Barely have face paints been smeared off guisers’ faces, the last bit of grimaced pumpkin flesh been eaten in final bowl of soup and the last squib has been dampened, than Edinburgh has donned its big, glittery Christmas jumper and festive socks and shouting a version of ‘Goose, goose goose!’ in readiness for December the 25th – and beyond.
This is the time of year when the douce gardens in the East end of Princes Street morph in to a funfair with twinkling lights and a jam (other goods are available) packed wooden hutted market place selling European fare and more merchandise than you can shake a candy cane at. It’s when the now highly popular Ice Rink circles a certain statue in St Andrew Square and folks can glide round the slippery surface before thawing out with a hot drink at the Rekorderlig Cider Lodge.
Sir Walter Scott may have his back to the jolly proceedings, which could be a metaphor for old Edinburgh, but when you enter into the funfair space it’s easy to get swept away, both literally and emotionally, with the atmosphere. Edinburgh’s unique skyline is still visible to those who care to look up, but on the ground bright festivities rule.
The near permanent Forth 1 Big Wheel with its 36 weather-proof pods that each hold six people, revolves and flashes as folk revel in a bird’s eye view of the Capital and, on a clear day, some way beyond. The charming wee Santa Train chugs its way round the fair passing traditional rides like the Helter Skelter where, after a steep climb, you career at top speed down the twisty track on a mat, and the Chair o Planes where you swing round through the cold air as sweet smells from various catering vans warm your nostrils (but not the rest of your head!)
Race-o-Rama gives wee ones the chance to drive round a track with some sharp corner turns while the Rollercoaster with train carriages swoops round and round its single track to shrieks of delight at random bursts of ‘snow’. Candy Cane Bungees are popular so be prepared to queue but happy reactions prove it to be well worth that wait as bouncy young uns compete to reach the highest point. Add to this the Bumper Cars, Reindeer Ride, and a traditional Carousel with gorgeous gallopers and you really do have all the fun of the fair.
A special part of Edinburgh’s Christmas is the Christmas Tree Maze where participants are faced with the double challenge of getting out of the puzzle and at the same time tracking down stations with letters that make up a festive word. Small prizes for successful wannabe Indiana Jones make it all worthwhile!
The cosy wee wooden cabin that is Santa’s Grotto is now, along with two children’s rides, based in Castle Street. Elves, named Holly and Ivy, invite children to put their wishes on a label to be put on Santa’s tree. Sporting a real beard (and a great memory!), this Santa is cheery and welcoming, allowing photo opportunities to each group before they get their gift that they’re given full rein to rip open on the spot!
At pavement level on Princes Street, the Yeti returns sending carriages on the end of its long arms flying up and down so if you prefer something gentler, best to head for the rather beautiful Double Carousel. This ride is reminiscent of another age and of another country with its two levels and variety of things to sit on as it goes on its serene circuit. Beware though of the car with the self -spinning wheel if you go on it accompanied by over eager companions! Overall verdict of from my small compañeros? “Exciting, fun and magical!!”
And then there’s absolute the star of the show – the Star Flyer. This version of the Chair o Planes for adults ascends the 60m off the ground making you feel as near to the skies as you’ll get outside a plane (ok, or a skyscraper but that doesn’t move). Here you get a unique 360 degree moving view of Edinburgh and its environs with the frisson of skirting the Scott Monument as you birl round in squealing delight. An absolute unmissable experience for anyone with a head for heights!
Move along to elegant George Street and you’ll find the elaborate Street of Light that this year is Silent Light. Under this mesmerising walk-in illumination, you don a pair of headphones and at the given hour can bop in the cold outdoors to the Disco Delights playlist featuring the likes of Bowie, Jackson, Madonna and Katy Perry when the many thousands of lights are synchronised to the music. If you’re lucky, you might get to take part in an off- the- cuff, cool conga! The Santa’s Sparkles and Christmas Crackers playlists are geared more to families. The 20 minute long event takes place up to 5 times a day with 50p from each ticket going to help support the charity One City Trust.
All along, paths are smoothed by Underbelly staff who are ‘here to elf’ and certainly do.
Once again, the open space outside the Sheraton Hotel becomes home to the famous Spiegeltent where the international cabaret La Clique returns with La Clique Noël – Part Deux. Enter its magical portals and for two hours you can forget the worries of the world.
In a cocoon of hot boppin’ music from the fabulous Dannie Bourne and the La Clique Palais Orkestra with gallus singer Kelly Wolfgramm, they accompany the five incredible acts of magic, circus and burlesque, all hosted in impish, intimate style by the wonderful Bernie Dieter. Be at once anxious and astounded at the feats of saucy sword-swallower and fire-eater Heather Holliday; hold your breath as super fit aerialist Stephen Williams cheekily swings above his water filled bath; be dazzled by beautiful burlesque at its best from Mosh who looks more like Jessica Rabbit than seems humanly possible; laugh at jokes and incredible before- your- very- eyes tricks from hilarious magician Paul Zenon and be bowled over by the suave skills of Gentleman Juggler Florian Brooks. What’s not to love?
All this may be less Hark the Herald Angels Sing and more hark the money coffers ring, but taking part brings smiles all round and we can all do with a bit of that.
Edinburgh postcode residents can enjoy 20% discount on selected rides, attractions and Festival Square Spiegeltent shows. www.edinburghschristmas.co.uk for full programme.
@EdXmas / Facebook.com/EdinburghsChristmas /@EdinburghsChristmas
16 November 2018 to 5 January 2019
More of EdinburghGuide's coverage of Edinburgh’s Christmas