September 23, 2014     Tori Cook

Get Your Royal Tattoo On – in Edinburgh!


I can already imagine the *shock* on your faces as you read this obscure blog title: Get Your Royal Tattoo On… in Edinburgh? What does this mean?! Is she encouraging travelers to get a tattoo of the royal family while traveling to Edinburgh? Not quite…

According to Tripadvisor, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is ranked the #1 attraction in Edinburgh with over 2,500 reviews rating this a 5-star experience. So what on earth is a military tattoo? The term tattoo refers to any musical performance or display of the armed forces and while it was originally a specific type of military music, it has now become a show, rather, of performers and theatrics.

When I traveled to Edinburgh this August, I decided to find out what all the Tripadvisor hype was about and attend my first tattoo. While booking my tickets, I imagined a parade of marching bands, one after the other marching through the castle’s esplanade. Sort of like the Macy’s Day Parade, right? Wrong-o!

We arrived approximately 30 minutes early and already there were hundreds of people in line to enter the castle. So many people that we blocked the Royal Mile entirely for any other passersby. After entering inside the castle we found our seats amongst thousands and prepared for the show.

First up was your traditional Scottish marching band complete with bagpipes and all, marching slowly towards the center of the esplanade. Just as I was starting to worry that I might have gotten myself into a torturous bagpipe show for the next two hours, suddenly the music became upbeat and dancers started flowing in from every entrance imaginable. The whole esplanade then became a platform for different forms of dancing and marching orders that were quite enjoyable to watch. As the band left, I felt myself getting excited for what was to come, though I could not have prepared myself for what actually happened next.

The next show was a complete change in scenery. A tribal group took the stage and started rhythmically beating large drums. Individual dancers, one at a time, took the stage and pulsed to the beat keeping the focus on each dancer as the presented their story. Then, the tribal singers started an echo call, starting the line while the chorus repeated. It went on like this until all of the dancers and all of the musicians were on stage performing for us.

The night continued like this with different acts throughout the night. There was an all strings group, a ballerina dancer, more native/tribal groups, traditional groups from all over the world, one after the other performing for the audience. The entire castle was a performance! Not only were we watching the performers and listening to the music, but the light crew even projected displays on the castle walls and shot off fireworks into the night.

The final performance featured every single performer on stage performing a medley of music. From Broadway songs to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (yes, dance moves included) to traditional Scottish music, this was probably the best performance of the night and sent the crowd home with smiles on their faces.

While the name “Royal Military Tattoo” may sound, at first, a little uninspiring… it’s actually a fantastic show filled with a variety of intriguing performances in a truly wonderful setting. If you are ever in Edinburgh during the Royal Tattoo (performed nightly in August), I highly recommend showing up to a performance. You won’t regret it!

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