It may a bit cheeky to describe this range of hills as outside Edinburgh given that a chunk of it sits well within the city boundary. All the same, the Pentlands stretch over 30km away to the south west of the Scottish capital with a number of peaks over 500 metres – the area was designated the Pentlands Regional Park back in 1984.
Among the hills you will find an artificial ski slope at Hillend (the Midlothian Snowsports Centre) as well as farms, lochs, a military training zone that has live firing exercises minor wreckage from a Luftwaffe bomber that crashed in 1943 and no end of path to walk.
There are two information centres: Flotterstone by the Flotterstone Inn, off the A702 around 5km south of the Edinburgh bypass and Harlaw House by Harlaw Reservoir near Balerno. The gentle way to experience the Pentlands would be to drive or catch a bus from the city centre to Flotterstone, walk 1.5km up minor road to the picturesque Glencorse Reservoir, take in the view, then walk back the way you came, stopping for a drink and some pub grub at the Flotterstone Inn before heading back to the city. The more adventurous might also want to start at Flotterstone Inn but do a circular walk of 18km taking in some of the hills, including Scald Law, the Pentlands’ highest peak at 579 metres.
The usual safety caveats apply: walking in the Scottish hills can be arduous and dangerous. Do not attempt it unless you are reasonably fit, properly kitted out and know what you are doing.
Edinburgh has one beach in Portobello, a suburb with a jolly, seaside resort feel. Beyond the city however, in East Lothian, there are much more expansive and attractive beaches. If you have a car they are easy to reach but if you are happy to spend an hour or so on a bus – or significantly less time on a train – public transport will also get you there.
Buses from the city centre to Aberlady takes just under an hour for example. A few minutes’ walk east of the village along the A198 there is access to the Aberlady Local Nature Reserve, particularly important for its plants and birds. Follow the path round to the sands on the north side of Aberlady Bay then you have beach and headland all the way to Gullane – a walk of approximately 5 km. This village has a beautiful sweeping beach, some decent places for food and drinks and a bus service that will take you back to central Edinburgh in around an hour.
The ambitious could just keep walking though since the coast is beaches and small bays all the way to the harbour at North Berwick – another 10 km or so away. Alternatively, the lazy way to get to North Berwick is ScotRail train from Edinburgh Waverley or Haymarketwhich it takes less than 35 mins.
Around 6 km east of North Berwick, past the ruins of Tantallon Castle, Seacliff is a gorgeous stretch of sand, best reached by car, while there is yet more beach at Belhaven Bay on the way to Dunbar, also served by trains from Edinburgh.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (also known simply as “the Fringe”) is a major event which takes place every year. For 25 days in August, Edinburgh is completely transformed with thousands of performers flocking to the capital for a chance to showcase their work in one of hundreds of venues around the city centre.
The Fringe started in 1947 when a handful of theatre companies turned up uninvited to the official Edinburgh International Festival to perform for the large theatre crowds that had already gathered in the city. From these humble beginnings, the festival has now grown into the largest arts festival in the world and, in 2014, the Fringe featured a record number of 3,193 shows.
The Festival is supported by the Festival Fringe Society, which publishes the programme, sells tickets to all events from a central physical box office and website, and offers year-round advice and support to performers. The Society’s permanent location is at the Fringe Shop on the Royal Mile, and in August they also manage Fringe Central, a separate collection of spaces in Appleton Tower and other University of Edinburgh buildings, dedicated to providing support for Fringe participants during their time at the festival.
Even today, any act in the world can sign up to perform at the Fringe so you will always find an extremely varied mix of shows, from established celebrities and musicians to student theatre companies and aspiring artists. Popular acts featured in the festival include cabaret, comedy, dance, live music, theatre and circus.
This year the festival will take place from 5th – 29th August and you can see the full schedule here. Don’t forget you can also explore the best the festival has to offer with our English Plus Festivals course! We’ll also have the chance to visit the Fringe on our social programme throughout August.
Look out for these other festivals happening in August too!
The largest island of the Outer Hebrides, Lewis offers amazing opportunities to explore all the elements of life on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean – with history, heritage, wilderness, wildlife, arts, crafts, crofting culture and even adrenaline-fuelled adventure all here for the taking on your Hebridean holiday.
From the neat Victorian homes lining the streets of Stornoway in the east, to the stretching white sands of Bosta on Great Bernera in the west, where the clear Atlantic waters sound the evocative toll of the Time and Tide Bell as a reminder of the link between us and the elements, Lewis is an island of exciting contrasts and diverse experiences.
Discover the rich history of the proud Lewis people, from the Norse invasions to the strong Gaelic traditions that are still observed today. Head to Ness, a stronghold of the local language, and listen to the sound of Hebridean heritage being carried on the winds which rage around this northern headland making it the windiest spot in the UK.
Explore the sea caves and stacks at Garry Beach just round the headland from Broad Bay to better understand how the relentless seas have shaped this island environment, and the lifestyles of those who live here.
Isle of Harris:
The Outer Hebridean island of Harris is one that has offered inspiration for generations. With its rich traditions, stunning shifting scenery and strong sense of community, Harris offers a unique introduction to island life on the edge.
Travel the Golden Road through Bays for a whistlestop tour of the rich history that has shaped this island’s identity across the centuries with Norse and Gaelic influences evident in the names of the hamlets that punctuate this coastline or explore the popular village of Tarbert where you can visit the Harris Tweed Shop and take home a piece of true Hebridean heritage.
Gaze out across the West Harris sands to the famous uninhabited Castaway island of Taransay and experience a glimpse of the isolation from which the proud self-sufficent communities of the Outer Hebrides were born, or tour the adjoining Isle of Scalpay with its strong seafaring connections to understand more about the symbiosis of islanders and ocean.
Whatever you are looking for, you can find it here on Lewis and Harris, along with a warm Hebridean welcome.
St Kilda is an isolated cluster of volcanic islands that lie 40 miles to the west of the main island chain.
With the highest sea cliffs in Britain, St Kilda is the most important sea bird breeding station in north west Europe. This dual World Heritage Site has the largest colony of guillemots in the world, the oldest and largest colony of fulmars, the biggest colony of puffins in Britain and over one million birds in total.
St Kilda also has one of the most extensive groups of vernacular building remains in Britain. The layout of a 19th-century village remains to this day, and over 1,400 stone-built cleitean (used for storing food and fuel) are scattered all over the islands, and even on sea stacks.
St Kilda is one of the best places in Britain for diving because of its clear water and its submerged caves, tunnels and arches.
Owned by the National Trust for Scotland, St Kilda was once populated by the unique and hardy Kildians, who, due to poverty and starvation, were forced to leave the islands in the last century. There is an abandoned village on the island you can visit where the houses are still relatively intact and lots of stories and folklore about life on St Kilda has been preserved. St Kilda is also a National Nature reserve due to its importance for seabirds.