I have to confess that I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to see Queen Elizabeth’s former private yacht, but when it was confirmed that the admission fee went towards the upkeep of the boat rather than into the pockets of the Royal family, I decided to travel out to the Ocean Terminal at Leith to take a look at this luxurious floating palace.
Several buses run out to the Ocean Terminal, but you have to negotiate the shopping mall and its escalators to reach the 2nd floor and the entrance to the attraction, but from hereon in it’s plain sailing, so to speak.
I suggest that you allow a couple of hours at least – more if you intend stopping for tea and cake in the Royal Deck Tea Room.
It’s a self-guided tour with the aid of an audio guide which you pick up at the visitor centre before making your way to The Bridge.
This is all very convenient for boarding the ship, but no so convenient if, like me, you would like to take photographs of the vessel itself.
As tempting as it might be to spend quite a bit of time on The Bridge, it’s worth bearing in mind that there’s plenty more to see. There are five decks in total and they include the Royal Deck, the Crew’s Quarters, and the Engine Room.
The Royal Deck’s State Apartments include the State Dining Room, the Royal Bedrooms and the Sun Lounge, while the Crew’s Quarter’s show what life was like below decks, from the Admiral’s suite to the more cramped conditions for the rest of the crew.
Whereas today’s modern luxury yachts are undoubtedly glamorous, the Royal Yacht has a more sophisticated, and yet less opulent feel to it than you might expect. Having said that the ship is endowed with some superb craftsmanship and minute attention to detail.
The same applies to the way of life on-board. For example, the State Dining Table would take the crew 3 hours to set up with measured precision, and if the Queen needed to venture ashore, the Rolls Royce Phantom V would be taken out of its on-board garage to await Her Majesty’s pleasure.
The Royal Deck is undoubtedly the most fascinating part of the ship, but Below Decks is also interesting but in a completely different way. There was a 300 strong crew including a marine band, who could only communicate by hand signals as shouting wasn’t allowed on board.
I don’t think I was expecting to enjoy my visit as much as I did and there’s no doubt that the Royal Family lived a life of luxury on board, some of the time for their own pleasure, and some of the time for official business, and it didn’t surprise me to find out that our monarch shed a tear when the boat was decommissioned, after all who wouldn’t want to travel around in style like this?
The ship is looked after today by the Royal Yacht Britannia Trust which is a registered charity, the profits of which all go back into the preservation of the vessel.
If you run out of time and can be bothered to return a card that needs to be filled out after your visit, you can return as many times as you like for a year. I’m not sure whether I would bother to do that, but I can certainly recommend making at least one visit. It’s an eye opener to say the least.
The attraction is open throughout the year except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Opening times vary slightly so it’s best to check the website for all the latest info.