To add to our list of recent travels, last weekend we visited Edinburgh for the Military Tattoo and Fringe Festival. I started a new job last week, so took Friday off (this was pre-booked before I started the job which they were fine with) and in the morning we caught a train from King’s Cross Station up to Edinburgh. The trip itself was quite interesting, as they had overbooked the train by quite a lot. I think this is pretty common. We didn’t have a seat reservation (because there were no reservations left by the time I booked the train) which meant we had to shift between seats as every seat was reserved for some leg of the trip, and after the first two stops we didn’t have seats at all! We ended up in the end of a carriage near the exits, sometimes crowded enough that we had to stand, but for the last hour and a half or so we found a spot that was mostly empty where we could sit on the floor for the rest of the trip. Lesson learnt… make sure we always get reservations!
We got into Edinburgh half an hour late due to two delays, at about quarter to 3 in the afternoon. We had all day bus passes which I had booked with our train tickets, and found a bus which took us to our hotel about 20 minutes outside the city centre. We stayed at The White Lady which is part of the JD Wetherspoons pub chain which Andre was excited by! The room was very nice – and for the price we paid you would hope so! (Edinburgh Fringe Festival + Military Tattoo + Commonwealth Games diving events = probably Edinburgh’s most expensive weekend of the year). Breakfast was free though, which I’d forgotten, so that was a nice bonus.
We had an early tea in the pub (fish and chips for me and a scottish highland burger for Andre) before heading into town for the Tattoo. We arrived early to have a look around at the Fringe Festival first. We saw a few street performers and had a look around a few market stalls, then decided it was time to head up the Royal Mile to the castle to join the queue for the Tattoo.
Despite the crowds the queue moved pretty fast and it didn’t take us too long to get into the stadium they have set up on the castle esplanade. It was a lot smaller than I anticipated, and holds just under 9000 spectators. We were seated in one of the corners, a few rows up from the bottom, and short of being in the stands smack bang in front of the parade ground, had pretty good views.
The Tattoo had a theme of Scots throughout the Commonwealth (probably in line with Scotland’s year-long homecoming celebration this year), so this meant only Commonwealth countries participated – so I was a bit bummed that this meant no Top Secret drum corps (who are from Switzerland). It was still very good though. There was no one specific display from Australia, although we contributed the Tasmanian Police Pipes & Drums and Australian Federal Police Pipes & Drums to the massed Pipes & Drums band, and highland dancers to the massed highland dance troupe.
We particularly enjoyed the Singaporean military band and their cultural dancers, as well as the New Zealand performance which incorporated Maori performances and highland dancers… and of course the haka.
The highland dancers were very good and we really enjoyed the combined marching band which included the massed Pipes & Drums as well as the Royal Marines marching band who we saw at the Royal Marines Beating Retreat display earlier this year.
The Trinidad & Tobago steel band was also very popular, the only marching steel band in the world! There was also a display done by the Royal Marines in celebration of their 350th anniversary this year.
The finale was a lot of fun, with a school choir singing a range of hits such as Thriller, Hey Baby and Happy, with the entire cast participating in the dancing, finished off with a round of Auld Lang Syne – crowd participation mandatory!