The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an annual series of performances, comprising the UK Armed Forces, Commonwealth and international military bands, a Tattoo dance company and various artistic performers. It is held during August, rain or shine, at the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade.
On August 26th, we attended the final performance of the 2017 Tattoo, which I consider is Edinburgh’s premier summer performance. With the inaugural show in 1950, the Tattoo has just completed the 68th continuous annual series of performances, with the last 18 years being completely sold out.
I specifically left the camera at home, so that I could enjoy the show live, and not through a camera view finder.
While in UK, I had one of those special birthdays ending in zero and we wanted to thank my dad for lending us his car. Therefore, my dad joined us, celebrating my birthday and a thank you. Our seating preference is the lower end of the Esplanade, facing the Castle, in a section classified as “Premium”. These sell out quickly, so I joined the “Friends of the Tattoo”, which provides an opportunity to purchase tickets about 3 days ahead of general sales. Sales opened at 10:00 (UK time), which is 02:00 in Vancouver, so I set the alarm and was up a few minutes early, accessing the website as soon as sales commenced. Didn’t get the front row of Premium seats, but did get the first 3 seats in row 2. They were brilliant seats.
Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar & Bobby’s Statue (Vacation in Britain)
Parking !!!!! never easy at the best of times, but impossible during the Tattoo, as they have no street parking anywhere around the Castle. Solution – my sister-in-law drove us to Edinburgh, dropping us at Greyfriars Bobby’s Pub, where we enjoyed dinner and a couple of refreshments, before walking about 1/3 mile to the Castle. A classic old pub built in 1722, it is named after Edinburgh’s most famous dog, select here for the amazing story of a policeman’s faithful dog – Bobby.
Massed Pipe Bands (Tattoo Website)
The annual Tattoo program changes every year, with different performers from around the globe. This year’s program included:
The Massed Pipes and Drums
The iconic sight and sounds of multiple pipe bands pouring out of the Castle onto the Esplanade, in full regalia, is a sight to raise anyone’s heart rate and stir the emotions. At least for me, the skirl of the pipes and beat of the drums is guaranteed to get the toes tapping and blood flowing. A great stirring start to the evening. The pipe bands vary every year, with this year comprising the following bands:
- 1st Battalion Scots Guards, which were formed in 1642
- Royal Highland Fusiliers 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland – formed in 1678
- 154th (Scottish) Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, formed 1937
- Combined Universities Officer Training Corps Pipes & Drums
- Pipers Trail – A group formed by the Tattoo, to accept individual pipers
- Australian Federal Police Pipes & Drums
- New South Wales Pipe Band
- Royal Caledonian Society of South Australia Pipes & Drums
- Wallace Pipes & Drums, Malta
- The Crossed Swords & Drums – international pipe band based in Germany
- The Scots School Albury Pipe Band – Australia
After pouring out of the castle entrance, the multiple bands formed up in lines across the esplanade, with the respective Pipe Major leading each band. A spectacular rousing start to the evening’s entertainment.
Pipe Major leading the massed bands (Edinburgh Spotlight)
The Indian Naval Band
Formed in 1945, the band comprises 50 musicians from various other Indian Bands. Joined by the Indian dance troupe, Teamwork Arts Dancers, their performance showcased the vibrant culture in India’s western ports.
Fanfare Band, 9th French Marine Infantry Brigade
This band features instruments that are not typically found in military bands, with some traditional Breton & Scottish instruments – bombards, bagpipes, side drums, etc. In addition to the main band, they created a number of smaller ensembles.
The Shetland Fiddlers & Viking Jarl Squad
With strong links to Scandanavia, the fiddlers performed with a Viking group.
Shetland Fiddlers & Viking Jarl Squad depicting a Viking invasion (Ryan McEwan)
Tattoo Dance Company
An offer from the Tattoo, to join the dance company, is highly sought by hundreds of highland dancers from around the world. The 50 dancers this year came from Scotland, Ireland, Canada, United States, Australia and New Zealand. All the dancers have attained the Premier standard and many have won Championship titles.
Tattoo Dance Company (Edinburgh Spotlight)
Japan Ground Self Defense Force Central Band
A wind ensemble that was formed in 1951, their main activities are performing concerts and national tours. They were accompanied by a female navy private, who was a very accomplished singer. She performed the Scottish song Annie Laurie.
Castle graphics – Mount Fuji (Edinburgh Spotlight)
United States Naval Forces Europe Band
Based in Naples, Italy since 1951, they perform all over Europe. Their performance at the Tattoo featured Dixieland, jazz.
Castle graphics during US Navy Band performance (Edinburgh Spotlight)
Ambush in the Glen
The Royal Highland Fusiliers 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland provided the music during a re-enactment of the 1745 Battle of Culloden, when the Goverment Redcoats defeated the Jacobite uprising.
Massed Pipes & Drums
The massed pipes & drums bands returned playing 2 Scottish favourites:
- Skye Boat Song, and
Massed Pipes & Drums (Edinburgh Spotlight)
Queen’s Colour Squadron, with RAF Regiment Band
This performance included an audio visual presentation displayed on the Castle walls. The premise being the Esplanade was transformed into the deck of UK’s newest super carrier – HMS Queen Elizabeth II
HMS Queen Elizabeth II displayed on Castle – (Dave Stewart Studio)
The Massed Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines
Formed in 1664, the Royal Marines provided the expected pomp and ceremony on the Esplanade.
Royal Marines Band (Edinburgh Spotlight)
Massed Military Bands and Massed Pipes & Drums
This precursor to the finale, consisted of the Massed Pipes & Drums accompanied by all the other military bands, with an impressive total of over 800 performers.
Massed Bands & Massed Pipes & Drums (Dave Stewart Studio)
Fireworks during finale (Dave Stewart Studio)
This involved the entire cast, including the children’s choir. The finale included:
- Extended fireworks
- Piper Trail, Tattoo Dance Company & Fiddlers – celebrate spirit of the Tattoo
- Guards of Honour – provided by Royal Navy
- National Anthem – God Save the Queen
- Auld Lang Syne
- Evening Hymn – Hallelujah
- Lone Piper on Castle Walls – Lochaber No More
The performance concluded with the Massed Pipes & Drums playing rousing renditions of:
- Scotland the Brave
- We’re No Awa’ To Bide Awa’
- The Black Bear
This brought to a conclusion a totally magnificent performance. If you are visiting Edinburgh during August, I highly recommend considering a visit to the Tattoo, but purchase tickets well in advance.