Once again the tents have gone up in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square, the walkways laid, bookshop and bars stocked, hospitality spaces decked with tubs of flowers, toilets positioned, and the central area supplied with watching-the-world-go-by chairs for some of the throngs anticipated.
The International Book Festival is underway, running for over two weeks and hosting over 750 events. The book festival vies for attention while the Edinburgh International Arts Festival, the Military Tattoo and the Fringe are also in full swing, attracting hundreds of thousand of visitors to the city. Last year the Fringe alone featured 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows in 313 venues during its 25 days.
Husband and I had received an invitation to a book launch, not in the tented village of the book festival, but not far from it in Waterstones, the well-known book shop, at the west end of Princes Street. More about that in another post.
We left ourselves plenty time for during festival time parking is non existent and roads can be gridlocked, so we had almost an hour to wander along George Street, much of which has been closed to traffic to accommodate open air cafes.
The street’s Georgian architecture provides a classical backdrop to a tented area where artificial grass covers the tarmac of the road, and cars are replaced by tables and chairs.
George Street is a mixture of upmarket shops and businesses and residential accommodation, part of Edinburgh’s 250 year old New Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Some of the bars bear the names of whisky brands – a high profile setting for them in a busy main thoroughfare closed for the festival, with cars and buses diverted.
Though neither is food forgotten.
Amongst the bars and cafes sit two mobile cinemas, one modern, one from the 1960s that had been driven up from Bicester near Oxford to show old film footage.
In the centre of the road stands a large horse’s head, similar in style but smaller than the thirty metre high Kelpies sculptures designed by Andy Scott, that form a gateway at the eastern entrance to the Forth and Clyde canal near Falkirk. The Kelpies commemorate and celebrate our horse-powered heritage, while the head in George Street was commissioned by Hamilton and Inches, a famous jewellers, to celebrate 150 years of business in Scotland’s capital city.
From George Street we wander round to Princes Street for the book launch, and afterwards stroll along towards the Mound to catch a bus, taking a photo of the Church of Scotland Assembly Rooms on the Mound…
and another view of the castle that sits on its rock like an elderly grand dame and her retinue watching over her subjects scurrying below.