The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an annual series of military tattoos performed by British Armed Forces and various international military bands as well as civilian groups on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. The event was inspired by a simple show entitled ‘Something About a Soldier’, which was performed in 1949 at the Ross Bandstand in the Princes Street Garden. The first official Edinburgh Military Tattoo was held the following year on the castle esplanade and included eight performances. From a humble beginning, the event has grown into an international spectacle.
The term ‘tattoo’ comes from the early 17th-century Dutch phrase ‘doe den tap toe’ [turn off the tap], a signal issued by drummers or trumpeters to instruct innkeepers near military garrisons to stop serving beer so that the soldiers would retire to their lodgings. Later, in the 18th century, the term tattoo was used to describe the last duty call of the day. Over the years, the performance has become more of a show. Military tattoos were commonplace in the late 19th century, with most military and garrison towns hosting some sort of performance during the summer months.