was pre-kids, in around 1997, and I recall seeing people like Jerry Sadowitz, Henry Normal and Sean Hughes. I was amazed at how accessible it all was and vowed to go back.

Almost 20 years later, laden with kids (15, 11 and 8), we finally made it, spending our summer family holiday north of the border. It was (mostly) fun but here are a few things to bear in mind if you fancy following in our footsteps and doing the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with the kids.

Top tips for doing the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017 with kids

1. Edinburgh festival camping: No, really. The official Edinburgh Festival camp site is a stroke of genius, literally a few minutes walk from the airport (you get used to the noise) and five minutes drive from a park and ride team stop which takes you into the heart of Edinburgh in around 20 minutes. With a family day ticket (2 adults, 3 children) costing just £8.50 a day, and also valid for bus journeys, it’s an absolute bargain.

The camp site itself is staimg_0323ffed by the friendliest group of people (hello Zeph, hello Lucy) and also has a marquee which serves as a fringe venue. Our eight-year-old did an impromptu dance, making her easily one of the youngest fringe performers ever. Camping for six nights, with parking, cost us £270, which is easily cheaper than city centre accommodation. If putting up your own canvas doesn’t appeal, you can hire a ready-pitched teepee or tent. If you are considering going camping, I can really recommend visiting Go Outdoors, who have a great range at very reasonable prices.

Prefer not to stay under canvas? Check out Macdonald Hotels’ Edinburgh offers:

2. Use the app, pick up the flyers, read the magazine: There’s loads going on and you won’t want to miss out. Everywhere you go you’ll be handed flyers, everywhere you look you’ll see catalogues and posters. Keep an open mind. Best of all, download the brilliant fringe festival app, which tells you what’s on and when, at any time on any day, and allows you to add in search fields for things like genre and age suitability.

3. Check out the free entertainment: There’s no need to spend a fortune doing Edinburgh festival fringe with kids if you check out the free street theatre and entertainment on almost every corner. The going rate for a voluntary donation is up to £50 per person if you believe the entertainers, but the reality is that you can walk away without putting anything in the hat at all if your conscience allows you to.

4. Check out the rest of what Edinburgh has to offer: Don’t get me wrong, the Edinburgh fringe is fantastic. But there’s so much else to see in Edinburgh that it would be a great shame not to check out the other attractions on offer. Some of the other highlights of our trip included the Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh Castle, Princess Street Gardens and the haunted underground tour.

5. Check out the Edinburgh Fringe Festival half-price ticket hub:The half-price ticket hub is a brilliant way to save money on shows. Situated on the Mound and updated constantly, it provides information about the best deals on offer.

6. Take the Potter tour: I’m almost ashamed to admit that I hadn’t realised just how much Harry Potter was inspired by Edinburgh but it quickly becomes apparent when you spend a little time there. It’s possible to see places where the books were written, and the locations and characters which inspired many of JK Rowling’s magical characters and places, including The Elephant House cafe, where the books were partially written; The Balmoral Hotel, where they were finished; Greyfriars Kirkyard, where you can see Tom Riddell’s grave (not the real character of course); Hogwarts itself (AKA) George Heriot’s School; and the Grassmarket, which has more than a passing resemblance to Diagon Alley.

7. You can’t please all of the people all of the time: There will be rows about who sees what but the truth is you’re not going to be able to see everything you’d want to without kids. The tricky but is finding festival shows that suit all ages. Relax and try and enjoy it – I’m sure the festival will still be running once they left home.