Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo: five things you might not know

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle
The first Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was in 1950. Credit: The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Scotland’s military tattoo is welcoming 1,200 performers from across the globe, including more than 250 piers and drummers, five UK military bands and a performance team from Japan 

Every year the British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and various international military bands and artistic performance teams take part in a military tattoo at Edinburgh Castle, as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

This year’s theme is Splash of Tartan, connecting everyone with a link to Scotland – whether they have family ties, friends there or just a passion for the country. Visitors are even encouraged to dress in tartan, from ‘troosers’ and kilts to shawls and bonnets.

The Tattoo is welcoming more than 1,200 performers across the globe this year. Performers include 250 pipers and drummers, five UK military bands and a team from Japan. Celebrating Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, it will also host more than 3,000 men and women from 57 clans across the event. The UK’s maritime heritage will also be a core theme of the programme.

But how much do you know about the Tattoo?

1 The word tattoo comes from the early 17th-century Dutch phrase ‘doe den tap toe’, meaning turn off the tap’. Drummers or trumpeters sounded this signal to tell innkeepers near military garrisons to stop serving beer so that soldiers would return to their barracks.

The first official Edinburgh Military Tattoo was held in 1950, attracting 6,000 visitors. Since the 1970s, more than 200,000 people have watched the Tattoo live each year

3 Performances take place every weekday evening and twice on Saturdays. Despite (occasional) driving rain and fierce Scottish winds, it has never been cancelled. There are fireworks on the second Saturday night performance

4 The event became the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 2010 after Her Majesty the Queen awarded the Royal title to honour its 60th birthday. The Princess Royal has been the event’s patron since 2014

5 The Tattoo is televised in 30 countries. About 100 million people watch it worldwide

The event takes place between 4-26 August 2017

Read: Scotland’s greatest castles