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5 reasons to head to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Why you should experience the incredible annual variety show featuring military bands and performers from around the world.

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The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which takes place every August on the grounds of Edinburgh Castle, is an atmospheric, moving display of tradition and skill. With ever-changing themes, the Tattoo comes alive with military display teams and bands, highland dancers performing in perfect time, and fireworks erupting in the dark skies.

The first Edinburgh Military Tattoo took place in 1950, drawing around 6,000 audience members. These days, around 220,000 people are in attendance across the month of August. Performances are launched with fanfare, followed by the pipers and drummers marching through the castle gates to perform a pipe band set.

The key performances alternate each show, with one of the four branches of service (the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Royal Air Force and the British Army) taking centre stage.

If this sounds like a spectacle you would like to witness, book those tickets and get ready to head to Scotland. But if you need a little more convincing, here are five reasons to head to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo this year:

The striking setting

Constructed during the 11th century, Edinburgh Castle is one of the oldest fortified places in all of Europe. Perched over the city of Edinburgh, on volcanic rock, the castle has seen much change over the years, as well as serving as a prison, royal residence, garrison, and fortress. The castle is also the headquarters for the oldest surviving cavalry of the line in the British Army, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. 

As you might expect, witnessing the craftsmanship that goes into the Tattoo against the backdrop of such a historic building, is an experience like no other. During Tattoo, an exciting sound and light projection appear on the ancient castle walls, making the experience all the more memorable.

The rich tradition

You might be curious about the origins of the word ‘tattoo’, considering we mostly associate it with permanent skin ink. The word originated from the Dutch phrase ‘doe den tap toe’, which means 'turn off the taps'. During the 17th century, the phrase was a call that came when bars were to close for the night, so that the soldiers would be sent home. The British Army took on the practice, and the regiment's drum corps would play it each night.

The surrounding city

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is one beautiful city. And heading to the Tattoo offers a special opportunity to see the city come alive during August, for Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world's largest cultural arts festival. Whether you're strolling the busy Royal Mile, seeing a show, or setting off on an escorted whiskey tour, you will certainly fall under Edinburgh’s spell. 

The international aspect

Every year, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo welcomes performers from all around the globe. Since the Tattoo first launched more than 70 years ago, around 50 countries have travelled to participate in the spectacular event. As you can imagine, this also means a large portion of the crowd - around 35% - have also travelled from far and wide to experience the Tattoo. Attending the Tattoo is not just a celebration of a rich, military tradition, but a melting pot of international cultures.

The charitable causes behind the Tattoo

Aside from celebrating tradition and culture, the Tattoo has another mission, too. “The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo's charitable purposes are at the heart of everything we do,” the Tattoo said in a statement. “We're extremely proud to support a number of military charities.” In 2019, the not-for-profit organisation allocated £1 million of its profits to 13 UK-based military charities and arts groups. It supports the RAF Benevolent Fund, the Army Benevolent Fund, the Soldiers Charity, and several others which work to aid people facing poverty, mental illness, unemployment, or disability.

Experience a magical holiday in Edinburgh, and witness the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo for yourself. Book with us today.

Serena is a writer based in London. Born in Malaysia and raised in Australia, she calls the UK home despite only recently acclimatising to the dearth of sunshine. Her writing has appeared in The Independent, Business Insider, South China Morning Post, i-D, Refinery29, Glamour, Vox, Metro, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and Cosmopolitan. She has also published a book of aerial photography: How Women See The World. Throughout her decade-long career, Serena has told the stories of Arctic explorers, human rights activists, award-winning chefs, refugees, and the UK’s last lighthouse keepers.

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