For scale, no show in Edinburgh can rival the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Literally hundreds of performers, both from Scotland and bands and outfits from abroad, gather under the dramatic backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.
The series of displays, which take place on the castle esplanade (an 18th century parade ground), combine breathtaking shows of military precision, often a battle re-enactment, military bands, traditional dancers, and a rousing finale of mass pipes and drums, topped by the lone piper playing from the castle battlements.
- 2015 Edinburgh Military Tattoo Review
- 2013 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo Review
- 2011 Edinburgh Military Tattoo Review
The "ultimate crowd-pleaser", as former Edinburgh Lord Provost George Grubb called the Tattoo, sells out each year long before its Summer performances, with armies of people coming to Edinburgh by bus and coach each night during the Festival.
The Edinburgh Tattoo introduced a £16 million pound new grand stand in 2011. The new stand has 8,700 seats, with a third more space per seat than the former grand stand, which had been in commission since 1972.
The Tattoo takes place throughout the week during its August run, with the fireworks finale punctuating the city evenings. The second show on Saturday sees the biggest fireworks display from the castle of each week.
The Tattoo has promised to return with a bang in 2022. It will continue to celebrate the history, heritage and colour of Scotland's global family over the course of the 100-minute programme, but will incorporate a new ethos of greater innovation and creativity that it calls "Performance in a New Light".
The Tattoo has formed a new lighting design partnership with Woodroffe Basset Design, which it says will allow newly appointed Creative Director Michael Braithwaite to produce "a more emotionally charged performance than ever before".
As well as a major home contingent, such as The Tattoo's own "house band" the Piper's Trail, Tattoo Dance Company, and Shetland fiddlers Hjaltibonhoga, the Tattoo's 1000 or so performers includes military bands and performers from across Europe, the Far East, Central and South America.
An essential component on the night is the rousing gathering of the Massed Pipes and Drums, among them The Royal Regiment of Scotland, and the Bands of Her Majesty's Royal Marines. The show's big bangs and fireworks display thunder across Edinburgh each night, particularly on Saturdays when the Tattoo holds an extended fireworks display.
The Tattoo traditionally draws to a close with the lone piper playing from the castle ramparts.
Edinburgh Tattoo times (5-27 August, 2022)
Monday - Friday: 9pm (except 26th August, which has perfs at 6.15pm & 9.30pm)
Saturday early show: 6.15pm
Saturday evening show: 9.30pm
Sunday: no performance
Edinburgh Tattoo tickets (website)
Ticket prices for 2022 TBC but previously tickets were £25 - £90 (prices depend on seat location, day of the week). There are also more expensive hospitality packages (costing £hundreds) available.
Tattoo 2022 tickets go on sale online with Tattoo ticket partner SecuTix and by telephone on 1 December 2021. Check Tattoo Office.
N.B. Some half-price Tattoo tickets for the preview show on the Thursday 11 August (when the media are recording the performance) on sale in July. The show is exactly the same as performed on other nights, with the exception that press photographers and television cameras are among some of the performers.
Covid-19 and the Edinburgh Tattoo
The year 2020 would have been the 70th Anniversary of the Tattoo. The show was dubbed "The Platinum Edition", and would celebrate the Tattoo's "enduring ability to link the Armed Forces with society and bring people together to celebrate the cultures and heritage of allies and friends".
It was due to commemorate the rich maritime heritage of the Royal Navy and tie into Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters. The Royal Navy, known as the Senior Service for being the eldest of the British Armed Forces, is the lead for 2020.
Of course, due to Covid-19, it was cancelled.
A year later, the conditions were still not ripe for such a large capacity event, even though restrictions had eased significantly.
The Tattoo announced: “Despite the sense of optimism around the UK’s emergence from the Pandemic and our huge enthusiasm to stage a performance this year, it is now clear that the financial risks we confront in delivering The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, at scale, on the Castle Esplanade in August are simply too great."