Our 2022 short film series Edinburgh is a Story journeys through five performances by Festival artists in iconic spots in and around Edinburgh – from the Royal Mile to Salisbury Crags. The series was produced by Glasgow-based company Forest of Black as part of our At Home programme, in partnership with abrdn. We've created a walking tour to guide you around the filming locations and discover new sides to the city. Make a day out of it or pick and choose for a series of shorter outings.
Start at the top of the Royal Mile to follow in Edinburgh Makar Hannah Lavery’s footsteps
The title of the series is taken from Hannah Lavery’s poem, ‘Edinburgh is a Story’, which she performed throughout the city in the first chapter of our film. Lavery delivered part of her poem outside our home at The Hub, which can be instantly identified by its gothic spire – the highest point in central Edinburgh. It’s the ideal place to start your tour, in the very centre of the city. Make sure you head up to the forecourt of Edinburgh Castle to take in the historic architecture and panoramic views.
Next, stroll down to one of the Mile’s many hidden closes to see another location used in the filming of Lavery’s poem. Milne’s Court opens into a courtyard with an impressive building behind it. It was built in 1690 as accommodation for wealthy professionals of the day and is now owned by Edinburgh University. You might recognise the steps leading up to Milne’s Court as a popular spot for amateur photographers!
Keep making your way down the Mile to discover another hidden gem, Dunbar’s Close Garden. This 17th century landscaped garden is open to the public and makes an appearance in Edinburgh is a Story. It’s likely that the garden was named after local writer David Dunbar, who owned the tenements on either side in the 18th century, making this the perfect spot for Lavery to continue the literary tradition.
Tour the Scottish Parliament to see where the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra performed
Just down the road from Dunbar’s Close Garden you’ll find the Scottish Parliament building, an award-winning example of postmodern architecture. It’s completely free to visit the building, which is open in the daytime from Monday – Saturday. You can book a guided tour to discover the history of the parliament and the story behind the building’s construction, or just turn up and go on a self-guided visit through the public areas of the building! If you want to see the exact chamber where the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra performed, you can visit a parliamentary debate throughout the week. The Scottish Government played a crucial role in setting up the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra’s historic free concert at the 2022 Festival, making the Parliament a fitting location for this film.
Explore the opulent surroundings of Wayne Marshall’s piano recital
Across the road from the Scottish Parliament, you’ll see the magnificent entrance of the Palace of Holyroodhouse. You can take a tour to discover the stories of historical figures such as Mary, Queen of Scots who lived in the Palace from 1561–1567. Rumour has it that there are still bloodstains on the floor from where Rizzio, Mary’s private secretary, was murdered out of jealousy by her husband, Lord Darnley. On a less gruesome note, you can also check out the Great Gallery, filled with portraits of Scottish kings, which provided the setting for Wayne Marshall’s mesmerising piano recital this summer.
Climb the crags where William Barton played didgeridoo
From the palace, it’s only a 15-minute walk up to the Salisbury Crags, which provide a magnificent view of Edinburgh. You could even bring an instrument like William Barton, to serenade the city from the hilltops! From here, hop down the hill and either jump in a taxi like Hannah Lavery or get on your bike to head over to Leith Shore.
Along the way, you’ll pass Leith Theatre – one of our regular venues, where in recent years we’ve presented electrifying gigs by everyone from Jarvis Cocker to Neneh Cherry. This is also where our 2022 music sessions with Arab Strap, Brìghde Chaimbeul and Sian were filmed, which you can watch over on our YouTube channel. Leith Theatre was built in the 1920s as a gift from the people of Edinburgh to the people of Leith after Leith was merged into the city of Edinburgh, despite Leith residents voting against this motion.
You can discover more about Leith’s distinctive history at The Shore – check out the signs outside the Georgian Custom House, which is now a hub for creative studios. The Shore is also home to many restaurants and bars, so you can grab a bite to eat before taking in the view from the Grade A-listed Victoria Swing Bridge where Lavery concluded her poem.
Head back to town and dance your way through Scottish Ballet’s choreography
At the top of Leith Walk lies Calton Hill which has an incredible view of Edinburgh, as well as iconic buildings including the City Observatory and the National Monument of Scotland. Fondly known as ‘Edinburgh’s Disgrace’, the National Monument is based on the Pantheon. Construction started in the 1820s but remained unfinished due to lack of funds – it’s now a distinctive part of the skyline even in its unfinished state, viewed with affection by locals and tourists alike. Climb up to try out your best attempt at Nicholas Shoesmith's choreography, as performed expertly in Edinburgh is a Story by Scottish Ballet principal James Garrington.
You can also visit Blackford Hill in south Edinburgh, another location from Garrington’s performance. The hill is home to The Royal Observatory of Edinburgh and offers yet another beautiful vista of the city.
Had enough of heights? Take a trip to Portobello beach where Garrington danced in the shallows. If you’re feeling brave, why not take a dip yourself? Wetsuits are strongly encouraged.
We hope you enjoy this tour! Once you’ve explored, you can rewatch the full Edinburgh is a Story series on our YouTube channel to see all the sights you’ve visited. You can also enjoy intimate music sessions and full-length concert recordings from this year’s Festival, all part of our At Home programme in partnership with abrdn.
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