Every August the Fringe is the main draw for those visiting Edinburgh. However,we thought it would be fun to go ‘beyond the Fringe’ and let you know about some other attractions and exhibitions currently going on in Edinburgh. Best of all, I’m also happy to say that most of them have free entry (although we always ask people to consider donating, if possible, to help support the places and people that make all of this happen). So, make sure you have on your most comfortable walking shoes, and let’s hit the town!
National Library of Scotland: ‘Sguel/Story- Folktales from the Scottish Highlands’ and ‘Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Scotland’s HIV Story’
The National Library of Scotland on George IV Bridge is one of our favourite spots to tuck into as they always have fascinating exhibitions on display (check out our previous posts on the National Treasures and Petticoats and Pinnacles exhibitions). They also have an excellent wee café that serves great coffee and desserts as well as delicious lunch options if you are looking for something more substantial. We often tell people that it’s usually a nice place to escape the hustle and bustle of the Royal Mile to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet.
They currently have two exhibitions that we haven’t written about before. We’ll first discuss- ‘Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Scotland’s HIV Story’. Having previously worked in the public health field, I was especially pleased to explore this small but significant display.
It’s important to remember the past and learn from it to create a better future for all. Be sure to check out this thought-provoking experience if you get the chance. It’s on display until 2nd December 2023.
The other exhibition on display at The National Library of Scotland is- ‘Sguel/Story- Folktales from the Scottish Highlands’. This enchanting exhibition discusses the Gaelic folktales that John Francis Campbell of Islay started collecting in 1859. Before that, very little was known about them outside of the Highlands.
Of significant note is the fact that the exhibition provides information in Gaelic and English about the storytelling traditions of the Highlands. You can see Campbell’s personal manuscripts as well as his watercolour paintings.
You can even read and listen to some of the folktales given by the storytellers in Gaelic and English.
‘Sguel/Story’ is on display until 20th April 2024. Please note that the Library is usually open Monday through Saturday, but head over to their website for more information on how to best plan your visit.
The Georgian House: ‘Raeburn’s Edinburgh’
Being one of the preeminent portrait painters during the Georgian era, it only seems appropriate that ‘Raeburn’s Edinburgh’ is currently on display at The Georgian House in Charlotte Square. We love to visit this fascinating National Trust for Scotland location, and have an article that provides more general information on the House for those interested.
Their current exhibition marks the 200th anniversary of Henry Raeburn’s death, and gives a glimpse into what life would have been like during the famous painter’s day. You also get to see some of his best works on display under one roof as they have been taken from a variety of National Trust for Scotland properties for this exhibition.
'Raeburn's Edinburgh' is on display until November 2023. However, if you are not able to make it to Edinburgh for this exhibition, I’m pleased to let you know that you can go to the following link to the National Trust for Scotland where you can see photos of each of the paintings on display. Additionally, the NTS points out that “each portrait has a story and each sitter has been given a voice for this exhibition”. Therefore, the website also provides brief audio clips about Raeburn’s paintings as if told by the person in the painting.
Signet Library: ‘Thereafter’ Exhibition by David Eustace
Before we explore the exhibition, we need to take a moment to admire the impressive beauty of the Signet Library. Situated just off the Royal Mile in Parliament Square, both the Library’s exterior and interior are a feast for the eyes.
The Signet Library is a lovely example of Neoclassical architecture that Edinburgh is known for, but is a bit of a hidden gem. I think a lot of visitors miss it as it appears rather unassuming from the outside. However, the interior is simply stunning.
Of course, fans of Outlander might be a bit more familiar with the Library as it was the setting for Governor Lord John Grey's Jamaican mansion in season 3.
It recently hosted an intriguing exhibition by artist David Eustace- ‘Thereafter’. Peppered throughout the Upper Library were various photos and displays done by Eustace. The Library provided a fascinating backdrop for some rather unique pieces as seen below.
Unfortunately, yesterday (13th August) was the last day of the exhibition. However, don’t despair if you are looking to visit the Signet Library, they have a tearoom, Collonades, that serves afternoon tea Wednesday through Sunday (11:00am- 4:30pm). Be sure to check their website for more information.
City Art Centre- ‘Shifting Vistas: 250 Years of Scottish Landscape’
Our ‘Beyond the Fringe’ walking tour next brings us to the City Art Centre. We’ve previously written about this fabulous place before- so be sure to check that out for more general information. However, on this occasion, we would like to focus on their exhibition- ‘Shifting Vistas: 250 Years of Scottish Landcape’.
Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos, but we do have a photo of one of the prints we bought. Nevertheless, the exhibition displays a wide variety of works of art that demonstrate how inspirational Scotland has been (and still is) for those who have visited and lived here over the centuries.
‘Shifting Vistas’ is on display until 2nd June 2024. Check out the City Art Centre website for more information.
Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh- ‘Skin: A Layered History’
Out last exhibition might not be for those who are a bit squeamish at the sight of skin diseases and various maladies. But honestly, it really is quite interesting and not too graphic. Located at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh on Queen Street, ‘Skin: A Layered History’ provides an intriguing look at the “social, cultural, and medical history of skin”.
Through the display of relevant artefacts, visitors can examine such topics as the history of skin markings (e.g. tattoos or scars) as well as the history of skin diagnosis and treatment.
Related to the latter, there was an interesting interactive display that provided a captivating look at how various types of skin conditions were treated in the past. I don’t know about you, but I’m not too keen to try pig’s blood for a wart!
The exhibition is on display until the 13th October 2023, and you can visit the Royal College of Physicians’ website for more information.
While this post is meant to take you ‘beyond the Fringe’, one can’t help but spot some entertaining things on display when walking around Edinburgh in August😂. The flying monkey pictured below can be found at the ‘House of Oz’ Fringe location.
After an exhausting time making our way through the crowds to our various exhibitions, we were starving and in need of some serious refueling. We decided on a relatively new café that we had been wanting to go to since we saw it open- El Jefes. Located in Newington, they serve Mexican food and beverages.
We got the nachos to share and I settled on a chicken quesadilla, while Sami got the beef burrito. The food was excellent and we were so excited to see that they had the Mexican soft drink brand, Jarritos, which we haven’t had in years. I can vouch for how tasty the guava flavour is as can Sami for the pineapple.
Well, that’s going to do it for this week’s virtual travels around Edinburgh. I hope you have enjoyed our wee exploration of some fun things to do ‘beyond the Fringe’. If you would like to see more of our travels around our ‘Athens of the North’ and throughout Scotland, be sure to subscribe to our blog. You can also follow along with us on our social media channels- Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube.
Until next time- Explore & Discover!