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Catch a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth’s preferred room, see the honeymoon bed requested by Charles, and find out why a wombat takes pride of place in a roof fan during this self-guided tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh. After 44 years of royal service, HMY Britannia is berthed at Ocean Terminal in Leith and open to visitors who want to learn more about how the royals live.
However, a tour of Britannia is much more than just pulling back the curtains on an episode of The Crown, the tour goes deep into life at sea logistics, touches upon UK history and discusses the engineering of this floating palace.
You’ll get a sneak peek at the bowels of the Britannia as well as its bow. So let’s dive into the Royal Yacht Britannia tour review and photography.
Visit The Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh
Setting and Location
While there is no shortage of royal attractions in the Old Town, the Royal Yacht Britannia is actually located in the lesser-known, very hip and adored Edinburgh neighbourhood, Leith.
You can get to Leith via public bus, taxi or the hop on/hop off bus tour using the Majestic Tour line.
If you have a car, the Royal Yacht Britannia is one of the very few Edinburgh attractions that you can park at for free.
Parking is available at the Ocean Terminal shopping centre/mall where you will find the entrance of the yacht reception area.
Once you go through reception you will see a number of storyboards and artefacts as you move through to collect your audio guide.
Guest restrooms are located in this area and on the yacht.
Royal Yacht Britannia Audio Guide
The audio guide is narrated by the dreamy BAFTA award winner Mark Bonnar who you may recognise from the outstanding UK TV show, Line of Duty and the Scottish TV series, Shetland.
Visitors can choose between the sanitised audio device which is held up to the ear or using their own headphones and phone.
At each station, you type in a number to access the corresponding facts and stories about the exhibit.
The audio tour comes in 30 languages and there is a children’s version.
British and American Sign Language tablets are also available.
There are five decks to explore which take around 1.5 hours to walk through.
To access each deck you use the stairs or elevator in Ocean Terminal then walk over a bridge to get to the deck.
You do this each time you move between the decks, starting at the top and working your way down.
You can enjoy coffee and/or lunch at The Royal Deck Tea Room, which is only open to those who have paid to visit HMY Britannia.
Look how lovely and light the tea room is!
Afternoon teas are available, dahlin’.
Five Deck Tour
The tour kicks off among the tempting buttons, teasing dials and shiny plaques of the top deck Bridge.
This is where much of the control took place which was the responsibility of the Britannia’s Admiral or Commodore.
There is only one seat in this room that overlooks the yacht bow reserved for the man in charge.
Next, the tour takes you outside to the bow which is probably one of the most recognisable areas since this is where the royals would wave from when arriving at their destination.
A wooden lip was added to the bow to keep the wind from lifting up a royal skirt!
One of my favourite spots was the two-inch teak Verandah Deck which acted as a games deck, muse for art, hosted private engagements and doubled up as a swimming pool area for the kids!
The deck was cleaned daily before 8am and all work was conducted in silence so as to not disturb the royals as they slept.
The deck is also where the family photos were taken and acted as the pre-reception area for Zara and Mike Tindall’s wedding.
The tour then takes you inside the yacht, through the Queen’s favourite room, the Sun Lounge, which has floor to ceiling windows viewing the Verandah Deck.
Next up is a nosey into the State Apartments which include the separate bedrooms of Queen Elizabeth (first image) and Prince Phillip (second image) and the honeymoon suite (third image) which has a double bed, at Prince Charles request.
Did you know that you can stay in a castle in Scotland?
The tour also has access to The State Drawing Room with its country home feel, piano and games.
This room was used for relaxing and entertaining.
Live music was an important part of HMY Britannia’s life and the Royal Marines Band could switch between a ceilidh and classical song with no hesitation.
They could also play every national anthem of the countries the royal yacht docked at, which is a reminder that this vessel has sailed over one million miles.
The lower you go down the decks, the greater insight you get into the workings of HMY Britannia.
From the pecking order living arrangements, including segregated pubs, to the bedroom dorms, it is evident that life at sea onboard Britannia was not an easy one for workers and sailors.
However, they appeared to create a good balance between work and fun creating games including one with a stuffed wombat, I won’t spoil the surprise!
During the tour, you will learn more than just facts about the royal family but also stories about the seamen, superstition, tradition and logistics.
Along with the original room content, there is lots of artwork and photography that compliment the audio guide.
If you are planning a trip from the States, check out this article on things every North American should know before visiting Scotland.
- Address: Ocean Dr, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6JJ
- Self-guided audio tour: 1-2 hours
- Kids enjoy the corgi treasure hunt
- Elevator and ramps throughout
- On-site restaurant
With GetYourGuide, tours have a 24-hour cancellation guarantee so if you can’t make it, you don’t lose your money.
Frequently Asked Questions About HMY Britannia
HMY Britannia was used for royal service from 1954 to 1997.
It was announced on 23 June 1994 that HMY Britannia would not be refitted due to cost.
Yes, over 300,000 people visit the royal yacht each year.
The Royal Yacht Britannia is looked after by the Royal Yacht Britannia Trust.
Other Things To Do Near The Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia is located in Ocean Terminal which is home to a number of restaurants, a cinema and the cool Leith Collective should which is a great store for local souvenirs.
A five-minute walk from Ocean Terminal is Leith Shore and the independent bars and restaurants that surround it.
Enjoy fine dining at The Kitchen, seafood at The Ship On The Shore, brunch at The Kings Wharf or Nobles, lunch at The Hideout Cafe, afternoon tea at Mimi’s Bakehouse, cocktails at the Roseleaf or a cold pint at Teuchters Landing.
Our Leith Guides
From Leith you can walk up Leith Walk to Princes Street or along the Water of Leith Walkway to Stockbridge where you will find a Sunday market, cafes galore and a path to the historic Dean Village.
Find out more about Stockbridge here.
Disclaimer: This guide was written in partnership with GetYourGuide. I, Gemma, have been working alongside GetYourGuide since 2017. Opinions are my own.