1-800-563-1114 | INFO@NSTATTOO.CA

The Worlds Largest Annual Indoor Show

The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo is a week-long event held every year in Nova Scotia. The two-and-a-half hour family show is fast-paced – every scene only lasts about 3-6 minutes, so there is always something new to see and experience. Looking for a taste of true Nova Scotia? There’s bagpipes, highland dancers and military traditions.

Hoping for something more modern? The Tattoo also features innovative acrobatic acts, modern music, contemporary dancing, trampoline routines and cutting-edge videos.

The History 

The Tattoo is presented annually by the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo Society in partnership with Sobeys, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Government of Canada, the Province of Nova Scotia, and the City of Halifax.

In 17th century Dutch villages, drummers marched through the streets summoning British soldiers to return to their quarters from the taverns and inns. A drumbeat signaling innkeepers to "doe den tap toe" or "turn off the taps" was shortened and anglicised to "tattoo." The phrase now heralds the amazing entertainment highlighted by marching bands, hundreds of musicians, acrobats, dancers and military competitions. The unique and varied talent of hundreds of Canadian and international military and civilian performers makes the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo the world's largest annual indoor show.

The Nova Scotia Tattoo was first held in 1979 to mark the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother to Nova Scotia for the International Gathering of the Clans. It has been held every year since and was granted Royal Status by Her Majesty The Queen in 2006 on the occasion of her 80th birthday.

Tattoo Tartan

The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo Tartan is based on the Black Watch Tartan. This is a reflection of the close ties between the Tattoo and The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada. Vast numbers of the Tattoo team past and present are former members of the regiment. The Tattoo's Pipes & Drums were formed under the auspices of the Black Watch Association.

The three services are represented in the Tartan, with dark blue for the Navy, red for the Army and light blue for the Air Force. The red also symbolizes the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canada itself. The Province of Nova Scotia is represented by a wide golden thread, support on either side by the Canadian red and further represented by the light blue of "Canada's Seacoast".

Tartan items are available for purchase including 100% lambswool scarves and blankets, woven in Scotland. See the Tattoo Shop for details.

Our Patrons

We would like to thank our patrons of The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is a patron of the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. We are grateful of her tremendous support.

The Lieutenant Governor is a honorary patron of the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. His Honour The Honourable Arthur LeBlanc, ONS, QC, shows continued support to the organisation.

Coat of Arms

Symbolism of the Armorial Bearings of the Royal Scotia International Tattoo Society


The white (heraldic silver) represents the Tattoo's 25th anniversary. Blue and white are the colours of Nova Scotia, with the blue also evoking the Nova Scotia tartan. The gold symbolises the colour of the brass instruments played by the bands at the Tattoo. The diagonal pattern reflects the intricate crossover of musicians marching that is often a feature of presentations. The pattern of diagonals is a subtle reference to the tartans worn by participants at the event.


The lion represents the power of the Tattoo to entertain and inspire through music and marching. The Royal Crown on the flag it holds indicates that the Tattoo was given royal designation by Her Majesty The Queen in the spring of 2006.


The unicorn appears in the arms of Nova Scotia and the Royal Arms for Scotland and for Canada. The horn of the unicorns is an additional reference to an important group of instruments in the Tattoo. The mayflowers and thistles symbolise Nova Scotia and Scotland, the musical heritage of which is such a strong aspect of the Tattoo.


"Beòthaichidh Sinn An Cridhe Agus Gairmidh Sinn Dhachaidh Sibh," meaning "We stir the heart and call you home." This phrase arises from the way in which the spectacle of the Tattoo stirs our hearts and invites us to think of our country and ancestral homelands.


On a gold compass rose is a blue disc with, at its centre, a white drum with blue cords.

The white of the drum represents the Tattoo's Silver Jubilee. The drum itself symbolises the origins of Tattoos. The compass rose symbolises the international character of the event.

Original concept of Robert D Watt, Chief Herald of Canada, assisted by the heralds of the Canadian Heraldic Authority.
Painter: David Farrar 
Calligrapher: Nancy Ellis

Group Rates!

The Tattoo offers discounted rates for groups for 10 or more.

Click here to learn more!

Become a Tattoo Insider

Enter your details to be added to our e-mail news list.