The first official Tattoo began in 1950 with just 8 items in the programme.
Now, on average, just over 217,000 people see the Tattoo live on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle each year, and it always sells out in advance. 30% of the audience are from Scotland and 35% from the rest of the United Kingdom. The event is so well known in Britain that to many people (especially older people) "The Edinburgh Tattoo" is a synonym for "The Edinburgh Festival". The remaining 35% of the audience consists of 70,000 visitors from overseas. Worldwide, a further 100 million people see the event on television. In the UK the event is broadcast annually by the BBC, with Tom Fleming commentating on every year since 1966. In Australia the Tattoo is traditionally telecasted by ABC on the evening of New Year's Day, although in a break with tradition, the 2006 Tattoo was broadcast two days earlier on December 30, and the 2007 Tattoo was broadcast even earlier on Christmas Eve.
The Tattoo is run for charitable causes and over the years has given over UK£ 5 million to military and civilian charities and organisations. However, the greater benefit has been that it, by independent count, generates an additional £82 million for Edinburgh's economy annually.
The official magazine of the Edinburgh Military tattoo is called Salute and is distributed free to sponsors, Friends of the Tattoo, and visiting performers.
The highlight is the massed pipes and drums, provided by regiments of the British Army and regiments from around the world with Scottish connections. Each evening traditionally concludes with a flag-lowering ceremony (see Beating Retreat), with the bugles either sounding the Last Post, or the "Sunset" bugle call of the Royal Marines, and ends with a floodlit lone piper playing a Lament from high on the Castle ramparts.
The 2005 Tattoo saw one of the largest gathering of pipes and drums in the event's history, including the pipes and drums of all six regular infantry regiments of the Scottish Division. This was the last time all six appeared at the Tattoo prior to the formation of the Royal Regiment of Scotland:
In addition, there were also the pipes and drums of the Scots Guards, Irish Guards, Royal Gurkha Rifles, South African Irish Regiment, Scottish Officers Training Corps, the Rats of Tobruk and the City of Wellington pipe band. The largest gathering of massed pipes and drums was in 2000 were there was 15 bands on parade including 7 of the eight scottish regiments.
Producers of the Edinburgh Tattoo have included:
Source: Roddy Martine – Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2001