Hotel rooms inhabit a separate universe
Seafaring luxury without hitting the high seas in Edinburgh’s Leith
Review by Catherine Ferguson
It’s no secret that my sea legs aren’t the greatest (don’t even ask about the infamous snorkelling expedition in Bali), so imagine my delight when I discovered that I could soak up all the luxury of a five star floating hotel, without taking to the high seas.
Now permanently berthed on Edinburgh’s vibrant waterfront, Fingal was built in Glasgow in 1963 and spent many years with the Northern Lighthouse Board, as a lighthouse tender, battling treacherous seas, carrying supplies and equipment to some of the most remote lighthouses in Scotland.
Purchased by the Royal Yacht Britannia in July 2014, she has been lovingly transformed and is now home to 23 luxury cabins, the most glamorous of ballrooms and a panoramic Art Deco bar on the top deck, which promises to transport you to another world.
Every cabin is named after a lighthouse that was served by Fingal, with Lismore offering us a bed for the night. A quick search of the Northern Lighthouse Board website reveals that Lismore sits on a little island west of Oban, where the first lighthouse keeper was in service in 1808, spending 6 weeks at a time on the remote island, with two keepers rescuing two airmen clinging to a piece of wreckage on a stormy night during the Second World War.
As your head hits the pillow on the enormous bed, which belies the cabin’s tardis-like nature, you’ll notice the nautical maps embossed into the fabric of the walls. Based in Livingston, not an hour’s drive from Leith, they’ve been lovingly created by Transcal, who are famed for creating sumptuous interiors for famous names, including Ferrari, Bentley and Land Rover.
In keeping with the glorious Celtic theme, the minibar offers a smorgasbord of local delicacies, not forgetting the mandatory shortbread and Tunnocks teacake to top off your wee cup of tea. In the morning, breakfast offers an equally appealing range of Scottish fare. There are all the classics from grilled smoked kippers to traditional porridge or Eggs Royale, with salmon smoked on-board. With a chilly wind blowing in across the North Sea, the Fingal Scottish breakfast was the only choice for me. Stornaway black pudding, haggis, locally sourced bacon and sausage and the mandatory potato scone were just the ticket.
As an Irish girl, I’m always impressed by a good scone, but on-board the Fingal, afternoon tea with a view across the port is even more impressive. The treats in store are too many to mention, but I do have to raise my glass to the curried haddock arancini, Valrhona chocolate and the teeny tiny lemon meringue pie.
For a landlubber tourist like me in Edinburgh, it’s so easy to forget what lies just stone’s throw from city centre. I might not be ready for the high seas, but I can’t speak highly enough of the seafaring luxury that awaits in Leith.