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Sure, you could be one of the 100 million people who watch the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo from home each year. But why not see it live? Witnessing this extravagant global gathering from the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Held over a three-week period each year in August, the tattoo brings together the most talented military bands, dancers and display teams from around the world. With the floodlit castle as the majestic backdrop, the tattoo offers military pageantry at its finest. Pipes and drums play the battle tunes of Scotland's famed regiments. Massed military bands emerge triumphantly from castle's huge gates. International military bands and performers add color and excitement to the ensemble. Each night's show finishes on a poignant note as a lone piper plays a haunting melody from high on the castle ramparts. Next comes fireworks, a chorus of Auld Lang Syne and the distinctive roar of jets flying over the esplanade. The tattoo evokes emotions among everyone who attends, even if they've never served in the military. It's truly a spectacle to behold in person!
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The military tattoo is held at the same time as several other very popular festivals in Edinburgh so you can experience them all during one four-day trip. The Edinburgh International Festival brings the best of opera, theater, music and dance together for three weeks in August. The event usually sells out well in advance of the performances so book early. Edinburgh Fringe is more avant garde, offering comedy, theater, dance, circus, cabaret or other unusual performers. Many of the performances are free and occur throughout the city. No matter where you go in the city, you're likely to encounter performers handing out fliers advertising their shows. The Edinburgh Art Festival is one of the largest celebrations of visual arts in Europe. Many exhibits are free and held at galleries and museums throughout Edinburgh during the month of August. The Edinburgh International Book Fair also coincides with the dates of the military tattoo. Popular authors like JK Rowling and Margaret Atwood have attended in recent years, but you'll find plenty of up-and-coming writers reading their works in tents, coffee shops and book stores.
As the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh has a lot to offer visitors. Perched on rocky cliffs overlooking the North Sea, Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and there's certainly plenty to see and do during a four-day holiday. Tour Edinburgh Castle, which played a pivotal role in Scotland's history. Packed with monuments and memorials to Scottish leaders and military, you could easily spend a day exploring the castle's grounds. Elsewhere in Old Town, explore the subterranean Real Mary Kind's Close, which offers a first-hand look at 17th century Scottish life, and stroll along the Royal Mile to see medieval tenements stacked haphazardly aloft. While in Old Town, visit the National Museum of Scotland whose extensive collections span two buildings and five floors. But there's much more to Edinburgh than Old Town. The modern Scottish Parliament Building is an architectural wonder and free guided tours with access to the Debating Chamber and a member of parliament's office are offered daily. In South Edinburgh, tour the Surgeons' Hall Museums, which offers a macabre look at surgical practices from in the 15th century and onward. And don't miss the Royal Botanic Garden, the second oldest such institution in Britain. Some 70 landscaped acres, glass greenhouses and a world-famous rock garden make it a must see.
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