The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

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One of Edinburgh’s yearly festivals, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a once in a lifetime experience.

Set on the esplanade, against the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, the 3-week event showcases and celebrates the skills and talents of military bands and display teams from the British Armed Forces, the Commonwealth and military teams from throughout the world.

There are few such moving festival moments, a fact to which any of the over 220,000 people who experience it live every year can attest – not to mention the further 100 million who watch television broadcasts of the event! Audiences get into the spirit and stamp and cheer to the sounds of the military pipes and drums, clap to the Highland Dancers and watch in awe at some of the daredevil feats of accomplished motorcyclists or intricate marching formations.

The sounds of the bands will be heard throughout the city, followed by the cheers of the audience, the roar of military jets flying over the city, and finally the glorious fireworks that colour the night 


The History of the Tattoo

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(Image Credit: Edinburgh Festival City)

The word itself comes from the Dutch "Doe den tap toe", the evening call that went out for bars to turn off their beer taps and send soldiers to their beds. The British army adopted it as a musical signal, performed each evening by the band, simultaneously a command and a form of evening entertainment - though after experiencing the impressiveness of the Tattoo yourself, you might be forgiven for ignoring orders and sneaking a wee dram o' whisky on the Royal Mile!

The Tattoo was inspired by a performance called 'Something About a Soldier', which took place at the afore-mentioned Ross Bandstand in 1949.

In 1950 the first official Edinburgh Tattoo took place. The production included eight items, attracted an audience of 100,000 and was attended by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and HRH Princess Margaret on the final night.

  • Did you know? At the 1962 Tattoo, the finale bandsmen play Chubby Checker’s ‘Let’s Twist Again’ with mass audience participation on the Esplanade!


A Mighty Military Pageant

Tattoo Image

Today, this spectacular pageant of military might and musical grace has fast become one of Edinburgh's most iconic events.

The audience can expect true drama and spectacle: hundreds of dancers in the floodlights never setting a foot out of step, displays of marching and drumming prowess, and more bagpipes than you can ever imagine, playing in perfect harmony. What makes the whole thing even more impressive is the knowledge that it all comes together in just a few days of rehearsals!

Edinburgh has a jam-packed festival schedule all year around. Whether you love the arts, are mad about science, or relish the thought of getting lost in a good book, there’s a festival for you. Take a look at our guide to Edinburgh’s Festivals