One visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia tells you it’s more than just a yacht. This ship, used by the British royal family, served as a floating home away from home. Its use extended to diplomatic occasions where the royal family, government officials and diplomats could entertain heads of state. Today it resides in a permanent exhibit in Edinburgh, Scotland harbor, demonstrating its illustrious past. A visit here allows you to glimpse a slice of royal life at sea, a tour that I enjoyed and recommend.
Prior to boarding the ship, I wandered through a museum devoted to the royal yachts and their history. The very first royal vessel was built when King Charles II who acceded to the throne in 1660. Over the years the royal yachts continued to transport the monarchs until 1997 when the Royal Britannia was decommissioned. She was the 83rd vessel to be used by the British royalty.
Commissioned in 1953, the Royal Yacht Britannia left on her maiden voyage April 14th, 1954. Elizabeth’s father King George VI had commissioned the yacht but passed away before it was built. This left Queen Elizabeth with the task of overseeing many of the details of the yacht, including the decorations.
The Sun Lounge
Upon entering the yacht, you’re taken into the Sun Lounge, Queen Elizabeth’s favorite room. In this bright and sunny room, she could fully relax while enjoying a spot of tea or a cocktail. Family members enjoyed playing board games and reading. Hidden in the paneled walls were storage cabinets for the games and a hidden bar.
Located on the Veranda deck just outside the Sun Lounge is the binnacle, which houses the ship’s compass. Originally installed on Queen Victoria’s yacht Royal George, it was retrieved by Prince Phillip.
Here is the Anteroom, a cozy place for the royal family and guests to gather for cocktails prior to lunch and dinner.
The Royal Yacht Brittania also contains the State Drawing Room, which served as the official reception room. Here the Royal Family welcomed other royalty, Presidents, Prime Ministers and other famous individuals.
The Grand Piano was bolted to the floor to withstand storms. Princess Margaret and Princess Diana often entertained family here, but the most famous pianist to play it was probably Sir Noel Coward.
State Dining Room
The State Dining Room served 56 people and took over 3 hours to properly set, prior to each event. It also provided a location for church services on Sunday and a movie theatre. Many notable individuals received coveted invitations to dine with the Queen and royal family including Sir Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela, and President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan.
This Dining Room is adorned with gifts from nations around the world, including a carved figure from Easter Island given in February 1971.
The Bridge on the Brittania looks, by today’s standards, quite antiquated but when this ship was built it was state-of-the-art. Unlike other Royal Navy Ships, every captain of the Royal Yacht Britannia was an Admiral.
Decorated in florals, Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom had a twin bed, desk and dressing table. Prince Philip’s bedroom had a twin bed, dresser and desk that connected to Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom.
The only bedroom with a double bed also provided the honeymoon suite for four royal couples.
At the time it was decommissioned, it had traveled over one million miles, made 696 foreign visits and 272 visits in British waters. Queen Elizabeth always said that the Royal Yacht Britannia was the one place where she could fully relax.
Visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia was truly a delight and not your typical sight-seeing attraction. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the private and public life of the British monarchy. It’s easy to reach from the center of Edinburgh using public or private transportation. While this site is a great place to visit, you might like to know that we can arrange private and after-hour tours for you or your group. Contact us for further details or to arrange your amazing Scottish vacation!