Royal Yacht Britannia
Royal Yachts have been an important part of our British heritage since the restoration of Charles II in 1660. In all, 84 royal yachts have been built, although not all monarchs were content with just one. In 1831 for example, during the reign of William IV, five were simultaneously in service. In earlier times the role of the Royal Yacht was primarily that of a warship, but during the past 150 years or so they have been used primarily for ceremonial purposes.
The Royal Yacht that most of us remember is Britannia, which replaced an earlier vessel Victoria and Albert III. Plans for Britannia began during the reign of King George VI, but sadly he died in 1952, four months before the keel of the yacht was due to be laid and his daughter, Princess Elizabeth, succeeded him to the throne. The new Queen, together with her husband, Prince Philip, played a major part in the design of the yacht, personally approving plans and selecting furniture, fabrics and paintings.
She was launched at Clydebank in April, 1953 and since that time she has helped to make Queen Elizabeth the most travelled monarch the world has ever known. Not only has The Queen and her family travelled the world on Britannia, but the world - its statesmen and leaders - has visited them on board. From Sydney to Samoa, The Queen's guests have been entertained just as they would be at a royal palace on British soil.
For a state visit some five tonnes of luggage, including everything from The Queen's jewels to the famous bottles of Malvern water for Her Majesty's tea, would be brought on board. With The Queen came up to 45 members of the Royal Household, who together with Britannia's Officers and Yachtsmen, ensured that each visit ran like clockwork and that no detail was overlooked.
Britannia served the Royal Family well for 44 years carrying out 968 official voyages all over the globe, but in January 1997, she set sail from Portsmouth to Hong Kong on her final voyage. She was decommissioned on 11 December 1997 at Portsmouth Naval Base at a ceremony attended by Her Majesty, together with most of the senior members of the Royal Family, and the normally impassive monarch famously shed a tear publicly after disembarking for the last time.
Nowadays Britannia sits proudly in her newly built berth in Leith and tours of this iconic ship are included in many of the 2010 itineraries from the Loch Achray Hotel. This unique insight into royal life on the high seas will, we can promise you, be an unforgettable experience.
Loch Awe Hotel
We have to thank one of our regular readers for finding this fascinating photograph in her local bric-a-brac shop.
It seems to show the Loch Awe Hotel immediately after the building was completed in 1881. There is a mess of builders' rubble surrounding the building, the hotel appears to be unoccupied and a line of railway trucks sit in the sidings below. Could these have been used to bring the building materials to the site? The railway line to Oban had been completed just one year earlier in 1880 and this would have been the logical means of transporting the quarried stones used in the construction.
This must be the earliest known image of the Loch Awe Hotel and we are delighted to add it to our company archives.