Scotland

Gun salute and beacons lit for a queen rooted in Scotland

Gun firing at Edinburgh Castle
Image caption 21-gun salutes will mark the Queen's 90th birthday

Twenty-one gun salutes are to be fired from Edinburgh and Stirling castles to mark the Queen's 90th birthday. And a chain of beacons, stretching from Unst in Shetland to the Mull of Galloway in the south west, will be lit in celebration of a queen whose roots are firmly in Scotland.

Holidays at her mother's family home, Glamis Castle in Angus, are an early memory for the Queen.

Aged 11, she wrote to her grandmother, the Countess of Strathmore, in August 1937: "Darling Granny, Thank you very, very much for having us to stay at Glamis.

"We had such a loyal, if I might say so, reception at the station, and when we went out on the platform, the crowd sang 'Will ye no come back again' which was very nice of them.

"It was one of the happiest weeks I have ever spent."

Image caption Princess Elizabeth wrote to thank the Countess of Strathmore for a happy holiday at Glamis

While still a teenager, in 1944, the then Princess Elizabeth gave her first public speech - in Aberdeen - opening a home for the British Sailors' Society.

With the Second World War still raging, she praised the seafaring community as "the men who go down to the sea in ships. The men on whom our very existence depends".

Image copyright Briish Pathé
Image caption The Queen's first public speech was in Aberdeen in 1944

After the Queen ascended to the throne in 1952, she maintained the Royal family's tradition of holidaying at Balmoral Castle on Deeside.

Sir Malcolm Ross, former Comptroller of the Royal Household, said it was always a time for family.

He told BBC Scotland: "Balmoral; yes, the weather's not perfect, but it's the setting, it's the place, it's the atmosphere, it's the feel.

"It's the wide open spaces. No distractions, no aeroplanes, no noise, no traffic.

"Just this lovely estate where she can freely roam everywhere," he said.

"She can relax, with her dogs, just doing what she thought normal people did, and indeed what normal people do."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Queen looks forward to her annual family holiday at Balmoral

The Queen has always enjoyed walking and riding on the Balmoral estate on her annual holiday, but also in the wider community, attending Crathie Kirk or visiting friends and relatives who live locally.

The only formal occasion of the holiday is the annual Ghillies' Ball when estate workers dance with the Royal Family who are all schooled in Scottish country dances.

Local people such as members of the Scottish Womens' Rural Institute (SWRI) are often invited, which Pat Thomson, Upper Deeside branch chair, said shows the Queen cares about her local community.

Ms Thomson said: "I had the pleasure of introducing her to all of the dancers, one of whom she looked at - scrutinised - and I thought 'you're for the Tower.'

"But she said 'You gave me the baggie at Church on Sunday for the collection'.

"She recognises people, and it does mean something to her."

Image copyright Pat Thomson
Image caption The Queen with dancers from Upper Deeside SWRI

But the Queen also turns her attention to her day job when she is in Scotland with a variety of routine and not so routine official duties.

In recent years she has named the Royal Navy's largest warship, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, and opened the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland's largest.

She also inaugurated the Borders Railway between Edinburgh and Tweedbank on the day in 2015 that she became the UK's longest-reigning monarch, overtaking Queen Victoria's record.

John Cameron, the farmer who owned and drove the locomotive which hauled the Royal train, said the Queen showed no sign of slowing down and she asked many pertinent questions about the rail line.

"She's got so many interests and so many functions she has to go to, and for her to know the depth of detail of each and every one of those functions, as she did on that day, it's quite fascinating," he said.

"So I don't think she'll slow down. I think she's one of these people I believe who will go on for ever. And good luck to her."

One of the Queen's most unusual visits was in 1958 to the newly-opened Rothes Colliery in Fife when, in white boiler suit, a white headscarf and miner's helmet, she descended 1,600 feet in the cage to walk to the coal face.

She was the first monarch since George V to go into a pit, and newsreel pictures at the end of the visit show the boiler suit still pristine white.

Image copyright British Pathé
Image caption The Queen went to the coal face at the Rothes pit in Fife in 1958

Throughout her reign, the Queen has visited virtually every part of Scotland.

She has opened the Scottish Parliament for each of its sessions, addressed the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, opened numerous bridges and launched many ships.

She has made history on many occasions, including in 1960 when she became the first reigning monarch since the Viking King Haakon to visit Shetland.

Although the Queen is to spend her birthday in Windsor, it will be marked in Scotland by the lighting of a series of beacons, with the highest at the summit of Ben Nevis, Britain's tallest peak.