The Royal Yacht Britannia was launched by Queen Elizabeth II on April 16, 1953 and since then has played host to an impressive number of VIPs, including US Presidents Eisenhower, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, and dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela. The Queen took countless royal trips on board this ship (it was even reputed to have been designated as her refuge in the event of a nuclear strike against the UK during the cold war) and Prince Charles and Lady Diana enjoyed their honeymoon on board this luxurious vessel. It was decommissioned in 1997 and is now one of the premier visitor attractions of the city of Edinburgh.
Royal Yacht Britannia — Photo courtesy of Dr Richard Murray
Visitors gain entrance to the ship via the visitor center in the Ocean Terminal Shopping Mall in Leith. This center gives visitors a fascinating account of the history of the ship and boasts numerous displays and photographs charting her many voyages. Once on board, highlights include the State Dining Room, The Queen’s bedroom, the bridge, the sun lounge, the pristine engine room and crew’s quarters. A purpose-built garage houses a retired Rolls-Royce Phantom V state car and visitors can treat themselves to high tea in the Royal Deck Tearoom which offers stunning views and a wide variety of tasty delicacies.
Moored beside Britannia (except during July and August when it relocates to Oban) is the Royal Racing Yacht Bloodhound. This classic 1930s ocean-racing yacht, on which Prince Charles and Princess Anne learned to sail, is the centerpiece of an exhibition charting the royal family’s love of sailing. Visitors exit through the gift shop which offers exclusive Britannia souvenirs and gifts.
The Royal yacht is fully accessible with lifts and ramps throughout and there is an optional audio handset tour, available in 22 languages (including a special children's version) included in the admission price.