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Friday, 30 May 2014

The Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh

The Royal Yacht Britannia* in Leith, Edinburgh is surprisingly easy to get to. It took us just over 2 hours by car from South East Northumberland. It was straight up the A1 and the turn off is before you hit the horrible Edinburgh ring roads. Parking is free for as long as you would like and plentiful in the Ocean Terminal shopping centre where the entrance to the Yacht is situated.

We arrived just before lunch and decided to dine at Bella italia which is just next to the Yacht's entrance. There are stunning views of the Yacht and port from the restaurant. Bella Italia is one of our favourite child-friendly restaurants. 3 courses from the children's menu is only £5.25 including drink and everything is of good quality. The children's fun pack is also original and always enjoyable.

After our lunch we headed to the entrance of The Royal Yacht Britannia which is situated on level 2 of the Ocean Teminal shopping centre. A family ticket costs £36.50 and children under 5 are free.

Before you board the Yacht you can walk around a small exhibition which features lots of great pictures and information about the Yacht. We didn't get to read much of this today though as our children were so keen to get on board!

We arrived at the boarding gate and were greeted by some very friendly staff who took the time to let us know how the tour works. Everybody is given an easy to operate audio guide and the idea is to follow the arrows around the yacht and look out for the highlighted numbers. When you see a number, you press it on your keypad and listen to a small description about where you are. I was delighted to see that there were special child-friendly audio guides too. My 7 year old absolutely loved his and soon led the way showing us all what to do. My 5 year old also enjoyed the commentary and was able to operate it herself. My 3 year old however did struggle so I helped him and ended up listening to the child guide rather than the grown ups version. I think this was more fun anyway so I didn't mind.

There are four levels on the Yacht to explore and there really is so much to explore. We were aboard for about 2 hours. I don't want to give you a detailed explanation of what to expect so instead will go through our highlights.

Dad loved the Officer's mess. You could stand behind the bar and pretend to pour pints while your crew sat at the bar and tried on sailor hats.

I loved the dining room. I was awestruck seeing the huge dining table set up for dinner. There were so many interesting facts on the (child's) audio guide about this room. For instance it told us that the room has a huge projector and doubles as a cinema and the family used to watch Disney films here. Some of the Queen's personal gifts are in this room too and it is really interesting to learn about and see some of the gifts she has been given over the years (including ceremonial pig killer!)

Heidi (5)
Heidi loved the upper deck where there were fantastic views out to sea. We learned that this deck was a favourite with children and the crew used to make dens here with inflatable life boats and sometimes they would make a sandpit and paddling pool for the children to enjoy.

Jack (3)
Weirdly, Jack loved the mechanics of the ship and enjoyed looking through the glass at the engines and sitting on the Admiral's chair at the top of the Yacht.

He also loved the sweet shop on board in the lower decks. The ladies who run this little stall are lovely and let you sample any fudge flavours you would like. They were absolutely delicious, I loved the raspberry fudge. We could not resist buying a selection to take home.

Harry (7)
Harry loves learning and really enjoyed using the audio guide to learn all about the yacht. When I asked him which part of the tour was his favourite, he replied that all of it was! 

The tour ends with a small sailing exhibition and then a visit to the gift shop which had lots of beautiful souvenirs for sale. There is also a tearoom on board the Yacht and it looked wonderful. We did not have time today but next time we visit I will make sure we have time for a hot drink and scone.

There are many features which make The Royal Yacht Britannia a great day out for all of the family:-
*free parking
*seperate children's audio guide which was engaging, informative and entertaining
*super friendly staff
*plenty of room for children to run about on deck plus lots of seats
*toilet facilities on almost every deck
*no silly rules - you can go at your own pace, in your own direction and re-visit your favourite parts whenever you like. I also love that you can take photographs everywhere and anywhere!
*very accessible - there is an external staircase and lift to all floors meanings here is no climbing ladders or squeezing past people on the stairs. There were lots of people using walking frames and they managed just fine.
*hands on learning - I liked the fact we could sit on bar stools, try on hats, ring bells and turn wheels. There were even a few games to play in some of the rooms.
*a sweet shop on board

Overall, I would highly recommend a day trip to The Royal Yacht Britannia. We all enjoyed our visit and there is something for all ages but our 7 year old definitely got the most from the visit. The adjoining Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre is also home to a cinema and softplay centre should you wish to extend your day.


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