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The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Unquestionably the most successful show in the entire history of the Festival, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo defies adequate description. Drawing a daily crowd of 8,500 - who brave all weathers on the outdoor grandstand seating - this extravaganza of music, showmanship and military precision is played out nightly against the incomparable backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.

Scottish marching band
Copyright FringeGuru
The spectacular massed pipes and drums of the Scottish Army form the central plank of the evening's entertainment, ably assisted by military bands and locally-inspired performers from the Commonwealth and beyond. With dancing, singing and occasional acrobatics, the breathtaking event careers towards its iconic conclusion - when a lone soldier, high on the battlements, bids the audience farewell with a haunting bagpipe melody.

The show is - whisper it quietly - pretty much the same every year, but then, why change a winning formula? Sad to say, though, the Tattoo has an arm's-length relationship with the rest of the Festival crowd: a significant portion of the audience is bussed in for the night, and leaves the city as soon as the lone piper has played. And with tickets invariably selling out well in advance, there's little chance of a spontaneous visit to this best-known of Edinburgh shows.

That aside, the Tattoo is a genuine spectacle, and an unmissable experience for those organised or wealthy enough to secure a ticket. If you're an independent traveller and want to be sure of a place, start planning in November of the previous year - though there are usually returns available up to a few weeks before the show.

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