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What is the Edinburgh Tattoo? Your guide Edinburgh’s finest event!

Edinburgh Tattoo

The Edinburgh Tattoo – what do you need to know about it? What is it? Where does it come from? Well, first of all, it isn’t a type of body art you need to prove that you come from this fine city! It’s a military performance steeped in history. The Edinburgh Tattoo is the jewel in the crown of the Edinburgh Festivals and a performance you’ll never forget.

What is the Edinburgh Tattoo?

Edinburgh Tattoo

The Edinburgh Tattoo is the biggest event during the Edinburgh Festival

The word “Tattoo,” is derived from “Doe den tap toe”, or just “tap toe” (“toe” is pronounced “too”), the Dutch for ‘last orders’. Translated literally, it means “close the (beer) tap”. The term “tap-toe” was first encountered by the British Army when stationed in Flanders during the War of the Austrian Succession.

The British adopted the practice and it became a signal, played by a regiment’s Corps of Drums or Pipes and Drums each night to tavern owners to turn off the taps of their ale kegs so that the soldiers would retire to their billeted lodgings at a reasonable hour. With the establishment of modern barracks and full military bands later in the 18th century, the term Tattoo was used to describe not only the last duty call of the day, but also a ceremonial form of evening entertainment performed by military musicians

How did the Edinburgh Tattoo begin?

The first official Edinburgh Military Tattoo began in 1950 with just eight items in the programme. It drew some 6000 spectators seated in simple bench and scaffold structures around the north, south and east sides of the Edinburgh Castle esplanade. In 1952, the capacity of the stands was increased to accommodate a nightly audience of 7,700, allowing 160,000 to watch live performances each year.

Edinburgh Tattoo

The Edinburgh Tattoo attracts a global audience

Now the annual audience of the Edinburgh Tattoo is around 220,000 with around 100 million people watching the Tattoo each year on international television. Amazingly, 70 per cent of each audience is from out-with Scotland. Half of these are from overseas. The Edinburgh Tattoo has become an amazing draw for people from all over the world to watch and enjoy this jaw-dropping performance!

The Lone Piper

Edinburgh Tattoo

The Lone Piper ends the Edinburgh Tattoo

The Lone Piper is one of the most iconic figures in the Edinburgh Tattoo. His performance marks the end of the show, when he plays a lament from atop the Edinburgh Castle’s ramparts. The lights drop and the Lone Piper stands floodlit as he plays the final tune. It is a serious goosebump moment.

International visitors

Edinburgh Tattoo

The Edinburgh Tattoo invites international performers and military bands to join in the world-class event.

International military regiments and even African tribes have performed at the Tattoo over the years. The first regiment from outside the UK to take part was the Band of the Royal Netherlands Grenadiers in 1952.

So far, over 30 countries from nearly all continents have been represented at the Tattoo. Popular visiting performers include the Swiss Top Secret Drum Corps, who performed at the 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2012 Tattoos and were the first non-military drum corps to participate.

The Band and Drill team of His Majesty The King’s Guard of the Norwegian Army has also performed at the Tattoo on eight previous occasions since 1961, adopting Nils Olav, a penguin at Edinburgh Zoo, as their regimental mascot in 1972. Yes – a penguin. There is even a statue commemorating him at the Zoo!

Edinburgh Tattoo essentials

Edinburgh Tattoo

The Edinburgh Tattoo can be wonderful but a few essentials can make it magical

There are a few little things that can make your Edinburgh Tattoo experience much, much more enjoyable:

Book early – The Tattoo has been a regular sell-out for the past 15 years.

Bring waterproofs – Even if the weather looks good outside, sod’s law dictates you’ll get caught by a drizzle or a full-on downpour later on.

Earplugs. The Tattoo is very loud. It’s not a Metallica concert, granted, but all the same, you probably don’t want the skirl of the bagpipes ringing in your ears three days after the event.

The Spirit of the Tattoo – an interactive exhibition telling the story and mythology surrounding the Tattoo, is an ideal way to further acquaint yourself with the event’s history.

Want a flavour of the Edinburgh Tattoo?

Want to see the Edinburgh Tattoo?

The Tattoo in 2015 will take place over the period 7-29 August with performances on Monday to Friday at 9.00pm and on Saturday at 7.30pm and 10.30pm. There is no performance on Sunday. 

Visit  www.edintattoo.co.uk to find out more and book tickets for this fantastic performance!

Find the perfect home from home for the Edinburgh Tattoo!

Dickins has apartments across Edinburgh in all the places you want to be! Search our apartments and find the perfect place for your Edinburgh Tattoo experience!

Top Secret Drum Corps Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2009

See you at the Edinburgh Tattoo!

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