We were very excited to visit one of Edinburgh’s top rated and award winning visitor attractions, The Royal Yacht Britannia (especially the girls who pretended to be members of the Royal Family for the day).
Since 1998 The Royal Yacht Britannia has been permanently berthed alongside Ocean Terminal, Leith, in Edinburgh, Scotland. The entrance is on the second floor of Ocean Terminal shopping complex which is really easy to get to via bus or car (free parking in the multi storey car park ).
As we walked through the entrance we first noticed the 11 foot LEGO replica model of Britannia in the Visitor Centre. Here we were warmly welcomed by the friendly staff and our entrance ticket to the yacht was printed out like a boarding pass.
Britannia’s Visitor Centre has lots of information on its history, and houses the original Wheelhouse. There is also some beautiful photographs of the ship and the Royal family and through this we began to learn about the yacht’s fascinating history.
The Royal Yacht Britannia was built in 1952 in Clydebank and stands at 126 metres long and 37 metres tall and was the British royal family’s floating holiday home during their travels from the time of her launch in 1953. We learnt that Britannia was crewed by 230 men and 20 officers in 1997 as she withdrew the British Governor from Hong Kong for the last time.
We caught our first glimpse of Britannia from the visitor centre, and we could see its deep blue hull which is what the Queen chose, instead of the more traditional black. We could also see the walkway that connects the lifts/stairways to Britannia.
Before boarding Britannia, we each received an audio handset, which was our guide to tour the five main decks of the ship. The girls loved getting their own handset with an audio tour tailored for children. They were fascinated as they listened to all the commentaries and it really kept them interested as we explored the ship.
Each floor you explore is clearly marked by colour, with a brief description of what you will see and a number point guide on the audio handset.
You start your experience at the very top of the yacht. The views from here are amazing as you can see the Forth Road Bridge and the hills of Fife in the distance along with the many ships that still use Leith docks today.
The bridge is the most important part of the ship and is where the Captain, Commanding Officer and Rear Admiral would control the yacht. The children had great fun here pretending to be the captain of the ship from his seat whilst also learning about the many aspects of what life would have been like on board such as the 50’s style equipment used to control this magnificent yacht.
There were so many opportunities for the children to learn about the Royal Yacht Britannia and they enjoyed searching for toy corgi dogs hidden around the ship, the first of which we found peering out of the window on the bridge.
The tour continues down the stairs to level 2 and back across the gangway and across the luxury Burmese teak Verandah Deck which was where the Admiral’s Quarters and the Royal Bedrooms were located.
The Verandah Deck was a great area to explore and a highlight for the children was ringing the bell on deck. The deck was spacious with plenty of seating so you could sit down to listen to the audio guides and enjoy your surroundings.
It was on this deck we learnt that the Royal family spent a lot of their time on board, from sunbathing, children playing in the paddling pool to the spot where Prince Philip liked to relax and paint.
We were surprised to see that the royal car, a Rolls Royce Phantom V was also on board contained in its own garage on deck. It really does give an insight on what it was like being a Royal.
On entering the Queen’s favourite room on Britannia, The Sun Lounge, my children were delighted when they spotted board games that they have at home, such as Operation, Monopoly and Cluedo. This led to lots of questions asking what we thought was the Queen’s favourite board game as we made our way to the Royal Bedrooms.
Britannia is the only place you can see the bedroom of a living British monarch, and we were able to view the Queen’s bedroom which had an interconnecting door to Prince Philip’s bedroom. These private quarters gave an intriguing insight into the Queen’s private tastes. My youngest daughter wanted to know what the Queen’s bathroom looked like. We asked a member of staff and they informed us that some areas of the ship the Queen did not want on display and this was one such area.
Across the hallway was the Honeymoon Suite where four Royal honeymoons took place, one of which was that of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
We travelled down deeper into the Yacht onto Level 1, where we got the chance to see where the ships officers would relax and dine.
However the most impressive room on the entire yacht was on this level which was the State Dining Room. This function room has hosted many famous people such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela. The room was fully set up like it would have been for a formal meal and it still can be hired for evening events. The walls are covered with amazing gifts presented to the royals from all over the world.
Leaving the State Dining Room we walked past the impressive staircase on board Britannia and the private quarters where the Queen and Prince Phillip caught up with their paperwork.
In the state drawing room was where the Royal family met up in the evenings. In the corner of the room was a baby grand piano where both Prince Charles and Princess Anne learned to play. Britannia is a monument to 1950s décor with simple and unfussy furnishings yet very elegant.
It was so interesting to learn what a day in the life of the Queen would have been like on board from awakening at 7.30am and retiring to bed around 11pm.
After seeing the luxury and opulence of the royal quarters, we followed the girls as they took the lead and we went below deck to explore the crew’s quarters.
The girls loved looking through each room on the ship and especially the cabins. It was a good insight into what life was like for the crew on-board. The living conditions for the Royal family were very spacious however the crew’s quarters had very little space, sleeping in small triple bunk beds and only one locker in which to keep their personal belongings.
It was on this section of the ship that the NAAFI sweet shop was located and the girls loved sampling some of Britannia’s own confectioner’s home-made fudge.
The bar for the crew was also located on this level and although cosy was far less grand than the bar area for the ship’s senior officers a deck above.
The Mail Room and the Sick Bay were all available to inspect and we learnt that Britannia was designed to double as a hospital ship in wartime, but never served this purpose. It was also the only Navy ship to have its own 24-hour laundry manned by its own crew, where temperatures could reach over 120F when docked in the tropics.
The final part of the tour is a view into the gleaming engine room and an explanation of how it all works. Britannia was renowned for having a perfect engine room and it was very impressive to see it up so closely.
From here you can also visit the Royal Sailing Exhibition and see the 1930s racing yacht Bloodhound, which was owned by the Queen in the 1960s. This is moored alongside Britannia (except in July and August, when she is away cruising).
At the end of our tour we visited the picturesque Royal Deck Tea Room, which traditionally, the Royal Family would have used the Royal Deck for cocktail parties and receptions. Here we enjoyed a lovely cup of Brodie’s famous Edinburgh breakfast tea and freshly made scone and jam with great views of the Firth of Forth and the Forth road and rail bridges.
As you leave Britannia you exit via the gift shop which had lots of royal themed and Britannia gifts for sale. It was in the gift shop that we completed the form on how many corgis we had spotted during our corgi hunt for a chance of winning a hamper.
Why I would recommend:
The tour takes you on a wonderful interactive journey about the Royal family and their life on-board Britannia, and it’s surprising just how big the ship is once on-board. The girls did not expect to explore five decks and really enjoyed exploring the ship through sight, sound, smell and touch during our 2 hour visit.
We had a wonderful time exploring the Royal Yacht Britannia and one which I would recommend as a must visit attraction whilst in Edinburgh. It was a fun, educational, family friendly venue and a great day out.
Our Video Review
Location and Pricing:
The Royal Yacht Britannia, Ocean Terminal, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6JJ, Scotland.
Located just 15 minutes’ drive from Edinburgh city centre, Britannia is berthed alongside Ocean Terminal, the stylish waterfront shopping centre, designed by Sir Terence Conran, which has over 70 shops, bars, restaurants and a cinema. Within the multi storey car park of Ocean Terminal is plenty of free car parking next to the attraction.
A family ticket for 2 adults and 3 children is £44.50. Under 5’s are free and you can also get an annual pass for the same price as you have paid for your ticket.
During peak periods such as during the Edinburgh Festivals in August and over New Year it can get busy, so I would recommend you visit first thing in the morning to miss the crowds.
Tickets are available to buy on the door or online via the Royal Yacht Britannia website.
January, February, March, November, December, 10:00 to 15:30
April, May, June, July, August, September, 9:30 to 16:30
October 9:30 to 16:00
Monday to Sunday, 1000 to 1730* (last entry 1630)
Closed on 25 Dec, and New Year’s Day.
We were guests of the Royal Yacht Britannia for the purpose of the review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.