Vendor City Guide: Edinburgh

Big Issue vendor George Whyte is originally from the Borders but has lived in Edinburgh for more than two decades. August is when the world comes to town for the International Festival and Fringe, so George gives us his top tips.

Why I like living in Edinburgh

It’s full of history.

People from Edinburgh are very friendly. They always speak to you. Different places are within easy travelling distance. I like doing a bit of walking now and again. I think nothing of jumping on a bus and going 150 miles for a walk. I think the festivals are very good because it’s making money for the city. But they need a separate pavement for tourists. I usually go and watch some of the street performers because it’s free. Until they start asking for money.

How to escape people giving out flyers

I always take to Arthur’s Seat.

All the way to the top. I just have to remember to take my pen with me because it’s got the undertaker’s name on it. But it’s not that hard a climb. There’s a path all the way up. It’s one of the best vantage points to look over the city, right down East Lothian and across the water to Fife.

The best thing to do in August

I would say the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is the number one thing for me.

I was there on the first night this year. There was not an empty seat. I’d last been in 1987. It was entirely different then, mostly military displays, but they don’t do that anymore. It’s young girls in their kilts, brass bands, drums, bagpipes. I enjoyed it. I filled my phone full of photos. There are fireworks every single night. I couldn’t take pictures of them because I’d run out of space on my phone.

Big Issue vendor George Whyte at his pitch on Edinburgh's George street. Credit: Jo Hanley

My top tip

Carrubbers Christian Centre on the High Street turns into a cafe in the evenings for six nights over two weeks, they call it ‘There Is Hope’. I think during week two, for the last three nights, a guy called Steph MacLeod will be singing. He’s an ex-alcoholic, drug user and homeless guy and his music is all about his life. It’s a free venue and family friendly.

Best places to eat and drink

I’ve got two. The Grassmarket Community Project is overrun by tourists at the moment. They’ve got a full kitchen. I’d have to recommend the fishcakes. And I like the bacon and egg rolls at Social Bite in the morning. I met Harry and Meghan there when they visited early in 2018. I thought I was going to get into trouble because of the question I asked her – if she was casing Edinburgh Castle out for a wedding venue.

What to do if it rains

There’s plenty of places you can go for shelter: The National Gallery off Princes Street, and I like the National Museum of Scotland. There are different exhibitions all the time. They’ve got a full-size racing car that belonged to Jackie Stewart, and Dolly the sheep. For a dead sheep I think she looks very much alive.

Originally published in The Big Issue (UK)

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