The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Note this blog contains various links to You Tube
Our stay in Scotland has been fabulous so far and it has more than exceeded our expectations. The scenery of the beach community of North Berwick alone was enough to make the time we’ve spent here worth it, but our trip to the Military Tattoo was the cherry on top.
Back in March while housesitting in Australia, we were discussing our future plans with the couple whose home we were watching at the time. When they heard we’d be in the Edinburgh area in August they told us all about this great event. Later that night via You Tube we saw first-hand what an experience it could be and booked our tickets immediately. The Tattoo runs annually, every August for three weeks, but it sells out quickly so I’d advise anyone who’s interested to buy tickets early (starting at approx. £25). If you’re not familiar with what the Tattoo is, it’s an amazing night of entertainment highlighted by marching bands, hundreds of musicians, dancers and military competitions. The concept has expanded from the original days of drummers marching through the streets summoning soldiers to return to their quarters from the taverns and inns. A drumbeat signaling innkeepers to “doe den tap toe” or “turn off the taps” was shortened and anglicized to “tattoo.”
We took the train for 30 minutes from North Berwick to Waverly station in Edinburgh, which is located about 10 minutes’ walking distance from the famous castle grounds where the Tattoo is held. This area of Edinburgh is so picturesque; old architecture, cobblestone streets, taverns, pubs, just like Disney would make it, but this is the original! We stopped for some food and drinks and met a nice couple vacationing from the US, Missouri actually.
They were disappointed they hadn’t bought tickets in advance because it was, as advertised, sold out. But luckily for us they did give us some great info on other areas to check out in Edinburgh. Our after dinner walk up to the castle was very crowded, and after following the herd through various small laneways we made it to the area known as the Royal Mile. It then became more than very crowded, the street was packed with people; sidewalks and road included. Everyone was headed in one direction so it moved reasonably well up to the castle itself where various queues formed to get inside. Security was everywhere, but very courteous.
Once inside, we could see it was going to be a big show.The stands are horseshoe-shaped and the backdrop for the show is the Edinburgh Castle. Our seats were very high, and the long climb to the second last row was tedious, but we saw that this part was covered and rain was forecasted.
After a few announcements and audience participation acknowledging where everyone was from, the show started on time, exactly at 9pm. The next 100 minutes flew by as performance after performance was so well done that even the rain showers that did come couldn’t spoil the evening, but again we were covered way up in row EE! Military acts from Japan, India, Norway, USA, France, and of course Great Britain all performed brilliantly. Interspersed with these performances of drum, brass, and bagpipes were Gaelic dancers, an Outlander tribute, a children’s choir, and a lightshow with fireworks that entertained us all. The second last act had all the groups on the parade ground performing together, highlighted by the crowd singing along to God Save the Queen, Auld Lang Syne, and Hallelujah. The finale was a lone piper, standing high atop the castle rampart playing while not another sound could be heard, it was so peaceful and moving. Times like that make you reflect on everything you have and how great life really is. As I said the time flew by and it was time to exit, we had a very enjoyable experience.
Exiting turned out to be a not so easy task, as the descent was at a snails pace. Unfortunately for us we had to catch a train, the last one back to North Berwick and we’d be cutting it close. So sadly there was no time for pictures. Those same streets that were crowded before, were now beyond crowded. The quaintness of “ye olde tyme” living wasn’t helping our cause. As we used our best zigzagging skills we managed to get back to the station… about two minutes late! Our backup plan was to take the bus back, but unfortunately we couldn’t find the location of the stop until the bus had also left. Note to self…plan better, plan better, plan better. After trying in vain to communicate with various Scottish citizens, police, and train personnel we finally resolved that our only option was a taxi, a £70 taxi ($120 Cdn), non-negotiable! This was not the way we wanted our great evening to end, but travelling isn’t always perfect. We did manage to get home to the two dogs who were eagerly waiting for us, albeit about an hour later than anticipated.
Other than the travel fiasco coming home, it was truly a great event to attend. There wasn’t one moment of the performance that I would criticize or omit, a truly spectacular evening at the Edinburgh Castle. In fact we loved Edinburg so much we’ve changed our plans and are staying there a few days between housesits to absorb more of it. This trip has given Linda, being of Scottish descent, an opportunity to get back to her roots and bring me along for the ride. Hopefully the trains and buses will treat us more kindly; but then again this time we’ll plan better, plan better, plan better.
Linda & Mark