Edinburgh's Royal Yacht Britannia gives visitors a flavour of life at sea
- Edinburgh Guide
- 16 February 2011
After 44 years in service, the royal yacht can be visited in Leith Docks
Britannia has a new lease of life in Leith docks after nearly half a century’s service as the royal yacht
Britannia is the one place I can truly relax,’ said the Queen of the floating home that took her and the rest of the royal family across the world’s oceans, from the North Atlantic to Antarctica, during 44 years in service. Since retiring from active duty 13 years ago, the Clyde-built yacht is now permanently moored in Edinburgh’s historic port of Leith, giving the public a chance to discover what life was like on board for the royals and the crew.
Sir Winston Churchill, Boris Yeltsin, Rajiv Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were among the many famous names who joined the Queen on board over the years, and you can follow in their footsteps by taking a two-hour self-led tour of the 125m-long ship, even taking a peek into the Queen’s own surprisingly cosy twin-bedded apartment.
An audio commentary accompanies you as you tour five decks of the ship, from the bridge to the engine room, with many items on board loaned from the Royal Collection. Some 95% of the original fixtures and fittings from when Britannia was in royal service, including furniture, artefacts, paintings and photographs, are still on board.
Visitors also have the chance to eat like royalty in the Royal Deck Tea Room, which was traditionally used to host cocktail parties and receptions, and which now, thankfully, has been equipped with a wall of glass to keep the North Sea breeze from whipping the cucumber from your sandwiches.
Back on dry land, the visitor centre has displays and historic photographs detailing Britannia’s fascinating past, along with a reconstruction of the yacht’s wheelhouse and information about life on board for the Queen, officers and crew.
Whether your interest is in the royal family, ships, history, the Navy or scones, Britannia makes a great day out. And when you’ve toured the ship, the Ocean Terminal shopping mall is alongside, with a souvenir shop and a whole host of leisure facilities too.
Just remember that although the ship is moored rather than on the high seas, you’ll be outside on the teak decks and quayside in what can be very variable weather, so take a waterproof coat (and suncreen in summer, if you’re an optimist). Comfortable walking shoes are best, although Her Majesty generally favoured a nice pair of courts with a one-and-a-half-inch heel, plus matching handbag.
Open: every day (except 25 Dec and 1 Jan) from 10am (from 9.30am, Jul-Sep). Last admission: 3.30pm, Nov-Mar; 4pm, Apr-Jun and Oct; 4.30pm, Jul-Sep. £10.50 (£9); family, £31. The audio handset tour is included in the ticket price.