About a month ago I got invited to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh to test out their wheelchair accessibility and write a Euan’s Guide review. I had never been to the Royal Yacht Britannia before so, I didn’t know what to expect. However, I had an extremely surprising time. Britannia was launched in 1953 and for over 44 years it served the Royal Family travelling more than a million nautical miles to become one of the most famous ships in the world. She was decommissioned in 1997 and now sits nicely on the docks beside Ocean Terminal in Leith, Edinburgh.
Before I visit someplace, especially out with Dundee, I like to do a little bit of planning. Find out how far the train station is, or in this case where I was able to park. I looked online at their access information and I must say I was extremely impressed on how much detailed information was available. Information about all different modes of transport that visitors may take to get there, information with measurements of certain areas within Britannia, information regarding signage, contact details and much more. You can find all this information within their access guide here however, read on to find out my personal experience and thoughts.
I travelled by car from Dundee to Edinburgh when I visited the Royal Yacht Britannia and parked in the multi-story car park at the Ocean Terminal shopping center where the Britannia visitor center is. As I mentioned there is lots of information about transportation, including what level and area is the best to park in for accessibility. The car park is split into two colour, red and blue, it is recommended that you park in the blue area on level E. This car park was all level access and you exit through a double automatic door, the car park is on the same level as the Royal Yacht Britannia which is great because it means you don’t have to take a lift. The only problem I would say is that the car park was very dark when you drive around. I noticed the lights were electricity saving lights which is great for the environment, but I found it was a little dangerous when you’re not in the car and my helper, Lori, found it difficult to see when driving the car. It’s something that is out with Royal Yacht Britannia’s control though and isn’t a massive issue.
When I first arrived outside the visitor’s centre, I met with Casey who is the Marketing Manager at the Royal Yacht Britannia to collect our tickets. I also kindly got given a lunch voucher for myself and Lori and a couple of souvenirs for the both of us too. Thank you to the staff at Britannia for organising this. Before you go on to the Royal Yacht Britannia you walk around a mini museum area illustrating the history of Britannia and showing some of the uniforms that staff wore. This area was very spacious, and information is displayed at a good height for wheelchair users. Once you have been around this mini museum you queue to collect your audio tour handsets and to enter the main area of the Royal Yacht Britannia. It wasn’t busy in this area when I visited however, I thought it was great there were seats attached to the wall in order for visitors to have a rest whilst they waited.
Our tickets got checked by a lovely member of staff who told us what level of the yacht to start on and that everywhere is accessible for me, which I was very glad to hear. We then collected audio handsets to use while touring The Royal Yacht Britannia. You were able to hold these handsets independently, hold it with a strap around your wrist or hold it with a strap around your neck. At first, I found the buttons on the handset difficult to use due to my muscle weakness however, as I started to use it more it got easier.
After our journey down from Dundee Lori and I were quite peckish so, we first headed to the Tea Room to have our lunch. We headed to the level that it was located on however, the arrows weren’t pointing in the right way. A member of staff noticed our confusion and took us to the Tea Room himself, I think the path was getting re-directed due to one of the Queen’s Rolls Royce being located temporarily on this level of the yacht for a few months. There are stairs to get to the Tea Room so I had to use what used to be the Queen’s private lift to get there. Online the access information stated that if wheelchairs were wider than 670mm then they wouldn’t be able to navigate around the yacht easily. The lift was quite small, but Lori, a member of Britannia staff and myself in my wheelchair fitted comfortably inside. The doors were a little tricky to use, although the staff member made it look easy. The outer door had to be opened manually, pulling two doors apart to enter, and the inner door opened electronically. I think we struggled when it was just Lori because she couldn’t stretch over to hold the handle open without her feet being close to the entrance where I was driving into.
As I mentioned we kindly got given a voucher to have our lunch and let me tell you it was delicious. Lori and I both had a soup and sandwich platter, this included four small triangle sandwiches, a mug of soup and a portion of potato wedges with garlic mayo. If you’ve been following me for a while I may have mentioned before that I don’t really eat that much so, I did struggle to finish it all. The Tea Room was fully wheelchair accessible, the tables are at a great height and nicely spaced out. The only issue I would say is that the area where you wait to be seated is quite narrow so, when people are leaving it could be a little difficult for them to get past your wheelchair. All members of staff here were very welcoming however, one member of staff kept asking Lori a question instead of me which was annoying. I swear I remember her saying, “shall the lady like a straw”, felt like the Queen myself at that point in time. Once I answered the questions myself, I think she understood that I can make decisions for myself.
The accessible toilet at the Tea Room is the smallest one on the yacht however, there are plenty of bigger ones on each level of the yacht. This is something that really surprised me as some were even bigger than ones in any other business/public area I have been to. I went to have a look inside mostly everyone and helped spread awareness of the importance of red cords by hanging up my Euan’s Guide Red Cord Cards unfortunately though, I did run out of them near the end and couldn’t hang a few. One of the accessible toilets kind of felt like an optical illusion, like the walls were shorter at one side of the room. I didn’t like this toilet as much as the others, I know that sounds weird, but it was located on the second last level of the ship and you could feel some sort of vibration from the yacht and the floor felt uneven. I feel it would be difficult for someone to transfer from their wheelchair to the toilet and back. There is no Changing Places toilet at the Royal Yacht Britannia or Ocean Terminal however, the closest one is at Royston Wardieburn Community Centre which is a 13-minute drive and approximately a 53-minute walk away from the Royal Yacht Britannia.
Now I’m not going to talk through every level of the Royal Yacht Britannia because I will be here forever. If I remember correctly, because there was a lot to see, I was able to access and see all areas of the yacht. When we visited it was the English half term break so, it was a little busy but, it was all still very spacious to get around. The doorways were quite narrow to get through however, the measurements were mentioned in the access information provided. I’m sure staff are also able to tell you when you buy your tickets in the booking office. The one of the problems I would say I had was if there was a room to the side of me where you looked through the glass and the corridor was narrow, I did struggle to turn my wheelchair or turn my head to see into the room. I also needed Lori to support my chest when I went through some of the doorways because some had a ramped wooden board at either side of the threshold to get over it and it was a bit of a bump, due to my muscle weakness I’m not able to hold myself up when going over something like this. There was one room on the yacht that had a door which was too narrow for a wheelchair user to get through, but they had clearly signposted a door for a wheelchair user to enter through.
All in all, though as I’ve said everything was fairly visable for a visitor using a wheelchair as the glass panels went from floor to ceiling or there was just rope to stop visitors from touching something. My favourite room was the grand dining room, I could definitely imagine myself having a party here, and I loved the fold out bar in the Royal Families summer room. I would highly recommend visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia if you are looking for a nice day out in Edinburgh. The weather was lovely and dry when we visited however, there is a mixture of things to see indoors and outdoors if it’s Scotland’s typical wet and windy weather.
Thank you to Euan’s Guide and especially Royal Yacht Britannia for inviting me along to do my accessibility review. If you would like to read my full Euan’s Guide review you can find it here, and you can also find a review for Pizza Express here which is located inside the Ocean Terminal shopping centre that is joint on to the Royal Yacht Britannia.