Summer Festival Fun in Edinburgh

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Summer in Edinburgh is a magical time according to TPG contributor Lori Zaino. Temps reach the soaring height of about 20 degrees Celsius on average (68 degrees Fahrenheit)  and everyone is ready to rock n’ roll after a long, hard winter. If you want to visit this lovely city, your best bet is July or August to ensure these maximum temps, and to check out some of Edinburgh’s most exciting festivals.

The first time I visited Edinburgh, it was in January, better known as the deep, dark depths of winter. I was unsure of what to expect and I fell head over heels in the love with the city. I knew then that if I could love a place in such frigid temps (about 10 degrees Fahrenheit), it must be an incredible destination. Clearly, summer is the preferred time to visit, and here is a short guide on how to enjoy your Edinburgh summer vacation in style.

A shot from the 2006 Edinburgh Military Tattoo Festival. Image courtesy of Shutterstock
A shot from the 2006 Edinburgh Military Tattoo Festival. Image courtesy of domhnall dods/Shutterstock

First off, summer is festival season. If you are into that kind of thing, make sure to plan your trip to coincide with one or several of the many festivals Edinburgh offers:

Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival: Over 150 jazz concerts during the 10-day event. Dates: July 18-27, 2014 (just missed it!)

Edinburgh International Festival: Music, dance, opera, and theater. Dates: August 8-31, 2014

Edinburgh Fringe Festival: The largest arts festival in the world, including theater, comedy, dance, circus, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, and other exhibitions and events. Dates: August 1-25, 2014

Edinburgh Art Festival: 40+ art exhibitions at museums and galleries. Dates: July 31-August 31, 2014

Edinburgh Book Festival: More than 800 authors in over 700 events come to Edinburgh, including novelists, poets, scientists, philosophers, sportsmen, illustrators, comics creators, historians, musicians, biographers, environmentalists, economists, Nobel and Booker prize winners and more. Dates: August 9-25, 2014.

Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo: Music, dance and precision display. Dates: August 1-23, 2014.

Edinburgh Mela: A music festival. Dates: August 29-31, 2014.

A view of the Edinburgh Castle at night. Image courtesy of Shutterstock
A view of the Edinburgh Castle at night. Image courtesy of Shutterstock

In addition to the many festivals, you have to allocate an entire day to see the Edinburgh castle, which is really more of a city within a city. The castle features several buildings including a war museum, church and is also a military base within its walls. You also have great panoramic views of the city of Edinburgh below, so don’t forget the camera. The entrance is pricey at £16 ($27), but if you consider you will spend several hours exploring the castle/town it seems more worthwhile. You can buy your tickets online to avoid waiting in long lines to enter.

A wintery view of Edinburgh from the castle in wintertime
A view of Edinburgh from the castle in wintertime

Between the castle and the festivals, you have enough for a full summer of entertainment, but if you’re looking for more, there’s always the Scottish National Art Gallery or a walk through the St. Giles Cathedral. Edinburgh has a great pub scene, as well as a quirky second-hand shop culture. You can wander through delightful vintage shops or dusty used bookstores in between pub stops on Broughton Street. A walk along the Royal Mile is touristy, but a must.

Take a walk down the Royal Mile. Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Take a walk down the Royal Mile. Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Another area for showstopping panoramic views (ones that include the castle this time around) is Carlton Hill. Head up here for some great photo ops as well as checking out the old Portuguese Canon and a variety of other monuments.

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A view of the city from Calton Hill and the Dugald Stewart Monument. Image courtesy of Shutterstock

For some delicious dining, The Grain Store prides themselves on using only the freshest and most local Scottish meats, grains and produce. Angels With Bagpipes offers contemporary Scottish cuisine in a gorgeous 16th century building. The seasonal lunch menus are quite reasonable with two courses for  £14.95/$26 and three courses for £18.95/$32. I always veer towards Indian food while in the UK, and Mithas is one of the best, cooking up imaginative and authentic dishes in the Sigri, Tawa and Tandoori cooking styles.

End out your night by pub hopping and make sure to hit my favorite bar, Sandy Bells to jam to live Scottish jigs as you sip your beer.

Where To Stay: Although there are many hotels in Edinburgh you can use points at, most of them don’t have award nights available or are already sold out for the busy summer season. However, the Hilton Waldorf  Astoria Edinburgh Caledonian has summer rooms available with rates that start at £259/$443 or 70,000 HHonors points per night.

A dark and spooky suite at the Witchery, in Edinburgh
A dark and spooky suite at the Witchery, in Edinburgh

If you’re seeking some local Edinburgh charm, The Witchery, also a restaurant, features nine opulent and eerie suites, each coming with a bottle of Champagne, cookies, mineral water, turn down service, newspaper and a renowned breakfast hamper served in your suite each day (rates are between £325 – £360/$556-$616 per night). If this is way out of your price range, book the basic Broughton Hotel, which is clean, family-owned and will cook you a full Scottish breakfast daily (rates between £30-£75/$52-$119).

Have you ever been to Edinburgh in the summer? (Or in the winter?) Share your tips below.

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