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Royal Yacht Britannia

from Edinburgh, Scotland

photo LEFT: A dramatic view of the Britannia in Leith. INSET BELOW: Side view with the Royal Barge and motorboats hanging from the davits.


Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia was the last in a series of 83 yachts that were used by British monarchs from 1660 through 1997, when HMY Britannia was decommissioned. In nearly 44 years of service to Queen Elizabeth II and the British nation, Britannia steamed more than 1,000,000 nautical miles and made 696 trips abroad--including a visit to Hong Kong in 1997, when Prince Charles used the yacht as a floating base for Britain's handover of the Crown Colony to China.

Since 1998, Britannia has been permanently moored in Leith, the main port of Edinburgh, where it has become one of Scotland's leading tourist attractions. Almost two million visitors have toured the ship, which was voted "Best Attraction in the UK" runner-up in 2003.

Is Britannia worth the price of admission? Absolutely, and here's why:

  • For naval enthusiasts, it's a chance to tour the passenger and crew areas of a Scottish-built vessel from the 1950s that was manned by 19 officers and 217 "Royal Yachtsmen," and which was designed to function as a hospital ship in time of war.

  • For followers of Britain's Royal Family, it's a chance to see the personal quarters of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, and their three children--ranging from the cozy sun lounge where the family relaxed to the bedroom where Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Princess Margaret spent their honeymoons.

  • For history buffs, it's an opportunity to explore a vessel whose distinguished guests included Winston Churchill, Rajiv Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher, and whose diplomatic missions ranged from state visits to the evacuation of 1,068 foreign nationals from Aden in 1986.

One of the nicest aspects of a Britannia visit is that you aren't herded through its corridors: You're given a map and an audioguide, and you can enjoy the ship at your own pace. I suggest allowing two full hours for the tour, which will give you time to hear all of the recorded snippets on the audioguide plus a few minutes in the gift shop and bookstore afterwards. (You may also be tempted by the fudge and other goodies in the Britannia Sweet Shop, which once served as a NAAFI shop for the Royal Yacht's crew.)

If you're visiting Edinburgh for more than a day or two, Britannia deserves a place on your "sights to see" list. For information on visiting the yacht, see the next page.

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Royal Yacht Britannia Visitor information, Web links

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