Edinburgh Tattoo

I have long wanted to see the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and on August 1st … mission accomplished!

The Edinburgh Tattoo is a show put on by military marching bands from the British Forces and units throughout the Commonwealth. It is held on the courtyard of Edinburgh Castle for ten days at the beginning of August each year. This year was the 65th Tattoo. The word “Tattoo,” is derived from “doe den tap toe”, or just “tap toe” (“toe” is pronounced “too”), the Dutch for “last orders”. Translated literally, it means: “close the (beer) tap”.

beginning2As a kid, I didn’t share much in musical taste with my Dad but one thing we did share is a love of marching bands and bagpipes. I can remember watching the Tattoo on TV when I was little and hoping I would get to see it live one day. My parents saw the Tattoo in 1960 when they were on their honeymoon in the UK. Knowing I would be in Scotland for a hiking trip this summer, tickets to the tattoo were purchased way back in January.

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Each year’s Tattoo is different and this year featured a theme, “Our Home, Friends and Family” which told the story of Scots who travelled away from home and settled throughout the Commonwealth, spreading their culture along the way. It featured groups from around the Commonwealth – South Africa, Singapore, India, New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago and Malta. The show kind of blithely ignored that some of these places didn’t voluntarily join the Commonwealth (uh, British colonialism, anyone?) but I did enjoy the range of performers.

The group from South Africa, the iNgobamakhosi Zulu Dance Troupe.

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The group from Trinidad & Tobago, the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra, the only military steel drum band in the world. At some points during the show, they projected images against the Castle walls, as you can see here.

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There was also lots of highland dancing …

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Of course, my main love is still bagpipes and marching bands and there was lots of that. The grand finale included 1150 performers on the esplanade, playing music and dancing as fireworks burst overhead. And, there was a military donkey (I’m not sure why but I was impressed with the poise of the donkey amidst everything).

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The recessional … try to ignore my humming and dancing during the video, I couldn’t help myself.

The Tattoo always ends with the lone piper on the walls of Edinburgh Castle. All in all … a wonderful experience.

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Giant’s Causeway

Once upon a time, the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhail (Finn MacCool) was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Finn accepted the challenge and built a causeway across the sea from northern Ireland to Scotland so that the two giant’s could meet in battle. Fionn crossed the causeway but when he saw how big Benandonner was he fled back home.

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Fionn pleaded with his wife, Oonagh, to help him and she told him to get in the baby’s cradle and put on his bonnet. When the giant Benandonner showed up, Oonagh told him that Fionn was not home and it is just her and her “baby”. When Benandonner saw the size of the “baby” he figured that Fionn must be much bigger and he fled back to Scotland destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow.

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The peaks of rock in the distance are the chimneys of Finn and Oonagh’s home.

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The columns in this picture are known as the Organ Pipes. On them, Fionn played songs written by his son.

IMG_8996 Giant’s Causeway has long been on my list of places to visit. An area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns located on the north coast of Ireland, it is the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.  Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea.The tallest are about 12 metres (39 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres (92 ft) thick in places. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story of Fionn mac Cumhail and Benandonner was influenced by this.IMG_9083

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Wendy_giantscausewayfeet_giantscausewayIn addition to visiting the Visitor’s center and National Trust site, I also hiked along the trail that runs along the Causeway Coastal Route. A perfect day, truly gorgeous, and I can understand why it is a place of both stunning natural beauty and imaginative myth and legend.

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