Joanna Morris is entranced once again by tales at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival

RETURNING to Edinburgh is like returning to a much-loved book, the equivalent of curling up in cosy familiarity to escape real life. Its fairytale castle and Harry Potter-esque architecture is always a welcome sight upon ascending from the depths of Waverley Station.

This time, I was back in my second favourite city – wonderful as you are Edinburgh, Amsterdam has my heart – for the Scottish International Storytelling Festival. I fell in love with it when I attended for the first time last year and jumped at the chance to return to a world where good, old-fashioned stories are the order of the day.

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Every journalist is a storyteller in their own way, each one of us probably born with an innate love of the word, of language and its power. I’d also put money on most of us having spent our formative years being told to get our heads out of the books and get outside more.

In this job, though, we don’t get the opportunity to spin a fantastical tale, to be creative and fashion new worlds, to breathe life back into old myths and legends with their retelling. So it’s an absolute luxury to be able to indulge in a weekend defined by exactly that, to enjoy the festival’s eclectic programme, the myriad stories at its heart and the colourful, charismatic storytellers who use their words to spin bridges between this world and theirs.

This year, the SISF was themed around dreams and boasted strong links with South America, one of its highlights being Stories from Mexico and Panama, delivered by storyteller and doctor Ruben Corbett whose first English language show was warmly welcomed.

Much of the festival is based in the purpose-built Storytelling Centre, a lively arts venue attached to John Knox House, the only original medieval building surviving on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Tempting as it was to stay within its cosy walls on a blustery autumn weekend, I decided to take advantage of the festival’s wide scope and took the opportunity to explore beyond the city centre.

In the midst of a modest, grey housing estate there lies a vibrant secret garden nurtured by a close knit community. Those behind the Lochend Secret Garden invited festival-goers, youngsters and faerie folk to join them for a morning of storytelling. It was an example of the festival’s family friendly nature that perhaps wasn’t aimed at a childless 30-something but worked to underline the wise words of one storyteller – if a story is not for you, pass it onto someone else.

That’s the beauty of storytelling, that it spreads from generation to generation, bringing with it tantalising glimpses into history and allowing age old myths and legends to travel through the centuries. It can also be an educational tool, as discovered when visiting Dr Neil’s Garden in Duddingston Village to hear about the folklore and myriad uses of plant medicine in a spectacular setting at the foot of Arthur’s Seat.

Man cannot live on storytelling alone, however, so a trip to some of Edinburgh’s tastiest eateries must also be considered when arranging a trip to the yearly festival. This time round, I visited the lively and packed Queen’s Arms on an exceptionally busy Friday night, enjoying delicious Kinlochleven mussels in a booth away from the football-watching hordes while soaking up the atmosphere. A visit to the Sheep Heid Inn, one of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh, brought with it a hearty steak, ale and Portobello mushroom pie and surroundings steeped in history.

Throughout my stay, I also had the occasional opportunity to rest my head and stayed at the ideally situated Premier Inn on East Market Street, a comfortable and well presented hotel just steps from the Royal Mile.

The International Storytelling Festival feels as intimate as it is warm and welcoming while its smaller scale means you don’t have to compete with thronging crowds to enjoy its packed programme. It’s one of many events to have cemented Edinburgh’s well-deserved reputation as a year-round hub for festivals. In 2017, the city will host a number of events to mark the 70th anniversary of the ‘birth of Edinburgh, the Festival City’.

Next year’s story will begin at edinburghfestivalcity.com.