Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Royal Yacht Britannia on Leith, Scotland

This is the final post for the wonderful Cosmos tour of 'The Highlights of Ireland and Scotland" my husband and I, along with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law attended in October 2023. Thank you for following along as I posted all my photos and memories. 
On our last day in Edinburgh, Scotland, we had the opportunity to go on an optional excursion to the port area of Edinburgh called Leith, to visit the late Queen Elizabeth II's pride and joy:  The Royal Yacht of Britannia which was decommissioned from service in 1997.

We stepped into the entrance to see the Royal Yacht, that was located in a shopping mall next to the harbor.  We soon found ourselves surrounded by an informational museum dedicated to the yacht, a charming gift shop, and a pathway leading to the ramp structure that would take us to the yacht. This beautifully detailed model of the Royal Yacht was prominently displayed at the entrance, offering a preview of the grandeur that awaited us.

 Please double-click on this photo. and any other image or collage in this post, to enlarge it for a better view.   This schematic shows the different levels and rooms within the yacht.

There were many placards inside the museum with the History of the Royal Yacht, also known as the H. M.Y. Britannia, 

For 44 years of service, the Royal Yacht traveled more than a million nautical miles~

The ship was built by John Brown & Co. at the same shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland, where the famous ocean liners the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary were constructed. With 12,000 horsepower, the ship could travel at a maximum of 22.5 knots (approximately 25 miles per hour), ideal for ocean-going diplomacy. Before its launch in 1953, the royal family used ships from the Royal Navy or even passenger liners for the overseas portions of the royal tour.

In all her glamour and old-world elegance, the yacht served as a residence that welcomed state visits worldwide and entertained family holidays alike.

“Britannia is special for several reasons,” Prince Phillip once said. “Almost every previous sovereign has been responsible for building a church, a castle, a palace or just a house. The only comparable structure in the present reign is Britannia. As such, she is a splendid example of contemporary British design and technology.”

There were many wonderful family photos in the museum.

Our first glimpse from a window in the museum of the Royal Yacht in the Leith Harbor,

Soon, we stepped abroad the yacht.

The first rooms we saw made me realize that the decor was very "mid-century modern" and very functional and unassuming design,

The rooms were viewed behind plexiglass--this was the Queen's bedroom.

This was Prince Philip's bedroom.

The formal dining room, kitchen, and pantry...

Examples of the Royal China dishes.

The Queen's office

The formal living room

The crew quarters varied in design according to rank and they had multiple lounges

The yacht's Naval crew included 220 Yachtsmen, 20 officers, three season officers, and a Royal Marines Band of 26 men during Royal Tours.

There was a full surgical suite, a sick bay area, a laundry, and a post office.

Tucked into many corners of the yacht were displays of royal treasures and nostalgic photos

The sun was setting and we would soon have to meet our tour bus.

My husband and I had a few minutes of fun posing with the displays outside the yacht. We enjoyed our visit to the Royal Yacht very much!

In 1997, the ship was decommissioned after the government decided the costs to refit it would be too great. On its final day in her service that followed a farewell tour around the U.K., the queen openly wept as the Band of HM Royal Marines played "Highland Cathedral."
We learned a trivia that all of the clocks on board remain stopped at 3:01, the exact time that Her Majesty disembarked for the last time.

The ship is now owned by Royal Yacht Britannia Trust, and all revenue it generates from tours and special events goes to the yacht’s maintenance and preservation.

Our last views of Scotland from the airplane!

It was a very wonderful and memorable trip and I look forward to our next adventure.

It's hard to believe that June's just a week away! I have a lot of gardening to catch up on now that our weather is nice, so I'll be on a short blog break. I'll see you all back here very soon.

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Monday, May 20, 2024

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh Scotland

As I wrote in my last post on Edinburgh, Scotland, Part One, our wonderful tour of "The Highlights of Ireland and Scotland" was coming to a close as our last city to visit was Edinburgh.  On this last day, we were taken by a motor coach to Edinburgh Castle at its location on the high volcanic Castle Rock formation.
Edinburgh Castle has played a prominent role in Scottish history and has served as a royal residence, an arsenal, a treasury, a national archive, a mint, a prison, a military fortress, and the home of the Honours of Scotland - the Scottish regalia. As one of the most important strongholds in the Kingdom of Scotland, the castle was involved in many historical conflicts from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century to the Jacobite rising of 1745.


Our tour group was eagerly anticipating entering the gates. We had a special tour guide who would highlight key areas of interest and share the castle's history.

I noticed that two famous Scottish Warriors guard the entrance to Edinburgh Castle--Sir William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, the statue that wears the crown. The statues were erected outside the castle in 1929, though the men had been celebrated for centuries before. Both were prominent leaders during the First War of Scottish Independence, which began in 1296 and lasted roughly three decades.

Sir William Wallace, famously depicted in the Braveheart movie, was one of the first Scottish leaders to revolt against King Edward I of England. After winning the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, he was knighted and named a Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland. He continued to fight against English rule until his capture and brutal execution in 1305.

In 1306, Robert the Bruce declared himself the King of Scots. Like Wallace, he fought bravely during the war. However, unlike Wallace, Bruce had royal ambitions that fueled his desire to free the Scots from English rule. After years of successful guerrilla warfare, his battles and raids eventually led to the Treaty of Edinburgh–Northampton in 1328. This treaty recognized Scottish independence under his rule, until his death a few years later.

The immensity of the castle grounds became apparent as we climbed the hill, higher and higher.

There were beautiful views of the city of Edinburgh from the top!

The upper area had the large Crown Square where we stopped to listen to our tour guide describe the assorted buildings around the square,

We toured the Royal Palace where the "Honors of Scotland" are kept in the Crown Room in the castle (no photos were allowed inside, but if you click on the photo collage above to enlarge it you can see some photos on the placards outside.)  The Honours of Scotland consist of the Crown of Scotland, the Sceptre, and the Sword of State which are from the 15th and 16th centuries. A more ancient item of Scottish royalty is the Stone of Destiny, which arrived at the castle only in 1996, 700 years after it was removed to England. The stone is a block of sandstone upon which Scottish monarchs were traditionally crowned.

The Great Hall, completed in 1511 for King James IV, is a marvel of medieval Scotland. Its wooden roof is considered one of the most superb in Britain, with giant beams resting on stones carved with heads and symbols such as the thistle – a badge of Scotland.

The Great Hall was the setting for grand banquets and state events. Today, after being restored to its medieval splendor, it showcases weapons and armor that hint at its military past.

We had some free time to walk around the castle grounds and see more incredible views.

St. Margaret's Chapel was built by King David I around 1130 and named in honor of his mother, Queen Margaret. Known for her charitable acts, Queen Margaret was canonized by Pope Innocent IV in 1250. The chapel features original ornate arches and more recent stained glass windows.

Located outside of the St. Margaret's Chapel area is "Mons Meg." It was once considered cutting-edge military technology. Given to King James II in 1457, the six-ton siege gun could fire a 150kg gunstone for up to 3.2km (2 miles). It is named after the Belgian town where she was made.

After many battles throughout Scotland, it ended its fighting days in King James V’s navy, retiring around 1550. After 75 years in England, Mons Meg made a glorious return to the castle in 1829. Cavalry and infantry escorted her from Leith Docks to Castle Rock.

We now returned to the lower level of the castle and exited.

A man in full Scottish regalia played the bagpipes along the Royal Mile outside.  It was the perfect ending to a wonderful visit to Edinburgh Castle!

Later, we took an excursion to see the retired Queen Elizabeth Royal Yacht Britannia--that will be on my next blog post!

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Sunday, May 12, 2024

Edinburgh, Scotland, Part One

Edinburgh, which is the capital city of Scotland, was also the last place we visited on the wonderful Cosmos Tour we took in October of 2023 of "The Highlights of Ireland and Scotland." 

Edinburgh is the seat of the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament, the highest courts in Scotland, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. It is also the annual venue of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The city has long been a center of education, particularly in the fields of medicine, law, literature, philosophy, the sciences, and engineering. The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1582 and now one of three in the city, is considered one of the best research institutions in the world. It is the second-largest financial center in the United Kingdom, the fourth-largest in Europe, and the thirteenth-largest internationally.

On our first day in Edinburgh, our bus tour took us through an area of Edinburgh called the New Town. This area was built in stages between 1767 and around 1850 and retains much of its original neo-classical and Georgian period architecture. A special knowledgeable guide joined us on the bus that day to provide commentary on what we were seeing outside our windows.

We passed stately Georgian-style row homes. Many famous people once lived in New Town: J.M. Barre, the author of Peter Pan, Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone, Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes series of novels, as well as the present official residence of the First Minister of Scotland at Bute House.

Our bus stopped at this home with the red door, 8 Howard Place, and our guide told us this was once the home of the Scottish novelist, essayist, poet, and travel writer Robert Lewis Stevenson!  Stevenson is best known for works such as Treasure Island, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Kidnapped and A Child's Garden of Verses.

Our guide told us that Stevenson was sickly as a child with a bronchial condition, and was often confined in bed. His bedroom window was facing the street, and much of his boyhood life had to be imagined, as reflected in his book of poems written in 1885 from the viewpoint of a child, A Child's Garden of Verses which he dedicated to his childhood nurse, Alison Cunningham.

Our guide then began to read one of his poems called The Lamplighter...see the video below

by Robert Lewis Stevenson

"My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky;
It’s time to take the window to see Leerie going by;
For every night at teatime and before you take your seat,
With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.

Now Tom would be a driver and Maria go to sea,
And my papa’s a banker and as rich as he can be;
But I, when I am stronger and can choose what I’m to do,
Oh Leerie, I’ll go round at night and light the lamps with you!

For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door,
And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more;
And O! Before you hurry by with ladder and with light,
O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him tonight!"

This residence was once the residence of a British surgeon, Lord Joseph Lister. ( 1827 -1912)

Lord Joseph Lister was the founder of antiseptic medicine and aseptic surgery, and Regius Professor of Clinical Surgery.
Lister came to Edinburgh in 1853 after graduating in medicine in London. He worked closely with James Syme, the celebrated Professor of Surgery in Edinburgh, becoming his assistant and marrying his daughter.

In 1860 he was appointed to the Chair of Surgery in Glasgow, and it was there that he first applied Louis Pasteur’s recent discoveries about the role of airborne bacteria in fermentation to the prevention of infection in surgery. In 1866 he introduced carbolic acid as an antiseptic, to kill airborne bacteria and prevent their transmission into wounds from the air of the operating theater.
In 1869 he returned to Edinburgh as successor to Syme as Professor of Surgery and continued to develop improved methods of antisepsis and asepsis, with greatly reduced infection rates.

Our tour guide gave us some more information about Lord Dr. Lister in the video below:

Another interesting home we saw was this one with the blue door. It is called The Georgian House, which is an 18th-century townhouse situated at No. 7  Charlotte Square.  It has been restored and furnished by the National Trust for Scotland and is operated as a popular tourist attraction.

Our guide also told us that many buildings in Edinburgh, particularly around Dundas Street, had boarded-up windows because the practice of concealing windows links back to a 1696 tax called the "window tax," where people were taxed according to how many windows their residence contained. So to avoid paying the levy, some people blocked up one or two of their windows.  

Upon further research however, I learned that the window tax was repealed in 1851,  and this website tells the real reason why--the windows were placed externally for symmetry, but behind them are architectural elements like chimneys, so the tax reason is a myth.

Our tour then drove us around Edinburgh's Old Town. The Old Town is the name popularly given to the oldest part of Edinburgh. The area has preserved much of its medieval street plan and many Reformation-era buildings. Together with the 18th/19th-century New Town, and West End, it forms part of a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site The city had a very magical quality to it and I could see how author J.K. Rowling was inspired to write the majority of the Harry Potter books when she lived a while in Edinburgh to be near her sister.

The many spires and Old Town is also the location of many modern buildings as well as museums, shops, and eateries -- so much to do and see!   It is definitely a place I'd like to visit again someday.

One thing I noticed was all the interesting statues all around Edinburgh. I would need to have been on a walking tour to be able to identify them all, but I managed to capture photos of them from my tour bus window!

Edinburgh Castle--click on the photo to enlarge it.

Our tour bus was now going to drive us up the hill to visit Edinburgh Castle where we would enter and continue as a walking tour... to be continued on my next blog post.

Monday, May 6, 2024

St Andrews. Scotland

St Andrews, Scotland, is a town on the east coast of Fife in Scotland, 10 miles (16 kilometers) southeast of Dundee and 30 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Edinburgh.  When our tour bus approached St Andrews it began to rain, as you can see by my photos through the raindrop-splattered tour bus window.

St Andrews is famous as the birthplace of golf and now also the college town where Prince William met and wooed the future Princess Kate! Our bus drove by the coffee shop where they often had their dates, but it was on the opposite side of my window, so I could not snap a photo.

This was our first view of the famous St Andrews "Old Course" golf course

St Andrews is known widely as the "home of golf." According to the earliest surviving document from 1552, the "playing at golf" on the links adjacent to the "water of Eden" was granted permission by Archbishop Hamilton. The most famous golf course in the town is the public Old Course, purchased by the town council in 1894. The course which dates back to medieval times, is an Open Championship course – which was first staged in 1873. 

The golf course is situated next to the North Sea and our Scottish-born tour guide told us that he never saw the sea as turbulent as it was that day!

We were mesmerized by the sea water churning and spraying, and amazed to see someone was parasailing in the water!


This short video, that I filmed, shows the parasailor battling the storm at St Andrews

Sadly, the Old Course at St Andrews, is at major risk of falling into the sea due to coastal erosion over the next 20 years, according to a report on BBC/

Because it was raining hard we decided to pop into the gift shop for a while.

...where we could see a nice panorama of the golf course from its windows.

When the rain stopped my husband and I and my sister-in-law and brother-in-law walked out to the gold course--what a thrill to see it up close!

In the distance, we could see the famous Swilcan Bridge. The Swilcan Bridge is a small stone bridge in St Andrews Links golf course, Scotland. The bridge spans the Swilcan Burn between the first and eighteenth fairways on the Old Course and has become an important image in the sport of golf.

Across from the golf course was a park overlooking the sea.

We had a bit of time before we had to re-board our tour bus, so we walked down to the main street...

...where we window-shopped.

One interesting shop, once owned by a famous Scottish golfer, hand makes custom-made golf clubs.

Upon re-boarding our tour bus, we arrived in Edinburgh in the early evening. After checking into our hotel, we attended an optional dinner show called "The Spirit of Scotland," consisting of traditional Scottish food, music, and dance.

It was exciting to meet Pipe Major Andrew Coulter!

Our appetizer was the traditional Scottish Haggis.
It was surprisingly good!

The rest of our meal was also delicious!

We enjoyed the show very much! John Morgan played superb accordion, Clark Stewart sang old Scottish ballads, and Andrew Coulter played the bagpipes.

A short video that I filmed at the show of traditional Scottish dancing and bagpipe music.

We spent the final two days of our tour in Edinburgh!
 More details to come in my next blog post.