The Royal Yacht Britannia is an excellent tourist attraction for those visiting the city but also for residents. I recently visited Britannia along with my Australian friend and thoroughly enjoyed my time on board.
The attraction has been given a prestigious five star rating by the tourist board and I agree that everyone of the stars are deserved. The entrance is inside the Ocean Terminal shopping complex in the Leith area, but really easy to get to by bus or car (free parking). All the up to date visiting information you need can be found here.
Every staff member I encountered, from the ticket sales lady to the ones on board were extremely polite, professional and helpful. Everything is well sign posted and the whole experience is completely wheelchair accessible. Lifts are present with gangways from outside the ship that take you to every level.
Britannia has been permanently berthed here since 1998 and hundreds of thousands of people have been on board to see what life was like upon this royal ship.
You start in the visitor centre with lots of information on the history of the ship, how it was built, when it was first used alongside many photos of the royal family. Britannia was crewed by 230 men and 20 officers with its’ last voyage in 1997 as she withdrew the British Governor from Hong Kong for the last time.
The admission price includes an audio guide which is available in a staggering 21 languages including a child friendly English one. It’s like a cordless telephone and you enter the number of the feature you are at, which are clearly marked and listen to the commentary. I like this style of guide as it doesn’t include a fiddly headset / earphones. Everyone also concentrates on listening so there is very little noise as you tour around the ship.
Like everyone else, I couldn’t wait to see what the royal bedrooms were like. Windows have been put in so you can see where Queen Elizabeth slept. The rooms are grand (bearing in mind the year they were first furnished) but not as royally sumptuous as you might expect them to be. Her room only has a single bed and a connecting door to Prince Phillip’s more manly room. Below is a picture of her room, but I do not wish to spoil every part of this tour, so if you wish to see all the pictures, you can choose to view the gallery at the bottom.
Across the hall is the honeymoon suite which houses the only double bed on board. Again you have to allow for the dated decor, but I still wouldn’t be tempted to stay in the room.
There are lovely rooms such as the sun lounge and it’s interesting to see inside the Admiral’s cabin which houses his bed and office in one cramped place. Conditions on board the ship were far from grand even for the officers, but interestingly enough, you do not get to see where the majority of the 200 strong crew slept. They must have been very cramped.
There is now a royal deck tea room so that you can say you’ve dined upon Britannia. A lovely selection of food is available and is cooked in the kitchen on the yacht. Prices are not as bad as you may think, but personally for me, I have no interest in staring at Ocean Terminal. It is handy to have though as you could easily spend a couple of hours on board.
There are also several toilets (some accessible) on board.
The tour continuesthrough the officer’s wardroom and the state dining and drawing rooms. These are more grand and what you would expect and I can only begin to imagine the people have walked through this area, such as Nelson Mandela. You can even hire the rooms out for functions today, but I imagine they would come with a royal price tag. It takes three hours to lay the tables alone! The walls are covered with amazing gifts presented to the royals from all over the world, including a head stone from Easter Island and a small turtle carving from the Galapagos Islands.
The deck below, houses the Royal Marine’s barracks, which are interesting to see and have been displayed as if there were people on board and the yacht was ready to sail. The NAAFI sweet shop has been converted to a fudge shop today, again made on board and very tasty (samples available).
The mail room and the laundry, alongside the sick bay are all available to inspect and the temperatures in the 24 hour laundry could reach over 45 degrees when docked in the tropics. The audio tour informed me that the royal’s clothes were washed on a separate day from all the crew who often had six changes of clothes in one day.
It’s good to see that there are a couple of bars on board for the officers to wind down in. These rooms are great in that you are allowed to sit on the furniture and listen to the guide, imagining all that went on in them. Look out for the interesting ceiling character, nestled upon the fan.
The tour ends with a view into the engine room and an explanation of how it all works. Very impressive to see so closely.
If you wish to see more photos of my visit, then please look at the gallery below. At £10 for adult entrance, Britannia is good value for money. We took two hours to listen to every audio track on the tour including some extra time to take photos, but you could easily spend another hour or so looking at everything in detail. I imagine it could be very busy in summer months when coach loads of tourists visit, but even in December it was fairly busy. The majority of people walk in one direction, so works well.
It may look like you have to leave the yacht if you follow all the signs, but there is nothing stopping you going back on board and perhaps repeating some of your favourite places of the tour. Of course the tour ends in a mandatory visit through the gift shop which has all kinds of royal themed and Britannia goodies for sale. Prices are a little inflated, but there are a few cheaper ideas if you hunt around.
Two fascinating random facts I took away with me is that there is not one rivet to be spotted on the outside of Britannia and the ship has sailed over one million miles around the world!
A thoroughly worthwhile attraction for tourists and residents alike. Five stars from the team at Edinburgh Spotlight.
Suitable for disabled? 100% accessible through lifts and ramps. There is even a visually impaired audio guide. Accessible toilets also available.
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