Recently updated on August 13th, 2023 at 01:45 pm
Every August, Edinburgh Castle comes alive with the sounds of bagpipes, military bands, and cheering crowds, as The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo comes to town. It’s an extraordinary display of tradition and musical prowess as military forces, bands and dancing groups from all over the world come together in this iconic celebration. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and if you’ve ever thought about visiting Scotland, the Tattoo has got to be on your bucket list. Need more convincing? We look at the history of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and share four reasons why you need to see it at least once.
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What is The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo?
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a series of performances from the by the British Armed Forces and international military and cultural bands, live on the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade. It’s held almost every night throughout the month of August each year.
The Tattoo is a music and dance extravaganza that’s steeped in history and tradition. The first Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was held in 1950 with a crowd of around 6,000 people. Since the 1970s, around 220,000 people witness the live event every year. Before the COVID-19 pandemic cancellations in 2020 and 2021, the Tattoo sold for 20 consecutive seasons.
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Why do they call it the Tattoo?
The Edinburgh Military Tattoo has nothing to do with ink on the skin. The word ‘tattoo’ comes from the Dutch phrase ‘doe den tap toe’, meaning ‘turn off the taps’. Back in the 17th century, the ‘doe den tap toe’ call would be made to drummers or trumpeters, who would then signal to the innkeepers it was time to close. They would turn off the taps to the ale kegs and send the soldiers back to their barracks. The British Army adopted the practice and the regiment’s drummers would play it every night. Over time, the term began to refer to the last duty call of the day and now it’s associated with military ceremonies.
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How to witness The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
The only real way to understand the significance of this one-of-a-kind experience is to see it in person. This year, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo will run from August 4 to August 26, 2023. The Tattoo has announced the theme ‘Stories’ for 2023 and it will be a blockbuster celebration of music.
All Trafalgar tours that visit Edinburgh during the performance dates will include tickets to see The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. If you’ve always dreamed of witnessing the Tattoo, now is the time to book and take advantage of our Royal Travel Sale. Book between March 1 and 31 2023 and you can save up to 15% on select Great Britain tours, including those attending the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
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4 reasons why you need to witness The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at least once
Now we know a bit more about the history behind The Edinburgh Military Tattoo, let’s dive into all the reasons why need to put this breathtaking event on your bucket list.
1. The rich Scottish traditions
One of the best things about visiting Scotland is experiencing the incredible traditions… And what better way to get up close to Scottish heritage than with an entire evening of remarkable Scottish traditions. From Highland dancing to bagpipes and drums, this is Scotland at its best.
You’ll get goosebumps when the Lone Piper stands on the castle battlements, cutting an iconic silhouette. The Lone Piper’s performance honours those who sacrificed and marks the spectacular close of the celebration. Top it all off with a wee dram of whisky, and you’ve got one bonnie Scottish experience!
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2. The awe-inspiring display of talent
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo brings together the most elite military and civilian performers from all over the world, in a one-of-a-kind event. There are few other places where you can witness such an impressive spectacle with talented people and groups. The Tattoo welcomes performers from around 50 countries, and about one-third of the crowd are people who have travelled from across the world to be there. It’s more than a ceremony of Scottish and military tradition – it’s a global celebration of unique cultures.
The performers hit the stage almost every day for more than three weeks during The Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and they always perform with mind-boggling precision, power, and craftsmanship. Edinburgh has never cancelled the Tattoo due to weather – not even when it rains. So you know you’re going to witness a truly dedicated, world-class performance.
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3. The beautiful setting
While the performers are sure to keep you mesmerised, you’ll want to tear your eyes away at some point to admire your surroundings. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place at the magnificent Edinburgh Castle. Dating back to the 11th century, it’s one of the oldest fortified castles in Europe. Perched atop the volcanic Castle Rock, the castle overlooks the city of Edinburgh. It’s served as a royal residence, fortress, prison and garrison over the centuries. It’s also the headquarters for the oldest surviving cavalry in the British Army, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.
With its fascinating history, Edinburgh Castle is the perfect location to host this magical celebration of history, music, dance and tradition. During the Tattoo, a stunning sound and light projection illuminate the castle walls. You’ll see Edinburgh Castle lit up in all its ancient glory, in a way that few others get to experience.
When you visit Edinburgh with Trafalgar, you’ll join a Local Specialist for a guided visit to Edinburgh Castle, getting a deeper insight into its regal history before witnessing the Tattoo. While in Edinburgh, you’ll also see the city icons like the Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Arthur’s Seat, New Town and Princes Street.
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4. The fireworks
If you thought the Tattoo couldn’t get more extravagant, wait until you see the firework finale! The firework display lights up the sky at the end of every Tattoo performance. It’s the perfect way to conclude this remarkable experience.
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Convinced you need to see the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 2023? Get in now before it sells out and score a great deal in our Royal Travel Sale. Book between March 1 and 31 2023 and save up to 15% on select Great Britain tours, including those attending the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Have you ever witnessed the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo live? Let us know in the comments below!