If there’s one must-see show that everyone needs to attend during the Edinburgh Festival, it’s the Tattoo.
Now in its 69th year, the extravaganza continues to adapt and expand, combining traditional Scots charm with contemporary stage show aesthetics.
If you’re planning on a visit to the 2018 edition, then here’s everything you need to know.
Each Tattoo is very different from the last and focuses on a new theme. Themes of the past include nature, creativity and Scotland’s homecoming. The 2017 Tattoo was launched under the banner ‘A Splash of Tartan’ and turned out to be a veritable soaking of clan colour supplemented by a ‘global gathering’ of musicians and performers.
To mark the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, next year’s theme is entitled ‘The Sky’s the Limit’. As such, we suspect there may be a strong aerial presence courtesy of the RAF’s own Red Arrows. The 2018 Tattoo also embraces Scotland’s Year of Young People with a string of colourful performers from across the globe taking part. Confirmed so far are Switzerland’s Top Secret Drum Corps (sshh!) and The Central Band of the Czech Armed Forces. Performers from 48 countries have appeared at the Tattoo since it began.
Where is it?
While admittedly most visitors to the Tattoo will not require concise directions whatsoever, there will be some who are unaware of where the event takes place.
The Tattoo takes place on the Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle in the centre of Scotland’s capital city. Temporary tiered seating is constructed every year so that it can host an audience of 8,800 people for each show.
Queuing for the Tattoo is designated on Johnston Terrace and around the Hub (Tolbooth Kirk) at the Lawnmarket, towards Edinburgh Castle. Police and stewards will be on hand to assist you.
When does it take place?
The 2018 Tattoo takes place over the period 3-25 August with performances at 9pm during the week and at 7:30 and 10:30 in the evening on Saturdays. There are no Sunday performances.
On certain days there are extended fireworks displays, TV recordings and audio descriptions of the event for the visually impaired. Check the official website to see when these are.
A crowd of 220,000 witness the Tattoo every August with hundreds of millions watching on television screens worldwide. Not a single show of the Tattoo has ever been cancelled in the 7 decades since it was started.
How to buy tickets
Tickets for the 2018 Tattoo went on sale on 1 December and, according to the sales team, are already being snapped up rapidly. You are urged to get in fast and book early to avoid disappointment.
You can purchase tickets online from www.edintattoo.co.uk, via telephone by phoning 0131 225 1188 or in person from 1 May by visiting The Tatto Office at 1-3 Cockburn Street in Edinburgh.
Ticket prices vary from £25-£58 for the main grandstand, £72-£80 for the corners, and £130-£340 for premier seating and the Royal Gallery. Obviously the more you fork out, the better view you will have.
Packages can be purchased which offer wining and dining options and other lovely perks.
A maximum of 8 tickets can be purchased in any one transaction and online bookings are subject to a £5.00 transaction fee. No refunds can be given in the event of cancellation, but, again, it is worth noting that the Tattoo has never been cancelled.
The path towards Castlehill and Edinburgh Castle Esplanade is relatively steep and can be challenging for some. However, the Tattoo does for wheelchair users, with a limited number of designated areas available along the front row of Sections 1-5 and 12-17 as well as the top of Section 10 facing Edinburgh Castle.
Audio description of the performance for the visually impaired is available at the preview performance on 2 August at 9:30pm and on 9 August at 9pm.
There is also a touch tour available for those with a visual impairment on 9 August.
How long does it last?
The duration of the performance lasts approximately 100 minutes with doors opening 45 minutes before the start time. Spectators are advised to be seated at least 15 minutes before the performance begins. Fireworks displays are dependent on weather conditions.
What to bring
It is recommended that you dress light but with a warm, waterproof jacket in the event that the heavens open up. Yes, the Tattoo takes place in August, but Scotland’s weather is famously unpredictable and most of the Tattoo’s seating is completely exposed to the elements.
Where can I watch it on television?
Every year the Tattoo is beamed to a staggering 40 countries worldwide, allowing an estimated 100-300 million people to watch the show.
The performances are filmed by the BBC and distributed internationally. Audience numbers have risen dramatically since performers from Asia began to regularly appear in the show’s lineup.
The Tattoo shop offers everything from teddy bears to t-shirts, but as a keepsake we recommend purchasing an official programme and an Edinburgh Tattoo woollen scarf (in official Tattoo tartan). That way, you’ll know all there is to know about each performer and you’ll be kept cosy during the show - it can get a bit breezy up on the Esplanade and Scottish summers aren’t guaranteed to be warm.