Quite simply one of the most spectacular shows you will ever see, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a truly global phenomenon to witness.
Every August, Edinburgh explodes in a celebration of festivals. Perhaps the most spectacular of them all is the Edinburgh Tattoo. With almost 1,000 musicians, pipers, drummers, singers, and dancers performing on the Esplanade, the Tattoo is a unique and unforgettable celebration.
And just so you know…The word ‘tattoo’ comes from the closing-time cry in the inns in the Low Countries during the 17th and 18th centuries – ‘Doe den tap toe’ (‘Turn off the taps’).
Home of the famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Edinburgh Castle has dominated the skyline for centuries and is part of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site. The Tattoo has been staged at Edinburgh Castle since the first one in 1950. For kings and queens of old, the palace was a richly decorated and furnished to meet their needs. Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to son James VI at the castle in 1566. James soon became the king of Scotland, when he was crowned after his first birthday in 1567. The last sovereign to stay at the palace was Charles I when he slept there the night before his Scottish coronation.
The castle not only houses the Royal Jewels, it’s the home of The Stone of Destiny. The Stone of Destiny is a powerful and ancient symbol of the United Kingdom. In 1296 Edward I of England took the stone and had it built into his own throne. Since then, it has been used in the coronation ceremonies for the monarchs of England and then Great Britain. The Stone remained in England until 1996, when it was returned to Scotland, and now, remains protected in the Crown Room. Today, the stone only leaves Scotland when there is a coronation in Westminster Abbey.
Each year’s Tattoo is very much a cultural gathering- showcasing the talents of musicians and performers from every corner of the globe. More than 14 million people have attended the Tattoo since it began. The first Edinburgh Tattoo took place in 1950 and there were eight items in the program. Today, The annual audience is around 220,000. The first overseas regiment to participate was the Band of the Royal Netherlands Grenadiers in 1952. That year also saw performers from Canada and France. The show has grown in strength, incorporating a wider variety of international military bands and musicians with each year. Performers from over 48 countries now take part in the Tattoo.
The show closes with one of the most memorable moments as the poignant refrain of the Lone Piper who plays against the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. The lights are extinguished down on the Castle Esplanade, and then a spotlight picks out the piper. He appears as a small figure, high up on the castle battlements. A lone piper is associated in Scotland with a lament for the dead, usually playing a funeral piece such as the Flowers of the Forest. The first lone piper was Pipe Major George Stoddart. He played in every performance for the first eleven years. His son, Major Gavin Stoddart, followed his father as lone piper at the Tattoo and became Director of Army Bagpipe Music for 12 years.
Not a single performance of the Tattoo has ever been canceled.