Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

What would happen, they all cried, to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo once Scotland left the union?

Well fortunately the vote for independence was “No” and it hasn’t become an issue. Of course it is doubtful that a little thing like the breaking up of a 300 year old union would have much effect on this extravagant display of marching bands and dancing gals!

Since 1950 tourists and locals alike have been making their way to Edinburgh’s majestic city centre castle, at the top end of the Royal Mile, just beyond the Whisky Museum, to marvel at the visual and aural feast that awaited them.

Of course, over the years the content of the tattoo has changed. Some alterations have been due to artistic reasons, others down to practicality. The eagerly awaited appearance of one of the world’s most sensational percussion groups, Switzerland’s Top Secret Drum Corps, this year (2015 Tattoo and hotel accommodation packages are available at whilst no doubt partially due to their outstanding performances around the world, may also owe a lot to the paucity of home-grown regimental bands as, since 1996, only staff- and corps- bands have been retained in the British Army.

But the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo would not be the same without the stirring sound of the massed pipes and drums and this year this spectacle is provided in part by the Royal Air Force, as they  celebrate  the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Guests to the tattoo will enjoy the  RAF Pipes and Drums, the RAF Squadronaires together with the Queen’s Colour Squadron and the RAF Massed Bands embracing representatives from The Central Band of the Royal Air Force, The Band of The Royal Air Force College and The Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment in company with The Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland – over 120 musicians drawn from across the UK!

Add to that the 70-piece Citadel Regimental Band and Pipes from the United States and the Crossed Swords Pipe Band from Berlin and you start to get an idea of the huge scale of what is store even before we get to the legions of home-grown and visiting dance troupes PLUS a special contingent from the East in a special “East meets West” celebration!

So with all that on offer, of course you have decided to go along! But what should you expect?

  • Cold! Although the Tattoo takes place in August it is also late at night on an exposed hill in Scotland. Hats, gloves, blankets, coats and thick socks are the order of the day.
  • Hills! The castle is on top of a hill surrounded by cobbles. It is well known that one of the reasons the English lost at the Battle of Bannockburn was that their English high heels and flip flops were no match for Scottish cobblestone. Don’t make the same mistake as Edward II of England: Trainers or walking boots only when visiting Scottish castles!
  • Queues! Edinburgh Castle’s defensive qualities include very few doors! Having said that the organisers run the whole operation of getting us all in and out of the castle like a military campaign (funny that!) so waiting is not too bad.
  • Parking: don’t expect to park for free in the surrounding roads. Either expect a long walk (featuring hills and cobbles) or to cough up for car parking
  • Arrive Early: Castles have always been best taken after a siege (or in our case dinner) so get there early, enjoy a meal and a stroll to take in the atmosphere before you taking your seats.

Lastly, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place at the same time of year as the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe, The Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Edinburgh Art Festival. This means that Edinburgh is very, very busy which, in some ways, is BRILLIANT, but in others can be quite challenging.

Expect accommodation to be expensive and bars and restaurants to be busy, but expect the welcome to be friendly and honest. Don’t expect to enjoy a quite city break during August in Edinburgh. Whether you like it or not, your time in Edinburgh will be hectic, joyous, memorable and one that you will want to repeat as soon as possible.


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