Inside the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

A look at Scotland's capital city and largest, best-selling event.

Every year, travelers flock to Edinburgh, Scotland, to soak in the cultural and historical significance of this beautiful city. While Edinburgh on its own is on many a bucket list, every year thousands plan to enhance their Scotland experience by visiting during The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, held at Edinburgh Castle. The event is world-renowned for its music, dance and grand displays, and guests can expect a global showcase unlike any other.

Starting as a humble event, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has come a long way to be the world-famous exhibition we know today. Beginning in 1949, the event started as a musical drama piece titled ”Something About a Solider” held in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens. Because of the success of the production, the following year Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir Andrew Murray, asked that a military show be created for the International Festival with the new name, “Edinburgh Tattoo.”

Now dubbed The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the event brings guests from all over the world, with more than 8,000 in attendance on the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade every night of the event. The Tattoo has sold out for 22 consecutive seasons (except for 2020 and 2021).

The 2022 Tattoo was a highly anticipated year after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tracy Tester of West Sussex, United Kingdom, visited Edinburgh and attended the Tattoo with her husband. “It was mesmerizing – the whole show, the bands, costumes, performers, music, everything. I loved the Scottish Highland Dance Group,” she said. “They were fantastic.”

When asked about travel tips and tricks, Tester had plenty of advice. “Wrap up. It’s all seating outside and a lot of people take a blanket with them,” she said. “We were lucky it didn’t rain.” The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is known to have never been canceled because of weather, despite inclement circumstances – so be prepared.

Tester also talked about the efficiencies of the event. While having to queue, the event production is about getting everyone in and out of the event as quickly and safely as possible and accommodating thousands of eager spectators daily. The efficiencies put in place are an especially high priority during the Saturday evening events, which include an incredible fireworks display that Tester and her husband observed. The event and fireworks last around 90 minutes.

Tester mentioned that guests could expect plenty of food and drink stalls and, much to everyone’s relief, bathrooms as well.

She also recommended plenty of other things to do outside of the spectacular event. Tester enjoyed the city of Edinburgh, citing the beauty and uniqueness of the architecture and the charms of Princes Street with its many cafes, shops and pubs serving excellent food.

She advised while visiting during the Tattoo to book all tours well in advance or risk missing out. Tours of the Edinburgh Castle or Edinburgh Dungeons are sure to help you get your fill of Scottish history. Tester found herself under the Royal Mile to get a view of how Scots lived before the Royal Mile was built atop it. One of her favorite experiences was enjoying a traditional cream tea aboard the Royal Britannia, which was once Queen Elizabeth II’s ship.

Traveling to Scotland and attending The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an experience unlike any other, which is a sentiment Tester happily agrees with. “It is a great experience, and I would happily go again.”

Interested in attending the 2023 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo? Join Journey Manager Eric Wertz for his Best of Ireland and Scotland tour.

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