Promoted by Central Taxis
The Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an unmissable spectacle that draws in hundreds of thousands of spectators every year.
Held on the Edinburgh Castle esplanade, it’s a magnificent display of bagpipes and drums as over performers and bands from around the world showcase their well-drilled routines.
Before you go and get your hands on tickets, have a read of our go-to guide for all things Tattoo.
What is the Tattoo?
The name historically links back to 17th and 18th century Low Countries and is based on the phrase ‘doe den tap toe’; the noise of the march that Innkeepers made regiments do from their premise to the barracks. Today the Tattoo still has a clutch of Army bands and Scottish battalions present at the event. However, there are now many more civilian acts compared to the first event back in 1950.
The History of The Tattoo
The Tattoo is a large-scale, slickly-produced event where the phrase “military precision” is, for once, completely justified. Since the inaugural event in 1950, not a single performance has ever been cancelled – an impressive statistic when you consider how wet and miserable the conditions on the unsheltered Esplanade can become.
The Tattoo is notable for several milestones: it welcomed its first foreign regiment in 1952, the Band of the Royal Netherlands Grenadiers, quickly establishing the Tattoo as an international affair. Nine years later, the Tattoo was committed to record and sold commercially as a 12 inch stereo LP.
Coinciding with a surge in television-owning homes in the 1950s, the event’s TV audience has grown in tandem with the Tattoo – over 100 million people tune in every year from across the globe.
The Tattoo’s links with the Castle are also significant. A military garrison until 1920, the Castle was a natural place to host the Tattoo, and its armed forces heritage extends far beyond August – it is home to the regimental museums of The Royal Scots and The Scots Dragoon Guards, as well as the Scottish National War Museum.
Alongside the traditional sound of pipes and drums, spectators can expect a hearty rendition of Auld Lang Syne and a solo from a lone piper finishing off the night in style.
Taking its historic links further, the mass pipes and drums take on the ‘doe den tap toe’ and march across the castle’s drawbridge at the start of the show.
From the 5-27 August, the Tattoo will once again wow spectators at Castle terrace. With performances Monday to Friday at 9.00pm and on Saturday at 7.30pm and 10.30pm, 2016s show is set to pay tribute to HM The Queen’s 90th birthday, with a Tunes of Glory theme.
The Saturday night late show will also include an extended fireworks display. The Tattoo’s pipes and drums will be join in performance by the New Zealand Army Band and Lochiel Marching Drill Team, in the company of His Majesty The King’s Guard from Norway, the Imps Motorcycle Display Team alongside the Royal Jordanian Armed Forces Band and Drill Team.
The Tattoo’s pipes and drums will be join in performance by the New Zealand Army Band and Lochiel Marching Drill Team, in the company of His Majesty The King’s Guard from Norway, the Imps Motorcycle Display Team alongside the Royal Jordanian Armed Forces Band and Drill Team.
And look out for a very visual tribute to the late, great David Bowie during the finale.
• Book early. The Tattoo is always in high demand so getting your hands on tickets in advance will guarantee you a seat.
• Waterproofs. The event has been known to attract a cloud or two in the past so bringing along a rain jacket or umbrella is a must for avoiding sudden downpours.
• Earplugs. Banging drums and high pitched pipes. It can all get a bit noisy at times, so bringing a pair just in case could be a clever move.
• The Tattoo is set up and run for charitable purposes and has gifted some £5m to organisations of both a service and civilian persuasion down the years.
• Around 35 miles of cabling is required for each show – that’s also the distance between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
• At the last official count, visitors to the Tattoo contributed an estimated £88m to the Scottish economy.
• Only 30 per cent of the audience comes from Scotland. Around 35 per cent are from overseas, and the rest come from across the rest of the UK.
• Tinseltown film producer Mike Todd (the fourth husband of Elizabeth Taylor) made a documentary on the Tattoo in 1950.
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All photos: JP