Arts festival includes large military tattoo Scotland: Bands, gymnasts, dancers, drill teams, motorcyclists, flag wavers and animals join the pipes and drums of the British Army's Scottish regiments in the annual event, scheduled again next August.


I recently tuned in a television show about Scotland in which the narrator was discussing the largest "military tattoo."

Can you give me information about this event?

The program was probably showcasing the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which is held every August in Edinburgh as part of the annual International Festival of the Arts. An extravagant combination of music and ceremony, it takes place on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle in the city's Old Town.

The term "tattoo" supposedly derives from the cries of 17th-and 18th-century Low Country innkeepers, who, as the fifes and drums of the local regiment signaled a return to quarters, would cry, "Doe den tap toe!" -- "Turn off the taps!"

The Edinburgh Tattoo was first performed in 1950 as Scotland's contribution to the International Festival, and featured the pipes and drums of the British Army's Scottish regiments.

Today, in addition to British regiments, it includes performers from some 30 countries: bands, gymnasts, dancers, drill teams, motorcyclists, flag wavers, animals (police dogs, horses, camels, elephants) -- about 550 in all.

Participating bands have come from Barbados, Nepal, East Africa, Egypt, Fiji, Norway, Turkey and the United States. The music ranges from military to jazz to ethnic to pop.

About 200,000 people view the tattoo each year, some 35 percent from outside Great Britain.

The 1997 tattoo is scheduled for Aug. 1-23. Among those to perform are the massed bands of Her Majesty's Royal Marines.

Performances are in the evening; ticket prices range from about $13 to about $32. Mail-order bookings are accepted starting Jan. 6.

An order form is available from the administration office: Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Tattoo Office, 32 Market St., Edinburgh EH1 1QB, (44-131) 225-4783, or the credit card line, (44-131) 225-1188; fax (44-131) 225-8627.

I am planning a trip to Iceland for the last two weeks in August.

What are the easiest ways to obtain low-cost air fare and accommodations? What are the easiest ways to get around the country?

Summer is the peak tourist season in Iceland, and prices tend to be high. Following are some relatively low-cost possibilities.

Icelandic travel professionals speak English so you can make your arrangements directly, and you should make them in advance.

Icelandair, (800) 223-5500, the only airline with direct service to Iceland, flies out of several U.S. cities, including New York (Kennedy Airport), Boston and Baltimore-Washington; its lowest scheduled round-trip 1997 summer fare is $728.

Driving is perhaps the easiest way to get around Iceland, and Icelandair offers fly-and-drive packages that include trans-Atlantic airfare and a rental car; in 1996, a seven-day rental of a Volkswagen Polo on or after Aug. 21 was $1,348, including round-trip air fare for two; from June 20 to Aug. 20, it was $1,784.

Also offered was a nine-day self-drive tour with a recommended itinerary; the price of $2,408 for two included air fare, a rental car and accommodations. Similar programs will be available in 1997.

For information, contact Icelandair European Vacations, 5950 Symphony Woods Road, Columbia, Md. 21044; (800) 757-3876, fax (410) 715-3547.

In summer, Iceland's country boarding schools operate as tourist hotels, most of them run by the Edda chain. Rates vary, but a single room for one night can cost as little as about $55.50, a double, about $72. The Edda chain is run by the Iceland Tourist Bureau, 18 Skogarhlid, 101 Reykjavik; (354) 562-3300, fax (354) 562-5895.

Iceland Farm Holidays provides a wide range of accommodations on farms all over Iceland. Lodging for a week with a farm family (double occupancy, three meals) is about $670 a person; lodging for one night can run as low as $24. For information, contract Iceland Farm Holidays, 1 Hafnarstraeti, 101 Reykjavik; (354) 562-3640, fax (354) 562-3644.

Information and a list of inexpensive lodgings in the Reykjavik area can be provided by Einar Gustavsson of the Icelandic Tourist Board, 655 Third Ave., New York, N.Y. 10017; (212) 949-2333, Ext. 130; fax (212) 983-5260.

Pub Date: 12/01/96

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