The royal residences are a must visit. But did you know that some are open throughout the winter months, decked with a festive look, atmospheric and a real joy to visit during December? This winter there are exclusive ‘Behind the Ropes’ private tour’s taking place at The Royal Yacht Britannia and the Royal Residences. Here’s more on visiting the royal residences and the festive celebrations you don’t want to miss.
Visiting the Royal Residences This Christmas
Palace of Holyrood
Open throughout the year, the Palace of Holyroodhouse stands at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.
Explore the Palace’s close associations with some of Scotland’s most well-known historical figures such as Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie; and learn how it is used today by The Queen when carrying out official engagements in Scotland.
Festivities at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh has started with The Great Stair leading to the historic State Apartments being draped with twinkling garlands, while in the Great Gallery a shining Christmas tree decked in white, gold and silver. Don’t miss the Royal Dining Room with the table laid with pieces from a silver service presented to George V and Queen Mary in 1935 to mark their Silver Jubilee; and decorated with flowers, wreaths and spires of faux candied sugared fruits.
In the Café at the Palace in the historic Mews courtyard, enjoy homemade mince pies, Christmas cake and mulled wine. Or treat yourself to a Christmas-themed afternoon tea while visiting the royal residences.
The Christmas Festival Day takes place on Saturday 15th December. It’s said to be a great family day out including a Christmas present trail, ceilidh, decoration-making workshops; and storytelling around the fireplace in the Palace’s Great Gallery.
The Royal Yacht Britannia
2018 marks 20 years since The Royal Yacht Britannia arrived in Edinburgh. During her 44 year career, Britannia conveyed The Queen, other members of the Royal Family and dignitaries around the world. She travelled 1,087,623 nautical miles, calling at more than 600 ports in 135 countries.
Situated in Edinburgh’s historic port of Leith, Britannia is now an iconic five-star visitor attraction, as well as an exclusive evening events venue. Enjoy a fascinating insight into The Queen’s former floating palace; and the lives of those who lived and worked on board while visiting the royal residences. Each of Britannia’s five decks is fully accessible; and the audio guide is available in 30 languages. Highlights include the teak-panelled Sun Lounge and elegant State Dining Room, which contrast dramatically with the working side of the ship and the crew’s quarters.
This December, for two dates only, step on-board The Royal Yacht Britannia Scotland’s voted Best 5-star visitor attraction for a festive private evening tour while visiting the royal residences.
Visit the spectacular engine room
A red carpet ‘behind the ropes’ experience of this iconic ship and for the first time step into the spectacular engine room. The engines steamed over 1 million nautical miles over 40 years with barely a problem. They turned out a total of 12,000 horsepower and drove Britannia, and her four-bladed propellers, to a maximum of 22.5 knots.
The Queen was particularly fond of the Engine Room. She would often take guests down to see it after dinner. When America’s General Norman Schwarzkopf was shown Britannia’s spotless Engine Room in 1992, he was reported as saying: ‘Okay. I’ve seen the museum piece. Now, where’s the real engine room?’ It is true that the Engine Room, with its chrome dials and old-fashioned steam turbines, has an air of antiquity.
The sparkling chrome dials were used to monitor different stages of steam pressures and vacuums, which were critical to ensuring the safe passage of Britannia. The main machinery consists of two sets of turbines and gearing. Manning this room was labour intensive. At any one time, there would be eight men on duty in the Engine Room, Boiler Room and associated machinery rooms.
The decks are adorned with grand Christmas decorations and standing quayside a stunning 30ft Christmas Tree adorned with sparkling lights. Learn about festive traditions aboard and post-tour. Butlers will be serving a choice of Champagne or mulled wine with mince pies in the State Drawing Room. After the event enjoy the special gift, a Britannia Christmas Pudding, made on board, beautifully wrapped in organza and finished with Britannia ribbon.
The Royal Yacht Britannia Christmas decorations © Helen Pugh Photography
Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. It is open for visiting royal residences all year round.
Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it has since been the home of 39 monarchs. Today The Queen spends most of her private weekends at the Castle.
While visiting Windsor Castle don’t miss the magnificent 20-foot-high Nordmann Fir tree in St George’s Hall, taken from Windsor Great Park and entirely dressed in gold decorations.
Enjoy the special exhibition A Royal Wedding
Throughout the Christmas season, you will also be able to enjoy the special exhibition A Royal Wedding: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, on display between 26 October 2018 and 6 January 2019. The exhibition will include The Duchess’s wedding dress, created by the British designer Clare Waight Keller; and The Duke of Sussex’s frockcoat uniform of the Household Cavalry, made by tailors at Dege & Skinner on Savile Row.
Visiting with the family, The Princess and the Pantomime will be taking place on 1st, 7th, 8th and 9th December, inviting you on a journey through Christmas past in the State Apartments; ending with a performance of Aladdin in the Waterloo Chamber where The Queen performed pantomimes when a princess.
Every Saturday in December, families can also enjoy festive arts-and-crafts workshops while visiting the royal residences.
During selected dates in December, enjoy a Private Evening Tour of the official royal residences. The tours are available at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, are led by an expert guide; and offer a special behind-the-ropes experience. All tickets include a glass of champagne, a copy of the Official Souvenir Guide and a 20% discount at Royal Collection Trust shops.
Browse for Christmas gift inspiration at Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in the Royal Collection Trust shops; or online at www.rct.uk/shop, where ranges of handmade commemorative chinaware, cuddly Corgis and festive food and drink make perfect presents.
I hope you have enjoyed reading and are inspired to visit one or more of the historical Royal Residences. Why not extend your stay and travel to all the above locations? It’s a great time to travel and experience the holidays in the UK. Please do book accommodation in advance to avoid disappointment while visiting the royal residences. Happy Travels:) x