Edinburgh Dungeon review

Do you scare easily?

How vivid is your imagination?

Edinburgh Dungeon

 

Just like the time I went to see Shutter Island, I deliberately avoided reviews of Edinburgh Dungeon. I’ve not visited any of the sister attractions (London, York, Amsterdam etc) and I didn’t tell anyone I was going. I wanted to be surprised.

I went alone….

…which was stupid.

On four separate occasions I screamed out loud. Three times I burst out laughing. The Australian couple next to me thought I was highly amusing – until the Torturer pulled one of them out the crowd to demonstrate the castration device. He took one look and switched to the hamster castrator (yep, that was my third guffaw of the day).

I think it was the darkness.

I had no idea what was coming next – ever. We were standing, we were sitting, we were on a boat, we were in the dock, we were in a graveyard, we were underground – there was no pattern and no predictability.

The line between what was real and what wasn’t shifted constantly. People kept coming alive or appearing an inch from your nose. Your seat moved, the ground spun, the disorientation was brilliantly orchestrated.

There was one point when I was genuinely scared.

It’s not easy for me to admit that, being the optimistic pragmatist.

I won’t spoil it for you, but it is genuinely terrifying not being able to trust your senses. I wish I’d had a hand to hold (sob).

The finale was a hanging.

I wish I’d kept that picture – my hair is flying, my mouth is wide open and I look like I’m about to vomit. Instead I opted to get the warrior princess picture – the one where I look like William Wallace is about to decapitate me.

Edinburgh Dungeon

So my verdict:

  • Worth the entrance fee? (£18 per adult/£14 per child on the door, 20% off if you book online)

I’d say yes. It’s not cheap, but it’s 80 minutes of entertainment, including 11 shows and 2 rides.

  • Are the actors any good?

Hell, yeah. And this is coming from a Disney aficionado. To a woman, they were utterly convincing. One played a madman to a terrifying level of realness, the Torturer had a killer sense of humour and a razor sharp improv skill, and the new William Wallace show was one of the actors who made me scream out loud. Give them all an Oscar.

  • Should I take my kids?

Only if they’re in double digits. I spoke to the two 12 year olds on my tour and asked them if they’d been scared. They were lads so they were nonchalant but they admitted it was more frightening than they’d expected. My 7 year old would have had nightmares for weeks. The official advice is over 8s and under 5s aren’t allowed, so use your discretion.

  • Will I learn anything?

If I were to have any criticism it would be that the historical element was underplayed. I learned loads more from the guidebook (which, incidentally, is a journalist’s delight – my compliments to the publisher). Yes, each show is inspired by real events, but I felt like some of that was lost in the theatre. I’d rather have had a scary experience than a history lesson, but a few tweaks to the script would make the difference here.

  • What are the facilities like?

By its nature, the attraction is not particularly accessible – though there is a lift for visitors with mobility issues and, I’m told, a specialist wheelchair for evacuations. A couple of times they asked if people were sensitive to strobe lights, or had back problems or were pregnant. Those who had to stand out for these reasons were still actively involved in the experience, which I liked. The toilets were fine (there is a wheelchair-accessible toilet too) and the gift shop was quite cool, with a good range of products. There’s no cafe but they have a joint experience on offer with Hard Rock cafe which I would definitely buy if I had guests visiting Edinburgh. (from £32 per adult)

  • What if I’m a big Jessie?

The one public service announcement which really comforted me throughout the experience was “don’t touch the people you meet – they won’t touch you (and most of them have the plague anyway)”. The knowledge that no one would grab me turned out to be quite important – like the spinning top in Inception, it was the anchor for me. That’s not to say that things won’t touch you …

  • Overall verdict?

Atmosphere: 5/5

Performance: 5/5

Historical relevance: 4/5

Value for money: 4.5/5 – make sure you book online in advance!

Engagement: 5/5

 

My thanks to Emma at Merlin Entertainments for gifting me the ticket and the photograph.

This review was written independently with no copy approval from Merlin Entertainments

Book your experience online: http://www.thedungeons.com/edinburgh/en

 

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Clubbercise Edinburgh

Funny how “Children of the Night” takes on a whole new meaning when you have a family…


If I had known – age 14, raving in Archaos Unders – that 22 years later I’d be doing the same in a dance studio with a bunch of mums, I’d have died of shame.

But the crippling self-obsession of my early teens has given way to a state of no-fucks-given – so I happily handed over my fiver, accepted the glow sticks and sweated for an hour in a dark studio with a disco ball.

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Now – I love dancing. Every Wednesday I look forward to my street dance class and since I’ve quit the gym I’ve been looking for another opportunity to burn some calories to loud music in a way that’s actually fun.

Once I got over the initial “is this really happening?” feeling of big-box-small-box to happy hard core, the endorphins took over. We all looked so ridiculous that we had enormous smiles on our faces. Three tracks in the ‘OO-OO’ started, the ‘nah nah nah nah’ to the electro synth got louder and by the time DJ Sammy came on with “Heaven” we were totally in the zone.

By the end of the hour we were all gasping for breath. My watch told me I’d burned 498 calories. The floor was slippy and the mirror was steamed up. I felt AMAZING!

Who’s coming with me next week?

CLUBBERCISE

8.30-9.30pm SSD HQ, Edinburgh

Clubbercise

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Find your diamonds and hold them tight

I’ve just finished reading “Cows” by Dawn O’Porter.

While very well-written and thought-provoking, I struggled with it. I just couldn’t buy into the main premise. Women aren’t that down on each other in my experience. Granted I don’t live in London and I don’t work in an office environment, but I am pretty media-savvy. The kind of ruthless judgement described in the novel just rang a bit hollow with me.

Two things happened this weekend to prove me right.

The first was Slice in the City.

Now, I love Instagram. I appreciate many of you prefer Twitter or Facebook or, you know, phone calls – but I get SO MUCH out of my insta community. It’s as close as this 11 years-married chick gets to speed dating. Thanks in large part to the advice of Danni @chachipowerproject, I have deliberately designed myself an inspiring and healthy feed. I follow dancers and artists, mums and independents, businesswomen and inventors and experts in all sorts of niche areas.

Slice in the City was where we all met in real life.

Csn you imagine a more interesting crowd to spend your Saturday afternoon with?

When Nic stood up to do her welcome speech (she goes by the name of @weeslice and is the powerhouse who brought us all to the Apex that sunny day) she pointed out about 70% of the 80 or so people there had come alone. And yet, no one was standing by themselves.

i know I approached a woman looking a bit lonely to say hi – and loads of others must have done the same.

I was invited to join a book club (“Oh we don’t actually read books, you ok with that?”) and a brunch club (“I need to escape my kids at least once a month”). I finally found an eyebrow expert who kindly agreed to make my brow sisters into twins and got massive hugs from people I’d never met but felt I knew.

In short, I spent three hours with 80 women and felt nothing but positivity.

The next thing that happened was utterly terrifying.

My 7 yo went missing.

I’ll tell you the short version, in that he was found within the hour and he was fine.

I had to phone the police and I put a message on our local Facebook group. I don’t want to go into it, except to say I was overwhelmed by the reaction of my community.

Everyone was out looking and the support was really quite humbling. When he was found I got so many messages full of love. “You must have been beside yourself” – “We’re so relieved” – “Go and pour yourself a large drink”. I was mortified to have caused such a kerfuffle – but all I was getting was compassion. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

So while I accept that “Cows” is just a novel, and Instagram is often toxic and neighbours can be problematic – I want to stand up for the good guys.

There are fabulous, genuine diamonds all around us if we just open our hearts to them.

They could make your afternoon – or save your child’s life.

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How was your morning?

My watch buzzed and my pillow muffled the beeping of my phone.

4.30am – time to get up.

I climbed down from my son’s bunk – it had been another night of musical beds.

I crept downstairs to the toilet – but before I could even make it to the living room and my carefully laid out clothes – I heard footsteps.

KD’s fingers appeared on the toilet door and his squinting, chubby face – eyes half obscured by a too-long fringe – loomed out of the darkness. He was clutching a sporran filled with pennies.

“What are you doing up?” I crouched to cuddle his warm little body.

“I didn’t want anyone to steal my money,” he informed me.

I tucked him up on the couch with a fluffy blanket, dressed quickly and put cartoons on so I could do my makeup in peace. When the taxi arrived and I kissed him goodbye he burst into noisy sobs.

“I want to come too mummeeeeeeeee” he wailed.

Rod appeared looking dishevelled and scooped him up so I could leave without the histrionics waking the Wee Man.

The driver wanted to chat, but I was trying to check in online and the FlyBe app wasn’t cooperating. Eventually I emailed myself the boarding pass and took a screenshot to make sure.

It was all going swimmingly until I realised there were two flights leaving for London City at 6.30 – with one letter of difference. One was at Gate 5. The other – the right one – was at Gate 28. I sprinted but I was met by a red screen and a rude high vis jacket.

Desperately I turned to the other, older lady and gasped, “I need some help please, how do I rebook?”

“It’s OK love, just go to SwissPort next to baggage claim, they’ll help you out,” she said kindly.

I repeated SwissPort, SwissPort, SwissPort as I sprinted all the way back through the airport – almost to the fucking taxi rank.

“There’s another flight at 7.10, that will be £111 please,” the SwissPort woman announced.

I was actually relieved it was that cheap – and smiled at the boiling Irishman next to me who was being charged £55 to check in at the airport. “That’s still only half the money I’ve wasted,” I remarked and he smiled a bit.

All she gave me was a receipt – I still had to make it to the desk for my boarding pass before tackling security all over again.

“This happens every single day,” the check-in clerk told me. “You’d think they’d do something about two flights so similar.”

Her sympathy was nice, but her typing skills were slow. I glanced at my watch. 6.34am. I then took it off, and my bangle, and my jumper so I’d have a survivor’s chance at security.

I was that person pushing past everyone going “excuse me, sorry, so sorry, I’m going to miss my flight again, sorry” (yes I actually said again, they must have thought I was a rocket). I made it through the scanner (woop) but where was my boarding pass and drivers’s licence? They were right there on top of my jacket…

“Excuse me?” I said loudly and too high. Thank the fucking fuck the security guy found it on the floor. He passed it to me with a look but I could only grab it and run. Except I couldn’t run could I? Suddenly every child in the whole western world was in front of me, every passenger had a bag the size of a small four poster, every walkway was suddenly out of order…

Ladies and gentlemen – I made it onto the 7.10 with four minutes to spare. It too left from Gate 28.

My hair is frizzy, my back is soaked with sweat, but I’m typing this from the ExCeL Arena in London and I made it here (after missing just the one DLR train) BEFORE THE EXPO OPENED.

Winning.

 

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Signor Baffo’s Restaurant: Fringe Review

WIN 2 TICKETS! Just like this post to enter – draw on Wednesday 8/8 at 8pm

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Reasons I loved this show:

*One child laughed so hard on stage, he wet himself

*The interaction from the kids was so spirited it bordered on improv

*He made a massive mess on the floor with eggs and flour

*The kids got to chuck stuff at him

*There were a few classic lines for the adults that sailed straight over the kids’ heads

So – I was super-chuffed when I was offered tix for this show and asked to review it. You see, the first line after the title was “free pancakes for everyone afterwards and tea and coffee for parents”. Now this is a performer who knows his audience.

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I’m always a bit nervous taking my wild kids to live performances (see this review) – but the layout of this Fringe show was ideal. Lots of big cushions at the front for wee ones and then rows of seats for the adults – with plenty room down the sides for toilet dashes. (Too bad that cute blonde kid on stage didn’t make it.)

From his entrance on a bike to his sprint exit, Signor Baffo held the kids’ attention like the Pied Piper. His energy was relentless but perfectly controlled. He mixed it up constantly, drawing us in to the tiny details of a sausage in a dress then taking up the whole space with spaghetti bolognese tennis. My boys were spellbound.

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Afterwards, it seemed the guy had spent every penny of his profit on the extras – pancakes with all sorts of toppings for the kids, tea and proper coffee for us, balloons, stick-on moustaches, hats, crayons… Like I said – he clearly knew his audience.

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The final seal of approval came from KD who, just as we were walking out The Principal Hotel’s front door, suddenly wailed: “I want to go back!” and sprinted down three corridors before I could catch him.

5 stars *****

Signor Baffo’s Restaurant 11am (45 mins) 5-27 Aug Venue 119 The Principal, George St

WIN 2 TICKETS! Just like this post to enter – draw on Wednesday 8/8 at 8pm

 

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PAW PATROL LIVE! review

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After an astonishingly successful trip to Justin’s Band in March, I felt brave enough to accept a family press ticket to Paw Patrol Live – The Great Pirate Adventure.

The first thing to say is we are HUGE Paw Patrol fans in our house. Huge. Bribe-them-with-a-new-pup-for-sleeping-through-the-night huge.

So when I told them we were going to see them live, their faces were a picture.

“Live? Like alive? In real life?” KD sought to clarify with a three year old’s logic.

“Yes! They’ll be right in front of you! Marshall, Chase, Rubble – the whole gang!” I confirmed, as they both started jumping up and down squealing.

“Are you going to see Paw Patrol?” the nursery teacher asked at pick up. “He’s mentioned it once or twice…”

Then, at 6am today, a human bullet hit me in the stomach.

“Is it today Mummy? Do we have the tickets for today?” KD demanded, holding my face in his hands for my full focus.

Thank goodness it was a 10am showing.

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I’ll make a small complaint here about The Edinburgh Playhouse. No issue with the Box Office and ticket collection, but come on. A massive snaking queue of effervescent children waiting to get into the venue?

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At least it moved fairly quickly – and the ticket staff were fabulous.

“Now, no crowd surfing at the end, young man,” he warned my seven year old.

Huge thanks to Emma at Norton PR for acquiescing to my request for an aisle seat – we had row M in the circle. This meant loads of legroom and easy access which, when you have a child with ADHD, is a godsend.

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Kudos too to Mummy and Daddy who timed the entry to perfection – three minutes til showtime.

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As a parent, there are few things more touching than witnessing the look of glorious wonder on your children’s faces as they take in their cartoon heroes right in front of them.

They sat motionless.

Not silent, but motionless.

They yelled every character’s name and waved hello as they entered, gazed spellbound as they sang and danced, screamed and pointed at the errant parrot and generally soaked in the whole experience.

There was a quick dash to the cash point in the Omni centre so they could have the flashing cutlasses brandished by everyone around them (£15 a pop – ouch!). There was also a harried return to locate the mobile phone which slipped between the seats and was noted as missing back in the car. But otherwise, it was a stress-free experience.

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“I want to go and talk to them!” was the only complaint at the end. I wonder if the company might consider a meet-and-greet. Not in the foyer – that place was crazy. We even got collared by a film crew who wanted KD’s reaction – but he was in a huff. He was not up for it in the slightest. But perhaps somewhere else…

If I had to sum up the show in one word, it would be ‘energetic’.

The cast were brilliant – they must have been knackered by the end. I loved the way they combined oversize puppets with a video background. A lot of the music was familiar from the TV show, but there was plenty of new material too. The boys got involved with some of the dance routines and there was just enough panto “he’s behind you” to engage the audience without descending into farce.

As a parent, I loved it. Super colourful, high tempo, professional and fun.

As a kid – well, they couldn’t have been happier. When a boy with a short attention span can be engrossed for 90 minutes, you know you’ve done a great job.

Bravo production team.

5 star recommended *****

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Should you put your kids on social media?

My sister had a gorgeous baby boy in February. He’s the cutest wee thing and his laugh makes my heart burst.

You’ll just have to take my word for it though. She’s decided his face will not be on social media.

“I feel it’s his choice and I shouldn’t make that decision for him,” she told me. “Also, there are some weird and awful people on the internet and it freaks me out. I want to protect him. And anyway, people’s baby spam gets so boring…”

It’s a tricky one – particularly for parent bloggers like me.

I take reasonable precautions – I give my children code names, I password-protect the most personal posts and I try to only publish pictures that are appropriate.

I’ve cut back hugely on the instagram pics of my boys. My profile there is open – and I’ve decided to make it less personal and more general. I’ve ‘rebranded’ to EdinburghKim and the focus is now on Edinburgh life. It’s still my Edinburgh life – but I’m thinking more about my audience and what they might be interested in – like recommendations of cafes and days out. Any family pics or videos I put on my insta stories – gone in 24hrs.

Could I take my kids off social media altogether?

I don’t think I could.

I bumped into my friend Sarah in the gym this morning. We hadn’t seen each other for months so the kettlebells were ignored for a good 15 minutes while we caught up.

“I love seeing your pics of the boys,” she said. “You can tell how close they are!”

We met at a baby music class, so I feel like our kids are a big part of our relationship. I love watching her girls grow up, and all the funny things they get up to. I think removing our little ones from social media would really affect the bonds I have with a lot of my friends.

I pushed the boundaries a little bit recently though.

On holiday in Spain, we made a video.

The point of it is to sell our property in Aberdeen – but it’s a bit daft, and both my youngest and my husband feature in it. They both absolutely loved the process and the finished product. KD in particular was a natural on camera and has watched it over and over and over.

One friend who saw it said we should start a channel and my immediate reaction was NO WAY!

That’s a step too far.

If, when they’re old enough, they want to start vlogging then I’ll advise and supervise, but for now I’m going to give them that privacy at least.

Where do your boundaries lie?

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