For our second full day in Edinburgh, we have plans to see both the Palace of Holyroodhouse with the adjoining Abbey Ruins and the Royal Yacht Britannia. We walked over to the Ocean Terminal to see the Yacht when it opened in the morning. Again, we used the fast track lane since we already had our ticket as part of the Royal Edinburgh Ticket (RET). I priced the tickets individually and after considering the price of the tour bus ticket, once we had gone to 2 of the 3 major attractions with the RET we were already saving money.
You access the yacht from the second floor of the Ocean Terminal in Leith. (Thats the 3rd floor to Americans) From Edinburgh, you can take the Majestic Tour bus out to the terminal. If you drive, there is free parking in the garage. Your ticket price (not cheap) includes a self-guided audio unit. The layout is well done and well marked. There are stairs, but a lift (elevator) is available. Trip Advisor has rated the Britannia as the UK’s #1 Attraction.
The Ship was launched in April 1953 and served the royal family for 44 years. It has been decommissioned and various venues submitted proposals to display the yacht. Edinburgh won out and the ship is docked at Leith (Edinburgh’s seaport) and is open for visitors.
The yacht was a royal residence and a site for state visits, official receptions, honeymoons, and family holidays. It was originally designed to be converted into a hospital ship, although it was never used for this purpose. It was decommissioned in 1997.
In addition to the tour, you can visit the tea room with nice views of the harbor (but we have these same views from our own ship). You can rent the Britannia for private events. In 2011, the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips held a pre wedding event on the yacht.
Probably for security purposes, the name of the vessel is not found on the outside of the ship. Allow about an hour and a half to visit the Britannia. In addition to the the navigational equipment, captain’s quarters, and the royal apartments and common areas, you can view the various lounges and accommodations of the crew. Rank was strictly observed and it was interesting to note that there were multiple crew lounges (on a vessel where space was at a premium) each dedicated to a particular crew group/rank.
On the final level, you can view the spotless engine room and a space with a additional display. From this level, you can also access the docking area for the Bloodhound, the Royal Racing Yacht. I noticed while we toured the ship that there was crew preparing the Bloodhound. As we passed by I spoke with a guide who told me that this was the last day that the Bloodhound was at dock for a while. Each year, it is taken out and sailed for maintenance purposes. Interestingly, the crew is all made up of former crew of the Britannia.
The Britannia has a nice gift shop that you pass through as you leave and exit once again into the Ocean Terminal mall. Just outside is a bus stop where we were able to catch the Majestic Route Tour Bus and head back into Edinburgh. The Palace of Holyroodhouse is a stop on all of the Hop-on/Hop-off bus routes.
Palace of Holyroodhouse is the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh. You can tour the state apartments and the historic chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots. Adjoining the Palace are the beautiful ruins of the Holyrood Abbey. The Palace has wonderful views of the mountains. Like the yacht, your tour of the Palace was self-guided with the use of an handheld audio unit.
The queen is in residence at Holyrood Palace during Holyrood Week, the end of June to the beginning of July, when she receives the keys to the city of Edinburgh. Scottish Kings began to reside at the Abbey at Holyrood beginning in the 15th Century enjoying the parkland rather than the “more exposed” Edinburgh Castle. When the royal lodgings grew larger than the Abbey, it was the determined that the residence would become a Palace.
Perhaps Holyrood’s most famous resident, Mary Queen of Scots married both of her Scottish husbands at Holyrood and witnessed the death of her secretary David Rizzo in her apartments here. Near the end of the Palace tour, you visit her rooms in the original medieval tower. When her son James VI moved the court back to London, the significance of Holyrood faded.
We enjoyed the visit to the castle interior (no pictures permitted), especially the rooms of Mary Queen of Scots. One of the charming additions to the Palace tour is looping video of the childhood recordings of some of more recent royals, including Queen Elizabeth II.
After exiting the Palace interior, we had the opportunity to walk through the Abbey ruins and the gardens beyond. The ruins have been called “romantic”, an apt description. The Abbey was founded in 1178 by King David I of Scotland. “Holy Rood” means Holy Cross and is in reference to the fragment brought to Scotland by David’s mother, St. Margaret, and kept at the Abbey until the 14th century.
Initial damage was done to the Abbey in 1544 and 1547 by invading English Armies. Further damage was done by angry mobs during the Scottish Reformation. There have been reoccurring suggestions to restore the Abbey, but those have been rejected. The ruins are quite picturesque.
After our Palace and Abbey visit, Rocky and I finished our hop-on/hop-off experience and headed back to the ship. We have to pack this afternoon as we get off the ship very early in the morning.
What an amazing trip with Rocky in celebration of his college graduation! So proud of my son and fabulous travel buddy. We had a great trip to the British Isles.