Floating hotel to be berthed next to Britannia

THE Royal Yacht Britannia’s owners have bought the iconic heritage vessel MV Windsor Castle for almost £1 million – and are planning to convert it into a floating boutique hotel.

The MV Windsor Castle. Picture: submitted

Work on the vessel will involve altering its internal layout, but the trust that runs Britannia said it will remain “sensitive” to its historic character.

The classically designed ship will be berthed permanently in Leith, Edinburgh, adjacent to the Royal Yacht, offering up to 25 luxury rooms for the night.

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Plans for a maritime quarter representing the port’s proud seafaring history have been mooted for many years and campaigners feel the trust’s hotel plans represent another “significant step” in that direction. Recently decommissioned HMS Edinburgh is understood to be returning to the port, whilst only last month the city council announced that it had secured The Customs House as a ­museum in a landmark deal worth a reported £650,000.

Britannia’s chief executive, Bob Downie, said: “After many years of searching for the right ship, we are delighted that we have been able to acquire this iconic vessel and look forward to opening Scotland’s first boutique hotel.”

Launched in August 1963, MV Windsor Castle was the last vessel built by the Blythswood Shipbuilding Company, Glasgow, and until 2000 was previously the Northern Lighthouse Board’s (NLB) tender Fingal.

She was Leith-registered but spent most of her NLB service working out of Oban for 30 years, followed by her last six years, based in Stromness, Orkney.

At 239 feet long, she is nearly two-thirds of the size of Britannia. The vessel was sold by to Tamahine Shipping and has been maintained to the highest standards ever since, at her berth on the River Fal in Cornwall.

The ship is scheduled to arrive in Leith in two weeks before undergoing an 18-month conversion, scheduled to open in spring 2016.

Author Richard Johnstone-Bryden who penned The Royal Yacht Britannia: The Official History, believes the MV Windsor Castle will be a “fantastic addition” to the current tourist attraction. “It’s a very exciting proposal,” he said.

“The team at the Royal Yacht led by Bob Downie welcome more than 300,000 a year through their doors so as an attraction each year it continues to appeal to a new audience. I’m sure that this hotel will only add to that experience.”

“The Royal Yacht Britannia has been under-rated as an attraction in the past by those who failed to realise the impact the ship has had around the world. It is unique in that it offers a first-hand glimpse into life

of the current reigning monarch.”

The Royal Yacht Britannia offers an audio tour of its

five decks, with highlights including the teak-panelled Sun Lounge and elegant state dining room.

Welcoming the announcement of Britannia’s floating hotel plan, Alex Wilson,

chairman of Leith Business Association said: “This is a great idea and is warmly welcomed.

“Leith needs to do more to attract tourists with money to spend.

“At present they come in their droves to visit the Britannia, but they leave again. We need them to stay in the area.

“This will also give plans for a maritime quarter a much-needed shot in the arm.”