Tam's Tall Tales

- Unique views on the Edinburgh Festival Big Wheel


Festival Big Wheel




In mid-July Edinburgh saw a new attraction being erected - the Festival Big Wheel.

Scottish tourism chiefs said the colossal attraction - standing 42 metres (138 feet) tall - is "a unique festival draw for visitors". Manuela Calchini, regional director of the government tourism agency VisitScotland, said: "New attractions, such as the Big Wheel on Princes Street, are always popular with visitors. It is a fantastic way to experience Edinburgh's iconic landmarks from an entirely new perspective, not to mention on a clear day it is a chance to enjoy stunning panoramic views of the Capital and the surrounding areas." And if passengers get bored with seeing the same view as the wheel turns round they can listen to the broadcast of some of the 216 short extracts from headline shows featured in the Jazz and Blues Festival, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, International Festival, Fringe Festival and International Book Festival in the six-person pods.

It could be argued, however, that the attraction is not really "new" as the wheel is the same one that operated over the Festive season last winter, when over the six week run 120,000 sightseers paid to see Princes Street and the gardens from a new perspective - although similar views can be had from the top of the nearby Scott Monument - but you have to climb a lot of steps to get to the top of that.

The promoters (who operate under the strange name of "Underbelly") and the Edinburgh City Council (who have struck a profit sharing deal) hope that numbers of paying customers, encouraged by the long daylight hours of summer and warmer weather, will be greater than the Christmas season. If numbers meet expectations the city's coffers could get a windfall of £250,000. City officials say the cash will support improvements to the green space and monuments within the city centre gardens. Perhaps the Ross Fountain, which has been defective for years, and the shabby Ross Bandstand could be revamped through the Ferris wheel funding. Tickets cost £8 (about US$12) but if you can prove that you live in the city (with an ID showing an Edinburgh postcode) there is a 20% discount.

The Festival Wheel will run every day, between 10am and 10pm, until August 31. However, heritage body the Cockburn Association, argue that "if itís going to become a more permanent feature then we should be looking at somewhere else to put it. The site is so prominent and a very important and special place. I donít think next to the Scott Monument is quite so acceptable for an all-year round feature.Ē


But the promoters are also thinking ahead. I was pretty underwhelmed to see their Christmas promotion near the wheel's entrance. Admittedly, the Christmas wheel is decorated with more than 20,000 lights. Baaah humbug!

If you want to see the Festival wheel in action, there is a 50 second YouTube video at Festival Wheel Princes Street Gardens from Tourscotland and another (with noisy bagpipe background music but showing the location beside the Scott Monument) at Festival Wheel And Scott Monument Princes Street Gardens.

Please give me whatever feedback comes to mind via tamfromrampant@gmail.com.

Tam O'Ranter
23 August 2014

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