Highland Dancers, 2006 Edinburgh Tattoo via Shutterstock

If you have never been to a Royal International Tattoo, make plans to see one of the largest, longest-running and exciting shows in history. You can visit the original Tattoo on the grounds of Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, or enjoy a breathtaking indoor show in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The word ‘tattoo’ comes from a drumbeat in 17th-18th century Holland, when, to summon British troops back to barracks at closing time, the call, “Doe den tap toe” or “Turn off the taps” was joined by military drummers who marched through the streets. Over time, “Doe den tap toe”  was shortened to “tattoo”.

Tattoo Edinburgh Castle

The Royal Edinburgh Tattoo/Facebook

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo began in 1950, and is held on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. The event has emerged into a global gathering that has been attended by more than 14 million people (or 220 thousand per year) every August. Despite the outdoor seating, the Edinburgh Tattoo has never been cancelled!

In 2016, the Edinburgh Tattoo went on tour in Australia and New Zealand, with a massive performance that included a life-size replica of the Edinburgh Castle as a backdrop.

Performers jumping - the 2016 Edinburgh Tattoo on tour in Wellington, New Zealand

The 2016 Royal Edinburgh Tattoo in Wellington, NZ/Facebook

You don’t have to leave Canada’s shores to see a military Tattoo! The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo is a week-long event held during the first week of July in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Established in 1979, it has over 2,000 performers, and is the largest indoor Tattoo in the world.

Like the Edinburgh Tattoo, the Nova Scotia performance is host to a variety of international acts combined with local traditions such as bagpipes, highland dancers and military routines. During the two-and-a-half hour performance show, each scene only lasts about 3-6 minutes, keeping audiences on the edge of their seats.

International Tattoo

Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo

In 2006, the Queen gave the Nova Scotia International Tattoo a Royal designation. It was then that Nova Scotia Tattoo gained its own tartan based on the Black Watch, including gold and bright blue thread to represent the beauty of Nova Scotia.

One of the most marvellous things about the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo is that it includes a FREE public parade on July 1st, Canada Day, showcasing all the performers from the show.

International Tattoo Parade 2015

2015 Tattoo Parade in Halifax/Facebook

Whether you decide to see a Tattoo in Scotland or Nova Scotia, it’s a lifetime event that should be on every family’s travel bucket list! Has your family ever attended the Royal Tattoo in Edinburgh or Halifax? Tell us about it in the comments!

Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo:

When: Annually, during the first week of July
Where: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Social Media: Facebook  Twitter: @RoyalNSTattoo

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo:

When: Annually, throughout the month of August
Where: Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Social Media: Facebook  Twitter: @EdinburghTattoo