The Royal Yacht Britannia was long ago decommissioned but has now become a top attraction in Edinburgh — and now the boat has a sister craft, Fingal, for those who want to stay nearby. Adam Hay-Nicholls paid a visit.
Set on the Firth of Forth, Edinburgh’s Leith area has changed exponentially in the two-and-a-bit decades since Irvine Welsh’s self-medicated rogues littered these cobbled streets. A greater wave of gentrification would be hard to find. The port’s upturn was heralded with the arrival of HMY Britannia in 1997, which has taken up residence as a royal museum.
Aboard Britannia, the clocks are stopped at 3:01pm. It was at this hour, on the afternoon of December 11, 1997, that The Queen stepped ashore for the final time and shed a tear.
Now, 350,000 visitors pass through every year; tickets from £16.50, while the State Dining Room can be hired for private events.
Now, the trust that maintains Britannia has invested in another vessel, Fingal, a former lighthouse servicing ship, which has undergone a £5 million refit to become a five-star, floating hotel.
Each of Fingal’s 23 cabins is named after a Stevenson lighthouse, which is illustrated by black-and-white photography.
Wardrobes are trimmed in fine Scottish leather; Tunnock’s Teacakes and Noble Isle whisky-scented soaps are provided. The bed throws and cushions are made by textile designer Araminta Campbell – her studio is mere yards away.
The Princess Royal, who is patron of the Northern Lighthouse Board, served on Fingal and what had been her cabin is now an en-suite bathroom. The Scotch and Champagne selections in the Lighthouse Bar are superb and the £40 afternoon tea is a particular treat.
For other food and drink options in the area, The Ship on The Shore is a nearby pub that has a fishy happy hour and serves oysters as the preferred pub snack. Meanwhile, Leith boasts two Michelin-starred restaurants: The Kitchin (www.thekitchin.com) and Martin Wishart (www.restaurantmartinwishart.co.uk) — both serving up seasonal Scottish produce with an imaginative French twist.