The Visitor Experience
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is the most spectacular show in the world, enjoyed by an international television audience of 100 million. There is, however, no substitute for being there in person as part of the 217,000-strong audience over its three-week season on the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle who don't simply watch the show but become a part of it.
In the glowering twilight, Edinburgh Castle slumbers, resting, waiting for nightfall and for the footlights that will transform it into a dazzling stage set for the world's most spectacular show. Down Castlehill, along the Lawnmarket, around the cathedral church of St Giles, through the closes of the Royal Mile and the narrow streets whose setts ring with history, people gather in the dusk of a late summer evening.
Turning their faces to the great castle rock, where ancient clans first settled the area, which was to become the capital of Scotland and where now stands Edinburgh's mighty fortress, they join a crowd that will soon be an audience, rapt with enthusiasm for the unique spectacle that is the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Climbing the final rise towards the Castle Esplanade, walking companionably together, eight and ten abreast, eager old hands who come every year but never lose the thrill of a Tattoo ahead, and new folk, many on holiday from other proud nations a world away, who are about to witness the show they will never forget...
Settling into their seats, the fresh clear air exhilarating, the sky above the Castle deepening first to heather-colours of lilac and purple before darkness slips down and the floodlit castle draws all eyes.
The commentator - the Voice of the Castle - brings the audience together, cheering individually for their countries but united in an international fraternity.
French shake hands with English, Japanese nod smilingly to Swedish neighbours, native Scots welcome Italians. The Tattoo is family now.
A hush falls and darkness deepens, the great oak gates of the Castle sweep open and the swell of the pipes and drums cracks through the night sky. As the massed bands march out in their hundreds across the drawbridge, flanked by effigies of William Wallace and Robert The Bruce, emotions run high: this matchless spectacle unfailingly enthrals, symbolising the Scotland that everyone holds dear in their heart.
The tunes are echoes of a glorious and often tragic past, of freedom and glory and of suffering and loss ... 'The Garb of Old Gaul' and The Skye Boat Song' and the rousing quick marches, 'Dumbarton's Drums' and 'All the Blue Bonnets are over the Border'.
Every Edinburgh Tattoo begins with this vivid and intensely emotional display, and may it always be so. For these are Scotland's finest fighting men (pipers and drummers are soldiers first, musicians second) playing the stirring tunes that over centuries have given courage and inspiration on battlefields in every corner of the globe. Lest we forget, we have our pipes and drums.
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