Scottish Royal Military Tattoo – iconic and spectacular

(VOVworld) – Each year, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in the capital of Scotland attracts thousands of visitors to enjoy the talents of musicians and performers in spectacular cultural troupes. The Tattoo, accompanied by iconic Scottish bagpipes and drums, has been the pride of Scottish people for years. Let’s hear more from Peter Yarrow, a Scottish teacher working in Hanoi.

Q: Hello Peter Yarrow. Welcome to VOV24/7’s Culture Rendezvous. Can you tell us a little about the Royal Military Tattoo, one of the most famous events in Edinburgh?

A: The Royal Military Tattoo is held at Edinburgh castle during summer months. It goes on for about 6 or 7 weeks each year during the summer months. Edinburgh is famous for a very large international music and art festivals called the Edinburgh festival. And the Tattoo forms part of the Edinburgh festival each year. If people have a little look online at Edinburgh castle, esplanade, or Edinburgh Military Tattoo, they will see this large area near the castle where the bands and soldiers march to music in front of a crowd.  

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The Royal Air Force in 2015 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (Photo:

Q: How long has it been taking place?

A: Certainly many decades, it’s been going for a long time. Its origins come from the marching and music they play, and in the evening when the soldiers have to come back to their barracks at the end of the day. This is now turned into an evening event on the esplanade of the castle in Edinburgh. It’s a wonderful location. As it gets dark, the bands and pipes and drums are some of the major British army regiments, as well as visiting regiments, come and make a display of the music and marching skills on the esplanade in front of the crowd of many thousands of people.

Q: Wow, that’s fantastic. Who are the performers?

A: Normally it’s from the British army and British air force. Some of the members of the air force and the army are specialists in music, so they are soldiers first, but they are musicians second. These soldiers and airmen form marching bands of maybe 60 people. They play music at the same time using bagpipes and drums, and sometimes some wind instruments. Ah what they are mainly doing is they are marching in straight lines. But of course they have to turn round after 20 seconds. And it’s always impressive to me that these soldiers and air men who are in the band can do the marching steps which are very complicated. At the same time they play all the music while they march. It’s very impressive sight.

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Yin and Yang, 2015 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (Photo:

Q: So the Tattoo is mostly marching?

A: The Tattoo is not just marching and music, sometimes they would bring soldiers on horses and soldiers on motorbikes. On the occasion, the royal Canadian will come across from Canada. It’s part of the tattoo. It’s an international event, not just a British event. It’s not seen as a military occasion, it’s much a culture occasion.

Q: So besides the British soldiers, who participates in the event?

A: Others are from other parts of the world. They come from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand … It is mainly linked to armies and air forces across the British Commonwealth. When you put together the marching bands from the British army, the marching bands from the royal air force, and the marching bands called the Marine bands from the royal navy, you might have may be 3 or 400 soldiers marching and playing music at the same time. And these soldiers and air force men are used in state occasions as well, important occasions involving the Queen and other members of the royal family. It’s great spectacle. The audience, I think, the maximum is about 7700. It’s quite a big stand.

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The Imps Motorcycle Display Team in 2016 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Q: How long does each session last?

A: I think each session is about maybe one hour and fifteen minutes or one hour and nineteen minutes. I think some day it takes place even twice in a day, one will be during the afternoon and then one will be in the evening. Always, the very last part of the Tattoo is in evening. It takes place as it is getting dark. And all the lights are turned down round the stadium and the castle and one light is left on, focused on a Scottish bagpiper, standing on part of the terrace of the castle and playing a Scottish bagpipe. On many occasions have people in tears because it’s such a moving occasion.

Q: What are the objectives of the Tattoo?

A: Ultimately they raise a fund raising element for local charities. I think it’s for the British army and soldiers; it’s a good opportunity for them to display their skills. And I guess there is more recruitment element for the army as well. It’s a way of encouraging people to come in to their army. It doesn’t have a major financial motive.

Q: Thank you, Peter Yarrow, for telling us about the famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Next time, we’ll bring you more interesting facts about Scottish culture. For VOV24/7’s Culture Rendezvous, I’m Thu Ly saying: Goodbye!