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.
Climbing the final rise towards the 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 high seats, the fresh clear air exhilarating, the sky about 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:
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.
International guest performers bring another dimension to a familiar pageant but it is the pipes and drums, which serve as the emotional core, the heart of the Tattoo which Scots, love fiercely and visitors quickly take to their own hearts.
And above all else the awesome presence of the Castle, great flaring torches lighting its venerable walls and creating mysterious shadow plays on the honey coloured stone.
And finally, all eyes are drawn to the Castle ramparts, where a single spotlight cues the Lone Piper to play his haunting lament, the high notes echoing across the still night sky and across the dark city, as the flames of the Castle torchlights and the piper’s warming brazier flicker and slowly die.
Fireworks burst out against the black sky, but the spell is not broken for when we sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and shake our neighbour’s hand, the emotions linger and the heart is full.
Tattoo-goers all, united by international friendship, the shared love of a nation, its music and its traditions.
The largest gathering of military musicians in the UK are set to perform at the 2010 showpiece armed services event, the 61st Edinburgh Military Tattoo, staged against the matchless backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. The production will feature a range of superb international performers with the centrepiece of the evening once again expected to be the spine-tingling sights and sounds of the world famous Massed Pipes and Drums, the finest display anyone can witness anywhere in the world.
Edinburgh Tattoo times
Monday – Friday: 9.00pm to 10.30pm
Saturday Matinee: 7.30pm to 9.00pm
Saturday Evening: 10.30pm to Midnight
Sunday: no performance
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