Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia

Judi and I returned to the St Andrews area at the end of August, spending another 2 weeks with my dad, before heading down to London for our Baltic Cruise.

HMY Britannia, is secured at Ocean Terminal in Leith and is billed as Scotland’s premier attraction. We had already visited Windsor Castle and have tickets for the Royal Day out at Buckingham Palace, so a trip to visit the RY Britannia was high on the list of places to visit.

It is only about 40 miles from St Andrews and with excellent train service to Edinburgh, it is an easy day out.

My dad ran us over to Leuchars Train Station, where we caught the 09:21 Virgin East Coast service to Edinburgh Waverly. With only 3 stops, the journey was just over an hour. First Class day return UKP 17.70, which provides a comfortable seat, a complimentary bacon butty and tea. On arrival Waverley Station we headed up to Princess Street, where we caught the local bus down to Ocean Terminal, at Leith Docks.

HMY Britannia at Vancouver (Mar 83)

HMY Britannia, also known as Royal Yacht Britannia, served as the Queen’s yacht for 43 years, from 1954 to 1997. Although she circumnavigated the globe many times, I don’t recall passing or seeing her during my time deep sea, but Her Majesty did visit Vancouver in March 1983. Judi and I went down to the harbour to watch her arrival and docking. The above photo was taken in Vancouver Harbour, where she docked at what is now Canada Place Cruise Terminal

The Britannia was built at the famous Clyde shipyard, John Browns of Clydebank and was launched by the Queen in April 1953, entering into service January 1954. During her service, she steamed over 1,000,000 nautical miles.

View over Focsle from the Bridge

Entering Ocean Terminal, you take the lifts or escalators up to the top floor to the attraction’s entrance, where they have a huge scale model ship constructed from Lego. Admission prices UKP 15.50 (Adults) and UKP 13.75 (Seniors 60+). An annual pass is available for the price of a single admission. After purchasing tickets, you proceed along a passageway, with historical photos and artifacts about the ship and royal family on both sides. Just prior to boarding the vessel, you are provided with an audio handset.

The attraction is well designed and is completely accessible, even to those with mobility challenges. On the shore, they have a large structure with staircase and lifts that provide access to each deck of the ship. Therefore, once you complete the tour of a deck, you return ashore, ascend/descend to the next deck and re-enter the ship. No need to negotiate the ship’s stairs or companionways, which I know from experience can be challenging for some.

 

Various view from inside the bridge

Numbered placards are located throughout the ship, which you enter into the handset and listen to the information. The bridge design and layout is very similar to some of my first ships, but our younger navigators would be in dire straights with no electronic chart and only 1 seat – The Admirals.

Judi on the bridge wing

After checking out the bridge, we wandered out to the bridge wing, then the signals area, which had Morse-code lights and signal flags. Ah! the good old days, long before satellite communications and cell phones. We returned ashore, descended 1 level, returning to the ship on the upper accommodation deck.

Admiral’s Dining Room & day cabin

 The shore tower is located fwd so we re-entered the vessel at the Admiral’s (Captain) cabin, which took up most of the front of the ship. The route took us across the officers accommodation, where we saw a couple of the senior officer cabin’s, which were spartan compared to the Admiral. On the stbd outer deck, we continued aft, where the royal family accommodations are located.

Aft Deck used for entertaining guests

 

Ship’s Bell and Magnetic Compass Binnacle on aft deck

Entering the accommodation from the aft deck, we entered the veranda, which was a magnificent, but very low key space. With wood paneled walls and basic furniture it was an area for relaxing and playing board games.

Aft Veranda

Veranda Port Side – Prince Phillip’s painting studio.

Heading fwd from the veranda, you enter the Queen’s private residences, with the grand staircase, bedrooms and offices.

Top of Grand Staircase looking at Royal Residences Hallway

Queen’s room

Prince Phillip’s room

Spare room for family/guests

This concluded the tour on this deck, so we headed up the outer deck on the Port side, departing to the shore tower, where we descended another deck.The fwd area of this deck is the junior officer cabins and officer’s wardroom – bar & dinning room.

 

Officer’s Wardroom – bar & dining room

The 21 officers enjoyed a comfortable wardroom, with rich wood paneled bar, comfortable lounge chairs arranged around an electric fireplace, and a huge dining table. Also provided in the corner was a table with brandy decanters.

Departing the wardroom we headed aft along a passageway on the stbd side, which had a number of food preparation and storage rooms.

Plate and glasses storage room

Cutlery storage room

Continuing aft, we entered the State Dining Room, which was set for 28, but I suspect can handle almost twice that number with additional tables. Around the outboard windows are a number of gifts that the Queen has received on her travels. The one included in the photo is from Easter Island, which we were fortunate to visit on our World Cruise.

 

State Dining Room, Place Settings, Menu and Display Gifts

Continuing aft from the dining room, we passed the Queen’s and Prince Phillip’s offices, with the Queen’s on the Stbd side and Prince Phillip’s on the Port side.

Queen’s Office

Aft of the offices was the bottom of the Grand Staircase and then the State Rooms for entertaining guests.

Bottom of Grand Staircase, which leads up to the bedrooms

 

Formal State Function Rooms

The formal function room(s) can be sectioned into 2 rooms, or used as a single large room. They also have quiet alcoves on the outboard sides. Compared to the splendor of other Royal Palaces, the Queen specifically requested a very understated decor on the yacht. This completed the tour of this deck, so we returned ashore, descending another deck.

All decks from this point and lower were crew berthing spaces and all the working spaces. The 250 crew were considered Royal Yachtsmen, all of whom were Royal Navy personnel. The Petty Officers, Bandsmen and ordinary ratings had separate berthing spaces and entertainment spaces.

Petty Officer’s Bar

 

Racks for Marines or Bandsmen

Racks for Chief Petty Officers

Ordinary Ratings Bar

The PO and Ratings racks were at the fwd end of the deck, then as we continued aft we passed a number of working spaces – doctor’s office, operating room, mail room, laundry, etc.

 

Sick Bay, Operating Room & Laundry

The laundry was the final space we could visit on this deck, so we again headed ashore, where we were at dock level. They have set up the original formal gangway with a Britannia lifebuoy and statue of a yachtsman.

RY Britannia Tender

The audio guide provides an incredible story regarding the tender, which the Queen used frequently while aboard Britannia. However, since being de-commissioned in 1997, no maintenance had been completed on the tender. During the 2012 Diamond Jubilee event, the tender picked up the Royal Family and transported them to the Royal Barge. In preparation for this event, a former crew member volunteered to complete the extensive maintenance and repairs necessary, to restore the tender to seaworthiness. The volunteer resided in England and drove up to Edinburgh most weekends to complete the work.

RY Britannia Lifebuoy

 

Andy & Judi at Yachtsman Statue & Lifebuoy

We headed down to the engine room observation area, which they blocked off with glass, providing excellent views of the spotlessly clean turbine room. The audio guide provided a story about a visit to the ship by General Norman Schwarzkopf, who when visiting the engine room stated it was a nice model, but when could he see the actual machinery space.

Turbine Room

Steam control valves

The boiler or generating rooms were not included on the tour, so this concluded our tour of the ship. We headed ashore, then up to the restaurant above the veranda.

Restaurant is the upper room with glass windows

We both enjoyed pots of tea with a scone, clotted cream and strawberry jam. Very nice cup of tea, with a fresh and tasty scone. The service was excellent.

RY Britannia Cream Tea

This completed our tour of the RY Britannia, which was an excellent and most enjoyable day. Compared to Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace it is a real contrast, being very understated. Departing the ship we had the obligatory tour through the gift shop, before catching a bus back up to Princess Street.

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