The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Following a wet, cold and generally miserable time at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo when I was 12, I have avoided the world-famous event at all costs.

As a result, it was with trepidation (and a raincoat, hat, gloves and cushion for my seat) that I took my place at Edinburgh Castle Esplanade.

I had tickets for the Preview Evening and as darkness fell, I noticed the burning braziers standing guard at the castle’s mighty entrance, one of the bands marched into position for the photographers and an old soldier walked by me, proudly wearing his medals and his kilt. Suddenly, a chill ran up my spine. Surely not. For over 30 years, I’d refused to even consider attending the Tattoo. I couldn’t possibly be excited about it.

And then the music started. As the Massed Pipes and Bands marched onto the esplanade, I felt the tears welling up. The sheer spectacle of all these tartans, the perfectly timed turns, the stirring Scottish tunes played by 250 of the world’s finest pipers and drummers… I was hooked.

For the next ninety minutes, the audience was taken on a musical journey around the world. The theme of the show was Homecoming and the underlying story was the Scots who travelled the globe in search of a new life, riches or to fight for their country. Every act was excellent but, for me, the highlights were the iNgobamakhosi Zulu Dance Troupe, who performed what can only be described as the most ferocious, most energetic Zumba routine imaginable and the Tattoo’s 50 Highland Dancers turning the traditional steps into a stunning contemporary dance.

When the Lone Pipe appeared on the Castle’s rampart and played for those lost in World War 1, it all got too much for me

Yet even my very favourite acts paled into insignificance when the Massed Military Bands and Massed Pipes and Drums returned for the finale. Once again, tears threatened – and when the Lone Pipe appeared on the Castle’s rampart and played for those lost in World War 1, it all got too much for me. I’m not sure why I cried – the tragedy of lost lives, pride in my country or simply sadness that I had allowed the opinions of a sulky 12-year-old to stop me attending what can only be described as one of the best musical extravaganzas I’ve ever seen.