A Day in Edinburgh, Scotland

Bandsmen practicing for the Edinburgh Tattoo in Edinburgh Castle

Established in the 12th century (c.1130) by King David 1, Edinburgh is one of Scotland's earliest royal burghs (or borough, as it is known in England). Still overlooked by its Medieval castle, the Edinburgh of today is a mix of the old and the new. As part of our visit to Scotland, Becca gave us a tour of the city she has come to love during her university days there.

The firing of the one o'clock cannon from the castle a tradition dating back to 1861

Originally sounded to enable the ships in Leith Harbour to set their clocks accurately, the “one o'clock gun” is now a very popular tourist attraction.

Although we only had this one day, we just had to visit the castle itself

This is West Bow, Victoria Street, one of the most famous streets in Edinburgh

If you continue on downhill from the Royal Mile, you come to West Bow, leading to Grassmarket, and many of the oldest buildings in the city can be seen there. The word “bow” is the old name for “arch”, as this was the original entrance into the city.

Colourful houses in West Bow, Edinburgh

This area is now the trendy part of the city, with shops, restaurants and bars, full of locals and tourists alike.

This claims to be the smallest pub in Scotland

This public house has only been here since 2013, but its décor fits in very well with the rest of the street. It is so tiny, that it only has room for 20 drinkers, at most, as long as they are all standing up. In fact, it doesn’t even have a bar. Customers have to be served from a small drinks cabinet.

This café is very popular because of its tasty food, and literary connections

The Elephant House was a popular haunt of the authors Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith. It was also where JK Rowling wrote the early Harry Potter books, and is now a place for the boy wizard’s fans to hang out, and probably try their hand at writing their own blockbusters.

St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh

Although St Giles Cathedral, properly called the High Kirk of Edinburgh, was built in the 15th century, its present appearance is as a result of the restoration carried out during the 19th century. This important archaeological landmark also contains over 200 memorials to distinguished Scots.

Memorial to John Knox,
leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland

John Knox preached his first sermon on the Reformation at St. Giles in 1559. And was instrumental in spreading the Presbyterian form of Protestantism throughout Scotland.

St Giles is also renowned for its beautiful stained glass windows

Other memorials to famous Scots can be found all over the city. The image below shows the enormous Gothic tribute to Sir Walter Scott, the writer. It is the largest monument to a writer seen anywhere in the world. In fact, the author Bill Bryson likened it to a ‘gothic rocket ship’. …and you can see why.

Memorial to Sir Walter Scott

Edinburgh is a fascinating city, and its rich history, together with its vibrant lifestyle, makes it a city you can visit over and over again. It is definitely on my list for future visits.

Good night, Edinburgh, and thanks for all the fun!

Elizabeth Coughlan


Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, Scotland, graduation 2016


 Rebecca graduated from Edinburgh University

We were so happy to be invited to our niece Rebecca's graduation from Edinburgh University, Scotland, which was founded in 1583.

The ceremony was held at Usher Hall

As this was Scotland, there had to be a piper around…

…while we waited for the ceremony to start

University Officials at the graduation ceremony
in their academic gowns

Becca waiting to be called up to receive her degree

This is the culmination of all Becca’s hard work, and we were so happy to be able to celebrate it with her in this time-honoured ceremony. The students are doffed on the head with the historic “Geneva Bonnet”, which legend claims is made using material from the breeches of John Knox.

Unfortunately, I failed to get a record of that, as I was so excited to see Becca being conferred, I forgot to take the photo, and only just managed to take this next one (below).

Becca received her degree

After the ceremony, the graduates waited for the photographer to sort them out by height 
for the official photo… (can you spot Becca?)

…they waited and waited for the photographer to take the photo,
he was very slow.

Meanwhile, we went to the reception venue, and started on the champagne

This was such a special day, and there was more to come. We thought we were going to dinner, but Becca had arranged for us all to go to an Elton John concert. We were ecstatic!  What a wonderful end to the day.

Foy Vance, the opening act at the Elton John concert

For the uninitiated, Foy Vance is a Northern Irish musician and singer-songwriter signed to Glassnote Records in 2013. Vance has toured as a support act to British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran and his music has been featured on numerous TV shows.

I just managed to take the above photo, when I was told to put my camera away, as it looked too professional! However, I did manage to take one of Elton John with my phone!

The crowd loved Elton John, and we all sung along with him.

Thank you Becca, for  wonderful day, and an awesome evening!

Elizabeth Coughlan


King's Lynn, Norfolk, England, UK

Old houses in Nelson’s Lane, a historic part of King’s Lynn

While we were in Norfolk, we spent a day in King’s Lynn. As you can see from my photos, it was an overcast rainy day, but this city has a fascinating history, dating back more than nine hundred years, so, despite the rain, we were happy to explore.  From as early as the 12th century, King’s Lynn was one of England’s most important ports.

This building was opened in 1685 as a Merchants’ Exchange,
before becoming Lynn’s new Custom House in 1717

This bronze statue in front of the old Customs House is of the explorer
Captain George Vancouver, 1757 – 1798

Canada's Vancouver Island, and the city of Vancouver are named after Captain George Vancouver, as are Vancouver, Washington, Mount Vancouver on the Yukon/Alaska border, and New Zealand's sixth highest mountain. 

Devil’s Alley, King’s Lynn

Where you have a large port, like the one in King’s Lynn, it is often difficult to track the people arriving from all parts of the world – and beyond! Legend has it that one day a ship docked at Lynn carrying the devil. He came ashore, but a priest spotted him in this alleyway, and drove him back to the ship with prayers and holy water. The devil is said to have stamped his foot on the ground in anger, and left his footprint on the cobblestones. Although nothing can be seen today, it is thought the legend may have arisen from a large foot-shaped cobble which was once visible in the paving.

Entrance to Hampton Court, King’s Lynn

Given its history, it is not surprising that King’s Lynn has managed to preserve much of its original architecture. This is the entrance to Hampton Court, with a late 15th century building, constructed for a very wealthy Merchant, in the front. Going through the arch you come to a fully enclosed courtyard, and each century seems to have added a wing.  The south wing is 14th century, west wing 15th century, and the north wing completed the courtyard about a hundred years later.

The Valiant Sailor

This was once a Public House, named after Jack Crawford, a sailor who fought in the Battle of Camperdown, 1797. Later, the house became the home of the artist Walter Dexter.

Historic houses along King’s Staith Lane, leading to South Quay,
with an intrepid explorer in the front.

Trinity Guildhall with its distinctive flint, chequer-board patterned, front

This magnificent building dates back to the 1420s, and is the centrepiece of the Town Hall complex. It also comprises the Old Gaol House built in 1784.

King’s Lynn Minster

Originally named St Margaret’s Church, when it was founded by the first Bishop of Norwich in 1101, it was designated a Minster Church in 2011 by the present Bishop of Norwich. This is a title dating from Anglo-Saxon times, when it was given to churches if they were a missionary teaching church, or a church attached to a monastery. The second tower, the Greyfriars tower, was erected about 1400 to enhance the Church, and acted as an important landmark for ships sailing into the Wash until the 19th century.

As a port town on the east coast of England, King’s Lynn was vulnerable to severe storms. In 1741, a storm brought down the medieval spires of both St Margaret’s and nearby St Nicholas’ church, and both had to be replaced. There was also a severe flood in 1953, when much of the town was under water. The marker next to the door in the image below is a reminder of the flood level at that time.

A marker next to a door in King’s Lynn,
showing the level the water rose to in 1953

King’s Lynn was also Great Britain’s first member of Die Hanse (The Hanse). This was an active network of towns and cities across Europe, which historically belonged to the association of merchant towns known as the Hanseatic League. The original mediaeval Hanseatic League, which comprised a group of towns around the Baltic and the North Sea, was an extremely influential trading association and very much a part of King’s Lynn’s development and historic past. The league dominated commercial activity in northern Europe from the 13th to the 15th century.

Thanks to the preservation of so many historical sites, King’s Lynn is a history buff’s dream. Nine hundred years of maritime trading history are preserved in its historic core of fine houses, medieval churches and guildhalls, secret courtyards, and hidden alleys. I would definitely like to explore further, but preferably on a warmer, sunnier day!

Elizabeth Coughlan


Sandringham, Norfolk, England, UK

Sandringham, Norfolk, the country retreat of Her Majesty the Queen

We went to visit my brother, Eddie, who lives in Dersingham, Norfolk, right next to the 24 hectare (59 acre) estate that belongs to the Queen. When she is not in residence, the grounds, and parts of the house, are open to the public; so we didn’t hesitate to pay a visit.

Eddie and David standing in front of the imposing gates to the grounds

Queen Victoria bought Sandringham in 1862 for her son, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, as a private retreat, so he could escape to the country from time to time, and it has been in the royal family ever since. Interestingly, Sandringham is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as “Sant Dersingham, the sandy part of Dersingham, which became shortened to Sandringham.

The gardens are exquisite, and beautifully maintained

I love photographing reflections, so I was in my element, given all the lakes!

There are other houses dotted about the grounds, 
apart from the main one, like this pretty little gatehouse...

…and York Cottage

This was originally built as a bachelor pad, and for any overflow of Sandringham House guests. It was subsequently named after Prince George, the Duke of York (later King George V), when his father, (the future King Edward VII, then the Prince of Wales) gave it to him as a wedding gift. Although it is called a cottage, the building is large and said to resemble "three Merrie England pubs joined together." Today, York Cottage contains the estate office for Sandringham; apartments for estate employees, and some vacation accommodation.

A bronze statue of Estimate, commissioned from the sculptress Tessa Campbell- Fraser

We came across several interesting statues in the grounds. This one of Estimate, was one of the Queen's favourite horses. Her Majesty The Queen loves horse racing, and takes a particular interest in bloodstock breeding. Estimate was given to Queen Elizabeth II as part of an 80th birthday present from the Aga Khan, who bred the horse in his own stud.

This statue of Buddha was bought in China by Admiral Sir Henry Keppel in 1870, 
as a gift for the Prince of Wales.

They say, if you rub the Buddha’s tummy and make a wish, your wish will come true. Naturally, we had to try that.

Old Father Time sits at the end of the North Garden at Sandringham. It was bought by Queen Elizabeth (the late Queen Mother) in 1951. The statue is believed to date from about 1800

The gardens at Sandringham show nature at its best, 
everything seemed so perfect, even this drake!

We also saw trees of every colour

This was a wonderful day out, to be highly recommended. Of course, we did go into the house to see all the wonderful treasures, but unfortunately photography is not allowed, so you will just have to make the trip and see for yourself. Thanks, Eddie, for showing us around this magnificent piece of English history.

Elizabeth Coughlan

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