Visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia was launched way back in 1953 and only decommissioned in 1997.
During its working life this vessel carried varying members of the British Royal Family, dignitaries from around the world and was the setting for more than one drama.
If only those cabin walls could speak. What tales they would be able to tell.
Of course the Royal Yacht in question was by no means the first such vessel.
Great Britain had used such vessels since the 1700s. but this particular Royal Yacht is known by many, even if only in a small way. During its working life it travelled to all corners of the world. Commissioned in 1954 the Royal Yacht made 968 official visits; even for forty odd years that is a lot of travelling.
Despite having seen this yacht many times on the television I had never actually seen it in the flesh, so to speak. Called a yacht, one imagines it to be fairly small. Having said that though, as it is the vessel of the British monarchy, in other ways I imagined it to be large and luxurious.
So just what did I find when I visited the Royal Yacht Britannia at its current home in Leith Docks, near Edinburgh?
We visited Scotland for a short break a few years ago and our trip involved a day excursion to Edinburgh which in turn included a brief visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia.
It was the end of October and a lovely clear day although there was a nip in the air. As we approached the docks the weather certainly became much colder and the wind was quite strong. Our travel courier paid our entrance fee of £7 each and we were in.
Prices have more than doubled since we visited and are now :
We spent quite a while in here reading the story of the Royal Yacht and its occupants over the years. However as we were limited for time we did have to skip over some things a little.
There was a royal car and small royal barge also on display. Following the display around you end up entering the dock area.
I am not sure what I expected with this yacht but it did seem small in some ways. It is the sort of vessel that I would describe as "homely" looking from the outside.
Entrance was by walking up some stairs in a small enclosed tower and then you were on board. If you have mobility issues check before you visit .
There are some places on the yacht that are out of bounds but there is still a lot to see.
Some cabins and rooms are only viewed through a glass screen. Others, you can walk part of the way in but much of the room is cordoned off behind ropes, similar to a formal museum.
There are headsets available for your use as you wander around the vessel. You will hear interesting facts and figures which will help you get the most out of your visit.
There are photographs of people such as Princess Diana, and the young Queen Elizabeth many years ago, placed in appropriate places. It is strange to look at these and imagine the scene unfolding before your eyes.
We did find that some of the furniture and decorations looked a little tired, worn out and simple. Of course no doubt the best items are not on display. It does make you realise just how cramped everyone would have been during a long sea voyage though.
The engine room is painted pristine white and apparently always was.
I would definitely visit the Yacht again. As we were part of an organised group our time was limited and our visit more rushed than I would have liked. In order to do the Yacht justice allow yourself enough time.
The gift shop is quite expensive but no more than similar places.
It is possible nowadays to book an organised tour, group booking or educational visit.
Check out the website for full details, opening times and current prices.
As with most of these type of attractions the Royal Yacht attraction has changed a little since my visit and will no doubt change more in years to come.
"The Royal Yacht Britannia, Ocean Terminal, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6JJ, Scotland. We are just 15 minutes' drive from Edinburgh city centre. Our Visitor Centre is in Ocean Terminal on the second floor."
Happy New Year, Scottish style
Most people in the UK will tell you that the Scots truly know how to celebrate New Year. In fact, many British people and tourists from around the world, find their way to Scotland for New Year or, as it is called in Scotland, Hogmanay. Certainly we British celebrate each New Year but with nowhere near as much tradition, pizazz and style as the Scottish do.
For them The Holiday Season is all about New Year.
Yes Christmas is spent in the usual way, with family and friends gathered around but the Scots save their biggest and loudest celebration for the New Year.
Hogmanay in Scotland usually lasts more than just New Year's Eve. The celebrations may begin New Year's Eve but they usually last at least a day or two.
It is widely believed that Scottish people celebrate New Year more than Christmas due to the influence the Vikings had on them in the long distant past. Before Christmas was a December celebration Scottish people celebrated the passing of the shortest day by pushing the boat out at Hogmanay. As a far northern country the long dark days of Winter were dreaded and it was a time for celebration when they were starting to pass.
To this day Christmas is celebrated as a secondary holiday in Scotland, with New Year as the time for huge celebrations. Edinburgh in particular is host to many, many visitors over the New Year and there are huge firework displays and so much more.
In recent years, it has been ticket only, to enter the centre of Edinburgh and these celebrations, due to the impossible amount of visitors. Usually such tickets have been allocated long before Christmas. There are current bands and so many events. Celebrations are ongoing from around the 29th December.
Although the celebrations have plenty of traditional bagpipe playing and swirling kilts, these days there are plenty of modern attractions on offer also.
Have you ever visited Scotland?
We have and we loved it. Winter may not be the perfect time to visit, especially in you want sunny climes, but Scotland has a lot to offer.
So what can Scotland offer the visitor or tourist?
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland. The loudest and largest Hogmanay celebrations centre around this city. There will be others though across Scotland, in the towns, villages and other cities. As a capital city Edinburgh can be pricey to visit. This applies if you stay in many Capital cities. Move a little away from Edinburgh and you could get a good deal. Travel links are pretty good with rail and bus services covering a wide area. Driving is not too bad but during Hogmanay roads will be busier than normal.
If Scotland opts for independence it could end up with the Euro as its currency. For now its currency is like English currency. Scotland does have some bank notes of its own that are legal tender, in for example England. However some shops in England will not take them and you may end having to visit a bank to get them changed. It is best to refuse them at source unless you know you will spend them in Scotland.
If you plump for Edinburgh you will be spoiled for choice. It has many fine historical buildings, plenty with Royal links and associated history. Towering above the city is Edinburgh Castle. It offers visitors a wide panoramic view of the City and its surrounding countryside, for miles.
During the Christmas and New Year holidays places such as museums may have limited opening times. Some days they will be closed. You need to plan your Hogmanay vacation in order to get what you want from it.
Scotland could provide you with a perfect Winter vacation. If you combine one week in Scotland with a week in say the sunny Canary Islands of Spain you will get the best of both worlds.
If you opt for sticking with Scotland arrive for Hogmanay and enjoy your vacation in January. There will be bargains to be had with January Sales plus once the revelers have departed Scotland will be peaceful. This is when you will get the best prices ever.
Where in the world do you want to go today? One Woman uses personal experiences to show you some of the best places to visit in the United Kingdom and beyond. Enjoy!