Kilts & Kisses - An Extraordinary Burns Supper on the Royal Yacht Britannia
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Paul Godbold celebrating Burns Night on the Royal Yacht Britannia

Poetry, music and fine cuisine were just a few of the standouts during an amazing evening celebrating Burns Night on the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Three of the best-known celebrations on the Scottish Calendar are Hogmanay, St. Andrew’s Day and Burns Night, and it’s the latter of these we’re featuring in this article.

Auld-Lang-Syne-Rabbie-BurnsFor those who know of the day but are not aware of its meaning. Burns Night celebrates the life of the poet Robert Burns and is held on the anniversary of his birth.

Robert or ‘Rabbie’ Burns is held in the highest of esteem in Scotland and for a very good reason. Aside from more than 500+ well-known poems and songs he wrote, his social commentary became an inspiration to the founders of socialism and liberalism.

After numerous articles over the years suggesting where people should go on Burns Night. It was finally time for us to take a short trip to Scotland to experience this special day for ourselves.

Before we get into the details of our Robert Burns-themed culinary adventure, I have a confession. Although I live only 90 minutes from the Scottish borders and 3 1/2 hours from Edinburgh, I’d never visited the great city, preferring to listen to wonderful anecdotes from others.

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It wasn’t until my wife and I arrived in Edinburgh that it hit home exactly what we’d been missing. Edinburgh is beautiful, with incredible architecture and vibrancy, and offers the same awe-inspiring feeling you get when you’re in the centre of London.

Wherever I go, I’ll make the effort to interact. One of the major things I got from walking around the city centre and talking to people who live and work there was a sense of identity.

The people I came across were Scottish in the first instance and then British. It didn’t matter where they originally hailed from (and Edinburgh did appear to be very multi-cultural), they were passionate about being Scottish and it’s simply not the same in London.

The passion of the Scottish people for their cultural heritage is the envy of so many countries around the world. Aside from the Republic of Ireland, I have never seen such a strong identity anywhere.

The Royal Yacht Britannia Experience

It doesn’t matter how hard you try; thinking of a better place to celebrate the great man than The Royal Yacht Britannia is virtually impossible. So, you can imagine the excitement when we received an invitation to join the fun.

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The yacht flying the Union Jack flag

Over the years, we’ve become a little blasé or perhaps a better word to use is spoilt. We’ve been to so many amazing places and countless incredible experiences that it’s difficult to get us excited, but the Royal Yacht Britannia, now that’s ‘A different kettle of fish’.

Britannia is, without doubt, one of the most famous boats in existence and plays a major part in Britain’s extraordinary history.

Before we’d even set off for Edinburgh, some nerves were setting in. My wife spent the days prior parading numerous flowing gowns, asking, “Is this okay”?

While I frantically scoured the shops for a new dress shirt and spent hours trying to decide if I should wear my tartan bow tie and cummerbund, and if I did, would some of the guests feel insulted? Eventually, universally accepted evening wear was chosen, and we were green-lit for the journey North.

As we’d arrived well ahead of the supper, we took the opportunity to preview the boat so we could get our bearings and fully enjoy what was to come in the evening. The people at the Royal Yacht Britannia were lovely and so passionate about the boat.

As we walked around the various levels, try as I might to come up with a clever question, they had the answers. One thing which surprised me was just how ‘down to earth’ a good number of the rooms are, or perhaps a better word to use is normal.

From what I understand, HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Philip wanted Britannia to be a home away from home which explained the cottage feel of the decor.

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For us, and I am guessing many others, we would be expecting more glitz and glamour, much like you see with the Saudi Royal Family, but once again, we were pleasantly surprised.

That’s not to say that Britannia doesn’t have the wow factor; it does and is evident in the areas where dignitaries would congregate, and if you want to see some glitz and sparkle, wait until you get to the engine room, it was so clean, we could have happily eaten our burns supper in there!

Another thing which many of you will be surprised by is Britannia is looked after and cared for by a charitable trust.

The Royal Yacht Britannia Trust is a self-funded, not-for-profit charitable organisation created to preserve Britannia for future generations to enjoy.

All of the proceeds from ticket sales, the Gift Shop and the Royal Deck Tea Room are re-invested in the work of the Trust, which does add a feel-good factor for visitors, knowing that what you’re paying out goes back into preserving an important part of British History.

The Burns Supper on the Royal Yacht Britannia

We’d booked ourselves into a hotel which, in truth, was walking distance from Britannia. But, given that my wife had some newly purchased and rather spectacular shoes on, a short drive was the better option.

Our invitation instructed us to drive to the quayside, where we parked in front of Britannia, which was beautifully lit up against the night sky.

From our parking space, we could only see the upper decks as the lower ones were obscured by a metal wall.

As we walked along the quayside, we could see a well-dressed gentleman standing at the end of the road. Then, out of nowhere, the unmistakable sound of bagpipes filled the night air, which added to the excitement.

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After a warm greeting, we were led behind the metal wall and received the first of many ‘wows’ that evening. At the foot of the red carpet leading into Britannia was a fully regaled bagpipe player who piped us onboard.

I looked at my wife with a huge grin and whispered, “How royal do you feel?” As I hadn’t ‘brushed up’ on my Scottish etiquette, I was unsure whether to wait until he’d finished playing, so to avoid embarrassment, I opted for a full head nod and broad smile, strolling onto Britannia feeling more important than at any other time in my life.

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We entered at the foot of the Grand Staircase and were greeted by a glass of champagne before entering the main reception area.

Every guest had made an effort; there were men in traditional Scottish formal wear, decked out in fine tartan with matching accessories, others wore beautifully tailored dinner suits and the female guests all looked stunning in their flowing dresses and jewellery.

Of course, the main part of the evening was experiencing dining like royalty. And that was exactly what was in store for us that evening. From the Ante Room, we were guided into the State Dining Room, where everything looked spectacular!

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No detail had been missed; no element had been left to chance. From beautifully decorated tables to lighting and entertainment, everything was expertly placed to make all the guests onboard feel truly special.

Each table was set with monogrammed silver cutlery and china, ornate crystal glasses, sparking in the candlelight atop a traditional Scottish table-runner, and colourful bouquets of flowers as the centrepiece.

The lighting was kept low, complimenting the live music played by talented musicians, who filled the room with sounds of Clarsach and flute throughout the dinner. In addition to that, guests were entertained by a wonderful live performance of Burns’ poetry, sang to a guitar accompaniment, and a very special reading by one of Scotland’s most prominent actors.

Kilts & Kisses - An Extraordinary Burns Supper on the Royal Yacht Britannia 18And, of course, let us not forget the traditional Haggis Ceremony. This was carried into the room on a silver platter, accompanied by the pipes, and “addressed” with the Robert Burns’ poem: “To a Haggis”, before being toasted with a wee dram of whisky.

The entertainment was so engaging that you might think it could distract you from enjoying the food, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

Without going into too much detail, let us describe some of the incredible culinary fare we experienced.

A little pre-dinner treat, in lieu of an amuse-bouche, we had a tiny cup of cauliflower soup, so smooth and creamy that it engaged our taste buds perfectly.

It was promptly followed by a dish of West Coast crab & seared scallops with avocado puree and sauce vierge.

The seafood was cooked to perfection, delightfully light and full of flavour. Much like the dry-aged melt-in-your-mouth beef fillet, served with fondant potato and trimmings, which was the main course.

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Today would also provide our first opportunity to try a proper Scottish haggis, and it was more than a dish; it was an experience. “The haggis with neeps and tatties” – as it read in the menu – turned out to be an amazing combination of flavours. As if there was a separate party going on in our mouths.

One of the finest desserts we’ve ever experienced!

The dessert was as delicious as it was beautiful! It looked like a masterpiece on a plate and was a perfect finale for a spectacular meal. It was a dreamy combination of fluffy meringue and raspberry sherbet ice cream, complemented by mascarpone Chantilly and Perthshire raspberries.

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As the final part of the entertainment – to get everybody involved in the celebration – all the guests got to their feet and sang the famous “Auld Lang Syne” accompanied by the musicians. The atmosphere was simply electric and truly festive! Not a dry eye in the house!

The meal was followed by a choice of coffee or tea, accompanied by a hand-made Aberfeldy tablet.

Throughout the meal, each of the guests was served half a bottle of wine, specially selected by Britannia’s own Head Sommelier to compliment the traditional Burns Supper.

And talking of service, it was as impeccable as the meal was sensational. The team of staff working on the board of Britannia deserves special praise.

All throughout dinner, the service was absolutely flawless. Smartly dressed waiters were an ever-present shadow in the background, constantly topping up guests’ glasses with their choice of wine and water. The places at the table were served exactly at the same time, to the point of the plates of dishes being placed in front of us at precisely the same moment. It was really impressive and certainly added to the overall ambience.

If the royal family had the privilege to dine like this all the time, it’s hard to imagine how they kept their figures! Even when we were already full, it was impossible to leave even the smallest bite on the plate untouched.

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With the meal over, we were invited to retire back to the drawing room for more socialising and a taste of Scotland’s national drink.

Without exaggerating, this was an unforgettable evening, and we had a fantastic time. We were made to feel truly special, had an outstanding meal and even made some new friends while mingling with other guests before and after dinner…

Burns Supper on the Royal Yacht Britannia is one of those experiences which will last long in our memories. It’s an incredible way to join in with celebrating all that is good and great about Scotland and the closest thing anyone will get to feeling like royalty.

For anyone who’s planning to visit the great city of Edinburgh, we’d say that it’s not complete without a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Kilts and Kisses
And the ‘kisses’ reference in the title? Paul has some fine ‘chubby cheeks’ on his face and where better to put them into action than a room filled with people having a wonderful time!

The Royal Yacht Britannia – Where and how?

Tel: +44 (0)131 555 5566
Address: Ocean Dr, Edinburgh EH6 6JJ
Download a map for directions here

Travelling by car
For satnav users, the postcode is EH6 6JJ. Follow signs for Edinburgh and Leith or North Edinburgh. Then follow brown Britannia signs. Free parking at Ocean Terminal (blue car park, level E is nearest to our Visitor Centre and has disabled spaces).

Britannia is open every day except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. We suggest you allow up to 2 hours for your tour. Please allow longer if you wish to have a refreshment in the Royal Deck Tea Room. If you wish to experience Britannia at a quieter time during August, we recommend visiting before 11.00 am.

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Paul Godbold

Founder, Editor-in-Chief

Paul is the owner and editor-in-chief of Luxurious Magazine. He previously worked as a fashion model, was in the British Army and created companies in the technology, venture capital and financial services sectors. In addition to writing, he also proofs, edits, designs, lays out and publishes all the articles in the online magazine. Paul is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists.

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