The Spectacular Edinburgh Military Tattoo!

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place every year in August and is a real crowd pleaser in terms of its spectacle and the rousing music featured in the ceremonial displays. Visitors to Edinburgh relish the chance to view the Tattoo in all its glory, while the ceremonial traditions along with fabulous traditional music portrayed in the Tattoo is truly unforgettable. Let’s take a look at the Tattoo’s origins plus what we can expect to witness when watching this extravaganza!

The History of the Tattoo

So, what is a tattoo when we speak of it in this context? The phrase derives from the seventeenth century when inn owners used to march local soldiers from their licensed premises telling them to go back to their barracks. The actual words used back then were “doe den tap toe” meaning close the tap alluding to the beer tap. This progressed into a ceremony whereby the British would play their pipes and drums to signal to inn keepers to close their hostelries and send the soldiers packing.

The first official military tattoo to take place in Edinburgh was back in 1950 in front of Edinburgh’s historic castle. There were around six thousand spectators present who sat on wooden benches. Today literally hundreds of thousands of visitors pour into the city to witness the tattoo which is presented over a number of evenings and weekends in August coinciding with the Edinburgh Arts Festival.

The Tattoo Today

Nowadays the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is seen by millions of people worldwide as it is televised in over thirty countries around the globe. The tattoo raises money for lots of charities both civilian and military along with boosting the Edinburgh coffers by millions of pounds every year. This celebration of military music, pageantry and dance has evolved over the decades and now bands from abroad are invited every year in order to present their own unique take on the event.

The Spectacle


Fireworks Over Edinburgh Castle

Anyone that has ever witnessed the Edinburgh Military Tattoo will agree that this has to be one of the most spectacular events on the yearly military calendar. Edinburgh Castle is itself a spectacular building that looks sensational when floodlit in the hours of darkness. What better place is there for the tattoo to be staged? This historic backdrop is simply perfect and fitting for the occasion. Hundreds of performers in the shape of dancers, drummers, pipers, musicians and singers gather at the foot of the castle to put on this amazing spectacle.

Many visitors find witnessing the wonderful British and Commonwealth piped and military bands marching and playing their music as they pass through Edinburgh Castle gates an emotional experience. The battle tunes played by the bands stir up a sense of occasion and patriotism that only these military musicians can do, while performers from abroad add their own sense of pride and musical interpretation that adds diversity to the traditional displays.

Finally to complete a fantastic evening of colourful pomp and ceremony visitors witness a lone piper standing high on the castle ramparts playing an eerie lament in full spotlight. Following all the rabble rousing tunes this haunting spectacle seems to sum up just what the tattoo is all about. A huge fireworks display signals the end of the proceedings along with a military fly past, while spectators end the evening with an emotional delivery of the old favourite Auld Lang Syne.

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2016

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo is over for another year but visitors may wish to book their tickets in advance for 2016? Next year the tattoo will be held from 5th August through to the 27th August.

Ways to Book

  • » Online bookings for 2016 may be done from 1st December 2015 with a maximum of eight tickets per home available to buy in advance.
  • » Telephone bookings are offered from 1st December 2015 payable by debit or credit card.Tele +44 (0) 131 225 1188
  • » Visitors may book in person at the Tattoo Ticket Sales Office on Market Street Edinburgh from December 7th 2015. The office opens Monday to Friday 10am to 4.30pm.
  • » A postal ticket order form is available at the official website.