Her Majesty’s Royal Yacht Britannia. Supposedly the Royal Yacht is the number one tourist attraction in Scotland (some say in all the United Kingdom). I would have thought Edinburgh Castle would have claim to that title.
Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia, also known as the Royal Yacht Britannia, is the former royal yacht of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in service from 1954 until 1997. It’s open to the public for £16 GBP or £14 GBP for old farts like us.
Royal Yacht Britannia was home to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family for over 40 years, sailing over 1,000,000 miles around the world. I will cut to the chase—it’s a beautiful ship and extremely interesting to tour. It is a self-guided tour and every person has an audio device that describes the different numbered points of interest—the entire route is very well organised and easy to follow. You can go at your own pace but on average the tour takes about 1½-hours to complete. It covers all decks from the bridge to the boiler room and everything in-between.
Joel and I both felt it was a very good value and time well spent. From our hotel on Hermitage Place to the port via Great Junction Street it’s about a 30-minute walk and the weather yesterday was spectacular. The Royal Yacht opened at 9:30 a.m. and we strolled down early—the sun was shining brightly and the high temperature was warm at 19°C/67°F with a modest wind. It reminded us very much of a cool morning Santa Ana wind in San Diego, CA. We each left our parka, down vest and hat in our room and just enjoyed shirtsleeves and sunglasses (yes we were wearing pants—sheesh).
Our Latin America and Southern California tans are but a distant memory and we returned to our hotel with red sunburned noses, cheeks and arms. It felt glorious and energizing—we had almost forgotten how good warm sun can feel and what it does to your mental outlook. The folks at the Royal Yacht were very friendly with big welcoming smiles on their faces (kind of unusual in itself). I guess everyone was loving the sun. We bought our tickets, grabbed our audio devices and we were off and running. We started on the forward top deck with its bridge overlooking the bow and moved towards the stern.
The Queen’s stateroom is rather small and equipped with a small twin size bed (one person only). Our audio device explained she chose the smaller bed to accommodate the linen inherited from the previous Queen. Sounds like a pretty lame excuse to me if I do say so myself. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is the husband and consort of Queen Elizabeth II and sleeps in his own stateroom (with its own bed) down the passageway from the Queen (sorry about that old chap—I know the feeling). Prince Charles and Princess Diana shared a room (at least for a while).
As on most ships there are different comfort levels aboard the Royal Yacht. The Captain (an Admiral in this case) has private quarters. The ship’s officers have shared quarters for sleeping, dining and partying. The crew, both Navy and Royal Marines, share cramped quarters below decks. For anyone who has served in the military you know the enlisted personnel ALWAYS get the shit end of the stick—especially the Marines. In 1970 the Royal Navy even abolished its cherished tradition of serving a daily ration of rum (or tot) to the crew. As young U.S. Marine in Vietnam I got two beers a day when behind the wire.
Although many Americans (like us) find the monarchy interesting we also hold it in some disdain. We’re not big believers in being born to privilege—the American credo has always been to work hard for personal success. Unfortunately that credo seems to be changing but old dinosaurs like us still hold it in high regard. Work hard for what you want in life and kowtow to no man. American corporate and military hierarchies still try to create class systems within a no-class system form of government but we’re still a rebellious lot as a general rule. Maybe we’ll revolt against our idiot President soon—one can only hope.
The Royal Yacht even has its own sick bay & dispensary below decks as well as its own laundry facilities. It’s really like a small city floating on the water. There was no explanation on our audio device about why the Britannia was eventually decommissioned in 1997 but it seems a shame. I suspect it had something to do with operating cost and public perception of extravagance among the Royals. It’s tough for the many trying to eek out a decent living for themselves and their families to watch the extravagance of the privileged few. It’s especially true when the privileged few didn’t earn their privilege they inherited it.
Exiting the Royal Yacht we had a last glimpse of the ship from the outside. Tied up along side was the Racing Yacht Blood Hound: In 1962 Bloodhound was purchased for the Royal Family at the request of Prince Philip. In February she was sailed from Plymouth to Gosport to be refitted by Camper and Nicholsons and the work was finished by June. Prince Philip sailed Bloodhound with Uffa Fox at Cowes Week in August of that year. During royal ownership Bloodhound would accompany The Royal Yacht Britannia in the Western Isles when the royal family had their one true family holiday every year.
Field Notes: I had to use an internet file photo to show you the entire yacht. I couldn’t capture it from Portside and I couldn’t get on the water to photograph it from Starboard. I captured the rest of the photos with my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR and EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM ultra wide-angle zoom lens. Much of the time I was shooting through glass and under less than optimum lighting conditions. My 16-35mm gave me the extra FOV I needed and it has great IS that helps with shooting handheld in low light. Not the best photos but at least you can see what the inside of the yacht looks like. SFD