If you do ever stay in Edinburgh I highly recommend a visit to the docks to take a tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia – a fascinating insight into the queen’s beloved floating holiday home, decommissioned by the Labour government in 1997 with the refusal to replace her.
She was in service from 1954 until 1997, and travelled more than a million nautical miles around the world for holidays and many state visits. You can read a lot more about her HERE, but below you’ll find photos and video snippets of most everything on board as it is today – a floating tourist attraction.
When you arrive at the visitor centre, while waiting in the queue, you get to see this amazing ornate compass stand
But don’t expect such opulence through the entire vessel, it provides an eye-opening contrast between public rooms and the simplicity that so appealed to the royal family when out of public view.
The tour covers all 5 decks, starting outside with a view of the foredeck, where the family would stand for photos to be taken of them on arrival at ports, and where, in private, many games would be played.
Then up, behind the chimneys, you find this wonderful cabinet of signal flags – the ones that would be run up the mast to ‘talk’ to anyone who understands the language
Nice to know the lifeboats are still there!
And berthed alongside, is the 1963 racing yacht, Bloodhound, once owned by the Queen and Prince Philip. Bloodhound was one of the most successful ocean-racing yachts ever built and was also the yacht on which both the Prince of Wales and Princess Royal learned to sail.
And so, to one of the most surprising items aboard the yacht: the royal garage!
When I saw this on the tour itinerary, I was bemused. But it is exactly what it says, and it contains a retired Rolls-Royce Phantom V state car, used on foreign visits where no such quality transport could be provided by the host nation. Just before you take a look, I should also explain one of the most fun quirks of this tour, really for the children (but hey, who cares!) – throughout the yacht, you have to keep an eye open for royal corgis – you have been warned…
Then we come to the rear deck, also a site for many activities
Here’s the large bell used to summon people…
And then we moved inside – this games room and bar was apparently Prince Philip’s favourite haunt
You can see from this collection the royal family’s love for board games and quoits
Then on to the queen’s bijou bedroom
And Prince Philip’s bedroom (you start to see the simplicity they cherished here)
Plus a tiny snipped of the double room used by Charles and Diana on their honeymoon
Moving up to the top deck, once an open deck, now covered over to form a lovely visitors café serving food fit for a royal party
Then we have the lounge, and start to really see some of the quirks, such as the overhead wombat who might be used for target practice
amongst the exquisite silverware on show
Still spotting the corgis?
Back to formality with the state dining room with many of the gifts received from foreign dignitaries displayed on the walls
The queen’s private office
Prince Philip’s office (sorry this one is a bit fuzzy through the glass, but you get the picture)
Complete with the requisite corgi, of course
The formal drawing room
Back outside to see the motor launch, used for ferrying passengers to and from Britannia
And then we start going to lower decks, to see staff accommodation, such as the officer’s bar
And look who I found there
Crew quarters were definitely ‘snug’
Of course there was a resident band
The senior officers mess
The vessel was also designed with the option of being used as a hospital ship in the event of war – thankfully never used.
With the huge number of people onboard, the laundry would have been busy all day, every day
The gleaming engine room
Yet more snug accommodation
SO back outside, at the base of the gangplank, we found a statue dedicated to the ‘yotties’ – the name proudly owned by the enthusiastic crew members.
Quoting from Wikipedia, “The crew of Royal Yachtsmen were volunteers from the general service of the Royal Navy. Officers were appointed for up to two years, while the “yachtsmen” were volunteers and after 365 days’ service could be admitted to “The Permanent Royal Yacht Service” as Royal Yachtsmen and served until they chose to leave the Royal Yacht Service or were dismissed for medical or disciplinary reasons. As a result, some served for 20 years or more.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour of Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia?