If Scotland was shaped like a person, Greeenock is on one side of his waist and Edinburgh on the other. Generally when the ship docks in Greenock, it is to give people the opportunity to visit Glasgow, Loch Lomond, or the nearby whiskey distilleries. However, today was the last day of the Tatoo in Edinburgh so special arrangements were made to bus those lucky enough to get tickets to Edinburgh to take advantage.
We had heard about the Tatoo the last time we were in Edinburgh, but were there at the wrong time to attend. But after all the rave reviews - it’s the best show in Europe, it’s the highlight of the summer season - we put it on the bucket list. We only had a vague notion of what it was all about, but when the ship offered some tickets, we were part of the lucky thousand who snapped them up. Only 9,000 can attend each performance, so we left many disappointed passengers behind as we boarded the coach for the show.
The Tatoo takes place at the foot of Holyrood Castle, a magnificent stone palace. We walked up the Royal Mile along with 9,000 others to sit in bleachers in an area the size of a high school football field. The Tatoo has been in existence for sixty years with performances every evening in August rain or shine. Since there is no covering for the performers or the guests, this could test everyone’s fortitude in the cold and rainy Scottish weather. It did sprinkle a bit on us, but we were wedged in there so tightly, no one got cold. My seat was at least an inch narrower than I am and the leg room was designed for someone far shorter. All the performers at the Tatoo work for free and the proceeds go to charity.
As the torches flared from the castle ramparts, the trumpets sounded and a group of over one hundred pipers entered the arena. Clusters of pipers were dressed identically, but it was clear that many groups from all over the world had joined together for this event. Since the Tatoo has its origins in military performances, everyone moved with precision and the group played as one. Then various smaller groups took the stage. A band from the Citadel represented the US, but the drill team from Jordan was especially impressive, twirling their rifles and marching formations without music in complete precision. The Polish border patrol brought along huge horns that we associated with Swiss and Austrian Alpine music. A group of kids from an impoverished neighborhood in East London rode in formations on motorcycles. Some members of the current British military did a tumbling routine, jumping over each other from trampolines and doing Olympic caliber stunts. The band from New Zealand interrupted their traditional band performance with the Maori war dance and boogied a bit to disco tunes We enjoyed this light hearted interruption to what mostly was a rather militaristic performance. Local Scottish dancers mixed with a similar group from New Zealand. Technically, the show was amazing. Images were projected on the castle walls and fireworks lit the sky during various performances. We are very glad that we got to see the Tatoo we had heard so much about and it was a polished and professional performance, but it was too militaristic for our tastes.
After the show as the crowds moved back down the Royal Mile to the coaches, we wondered if everyone would find their way back in the dark. But at every critical junction, tour personnel held signs pointing us in the right direction. One of the great strengths of Princess cruises it their ability to move large groups of people quickly and efficiently. We all missed dinner to go to the Tatoo and got back to the ship around midnight, but were welcomed aboard with announcements that the buffet was still open. You gotta love cruising!