JUBILEE celebrations got under way yesterday as the Queen made a special appearance at the Epsom Derby and the beginning of the bank holiday weekend was marked by street parties across many parts of Britain.

Crowds of around 130,000 cheered and waved union flags as the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were driven down the racecourse at the start of the Derby.

The royal couple were joined by a large party which included the Duke of York and his daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie and the monarch's racing manager John Warren.

Anthony Cane, Epsom Downs Racecourse chairman, said: "You have to remember, she comes here in a normal year in a private capacity not on an official visit. But she comes because she loves it, and this time it's her one trip to Surrey in the Diamond Jubilee."

Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins sang the national anthem as the Queen made her way to the royal enclosure, followed by a spectacular parachute fall by the Red Devils – the British Army display team –which saw the men make pin-point landings close to the finishing line. Ashleigh Butler and her dog Pudsey, winners of this year's Britain's Got Talent, also entertained the crowds, performing tricks while the public waited.

Celebrations in London will gain momentum today with the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, featuring a flotilla of 1000 boats escorting the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. Among the barges joining the procession will be the Royal Yacht Britannia's royal barge, which set off from Leith to London last week. The river pageant will begin around 2pm today.

Tomorrow night the BBC's Jubilee concert, featuring performances by Sir Paul McCartney and Madness, will be held outside Buckingham Palace with more than 4000 beacons due to be lit at sites around the world to mark 60 years of the Queen's reign. The Queen will light the National Beacon at 10.30pm tomorrow.

On Tuesday, the celebrations will draw to a close as a national service of thanksgiving, attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, is held at St Paul's Cathedral in the morning. This will be followed by a lunch at Westminster Hall and a carriage procession to Buckingham Palace, with a balcony appearance by the royals and military fly-past in the afternoon.

The Duke of Devonshire, one of the Queen's youngest pages at her Coronation ceremony 60 years ago, shared his memories of the day yesterday as a massive picnic was held at his family's Chatsworth estate, where an exhibition of regalia has also been opened to the public.

The display includes robes worn by four generations of the Cavendish family at the Queen's Coronation as well as the state chariot in which the Duke and his parents travelled to Westminster Abbey in 1953.

The Duke, who was nine years old at the Coronation, said he was pleased to get days off from boarding school when he travelled to London for rehearsals as his grandmother's page.

He said: "I was allowed to have sweets for the ceremony as it was such a long day. They were still rationed at the time so this was a real treat."

Celebrations in Scotland began yesterday as the Queen was given a 21-gun royal salute at Edinburgh Castle to mark the anniversary of her coronation. Tourists at the castle gathered to watch the ceremony while at the other end of the Royal Mile preparations were under way for jubilee events at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Scotland.

A big screen outside the palace will show today's royal pageant along the River Thames in London and families are being encouraged to bring a picnic. The residence will stay open into the night on Monday when a beacon will be lit on the roof.

The capital is at the centre of Scotland's jubilee celebrations, with 30 street parties – around a third of the total taking place across Scotland – being held in Edinburgh.

The Royal Yacht Britannia, moored at the port of Leith, is also hosting a weekend of celebrations which includes entertainment, cake and flags being given out.

Glasgow is holding just eight street parties with the majority of the festivities led by the Orange Order, who have organised 22 marches through the city over the jubilee weekend. Two marches were made through the Govan and Drumchapel areas of the city yesterday, with more than 1300 participants, with a further 20 processions scheduled today.