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Highland Games and Edinburgh Tattoo

I am traveling to Scotland the last two weeks of August and am thinking two items on my agenda if folks have experience in and comments/suggestions - it would be much appreciated!!

1)Edinburgh Tattoo - have no idea what this is like, but it sounds spectacular. Is there anything to be aware of before jumping into this? I worry about getting hotel accommodations.... being close enough to walk back after the event... or is public transportation pretty easy to pick up back to the hotels afterwards?

2) a Highland Games - it seems like there are a number happening at that time, but there is a big one in Dunoon... What is the difference in experience between the Cowal Highland Gathering and one of the one day events in a small town (aside from the number of events and people :)? ) Also, if going to the games in Dunoon, better to stay in Glasgow, perhaps, and travel to Dunoon for the day, or do the games last pretty late and better to stay in Dunoon?

Thank you!

Posted by
5677 posts

Hi Suzanne, The end of August is a great time to go to Scotland. The heather is blooming and the Festival is on in Edinburgh. The latter has it's pro's and con's. If you go to Edinburgh in August with your eyes open and receptive to all the great things that the Festival brings to the city, then go and enjoy. The Festival is actually several Festivals at once. Go here to read about the different Festivals. Other than the film and jazz festivals they all over lap. I could have sworn that the film festival used to be in August too!

I've not been to the Tattoo, but I will someday! I did get to watch it on TV one year, but it has to be magical to be in the stands at the Castle.

So, the Tattoo takes place at the Castle which is at one end of The Royal Mile. Edinburgh is not a big city. If it were me, I would just plan on walking back to my hotel afterwards. Certainly, if you stay in Newtown, the Calton Hill area, Haymarket, or even Dalkeith, you can do it. I used to stay near the Royal Botanic Gardens and routinely walked home after dinner. It's generally a safe city. Here's a link to the bus schedules, but rather than try to decipher them, I would find a hotel and ask them about the transportation. Many, many of the people attending the Tattoo are visitors and so need transport. There is no parking at the Castle as the Tattoo is in the parking lot!!

I would recommend booking your hotel soon. But make sure your plans are firm. You will need to make a deposit and it may not be refundable. Also, you will likely need to commit to more than one night if you book on the week end.

As for the games, I've really only been to ones in the US. I have been to Argyle and it's beautiful and I would definitely not make a day trip from Glasgow. I would stay there. Here's the link to Undiscovered Scotland's page on Dunoon. I would book as soon as you decide.

Are you planning on renting a car? If so, there are some wonderful drives in Argyle. Also, you could plan on stopping in on one of the smaller Games on the earlier Saturday. It looks like Crieff have some the prior weekend.


Posted by
824 posts

Definitely stay in Dunoon. Its a small seaside town but has some fairly large hotels and bed and breakfasts. Look at some of surrounding towns,like Hunter's Key, Kirn, Inellen. The Cowel games are a big event and competitors come from all over the world to take part so everywhere will likely be booking up already. You could stay in Glasgow, but its a treck to Dunoon - train and ferry takes about 1.5 hours each way.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you! Wouldn't have thought I needed to look for accomodations so soon.

Posted by
5677 posts

Outside of Edinburgh during festival time you generally don't have to book ahead. But any town that has a festival, it's best to book early if you want to have any choice in where you stay. Edinburgh is amazingly packed with people during the Festival. Other towns are smaller so finding a good place that is walkable might be an issue if you don't book early.

If you're worried and have to outlay some money, trip insurance might ease your mind.


My husband and I are going around the same time. We already have our tickets (purchased last month) and reserved accommodation in Edinburgh (hostel with private en suite room) within walking distance to the Tattoo. Tickets for the Tattoo were $135 (2 people) and the accommodation was around $120 for three nights. All in all, for such a memorable experience, we thought that was pretty reasonable budget wise.

We were also thinking of going to the games in Dunoon but after much research, decided to go to the Birnam Games in Perthshire.

Dunoon seemed to be a little too out of the way for what we had planned for the rest of the trip. We found getting to the Birnam Games would be much easier and really help us maximize our time.

Happy Travels!!

Posted by
203 posts

Can I get the name of the hostel you booked in Edinburgh? thanks!

Posted by
5677 posts

When you're at Birnam go over the bridge to the Taybank. They have music sessions most evenings. I stayed at The Bridge B&B in Dunkeld a couple of times. I love Perthshire.


Posted by
32104 posts


I don't have any information to offer on the Highland Games, but the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is indeed spectacular! I'd suggest getting tickets ASAP as they will sell quickly. I'd suggest getting seats in Sections 3/4 or 13/14, as most of the action takes place around the mid-field area. If you choose seats a bit higher, that should provide a better view. NOTE that the Tattoo ends on 23 August, so you'll have to work around that. Also note that they offer some special packages such as the Wallace or Bruce packages that provide preferred entry and a few others perks. If your budget allows, you might consider trying one of those (details on the Tattoo website).

Accommodations are always at a premium at that time of year, as the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe also take place then so there's a LOT of people in town. Booking a room slightly out of the centre of town will be a bit cheaper, and one place you could consider is Hotel Ceilidh Donia which is just off Dalkeith Road. It's a wonderful hotel and they serve a great breakfast. There are Buses to that area or you could take a Taxi if it's late and you don't feel like walking.

While in Edinburgh I'd also recommend visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is now permanently moored at the port of Leith, which is a short distance from the city (there are Buses - details in the Guidebook).

Happy travels!