Since 1950, the forecourt of Edinburgh Castle has hosted the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Set up to raise money for charity, the Tattoo began with eight items on the programme; this year it will run for three weeks during August, with hundreds of performers representing four continents. The Tattoo is all about military pipe and drum bands, and their strong traditional sounds send a shiver down the spine when heard against the awesome sight of Edinburgh Castle perched on top of its craggy rock. Years of history seem to swirl around with the music. It doesn’t hurt that the band’s wear impressive dress uniforms – kilts galore!
This year’s bands include Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, and the Massed Pipes and Drums. For added flavor, there’s the South African Naval Band, and a Dutch mounted bicycle band. And of course, there are highland dancers. Every year to finish the Tattoo, a Lone Piper stands on the ramparts of the castle and plays bagpipes; finally, the weirdest musical instrument in the world makes sense when you hear those notes carry across Edinburgh. Then the bands march away to the traditional pipe tune The Black Bear. This is Scotland as we imagine it: castles, bagpipes, men in kilts.
The Tattoo is always sold out so if you want to go, book tickets soon – there may still be some left as this is the first year of the massive new grand stand, increasing seating. Or be one of the hundreds of thousands around the world who watch it on television. And if you were wondering about that name, Tattoo comes from the 17th century Low Countries cry for closing time at the pub: ‘Doe den tap toe’ (‘Turn off the taps’).