Updated August 15, 2020.
The Royal Yacht Britannia was not even on my radar when my brother and I first started planning a trip to the United Kingdom for his big 30th this year, but it ended up being one of the highlights of our trip! You see, my brother is hard core into ships—if it floats or sinks, he’s fascinated by it! We had a long layover in Edinburgh on our way to Belfast (to visit the Titanic Museum, of course), so I started searching for ship-related things to do and see in and around Edinburgh.
And there it was: the Royal Yacht Britannia! The Queen’s own decommissioned ship is just there for you to tour! It served Her Majesty from 1953 until 1997 and was a favorite with royal honeymooners. The goal was for the ship to give the impression of a country house at sea, and I’d say that’s still the feeling you get onboard! Here’s your guide to what to expect and what you’ll see if you choose to take the tour yourself!
Know Before You Go
The Royal Yacht Britannia is a bit off the beaten track when in Edinburgh, so if you’ve got it on your “must-do” list, you definitely want to do it right! To help you along your way, here’s your list of helpful things to know before you go:
How to Get There
My brother and I took an Uber, which cost 23.20 GBP (around $29) because we wanted to save some time. But it really didn’t save much time (maybe 15 minutes), and we found out later we could have taken the Line 200 Bus from the airport to North Leith Ocean Terminal in about an hour for only 4.50 GBP (about $5.63!). You can also take the T50 Tram to York Place in about 40 minutes for 6.25 GBP (about $7.82).
Tickets are the same price whether they are purchased online or in person, but you may save some time if you buy in advance. We choice to buy when we arrived at 11:45am on a Wednesday morning in late June. There was no line, but I imagine there would be on a weekend around the same time! Take that as you will for your planning purposes. When we visited, adult tickets were 16.50 GBP each (about $18.50).
Bring a Jacket
It’s bit breezy out there on the water! I was glad to have a jacket with me, even on a sunny day in late June. If you tend to get a chill, bring a jacket!
Audo Tour Included
This was a great thing to have! The tour is self-guided, and there is very little information to read onboard. You will be given a red plastic token to redeem for your hand-held audio guide before boarding the ship. All you have to do is put in a number on the ship and press “Play.”
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Hungry? No Problem!
Good news! There is food on board. The Royal Deck Tea Room does serve afternoon tea, but also soups, sandwiches, and salads as well. Joel and I both had a sandwich and a sweet!
More here: What to Eat in Scotland
Even more good news! There are restrooms on board.
You may take photos onboard and in the museum!
The Yacht itself is quite large, but with such a lengthy and significant history, it only makes sense that there is more information than can be contained on the Yacht alone! As such, you’ll go through a museum before boarding the ship. Don’t rush through! There are some interesting things on display and amazing facts you’ll want to know in the museum! Here are my favorites:
List of Previous Royal Ships
So, I knew nothing about royal ships before visiting the Britannia. But I loved seeing the previous royal ships!
Read on: How to Savor Your Travels
The Map of All the Places Britannia Visited
Did I mention I love maps? I do! I’m fascinated with all places around the world, and I love to see where people have been. Check this out:
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So, for being a girl, I’m not much of one. I don’t like shopping, I don’t like to play dress up, I don’t like to change clothes… but if you’re a member of the Royal Yacht Britannia crew, your clothing preferences don’t much matter. Sometimes crew members changed uniforms up to 12 times per day! The laundry facility on the ship was constantly operating, and it could soar to temperatures well over 100 degrees F! You can see a few of those uniforms in the museum and on the ship!
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Despite fighting an 8-year war to separate ourselves from Great Britain, Americans are certifiably fascinated with the British Royal Family. We just are! Think about it: The Crown on Netflix, basically every other edition of People magazine, royal wedding extravaganzas for both Wills and Harry, Facebook clickbait… it’s all about those British Royals! They’re just kind of fascinating. And that’s why I loved seeing candid family photos of them on the ship through the years! Here are some favorites:
Highlights of the Tour
As mentioned above, the tour is self-guided and can be taken at your own pace. Your handheld speaker is easy to use: simply enter the number you see at points of interest on the yacht and press play! Here are some of the highlights from the tour.
The Queen loves her corgis, and there are many stuffed corgis placed around the ship. Some are having fun, some are hiding, some are even dressed for the occasion! See how many you can find on your tour.
Mementos from places visited.
This is probably the part I enjoyed most. There was a wooden chest from Kiribati, a large piece of jade and wood carving from New Zealand, a beautiful map of the Queen’s trip to the Arabian Peninsula, and more!
Living quarters for the family and the many crew.
The Queen and her family all sailed on the Royal Yacht, of course, but the sheer number of staff from cooks to laundresses, musicians to sailing crew, is staggering! It’s nearly impossible to imagine how they all fit! Their living quarters was one of the most interesting things to see!
The Bell and Compass
This spot is very popular with photo-ops! And it’s in the shade, so there was no squinting going on!
I mean, who turns down free fudge? You can get a FREE sample and purchase some for yourself if you like down at the Yacht’s on board gift shop. I got the triple decker: vanilla, chocolate, and peanut butter fudge!
This was tons of fun! There were a few places on board where visitors could dress the part, including the crew lounge area:
More Fun Facts
And as if that’s not enough, here are some other interesting facts!
The mail was brought to ship daily, no matter where in the world it was located. Whether the mail came by air, by boat, or another means, it got to the Queen each and every day!
Britannia was always intended to be able to double as a hospital ship in war time. Thankfully that was never necessary, but it was always ready!
Practice Makes Perfect
The Royal Marine Band could flawlessly play every national anthem of every country they visited. I’m sure they had lots of time to practice at sea, but no matter what, that’s quite a feat!
Need more royalty and glamour? Check out my United Kingdom Page!
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