The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an absolutely amazing event. Held over the course of 3 weeks in August each year as part of the Edinburgh Festivals annual program – and it runs at the same time as the Edinburgh International Festival, Festival Fringe, Book Festival and Arts Festival. This means that if you are visiting for the Tattoo, you have a whole plethora of other festivals activities and events to keep you organized throughout the rest of your visit to Edinburgh.
If you have never heard of the Tattoo you are in for a treat, and below I’ve got a little bit about what it’s all about, a whole heap of photos to help you really get a feel for what’s going on and a quick 1 minute video to try and help you feel like you’re there!
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – In Photos
Quick Facts about the Edinburgh Military Tattoo
- The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was canceled for the first time in it’s 67 year history during the 2020 and 2021 Pandemic but prior to that hadn’t cancelled a single performance. (This is no mean feat with Scotland’s weather having the potential to take a turn for the worse at any time) The Tattoo is performed come rain, hail or shine!
- Each Tattoo Performance lasts for 100 minutes.
- Each performance hosts over 1,000 military and civilian performers every night; and
- Performers have hailed from 48 different countries to date.
- The term “tattoo” derives from a 17th-century Dutch phrase doe den tap toe (“turn off the tap”) a signal to tavern owners each night, played by a regiment’s Corps of Drums, to turn off the taps of their ale kegs so that the soldiers would retire to their lodgings at a reasonable hour.
- An average of 220,000 people see the Tattoo performed live for Edinburgh Castle each year;
- With up to 100 Million people tuning in to see the show when it is broadcast on BBC TV.
- The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is (and was) set up for Charitable Purposes and over the years it has gifted some £8million to service and civilian organisations.
- Each year the Tattoo has a different theme. 2018’s theme was ‘The Sky is the Limit’ and was to celebrate not only Scotland’s young people, but also, 100 years of the Royal Air Force (RAF).
- The Tattoo has sold out for 18 consecutive years (i.e. Book your ticket early if you want to go!)
- At the last official independent count, visitors to the Tattoo contributed an estimated £77million to the Scottish economy.
With the stands packed with eager spectators, and as the sun sets, the performers enter the Esplanade and the beautiful sound of bagpipes and marching bands can be heard.
Bagpipers march in formation.
On the Esplanade- The Opening of the Tattoo is a spectacle like no other. The massed pipers hail from around the globe and the 13 bands in the 2018 Edinburgh Military Tattoo were mostly from the UK and Australia.
The Central Armed Forces Band and Ondráš Art Ensemble from the Czech Republic at the 2018 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Over 100 Performers from the Banda Monumental de Mexico electrified the crowd with traditional mariachi music intertwined with their rendition of the popular Spanish track, Despacito.
From the USA: The Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes & Drums and Fellswater (or MCV for short) brought catchy drums alongside huge flag projections across the Castle facade.
The Worldwide Tattoo Dance Company brought bright lights, energy, colour and bubbles to the Esplanade…(and I’m sorry I didn’t have my zoom lens for this shot – the bubbles were beautiful)
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… along with tartan, highland dancing, sword work and more…
… before ending in glorious formation.
The Royal Navy March alongside the Massed Pipes and Drums.
As part of the finale, 800 performers and the supporting cast collect on the Esplanade to rousing rounds of applause.
The Tattoo is accompanied by fireworks for every performance, however on 4 special nights there is an extended fireworks display – and it’s absolutely stunning.
After the Fireworks and with the whole cast lined up on the Esplanade, there is a rendition of Auld Lang Syne. The crowd never fail to join in enthusiastically – so don’t be surprised if your seatmate grabs your hand and encourages you to sing up!
Each night, at the end of the performance, the whole cast of the Tattoo March off the Esplanade and down the very top section of the Royal Mile. Whilst those in the stands don’t get to see this (as all guests are asked to stay in their seats to allow the performers to exit safely), it’s a wonderful sight and a great opportunity for those who were not able to get tickets, to watch a little bit of the show. So if you’re ever on the Royal Mile around 10.30pm during the three weeks in August when the Tattoo is performed, head up the the castle end and watch the parade as the performers exit.
And that’s your lot. I hope this little snapshot of the Tattoo inspires you to book your ticket too see it live at Edinburgh Castle next time you’re in the city in August!
And if you like this post, don’t hesitate to share – Facebook, Twitter or Flipboard – whichever takes your fancy is much appreciated and I think you in advance.
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