Edinburgh ….. the Royal Yacht Britannia

Von Helen
Royal Yacht Britannia

It took a few years for this English lady to finally venture north of the border and I can truly say that I am very glad I did. I have just returned from six days visiting my daughter in Edinburgh and I could honestly not be more enamored with the city,  the countryside we saw and the wonderful, friendly and helpful Scottish people.

The first day was my daughter’s birthday and we celebrated in style, first with the private hotel breakfast and cake, followed by a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is moored in Leith, and then finishing the day with an Indian meal in the Haymarket area.

What a fascinating ship the Britannia is and how well the individual tour of the yacht was organised. The Britannia is the former royal yacht of Queen Elizabeth II and was in service from 1954 to 1997. In total, the yacht sailed over one million miles around the world, that’s the equivalent of once around the world for each year.

It’s possible to discover the ship with an audio handset, going at your own pace and finding out interesting facts about the state apartments, royal bedrooms, sun lounge, life below decks in the sick bay and the laundry as well as the engine room.

Here are some of the interesting facts:
  • the Britannia was the only ship in the world whose captain, by tradition, was always an Admiral and his living quarters were very comfortable, as can be seen in the picture below.
  • everything was done to make sure the Royal Family were not disturbed; most orders were not given verbally, but by hand signal, sneakers were worn and any work near the royal apartments had to be completed by 8am
  • the royal gangway was never steeper than 12°
  • there was a garage on deck with space for a Rolls Royce
  • in total some 220 yachtsmen ( known as ‚yotties‘), 21 officers and a Royal Marine band of 26 were on hand
  • the tradition of mast stepping was also used, whereby coins were placed under the masts before installation and thereby ensuring good luck
  • many prestigious state banquets and dinners have been held on board involving many illustrious guests, ranging from Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher to Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Mandela and Yeltsin, who were all entertained there
  • there is a small grand piano which is bolted to the floor to prevent damage during stormy weather. Members of the family, such as Princess Margaret or Princess Diana, often entertained at the piano, although probably the most illustrious pianist was Sir Noel Coward.

When discovering the Britannia, you are left with a sense of how much the Queen loved this royal residence and looking at the many pictures, you appreciate how it was possible for her and the royal family to truly relax on this wonderful yacht. The design, however, is by no means palatial but rather more homely and with the feel of a country home rather than a luxurious palace. Again, this can clearly be seen in the pictures below.

The Britannia was decommissioned in 1997 after 40 years as an ambassador for Britain. This was the national flagship of a maritime nation, recognised around the world. The role was a mixture of political, emotional and economic with many important trade deals signed on board.

For us, that little spark of magic was very much there and we could very well understand how emotional and sad the Queen was, when the ship was taken out of service.

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