Without a doubt, one of the most interesting and enjoyable trips I done in the UK was to to tour the Royal Yacht Britannia. This stunning, and historically important, ship is moored at the Ocean Terminal in Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland.
And with this year being the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, it is a good time to report on and review this marvellous attraction.
The beautiful and impressive ship came into service in 1953 and was finally decommissioned by the ruling UK Labour Party on 11 December 1997.
During its service the Royal Family, who loved the ship, used it for official visits to countries all around the world. Almost all of the various royal weddings at the time also included some time on the ship during the honeymoon. The ship was used for a reported 696 foreign trips and 272 in the UK, sailing over One Million miles.
The Royal Yacht’s final big flagship trip was in July 1997, where it took the last UK Governor of Hong Kong (Chris Patten) and Prince Charles back from the “colony” to the UK after the formal handover ceremony to China. Six months later it was decommissioned, much to the dismay and disappointment of the Queen. She was reported to be close to tears at the ceremony.
The ship was then established as a museum which is managed by an independent charitable trust. It has since become a major attraction in Scotland, and attracts a quarter of a million users a year. In early 2012 the ship was moved from her location and put into dry dock for major maintenance and painting, ready for the big Diamond Jubilee Year celebrations for Queen Elisabeth.
So what can you expect if you visit the Royal Yacht?
There is a large gift shop and exhibition that tells the story of the ship before you get onto the Yacht. This is worth exploring. There is an audio tour that you can use on the Yacht, and again I recommend this as gives lots of information, anecdotes and information.
You are allowed to take photos on the deck areas, but not inside the ship for various copyright and security reasons. This is a pity as the inside is fascinating, but you can but the guide book that has them in.
The ship is very well maintained, and the tour has access to 5 of the decks. This includes the Royal living area, which includes the Queen and Prince Philip’s bedrooms, guest bedrooms and the large lounge and dining area which was used for official dinners and events. There is also a grand staircase. You can then also tour the more cramped and less grand crew quarters. It is amazing just how many crew there were, and it is easy to understand why the cost of maintaining and running the ship must have been massive. And why the Labour Government felt the need to decommission.
The crew consisted of an Admiral, 20 officers and 220 Yachtsmen. The various departments included things like seamen, navigation, engineers, supply, medical and even a Royal Marines Band.
On the tour of the decks you will see a garage with a Rolls Royce Phantom V that was taken everywhere, and used by the Royal Family at their destination.
There is now also a tearoom on the ship which opened some years ago to also help get more revenue to maintain and manage the ship.
The Royal Yacht is open for visitors every day, except Christmas and New Year Day. Tickets cost around £12 for adults. You need 2 to 3 hours to do the tour.
The Official Royal Britannia site writes:
“The Royal Yacht Britannia is one of the world’s most famous ships. Launched at John Brown’s Shipyard in Clydebank in 1953, the Royal Yacht proudly served Queen and country for forty-four years. During that time Britannia carried The Queen and the Royal Family on 968 official voyages, from the remotest regions of the South Seas to the deepest divides of Antarctica.
At the beginning of January 1997, Britannia set sail from Portsmouth to Hong Kong on her last and longest voyage. On 11 December 1997 Britannia was decommissioned at Portsmouth Naval Base in the presence of The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and fourteen senior members of The Royal Family.
Four months later, after intense competition from cities around the UK, the Government announced that Edinburgh was successful in its bid to become Britannia’s new home. She is now owned by The Royal Yacht Britannia Trust, a charitable organisation whose sole remit is the maintenance of Britannia in keeping with her former role. Britannia is now permanently moored in Edinburgh’s historic port of Leith and visitors can step on board the ship that was once home to the world’s most famous family.”
To see all my photos of the Royal Yacht: click here
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