EDINBURGH FESTIVAL

August is the right time to come to Edinburgh. The lively voice of performances and songs echoes through the pebbles of streets – hard to find anywhere else and that certainly makes Edinburgh International Festival one of the greatest showcases on earth for music, dance, drama and every other conceivable form of artistic culture while a thousand Fringe brings the unknown and avant-garde. Moreover, this month the other most impressive experience is the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the world-renowned festival that always take place to offer a huge moment of national pride.

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo tickets can be purchased online (www.edintattoo.co.uk) and are on sale around late November to beginning of December the year before. Alternatively, you could purchase the tickets through the tour operators which may also offer accommodation, transportation and meal packages. On the first day the tickets are on sale online, there will be thousands of people logging on to the website to get their hands on the ticket for this priceless experience. The website puts you in the queue showing the number of people in the queue ahead of you and the estimated waiting time. When we logged on to the website within minutes after the sale start time, there were 2,179 people ahead of us and our estimated waiting time was more than an hour. Decent internet connection and good battery life are essential, otherwise you might lose your place in the queue and have to start it all over again. Also, it is worth checking the show timetable and seating plan so you know exactly the performance time you want and where you want to sit. We waited and got our hands on the tickets we wanted, so Edinburgh and the Tattoo, here we come!

Right at the heart of South East Scotland, Edinburgh is accessible to everyone. You can fly to Edinburgh from many destinations around the globe, the city is easily reached from most capital cities in the world, and there are also a number of internal flights from many United Kingdom city airports such as London, Belfast, Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol. All flights to Edinburgh arrive into Edinburgh Airport, the busiest airport in Scotland, located in the Ingliston area, which hosts over 300 flights a day. The airport is well served by transport links including bus, tram and taxi.

The best way to reach the Edinburgh’s downtown is Edinburgh tram. Looking through the window offers you attractive views of Scotland’s landscape; you can also see BT Murrayfield stadium, the largest stadium in Scotland, the home of Scottish rugby and Edinburgh rugby. Less than 30 minutes later, we arrived at the Walverley Train Station, located at the heart of the city. It is near the tourist information centre that offers services such as accommodation booking and route planning, and aims to provide all the information you need for the trip.

Beginning our exploration of this glorious festival city by walking from the centre of the town, looking through the picturesque site, where the street performances, town decorations and sound of music embrace the whole city, provided the visitors with a world away from an ordinary destination. You can see the massive Scott Monument which presides over the capital city of Scotland, standing beautifully in Princes Street Gardens.

Continuing our walk along the street, we allowed ourselves to enter The Princes Street Garden, an area of neutrality between New Town and Old Town of Edinburgh. This pleasant garden shelter under the wing of the Edinburgh Castle is the country’s most popular visitor attraction. During the Edinburgh International Festival, this national-icon castle’s entrance field became an impressive stage for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo while the Royal Miles, a famous street that links the castle to the Palace Holyroodhouse, is transformed into a major event venue of the festive land.

The Edinburgh International Festival was established in 1947 as a world-class cultural event to bring together audiences and artists from around the globe. It’s a unique celebration of the performing arts that present some of the finest performers and ensembles from the world of dance, opera, music and theatre to captivate, thrill and entertain audiences from all over the world. Today, this world-renowned biggest festival in Edinburgh is taking its guests on a wonderful journey in Scotland’s capital history for 70 years now.

Here you will find thousands of shows, allowing all visitors to enjoy the show daily throughout the month. With a limited time, we managed to experience an opening event of this world-best celebration of culture. In this very special 70th anniversary year, the Standard Life Opening Event: Bloom is a dazzling event which celebrates Edinburgh; the city that has bloomed magnificently as the World’s Festival City and its impact has attracted many cities around the globe, propagating new festivals throughout Europe, America and Asia.

Strolling around the square, it’s as if the buildings burst into life: we were stunned with a fast-moving world of colour, texture and sound. This extraordinary opening to the 2017 festival season is set to an epic outdoor spectacle – transforming the St. Andrew Square into a magical night garden through light and sound installations and its massivescale projection, presenting on 4th and 5th August 2017 from 10pm to midnight. The ticket holder can get access to the arena from 9pm, while the non-ticket entry session opens from 10.30, allowing everyone to experience this magical night without any admission fees.

When talking about the Edinburgh International Festival, it always include the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a fantastic performance of artists and creatives, who were not part of the International programme, to put on phenomenal shows of their own; you would never find such a gathering of imaginative bands and exceptional performers anywhere.

Forming the centrepiece event of the Edinburgh International Festival, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo brings in performers from over 48 countries and provides an amazing spectacle for thousands of visitor every August. Over the years, more than 14 million people have attended the Tattoo live in Edinburgh while hundreds of millions have seen it on television in 40 countries around the world.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, a truly inspirational historical and cultural landmark rising majestically from its site atop the eroded plug of an extinct volcano. The exciting battle tunes of Scotland’s most famous regiments are enjoyed alongside the lesser-known tunes and examples from other nations. It is a sight which truly has to be seen to be appreciated, which gives you a memorable experience.

Apart from the great organisation and the professional performance, the reason that keeps guests coming back is its theme. Each Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is different from the last and has an original theme. Different themes have been embraced year on year including Scotland’s homecoming, nature and creative in past years. And the 2017’s theme is ‘Splash of Tartan’.

Together with the British Armed Forces bands, there were various military units from many countries around the globe performing two times per night for about four weekends, 4th to 28th August 2017. A number of instruments flood into the Castle esplanade, approximately 9,000 audiences per show were impressed with this excellent marching, the iconic big pipes and drums, professional bands and wonderful dancing.

This year, the Tattoo paid tribute to the United Kingdom’s maritime heritage and the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carriers, with HMS Queen Elizabeth now on sea trials and HMS Prince of Wales in build. Major contingents are military bands from France, India and the United States alongside Japan and a plethora of branches of the British Military to truly complete the glittering line-up.

The Tattoo kicked off the performance with a “Fanfare to the Oceans”, where the audience could definitely sense from the percussion, barreling ocean waves curling and crashing into the rocky shores. It was a sensational opening event with real soul. Follow with the traditional sounds of the bagpipes and drums, and we spontaneously began taking photographs or recording videos.

Highlight some of the Tattoo programme, we were astonished with professional dancers from the Indian Naval Band wearing beautiful Indian costumes and performing the vibrant festival culture of India’s Western seaports showcase. The Fanfare Band of the 9th French Marine Infantry Brigade presented traditional military rhythms then specially transitioned into special disco tunes of “Get Lucky” song; one of the best-sellers of all time, Shetland Fiddlers ‘Hjaltibonhoga’ kicked off their shows with fascinating violinists before a Viking longship which appeared on stage for lighting up in a blaze of glory, followed by exceptional Highland Dancers from the Tattoo Dance Company who performed a colourful score written by Scottish composer Finlay MacDonald especially for Splash of Tartan.

Most impressively, there was the first-time Tattoo performers to Edinburgh. Japanese Ground Self Defence Force Central Band provided elegant samurai fights together with the taiko drumming accompanied by a stunning voice from a wonderful soloist, and the nice show from the United States Naval Forces Bend Europe that brought all audiences to the sea world to celebrate the years of sail.

Then everything appears to speed up, as the sunlight pushed aside the shroud or shadow and sweeps across the trees next to the castle. After the 90-minute show, the final presentation of the night was all the bands, dancers, singers covering the Castle Esplanade with over 1,000 Instruments and hundreds of performers.

Every evening there is a sound and light show at this esplanade, which makes Edinburgh Castle even more evocative. And the show is worth attending on nights when there will be beautiful fireworks because you will get a unique view of the castle illuminated by the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo’s incandescent light. With the background castle, the light show and fireworks was something that only Disney could offer.

The coming 2018’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo will be organised from 3rd until 25th August and the tickets will be available on Friday 1st December 2017, allowing people from around the world to enjoy throughout this almost month-long celebration. Edinburgh in August is an incredible place to be.

Even though our interests were focused on the festival experience, there are other attractions that inevitably charm all visitors. Edinburgh itself is such a nice interesting city without the festival. The Old Town and the New Town are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, which have been looked after by Edinburgh World Heritage since 1999. We were not about to miss our chance to explore this capital city. Visiting some of the historic sites of Edinburgh, we were impressed with Edinburgh Castle; Scotland’s pre-eminent site which has varying roles such as royal palace, prison and parliament, barracks and also houses the Nation’s Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny, The Royal Miles; the city’s most historic street forming the main throughfare of medieval Edinburgh that links the castle down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, The National Gallery of Scotland; home to internationally significant collections of paintings – a select group of early Renaissance masterpieces to works by the greatest names in Western art – Titan, Rembrandt, Monet and many more besides, and St Giles’ Cathedral; the historic city church of Edinburgh which contains the famous Thistle Chapel, thus serving as Edinburgh’s focal points for approximately 900 years.

Moreover, the most evocative views of the capital city are from the Arthur’s Seat summit and the Calton Hill, and getting to them is part of the magic. We decided to walk up Arthur’s Seat, which is the highest point in the city. Stretching 251 metres into the sky, Arthur’s Seat is popular for hill walking – climb to this extinct volcano summit and we were rewarded with panoramic views. It took around 90 minutes to walk up and down; there is so much to fascinate in this trail of glorious scenery. The route to the summit offers endless opportunities for romantic picnics on a hike (but not on a rainy day), simply grab takeaway eatery pulled-pork sandwich from Oink restaurant, a delicious Scottish hog roasts restaurant locates at the bottom of the Royal Mile, before starting the trail, is absolutely a good idea.

There is perhaps nowhere better to appreciate the beauty of Edinburgh’s skyline than Calton Hill. From here we savoured the splendid views of both Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh Castle across the whole city. This hill is a location of several classical buildings such as the National Monument of Scotland, the Nelson Monument and the Old Observatory.

There is, nonetheless, an admirable festival city – one that is hard to find anywhere else, and that certainly provides a world away from ordinary experience. Visitors will definitely find such joy down a single-track road, the scent of tartan in the air and the wide variety of music that will increase your pulse with great tunes.

Text by Nitiwan Ponglux
Photos by Atipu Ponglux
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