Arriving in Edinburgh only to hear the faint sound of bagpipes, my heart was heavy. The highlight of my weekend visit was going to be seeing the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo but we’d missed it because Google Maps lied, telling me it’d take 6-hours to drive what turned out to be a 9-hour trip (with much speeding!) from London to Edinburgh, all because I had wanted to drive instead of fly.
Stupid, stupid Nicole.
Even without seeing the Tattoo, my weekend was packed traversing just a snippet of Edinburgh’s packed August festival schedule – the Art Festival provided many hours of wandering through the university, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival had me in stitches and the International Festival took us to performances around the city, but each night at 9pm when the sound of the bagpipes began my heart sunk.
Walking out of a comedy show at The Forum I could see Edinburgh Castle lit up with crowds streaming in for the night’s performance. Trying not to think of it Dylan and I agreed to find a nightcap – some real Scottish whisky – and then call it a night before the long drive back to London the following day.
Walking along one of the high streets I heard a man yelling, “Tattoo tickets for sale” – my heart skipped a beat. “Get your Military Tattoo tickets for sale. Last minute tickets for sale.”
Normally I’d never consider buying scalpers tickets – there were quite a few on the streets that night – just in case they were fake but as it was my last night I was going to have to decide if I was going to have to take a chance.
Approaching the most authentic looking seller, a hushed discussion between friends, and bargaining premium seating ticket down to £60 per ticket, we were off up the cobblestone roads, my ticket in my hand – finally I was going to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
I skipped with excitement up the cobbled stone pathways, the sounds of bagpipes and drumming becoming louder with each step. I was aware the show had started but as I walked towards the castle the sight before me was hundreds of performers readying to go on stage – I was actually backstage.
Along with the performers, officials and security we were standing under the seating and gazing out at the show. Musicians marched off the stage and quickly fell out of formation to take sips of water or swap instruments. Soon an official tapped up on the shoulder saying, “you shouldn’t be here” and helped us to find an usher to show us to our seats.
Sitting front and centre, the pageantry of the event unfolded before us with Edinburgh Castle lit up dramatically and the performers – dancers, musicians and conductors – taking centre stage.
Troops come from around the world to represent their country at the Tattoo, with countries including Australia (pictured above), the USA navy based in Europe (below) and Italy included in the line-up, and with 70% of the Tattoo’s audience from outside of the UK it’s a diverse global event.
Super heroes fly across the castle walls when the Americans showcased a medley of the greatest superhero themes, whilst the Australians preferred the sweet tunes of classic rock and pop tunes, not forgetting Australian classics AC/DC and Kylie Minogue in the mix – the air was electric with the crowds excitement and amazement.
As it was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, a homage to Her Majesty and British culture throughout the ages – think James Bond through to the Sex Pistols – played out across Edinburgh Castle as the whole cast of the tattoo came together to participate in the final number.
As Scottish dancers skipped lightly across the stage, drummers stomped their way across the grounds and a Shetland pony made the crowds “aww” I had a brief moment to reflect on the wondrous event. Despite my prior want to see the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, if you had told me an hour earlier that I was going to spend an evening enjoying bagpipes I would have told you that you were joking; but there is a beauty to them, to the whole Tattoo from the youngest dancers to the trumpeter of the Last Call, when you take the time to truly appreciate the talents these men and women have shared with you that evening in such a magical setting.