Scottish National Portrait Gallery to reopen after major renovation

After more than two years and £17.6 million ($27.4 million), the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh will reopen on December 1.

The remodel opens up more of the Victorian building to public view, adds more than 60% to the public space, and introduces several themed galleries, including Blazing with Crimson–a collection of full-length portraits of men in kilts.

The gallery’s massive collection of portraits includes those of great statesmen, royalty, scientists, engineers, soldiers, and athletes. Special galleries look at the new face of Scotland, with one exhibit highlighting Scotland’s large Pakistani community.

Another bonus to the revamped gallery is that entrance is now free.

The gallery opened in 1889 as the first purpose-built portrait gallery. While it has always featured paintings of Scotland’s great names, it now also includes a large space devoted to photography.

This is the second major museum reopening in Edinburgh this year. The National Museum of Scotland reopened this summer after a £47.4 million ($74 million) renovation.

Photo of Robert Burns portrait courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Theater, art, and Haggis! A guide to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Each week, Gadling is taking a look at our favorite festivals around the world. From music festivals to cultural showcases to the just plain bizarre, we hope to inspire you to do some festival exploring of your own. Come back each Wednesday for our picks or find them all HERE.

Known as the “largest festival on Earth, Scotland’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival has something for everyone. From students donning kilts wanting to groove to the newest Jazz singers to street performers on stilts, this annual festival is an adventure where the energy flows into the streets and makes everyone feel like a performing artist for the day. The Fringe has come a long way: from its 1947 beginnings with only eight theater companies, to the present day festival, which sells over 1.8 million tickets each year! Tourists now travel from around the globe to experience this extraordinary event.

Begun by the Festival Fringe Society as an “open access festival” allowing unrestricted exhibition by anyone interested in performing, the modern version of the festival now features some of the world’s most unique and avant-garde artistic and theatrical pursuits. The shows range from dramatic Shakespeare told from the perspective of dinosaurs to puppets singing show tunes. However, the performances are only half of the experience that comes along with the price of the ticket. What else happens at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival? Keep reading below.

With over 34,000 performances taking place over three weeks, the word ‘venue’ takes on a whole new meaning at the Edinburgh Fringe. The performance spaces range from a traditional stage to more progressive bars to classrooms with floor seating to places not so appealing like toilets!

Shows start all throughout the day and run long into the night, so every attendee should pick up a program. Treat the program like your tour guide for the length of your visit. Inside you’ll get reviews, a synopsis and location information for each show. Grab a scone and your program and hike up to Arthur’s Seat, the highest point in the city, for a panoramic city view and chart out each day. Since performances vary a great deal in length and are located all throughout the city, double check your times and locations before buying tickets.

Though the offerings of the Fringe Festival change every year, the one show that is on the top of every must-see list is the Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle, a 90-minute celebration lead by over a thousand musicians and ending with fireworks. Tickets for the event are in high demand every year, so make sure to buy those tickets in advance. When it’s over, walk to a pub and have yourself a “dram” of Scotch while trying the Haggis (a Scottish tradition of a sheep’s heart, liver and lungs mixed with spices) and tasting the tatties (potatoes). Like the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it’s a one-of-a-kind Scottish experience!

This year the festival is scheduled from August 6-30th. Follow on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date on the latest happenings of the Fringe!

Kilt style not limited to heritage

I’ll never forget watching a family of Americans at a Scottish Highland Games event in Ontario hold kilts inches from their faces, examining the patterns carefully to make sure they didn’t by the wrong clan’s tartan. I learned quickly that I did not have this skill and, characteristically, gave up without much effort. The need for a true kilt expert, however, was painfully obvious. This small memory from a decade ago, popped back into my head when I entered 21st Century Kilts in Edinburgh.

Howie Nicholsby comes from a long line of kilt craftsmen, though five minutes with him shows you that he cannot be contained by tradition (or anything else). A keen eye for detail puts the right clan on your body, but his sense of style opens Scotland‘s traditional garb to new ideas that few have imagined.

I tried on the “desert camouflage” kilt (yes, I wore it like a “true Scot”). I figured it would be a bit breezy and was surprised to learn just how hot it can be under the garment. The higher quality kilts are quite heavy, requiring a considerable amount of fabric to produce. Thus, they tend to fetch high prices. The one I tried on (but didn’t buy) would have set me back close to $400, though currency swings would probably bring it closer to $300 today.

Without a doubt, the prices are pretty rough, and there are less expensive kilts available in Scotland (though there is a lobbying effort in progress to limit what can be called a “kilt” to those manufactured in Scotland according to specific standards). You get what you pay for, according to Howie, and spending less than $100 will result in a noticeable lack of quality.

So, if you find yourself strolling the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, poke your head into 21st Century Kilts. Howie will have you rolling in laughter, and he’ll probably have you in a new kilt by the end of your visit.