4 years, 8 months ago
This year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place on Edinburgh Castle Esplanade from August 7th to 29th. It’s one of the highlights of the annual Edinburgh Festival and last year’s event was attended by over 200,000 visitors.
If you haven’t seen the Tattoo don’t be keen to dismiss it as mere military music. This is sheer spectacle performed with faultless precision, glorious noise and the showmanship you normally associate with the likes of Cirque du Soleil. But in truth, the Tattoo could buy and sell the famous Cirque. It’s been around since 1952, is broadcast around the world, tours internationally and across its history has donated over £50 million to charity.
Regimental bands from every country have performed at the Tattoo over the past six decades. And there’s a different theme every year, this year it’s ‘East Meets West’. But the main attraction is always the massed might of the British Armed Forces’ pipes and drums. Whether the lead is taken by the Army, Royal Navy, Marines or Air Force, the effect is stunning and incredibly rousing. And it’s matched only by the sensational, no holds barred, grand finale.
A lone piper playing The Lament is dramatically floodlit on the immense castle battlements. The regimental bands stand silent and waiting on the Esplanade. A last heart rending note sounds, the castle gates open, drums roll and one by one the bands march out and down the Royal Mile to the insanely patriotic battle cry of Scotland the Brave. We can almost guarantee this sight is enough to make you get up first thing next morning and go hunt down some Scottish ancestry – or at least get measured for a kilt.
As we said, the Tattoo tours and you can see it on YouTube any time, but it’s not the same as sitting hushed and amazed at the heart ancient Edinburgh Castle on a starlit summer evening. Not even close. If you’re thinking of going, you shouldn’t ponder too long. Tickets for the Tattoo sell faster than anything else at the Edinburgh Festival.
For a lot of regular festival goers, the Fringe is what it’s all about. It’s one of the biggest and most adventurous art, entertainment and performance platforms in the world and there is nothing like it anywhere. You’ll see things at the Fringe you won’t see anywhere else because it costs next to nothing to perform here. Seasoned professionals love the chance to be creative and get real. And audiences are privileged beyond reason because all of Edinburgh is basically a stage and there’s entertainment everywhere from pubs and clubs to streets and gardens.
Now in its 12th year, Free Fringe runs a week longer than the Festival itself and gives away performance for hundreds and hundreds of events all over the city. It’s a great way to cram more into your visit, mix up your experience and experiment a bit. And free doesn’t mean dreadful. Last year alone, almost 200 Free Fringe shows were given 4 and 5 star reviews and several performers bagged prestigious Festival awards. The first five days of Free Fringe 2015 includes their first ever Children’s Festival.
This almost entirely free art festival runs at the same time as the Edinburgh International Festival. With 45 city-wide venues from major galleries to new space it’s an incredible opportunity to see masses of contemporary international art in a relatively compact area. Traditional art, children’s workshops, talks, lectures and performance are all part of the extensive programme too. And if you’ve never visited Scotland’s capital before, the Art Festival is a great way to get to know it from a non-tourist viewpoint – sometimes tricky in famously postcard pretty Edinburgh.
If you have your eyes set on Edinburgh for this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, it runs from 7th August to 31st August and some events like the Princes Garden Fireworks on the last night and, of course, the Tattoo do sell out. Big ticket shows can get expensive so look at dress rehearsal and afternoon performances. And remember, the city’s filled with free publicity and everyone’s handing out flyers. So walk about, see gorgeous Edinburgh itself and find out what’s happening from source.