Moored at Alexandra Dock in Leith, the former Northern Lighthouse Board tender Fingal is Scotland’s latest unique hotel experience.
Transformed into a 23-cabin hotel and exclusive-use venue by the team behind The Royal Yacht Britannia, this floating hotel aims to bring back the glamour of the Hollywood age of travel.
Registered in Leith, built on the Clyde and launched in 1963, Fingal spent 40 years ploughing Scotland’s roughest seas, transporting keepers and supplies to lighthouses, from the Isle of Man to Orkney and Shetland. Now it has returned home to Edinburgh’s waterfront and launched after a four-year £5 million refit and makeover.
Budget or boutique?
It’s boutique and as the only hotel afloat in Scotland, offers a taste of luxury that doesn’t trouble itself with star ratings.
Wining and dining
The Lighthouse Bar and restaurant on the Bridge Deck have an elegant Art Deco air with soft leather seats and floor-to-ceiling glazing inviting diners out onto the extensive decking.
Dining in the Ballroom, the food was show-stopping in taste and presentation, with highlights including a red pepper velouté and melt-in-the mouth halibut, while the carnivores praised the roe deer with parsnip cream, onion tart and juniper sauce. Alunga chocolate, cardamom and orange, with Aberfeldy tablet and shortbread left a sweet taste, while for entertainment, the boys from Skerryvore played up a storm.
Light evening suppers and afternoon tea (noon to 4pm) are served in The Lighthouse Bar, with non-residents welcome to book. Breakfast is served here from 7am to 10am, an hour later at weekends, with a buffet and cooked options such as a light as air salmon omelette.
I stayed in the Ardnamurchan cabin, after the lighthouse on the rocky extremity of Argyll. Curved lines, portholes and cambered floors are reminders you’re on a ship and sea green, heather and burgundy tones, brass and stitched leather headboards and wardrobes make for a becalmed, cosy setting. A chair modelled on the original radio officer’s is a nice touch. There is spectacular photography by Ian Cowe of your room’s namesake on which to gaze from the kingsized bed with throws and cushions by local designer Araminta Campbell. A capacious en-suite defied the dimensions and delivered power showering in style.
Wifi, air con, USB sockets, slippers, robes and Noble Isle toiletries and a Smart TV that hooks up your BBC iPlayer, STV Player and YouTube, a Nespresso machine, tea, shortbread and teacakes, and fresh milk in the minibar, are welcome.
Worth getting out of bed for
Why not linger in Leith and enjoy the waterfront? There’s Royal Yacht Britannia just along the quayside and Antony Gormley’s sculptures along the Water of Leith. Visits to Araminta Campbell’s studio alongside the ship can be arranged.
Wander the shoreline and spot the waders at low tide, drop into Newhaven and Welch Fishmongers and the restaurants and cafés overlooking the harbour.
Leith Market farmers’ market is at Dock Place every Saturday (July to December) for fish, meat, bread, Scottish cheeses and a whole lot more.
On a nautical theme, Trinity House Maritime Museum in the Kirkgate has centuries of seafaring history, including a 200-year old whaling harpoon and a flag captured at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Back on board there’s a gym on the lower deck (7am to 10pm), fascinating ship’s specification books (listing everything from porridge ladles to podgers) and to come, the restored engine room.
If you like a royal seal, stay in The Skerryvore Suite which includes the sleeping quarters of Northern Lighthouse Board Patron Princess Anne, who used to join the commissioners’ trips on board.
Northern Lighthouse Board Secretary W Alastair Robertson said of Fingal’s maiden voyage, “the ship proved herself to be the most comfortable and a very good sea boat, indeed, it is true to say that all concerned are most satisfied with her.” Ditto.
Prices from £300 a night based on two people sharing, including a full Scottish breakfast. www.fingal.co.uk +44 (0)131 357 5000. Fingal, Alexandra Dock, Historic Port of Leith, Edinburgh EH6 7DX