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Enjoying Edinburgh's Military Tattoo

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 2009
The Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 2009
Photo by Caroline Maybach

One of Edinburgh’s most popular events is the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. This is a concert of military bands from around the world. Edinburgh Castle hosts the Tattoo every August in its esplanade. 2010 makes the 60th year for the Tattoo.

The Tattoo brings together the best military bands, singers, and dancers from several different countries. Bagpipes, drums, dancers performing to jigs are just some of the entertainers you will see. In the early days of the Tattoo, the participants were mostly British regiments, but as the years went on more and more countries’ bands were invited to join in the festivities.

The Tattoo takes place in August each year, the month with the best weather in Scotland. (As proof, no Tattoo performance has ever been canceled.) Metal bleacher seats are set up on three sides of the esplanade, with the entrance to the castle open for the performers.

Sitting in the audience is exhilarating. One part of the event that brought chills to my spine and tears to my eyes was when a lone bagpiper stood on the battlements of the castle with only a spotlight on him as he played. The entire audience was silent and in darkness. It made me feel connected to each and every person there as well to the country itself.

For those interested in a bit of trivia, the word ‘tattoo’ has a charming origin. Back in the 17th and 18th centuries, innkeepers would shout ‘Doe den tap toe’ at closing time. ‘Toe’ was pronounced ‘too.’ The phrase literally translates to “turn off the taps.”

Each year around 217,000 people make the trek to Edinburgh to see the Tattoo. Seventy percent of each audience is from outside Scotland. Ticket prices range from 16-31 British pounds (roughly $23-$46). There are nightly performances (except for Sunday) and the Tattoo has sold out since 1998. To learn more about this spectacular event, visit


  • Brenda 5 years ago

    Great article! I had no idea on the word "tattoo", and being a fan of them, you'd think I'd know the origin.

  • Sylvia Day 5 years ago

    How interesting. I've never heard of this, and now I'm intrigued. Does this happen for the whole month of August, or just a week?


  • Chris Keach 5 years ago

    Sylvia, it happens all month.

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