The Royal Yacht Britannia

(HMS Britannia, The Britannia)

The Royal Yacht Britannia (bow), Leith
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

The Royal Yacht Britannia (bow),  Leith

Permanently berthed in Ocean Drive, on the regenerated western side of the Port of Leith since 1998, the Royal Yacht Britannia has become a major tourist attraction, receiving around 300,000 visitors a year. The Britannia Visitor Centre presents a video introduction and history of the yacht, and tourists can then board and tour the four main decks of Britannia.

Built at John Brown & Co. in Clydebank and launched by HM Queen Elizabeth II on 16th April, 1953, the Britannia sailed more than one million miles (1.6 million km) around the globe before she was decommissioned in Portsmouth (England) in 1997. Crewed by 230 men and 20 officers (led by an Admiral), the yacht provided a travelling focus for British trade and diplomacy, as well as conveyance for the Royal Family. Her final tour ended on the 30th June, 1997 as she withdrew the British governor from Hong Kong for the last time. Britannia has not been replaced, ending more than 300 years of the existence of a Royal Yacht.

Four royal couples honeymooned on the yacht (Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong Jones, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips and the Duke and Duchess of York).

The royal apartments are grand but not sumptuous, and the private rooms are surprisingly modest. The crew's quarters are very cramped, with only the Admiral's cabin being remotely spacious. Although regarded as a great honour to serve on the royal yacht, life was not easy, with an enormous amount of cleaning and polishing, together with a range of rules to preserve the peace of the royal party and their guests.

Britannia was voted 'Best Visitor Attraction in the UK' in 1999 and, in 2001, achieved a prestigious 5-star award from the Scottish Tourist Board. The Royal Mail issued a set of stamps commemorating the 60th anniversary of the launch of the Britannia in 2013.

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