Known officially as the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. It is performed each year on the esplanade of the Edinburgh Castle in August, as part of the Edinburgh Festival. Traditionally the bands performing are from the British Armed Forces as well as the Commonwealth nations however each year other nations military bands are also allowed to perform also.
What’s in a name
The term “tattoo” derives from a 17th century Dutch phrase “doe den tap toe” which translates to be “turn of the tap’. It was played by a regiment drum corps each night as a signal to tavern owners to turn off the taps on their beer kegs so the soldiers could return to their barracks. The term would later be adopted as the ceremonial form of evening entertainment performed by military bands.
The first military tattoo to take place in Edinburgh, which was open to the public, took place on the Ross Bandstand in the Princes Street Gardens in 1949. The following year the first official Edinburgh Military Tattoo took place in the Castle Esplanade and drew a crowd of 6000 spectators. Since then the stands have gradually increased in capacity to today’s 8600. In 2011, new stands were purchased at a cost of £16 million and although they didn’t increase the capacity, they did cut the time taken to erect and dismantle them in half. Today it takes 4 weeks to prepare the esplanade for the Tattoo and a further 4 weeks to dismantle it.
The tattoo performances take place every week day evening with two shows being performed on Saturday. The Tattoo traditionally runs for the three weeks in August and has never been cancelled due to inclement weather, and incredible statistic considering Scottish weather. Although each performance finishes with a sound and light show on the castle façade, a firework display always follows the end of the second performance on Saturday evening.
Each year the tattoo is televised to 30 countries which creates a worldwide audience of over 100 million people. The city if Edinburgh also benefits greatly from the performances with an estimated £90 million being generated for the Edinburgh economy in the 3 weeks of the Tattoo .
For anyone planning a trip to Edinburgh in the summer, a visit to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a must.