Crowds at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo

 The Edinburgh Military Tattoo is essentially an evening of live military performances from Regiments and Military bands that include the massed pipes and drums, dancers, performers, singers, military displays, special lighting effects and the Lone Piper. 2021 dates are the 6th to 28th August and it will be celebrating its 70th year.  

For anyone who transferred their tickets from 2020, the booking lines for 2021 are open from Monday 5th October at 10am (2020) until midnight of the 9th October 2020. 

Tickets for 2021 are on sale on Monday 19th October.  Tickets can be purchased from 10am. There will be a limited capacity arena for the year 2021. You can buy up to 8 tickets on one transaction, however the seating is limited to 4 seats together.

Cheaper priced tickets – In 2021, the off Peak tickets will be available on the 11th, 18th and 25th August 2021. 

 Tickets can be bought from the office in Cockburn street or online. The phone lines are open Mon/Tues/Thurs and Friday 10am-4.30pm.

Wednesday 11.am – 4.30pm. (British Mean Time)

Booking lines –  Tel no:+44 [0] 131 225 1188. 

For the best selection of seats that suit your budget the earlier the better.  Weekdays the performances are Monday to Friday at 9:00pm and on Saturday at 6.30pm and 10:30pm.  There is no tattoo on any Sunday in August.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle Esplanade

I have been attending The Edinburgh Military Tattoo for several years sitting in  various locations on the Castle Esplanade, (the large space directly in front of Edinburgh Castle).

Edinburgh Castle Military Tattoo
Lou Armor@shutterstock

A temporary stand is erected here and the seats are outside with no cover or protection from the elements unless you are in the Royal Gallery.   These seats are of course very expensive and can be found in the purple section.

Seating Plan for the 2019Edinburgh Military tattoo
Seating Plan for the 2019 Edinburgh Military tattoo @ Edintattoo.co.uk

These are the factors I would consider when booking.

PRICE – the more you pay the better the seat.  A rough guide to the prices are sections 1/16 & 17 (dark blue and green) are the cheapest found nearest the castle and sections 8 and 9 (pink & purple) are the most expensive.

The only downside to the cheapest seats is that you may have slightly more awkward visibility to the fireworks display.

The other seats for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo range from £50 to £78.  I have sat very high up once but my aunt struggled to get down the stairs, (metal and quite steep) I now much prefer sitting in the middle sections 3/4 or 13/14/15  lower down.

Edinburgh Castle Military Tattoo
View of seating layout@shutterstock

The Light blue section offers excellent views and is reflected in slightly higher prices in these sections. Blue Sections 2-5 and 12-15, the tickets are  priced between £53.00 to £68.00 each.  Tickets are priced dynamically, therefore, these seat prices may change subject to demand and availability. Order as early as possible before demand increases so much that the price does too!

The seats for the tattoo start at rows A & B, these are allocated for disabled. The seats are then categorised through the alphabet as  /C/D/E/F/G  – there is no row I.

Once the alphabet has been completed the highest seats in the arena are allocated as AA, BB, CC UP TO FF. . . see short video here. 

Brown section: Sections 6/7, 10/11 brown colours are regarded as having good views and as such the price rises Fridays and Saturdays. There are no Tattoo performances on a Sunday.

Tattoo Cheap Tickets : If you apply for the preview ticket before the official opening ceremony these are cheaper and there will be off peak tickets on the 11th/18th and 25th Aug.  

To view seats and performer highlights click here

Things to consider when buying tickets: If you wish to leave early for a train or cruise ship I would sit lower down. It gets very busy at the end of the night and leaving quickly if you are way up in the Gods is not going to happen, as the steps down from the arena are steep and people move slowly.

Some cruise ships offer transport to and from the Tattoo and given the volume of traffic it may be wise to take the ship transfer if it is Rosyth. For the Port of Leith you can jump a taxi or take a local bus.

cruise ship at Port of Leith Edinburgh
cruise ship at Port of Leith @shutterstock

The Military Tattoo has toilets at the bottom of the arena and it means a long walk down if you are high up. If you need to frequent the toilet or you suffer from Vertigo then I would recommend  a seat lower down. There is a disabled area which I will discuss later as it seems to generate lots of questions and worries.

For people who have walking issues/ambulent disabled, the front 7 rows in the arena are reserved upon request rows C/D/E/F/G/H and J.

Ambulent disabled includes a wide range of disabilities and the term is used for people who can move around and are not regular wheelchair users. eg suffering from diabetes, cancer, epilepsy etc.

These tickets cannot be booked online and must be in person or by telephone. There are also seats for wheelchair users in the front rows. The box office is open from for all accessibility bookings on Mon/Tues/Thurs &  Friday 10.00am- 4.30pm and Wednesday  11.00am-4.30pm – +44 (0) 131 225 1188.

The Best view?

I have compiled a short video of some of the seat views, click here to view:

Everyone gets a really good view. People think that they have to sit high up to see but this is simply not the case. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo is planned and orchestrated to enable everyone to see. The Regiments may enter from Edinburgh Castle but often other performers will enter from the centre of the arena.

All performers face the Royal Boxes initially (purple/pink sections 8/9) but then will move round the large esplanade.

Evening Performance Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Photo Credit: Sold out Evening Performance Edinburgh Military Tattoo 

Edinburgh Military Tattoo packages

There are many packages, some include 4 course meal, champagne, or toast to the haggis. It is quite an extensive list and these can all be found on the official edintattoo.co.uk website. The Royal Gallery and VIP Dining experience ranges from £510 – £580.  The Jacobite experience, Scottish dining in the Castle is between £320 – £375.

The Bruce package, The Amber Package and the Wallace package are cheaper but the meal is not served in Edinburgh Castle but at the top of the Royal Mile in the Scotch Whisky Experience. A few minutes from the Castle esplanade. Full details on the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo website. 

Some packages require dress code and some offer seats outdoors and others let you choose your seat.  Be sure to check what you are buying. You may love the idea of enjoying a 3 course meal with wine and Champagne, while watching a private recital from cast members but did you pack a suit and formal dress? Something to consider.

Scotch whisky experience beside Edinburgh Castle.

Scotch whisky experience Wallace package
Scotch Whisky Experience@shutterstock

For example the Wallace package includes:

  • A pre-performance guided tour of The Scotch Whisky Experience
  • A private viewing the Scotch Whisky collection
  • A Whisky cocktail/ soft drink with canapés in the McIntyre Gallery
  •  Mingle with members of the Tattoo cast
  • A host to escort you to the Castle Esplanade
  • A centrally located seat in Section 4 of the outdoor arena and a tattoo programme.
  • there is no dress code for this package, however on chatting to the staff at the Scotch Whisky Exp. they advised me that it is optional but many guests did arrive in suits/dresses, especially for the Wallace or Bruce Package. The package does ask, “that guests avoid short trousers and sports shoes’.

Disabled Access: If you have booked disabled/wheelchair seating –  you may be able to request a vehicle pass that will allow access to the Esplanade by car, taxi or ambulance. They are subject to availability and are not available for the preview evening or for any Saturday.  

Currently (October 2020) the Edinburgh Tattoo office are not committing to vehicle passes due to the ongoing covid pandemic. I would keep referring to the ticket office nearer the time. The Military Tattoo does not provide wheelchairs but they can be hired from various companies in Edinburgh if you book ahead and check availability. eg. Invictusactive.com

If you do have a vehicle pass then you will go on convoy onto Edinburgh Castle Esplanade. Be aware if you are in a taxi you may be waiting for some period of time, pre agree a set fare, many taxi or private chauffeur will help with this.

Large coaches are not allowed to join the convoy.

Wheelchair seating is along the front rows of sections 1-4 and 12-17 as well as at the top of  Section 10 at ground level and Section 10 facing Edinburgh Castle. These spaces allows for an attendant’s seat.  

There are medical services on the esplanade if required and help can be given to push wheelchairs up the cobbled street. There is lift access to the wheelchair area at the top of Section 10 and there are accessible toilets within the arena and grab rails at the end of each section.

Please remember that the convoy arrives before everyone is seated which means a longer evening. If it is cool be prepared and bring a blanket, there are people to help and medics on site if required. Hot drinks are also available to buy on the esplanade and seat cushions and poncho’s.

Other points to consider: No umbrellas, no flash photography, no alcohol and no glass bottles are permitted. Only small bags or rucksacks under 25 litres are permitted. All bags are searched. No smoking or vaping allowed in the tattoo arena. You will also need ID with your ticket entry as security is very tight.

What to wear to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo?

Its Scotland after all – get familiar with the language over on my new channel. Scotlady on TikTok or youtube click here. 

It may be warm, it may be cold. This is Scotland after all.

I always wear layers and buy the £1 padded seat cushion at the event. I take a warm jumper over a top. Warm coat with hood, remember, no umbrellas if it rains, comfortable shoes for walking up the cobbled Royal Mile and gloves in my pocket as a back up. I have never actually worn them or needed to put my hood up but it reassures me. The temp does drop significantly around 9.30/10pm and the later Saturday night 10.30 show will be significantly colder.

Queue to enter Edinburgh Military Tattoo?  Everyone has allocated seating. It is a very long queue down Johnson Terrace and it’s uphill all the way back to the Castle.

ticket Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Edinburgh Tattoo – all seats allocated.

There is no pre show acts. The  commentator is the only warm up before the Tattoo starts.  You  may wish to be seated and enjoy the atmosphere but I usually just walk up 20 mins before the show starts. The entrance to the castle is narrow and cobbled and does bottle neck. If you don’t like crowds wait till nearer show time.

Edinburgh Grassmarket Festival Fringe
Lou Armor@shutterstock

There are plenty of restaurants around the Royal mile and the Grassmarket offering something for everyone purse. As I mentioned earlier it gets really busy as the festival is also taking place around the Royal Mile etc.

Book your restaurants when you book your Tattoo tickets.  Some of the popular nearby restaurants include, Devils Advocate, Witchery – can’t get much closer to the Tattoo – The Tower restaurant, 5 min walk, Castle Terrace Restaurant, Amber Restaurant at the Scotch Whisky experience- beside Tattoo, Vittorio on the bridge and the lovely Divino Enoteca Italian restaurant. There are local chain restaurants very near including Pizza Express.

Witchery Restaurant, Edinburgh
Witchery Restaurant. Lou Armor@shutterstock

The Grassmarket is 5 mins away and has many great pubs that serve food and often free festival shows that ask for a donation at the end. (Check out my festival guide for cheap tips and insider guide). see here to experience it. Edinburgh Fringe in 24hrs

And finally: Please buy your tickets  directly from the Tattoo’s official website at www.edintattoo.co.uk or by calling +44 0 131 225 1188. People have been caught out in the past buying from other sites and remember in Scotland our dates are Day first, then month. eg. 12th August 2021- 12/08/2021.

The box office is a good 10 min walk away from the Castle and near the day has lengthy queues.  Give yourself plenty of time to collect your tickets or print them off at home before you arrive.  The address is 1-3 Cockburn Street, along from Waverley train station, the back entrance and opposite the Edinburgh Dungeons.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo office
Tattoo office@LouArmor

TRANSPORT HOME

Trains can also be an issue if you are staying for the 10.30 late Saturday night performance which finishes at midnight.  The last Scotrail train to Glasgow from Edinburgh  is usually 11.45.  In this event I would book the 6.30 show. Admittedly its not dark at this time of night but it would get you back to Glasgow easily.

City link buses run through the night from Edinburgh to Glasgow. The bus station is beside St Andrews Square.

There are extended train services during the Edinburgh Fringe festival and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo for Perth, Dundee, Fife and North Berwick. I have no details at the moment and I would continue to check with Scotrail.co.uk   The Edinburgh Military Tattoo show lasts one hour and 40 mins.

Edinburgh Buses and Trams

There are buses and trams around the city to the airport.  This may be a good option if you are worried about parking. Consider leaving your car at the ‘Park and Ride’ near Edinburgh airport and take the tram in and out.

Edinburgh tram
Edinburgh tram@shutterstock

Edinburgh Trams have in the past operated an overnight service through the night to 5.30 am during the festival and tattoo making it easier to move around the city and return to your accommodation. We do have Uber taxi but they tend to be on surge charge with the volume of people. 

The nearest tram stop from the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is on Princes street and this will take a brisk 10 min walk to reach but realistically with the crowds more like 20 mins. Walk down the Royal mile then turn right down the Mound to connect with the tram.

Crowds on the Royal Mile during the edinburg Tattoo
Royal Mile@shutterstock

Lothian buses have an excellent website and run a night bus till 4.30am. For details and to plan your route home check out Lothianbuses.com. They have an excellent app and remember an all day bus pass costs £4.

I hope this helps answer some of your questions.  The Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a non for profit organisation, to help support the many Royal military charities and veterans.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate you time. The blog does contain affiliates links to pay for WordPress blog tools.   My portfolio is available on Pond5 and shutterstock. Click if curious.

I have mades some facemasks on Red bubble, click here to see more of my images. 

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo has its own fireworks at the end of the weekend performances but the locals of Edinburgh know that the best show is always at the end of the Festivals. It is usually on the Monday night and here are the highlights from 2019. 

Edinburgh Virgin Money Fireworks 2019
Edinburgh Virgin Money Fireworks 2019

If you love the pipes and drums don’t miss Glasgow annual World pipe band competition sadly cancelled for 2020 but will be back in 2021.  It is an amazing day out and of course Glasgow is a fabulous city, famous for Rennie Mackintosh,  don’t miss the famous Willow tearooms, the Clydeside single malt whisky distillery, stunning architecture that inspired film locations for Batman, Fast and furious, Outlander and Cloud Atlas. 

To experience a few hours click here: Glasgow pipe band worlds

Glasgow World Pipe Band Championship
Glasgow World Pipe Band Championship

If you fancy a jaunt through to the fabulous city of Glasgow click here for ideas. You can take the train from Edinburgh or bus and disembark at Queen street station. Train is  only 45 mins long.

If you cannot make the Worlds then the next big bagpipe event will be the Cowal Games in Dunoon.

The other major Highland gathering usually attended by the Queen is the Braemar . If you cant make any of these events but really would like to attend a Scottish Highland games then check this website. Scotlandwelcomesyou.com for a list of all Highland games from May until Sept around Scotland, Skye and the highlands.

Thank you to Edinburgh Tattoo office for supplying seating plan and information on tickets.

Lou A.

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