A Regal Rental: The Royal Yacht Britannia
For those looking for a British royalty tour, there are obvious places across England to visit. But if you want to try something a little different, Edinburgh, Scotland is home to a number of monuments that are rich in royal history. When it comes to recent history, nothing compares to the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is now permanently docked in the Port of Leith, Edinburgh.
"Britannia is special for a number of reasons," said His Royal Highness Prince Philip of the yacht, which launched in 1953. "Almost every previous sovereign has been responsible for building a church, a castle, a palace or just a house. The only comparable structures in the present reign is Britannia." Prince Philip attributes Britannia as a prime example of British design and technology of the time. The grand ship played home to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family for nearly half a century, as well as host to kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers from around the world. World leaders from Sir Winston Churchill to Nelson Mandela to Bill Clinton are all a part of Britannia's gilded maritime heritage.
The ship herself is an intimate glance into the lives of the Royal family, decked out with comfortable casual furniture that recalls more a proper Caribbean estate than Buckingham Palace. The walls throughout are lined with aged family portraits. The State Dining Room is covered with gifts given to Her Majesty from her 968 official state visits all over the world, from rare giant shells to island wood carvings. No less than four royal honeymoons took place on board the Yacht, including that of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. A grand piano sits at the entrance, bolted down to the floor, which Diana herself used to play when greeting guests.
Gallery: Royal Yacht Britannia
Today's guests are welcomed as royalty, with a Pipe Major greeting private groups who are led onto a red carpet and up the steep Royal Brow, a privilege previously reserved for heads of state. The yacht can be rented for a variety of corporate events from gala dinners, incentive trips and staff receptions, to mirror the original purpose of the vessel, bringing together people in a regal yet casual setting for business and pleasure. Guests can choose between a harpist or a pianist inside the ship and after-dinner entertainment options include a fireworks show or dancing to a jazz or traditional ceilidh band. True to the history of the yacht, unfortunately no weddings are allowed on board. Last year the yacht received Conde Nast Johansen's prestigious UK's Most Excellent Dedicated Venue.
Britannia can host dinners for up to 176 guests, and champagne receptions for groups up to 380, with exclusive access throughout the ship from the State Apartments to the Royal Deck. White-gloved staff serve canapes including fresh oysters straight from the sea and petits fours like banana pastries dipped in toffee. The food served abroad is worthy of the Queen herself, and served in a perfect manner among fine china and silver complete with Britannia's crest. The yacht is also open during the day for public tours, and guests can sit on the original sky deck for an afternoon tea overlooking the Firth of Forth.
If you're looking to rent out a venue that delves deeper into Royal history, Scotland has plenty of options. Edinburgh Castle, situated high on Castle Rock, provides breathtaking views of the entire city. Private venue guests are given exclusive access to the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny, while enjoying cocktails throughout the expansive grounds. For a truly Braveheart experience, Stlrling Castle, rich with history from Mary Queen of Scots to William Wallace, is also now open for private rentals.
My visit to Britannia was sponsored by Visit Scotland, but the ideas and opinions expressed in this article are 100 percent my own.