Edinburgh’s Newest Boutique Luxury Hotel Is a Former Yacht

Elizabeth Stamp

A new hotel in Scotland lets guest experience the luxury of sea travel without leaving port. Operated by Royal Yacht Enterprises, the trading company of the Royal Yacht Britannia, the former yacht of Queen Elizabeth II and a popular attraction in Edinburgh, Fingal is a floating hotel docked in the Port of Leith. The property is a former Northern Lighthouse Board ship, and the lighthouses that dot the country’s coastline served as a major inspiration for the design. “The distinguished history of Fingal made her the obvious choice, and complemented the heritage of the the Royal Yacht Britannia,” says Andrew Thomson, head of hospitality and events for Fingal and Royal Yacht Britannia. “Fingal has her own royal connection, as the Princess Royal, in her role as Patron to the Northern Lighthouse Board, has spent time on board.” Each of the 23 cabins are named after Stevenson lighthouses, beacons built by family members of Robert Louis Stevenson. Lighthouse images line the hallways, and the glass elevator resembles a lighthouse’s lantern room.

The four-year renovation process cost $6.47 million, and involved removing almost 170 tons of steel, adding two new decks, and expanding 40 cramped cabins into 23 rooms.

Fingal was developed by the Pedley Group, which transformed the industrial ship into a luxury hotel. The firm chose to highlight the lines of the vessel, accentuating the slanted walls with rich woods and striking mosaic surfaces. The color palette was drawn from the landscape of Scotland, including heather, burgundy, and pale greens. The guest cabins are outfitted with plenty of nautical touches, from sea maps stitched onto the headboards to reproduction radio officer’s chairs. “After a life spent servicing the lighthouse community and navigating stormy Scottish seas, Fingal’s rich heritage has been skillfully woven into her new design, meticulously measured to follow the camber of the ship to celebrate her maritime history,” says Thomson. “We worked with a selection of highly respected partners and suppliers, some of whom hold a Royal Warrant, to ensure the finest finish and quality on board.”

The luxury hotel did not shy away from its seafaring roots during its redesign, as can be seen in the bathroom portholes.

The public spaces were designed for elegant dining and events. Guests descend a dramatic staircase to reach the ballroom, which is located in the former ship’s hold and features a retractable skylight. The Lighthouse Bar is on the bridge deck offering views of the city. The shimmering ceiling resembles the surface of the water and adds to the elegant atmosphere. Guests can also enjoy drinks and dinner on the covered terrace, which is set on the restored teak deck.

A view of the staircase leading down into a grand dining room within the boat.

While the ship may have a new purpose, Fingal is also returning to her beginnings. Says Thomson, “Fingal was originally registered in Leith and we take great pride in returning her home to Edinburgh’s vibrant waterfront.”