Welcome to another (very) delayed post! It’s the usual story, life gets in the way of recording it. But here goes:
Back in 2019 I made plans to travel to Edinburgh to see the Tattoo with Wendy. She’s always wanted to see it and I’m a sucker for bagpipe music. Tickets were bought and plans finalized and, like so many things over the course of 2020 and 2021, we suffered through two cancellations. Finally, summer 2022 arrived with a general ‘to hell with it’ attitude. All of Britain is done with lockdowns, masks, cancellations, and distancing. So the marching bands assembled and the Tattoo was on!
First, a bit of trivia. A ‘tattoo’ in this context has nothing to do with stabbing ink into someone’s skin. It’s the result of an early Dutch word ‘taptoe’ meaning, literally, ‘cask shut’. The police would visit the pubs to shut them down for the night. Later, the word entered the English language during the English Civil War when a drummer would ‘beat a tattoo’ to tell the men to stop drinking and return to their quarters. It has become a military event of great entertainment value, with primarily marching pipe and drum bands.
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has been performed on the Esplanade of the castle since 1950, increasing in size and ceremony almost every year. Many (like Wendy), wait a lifetime to see it in person. Needless to say, we were excited.
We arrived in Edinburgh and went right to our accommodation; dorm rooms at the University. They are rented out to tourists in the summer, and it is a clean and inexpensive place to stay. Perhaps a bit noisy as many of the performers were staying there and were somewhat boisterous when they arrived back after the show and the pub but mostly just fine…
Of course, it was raining upon our arrival. England hadn’t seen rain in weeks, but Scotland can always be counted on! History, along with iconic, monumental architecture could be seen everywhere. We spent the first few days exploring, in particular a day at the National Museum. Honestly, one of the best, most interesting museums I’ve ever been in. Every turn was a new surprise, some amazing collection or display. Well worth a full day!
Something that was of interest to me given my background and ‘hobby’ was the Royal Yacht Britannia. She’s at a permanent mooring in north Edinburgh, having been decommissioned in 1997. Built in Scotland and launched in 1953 she’s of similar vintage to the first ships I sailed on (they were built in 1967) and much of it looked very familiar. Well, the operations end of it did at least. The accommodation areas were decidedly more luxurious, although not nearly as much as you would imagine. Spacious and comfortable is a better description, rather than luxurious.
Hop-on, hop-off open-top tour buses are a great way to see a city, once the rain stops. We saw many of Edinburgh’s sights while hearing live descriptions and stories. Lots of fun…
Another nearly full day was spent touring the famous Edinburgh Castle. It dominates the city, an imposing pile of stone atop an ancient volcanic outcropping. The castle is one of the oldest defensive fortifications in Scotland; Castle Rock, upon which is built, has been occupied since at least the early Iron Age (perhaps the Bronze Age), while being home to a Royal castle since at least the reign of Dave I in the 12th century. It was a royal residence up until 1633, thereafter principally used as military barracks. It has been under siege 26 times in it’s 1100 year history, so it’s one of the most attacked castles in the world. It was an amazing experience touring it, even though very busy.
Finally the big day arrived. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The show we had been planning for and waiting to see for nearly three years. The first official Tattoo was in 1950, the the title ‘Royal’ being bestowed in 2010 as a celebration of it’s 60 years of existence. Temporary stands are erected each summer, seating 8,800 people. The show itself goes every weekday evening (and twice on Saturday) throughout August and tickets have sold out every year since 1998 (excepting only 2020 and 2021, for obvious reasons). Anyway, it was as spectacular as expected, truly the highlight of our visit to Edinburgh.
Here are some videos of selected parts of the show. Very sorry for the poor quality, I was trying to watch it at the same time!
The Tattoo was fun, historic, and enthralling. All too soon it was heading back to England and the boat…