As a frequent visitor to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo over the years, our family has got into something of a routine in planning our trips to this amazing spectacle, so when asked for some advice about where to park if coming from out of town, I realised that our experiences probably had enough ‘old timers’ knowledge in them to merit a little article on how we do it. Families frequently make this the first experience of Edinburgh’s August Festivals, so we’re including some advice particularly for visitors who are bringing children to the Tattoo.
Edinburgh Castle survived by being a difficult place to attack, and that means few ways in! On the night of the Tattoo, the only access route is via the upper section of the Royal Mile: Castlehill. To get there you will approach on foot either via Lawnmarket or Johnston Terrace. Organised tour buses will probably drop their passengers in the vicinity of Chambers Street and you’ll walk via George IV Bridge and then into the Lawnmarket.
If you’re coming by car, our recommendation would be to park at the Kings Stables Road/Castle Terrace car park (see map). Time your arrival to get there after the daily shopping traffic has left, but before it gets filled by Tattoo visitors – and make sure you have a debit/credit card or a large supply of change (at least £10), for even in the evening this car park is expensive. The chances of getting a free parking space in any streets within reasonable walking distance is slim.
The Tattoo takes place in the late evening and although it is August it will be COLD up there – to accommodate the huge crowds which flock there every year, giant stands are erected on three sides of the Castle Esplanade. These stands are high up above the city and even a slight breeze will mean a chilly night as it gets dark and the temperature dips. Remember also that you will be sitting still in a small space, so you won’t be able to move about much to keep warm.
This means layers: lots of lovely layers of clothing. It may be August, but dress all the family as if you are going out to play in the snow. This means hats, scarves and gloves too. A good thick pair of socks and stout walking shoes or trainers (sneakers) will be appropriate footwear. I’ve seen people come here with summer sandals and flip flops – their feet must be blue by the time the show ends. And remember, the Castlehill is cobbled and you will have lots of stairs to climb in the stands so no high heels!
We also find that taking a travelling rug each is a bonus. You can wrap it round your knees and then wear it shawl-like over your shoulders on the way home for added warmth. When our son was small, it was also useful for wrapping him up in to carry a sleeping bundle back to the car.
I’m the niece of a man who wore a wet suit under his clothing one year when attending the Tattoo. I’m not advocating that, but if the forecast is for rain, don’t forget that the Edinburgh Military Tattoo has never been cancelled because of the weather – the show will go on!
Hope this is helpful for visitors planning a visit to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Next time you come, stay a little longer – maybe at the lovely Craigwell Cottage from which you can walk to the Tattoo! And here’s some more if you’re thinking of attending Edinburgh Festival Fringe events.
If you have more helpful hints – add them to the comments.