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An Edinburgh Festivals travel guide – August is festivals month in the Athens of the north

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Edinburgh in August transforms itself from prim Scottish capital to artistic throng. Festival fever doesn’t let up until the International Festival’s final firework fizzles out in early September. With six major festivals competing for attention, Edinburgh Festivals holidays require quality Edinburgh Festivals hotels for some dedicated sleeping time.

Where the world comes to perform

From airy Queen’s Hall’s late-morning recitals, Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) days are packed with orchestral concerts in the (newly refurbished) Usher Hall and dance, opera and drama in the Edinburgh Festival, King’s, Playhouse and Royal Lyceum Theatres. The festival ends with the Bank of Scotland Fireworks Concert in Princes Street Gardens, which is spectacularly visible from across the city.

Fringe benefits

Now, for many, the reason to be in Edinburgh in August, the Fringe runs a week ahead of EIF and takes over every nook and cranny. Comedy, shows, music and dance throng the streets and, on the second Sunday, the Meadows for Fringe Sunday. 

Military manoeuvres

The Military Tattoo is Edinburgh’s most spectacular August offering. On the Castle Esplanade, British services display teams and ensembles are joined by international colleagues for quick-fire manoeuvres and marching bands, poignantly followed by a lone piper from the Castle battlements and late-night fireworks. 

Books and bands

Charlotte Square becomes a tented city during Edinburgh’s literary festival held every August. For the pop and rock fan, The Edge Festival is making its mark in its previously under-represented area of artistic endeavour, alongside the older, established Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, which always starts festival fever in late July. 

Practical information

Booking: Tattoo from December; International Festival from late March (festival muses), early April (public); Fringe, Jazz & Blues & Book Festivals from June; The Edge Festival from July