Fingal - Edinburgh's Luxury Floating Hotel

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Review post in collaboration with Fingal

Walk up the gangway onboard Fingal, Edinburgh's luxury floating hotel, and step back in time. Serving afternoon tea, cocktails and light suppers to both residents and non-residents this former lighthouse vessel epitomises the age of glamorous Hollywood travel. Elegant curves and contours, service of a bygone age and art deco interiors await on this shining beacon of floating luxury. 

I have a thing about lighthouses, I have a thing about boats and I have a thing about staying in unusual accommodation. A night on Fingal, a former lighthouse vessel now luxuriously appointed and permanently berthed at Leith docks ticked all my boxes. Throw in a sumptuous afternoon tea, sophisticated cocktails, a light supper and the pièce de résistance of sunshine on Leith and it's pretty much perfect. 

BOATS I've been on a couple of cruises (a week in the Caribbean and a fortnight in the Med) and we're saving for an epic one for our silver wedding anniversary in 4 years time. We've also stayed on a houseboat 'Blue Hue' moored on the Union Canal at Ratho. Rosie & Jim have a lot to answer for as I'd still really like to do the full monty of locks, stopping off at pubs en route and sailing along whilst watching the world go by. 

LIGHTHOUSES I blame my lighthouse obsession on Blue Peter as I vividly recall the presenters abseiling to Bishop Rock Lighthouse. We've spent a night in the keepers cottages at Buchanness Lighthouse, have visited Kinnaird Head Lighthouse and my favourite Stonehaven sculpture is the Lighthouse. On the Black Isle where I grew up there are two at Chanonry and Cromarty and I've ticked off a fair few of the other around Scotland's coast. 

QUIRKY ACCOMMODATION In addition to nights on a houseboat and in a lighthouse keeper's cottage we've also stayed at a gypsy caravan, treehouse, hobbit house, glamping dome, VW camper van, barley bothy and next week we'll be in a goods wagon. Do please let me know of any other amazing places in Scotland where we should stay. 

Fingal started life in 1963 as a lighthouse tender, helping maintain lighthouses and transporting their keepers, equipment and supplies to some of the most treacherous locations in Scotland. In 2014 she was purchased by The Royal Yacht Britannia Trust and the process of converting her from a working industrial vessel to a luxury floating 23 room hotel began. In Your Ship Facts & Figures you can read more about her fascinating life and £5 million conversion. Fingal is now berthed in Alexandra dock at the historic port of Leith close to Ocean Terminal and Britannia. Complimentary secure car parking is available at the bow of the ship just off (sing it like The Lighthouse Family...) Ocean Drive. 

Walking up the red carpeted gangplank with my trusty Tunnock's Teacake suitcase we were warmly welcomed on board by the staff - or should I call them crew? Either way their customer service was impeccable, discrete, friendly and first class throughout our voyage. We stayed in a classic cabin with king sized bed. Price for this starts midweek from £220 and includes breakfast. More luxurious cabins and those over two floors are in the £350 - £500 price range, while the penthouse experience in the Skerryvore Suite will set you back £1,500. 

As soon as we entered our room 'Lismore' I was delighted to spot that we had both portholes and Tunnock's Teacakes. A sumptuous embossed map on the headboard and compass on the ceiling showed the lighthouse location from where our cabin took it's name and this was further reflected in photography on the walls. The level of finish and attention to detail was second to none with sumptuous fabrics, furnishings and wallpaper just begging to be touched. Everything has been thought of from fresh flowers and refreshments with a Scottish twist to an umbrella, shoe horn, clothes brush and GHD hairdryer (straighteners available on request from reception). Hotel hairdriers are firmly on my Room 101 list but here they definitely passed muster. 

A conscious decision was made during refurbishment that every contour, curve, angle and tilt of Fingal should be celebrated. As such the decks have retained their curvature and you do see and feel a slope as you move about your cabin and the ship - and that's before you've even looked at the cocktail list! All the furniture and beds have been custom made and fitted to accommodate with Fingal's quirks and ensure that they are level even if she is not. The craftsmanship and finish throughout is impeccable. 

Stepping into the shower room there is underfloor heating, white fluffy bathrobes, towels and slippers and a gorgeous range of toiletries from Noble Isle. Separate shampoo and conditioner always gets a big thumbs up from me and I absolutely loved their Rhubarb Rhubarb body hydrator. Nautical but nice touches abound throughout the cabins and public areas with shiny brass taps, rope handrails, portholes, curved walls, lanterns, spiral staircases and bulls eye glass. Each cabin onboard is named after one of the Robert Stevenson designed lighthouses that the ship serviced during it's working life.

Let me take you for a quick tour around before we have afternoon tea...

This magnificent room can hold up to 60 people for dining. With a shimmering ceiling, two dramatic curved staircases and a raised gallery for music or entertainment. It even has a removable skylight should you wish to lower in something like a car for a product launch. For the ultimate dream floating wedding venue Fingal can be booked out for exclusive use. 

Sadly I was somewhat underwhelmed with the deck as only a couple of small areas are accessible. There is no seating and and there was clearly a problem with a large number of planks raised in an unsightly and dangerous fashion. Shuffleboard, quoits and deck chairs would improve this area greatly. The inability to enjoy drinks on deck as the sun sets is surely a huge missed opportunity. I did however recreate the iconic Titanic pose which  simply must be done aboard any vessel. 




When it comes to dining, Fingal offers only breakfast, afternoon tea and light suppers. This initially seemed somewhat perplexing, but given Leith already has a plethora of eateries and a couple of Michelin stars, their decision not to complete is understandable. Non-residents are welcome to book a table for afternoon tea, cocktails or light suppers and this is a fantastic option which enables you to enjoy of the public areas of the ship without the expense of overnight accommodation.

We enjoyed a fabulous afternoon tea at £40 a head inclusive of tea/coffee. Following an amuse-bouche to whet the appetite the savoury stand arrived with aged Parmesan and wild garlic tart, hoisin pork spring roll, classic prawn cocktail and a tomato & herb arancini. The sandwich selection comprised of coronation chicken, Isle of Arran cheddar with tomato chutney, honey roast ham with wholegrain mustard mayonnaise and Fingal’s hot smoked salmon with cream cheese. It would have been rude not to indulge in a glass of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label to accompany! (If you really want to push the boat out, Dom Pérignon P2 will set you back £100 a glass or £500 for the whole bottle)

I could have quite easily stopped after the savouries but we bravely battled on to the the sweet delicacies this time washed down with Moët NV Rosé for me and a G&T for Foodie Loon. Plain & fruit buttermilk scones with Edinburgh butter, jam and clotted cream, dulce de leche chocolate éclair, blueberry mousse vanilla sponge, frangipane and raspberry tart and an elderflower and prosecco jelly with Scottish strawberries. A simply divine afternoon tea experience from start to finish. 

To arouse ourselves from an afternoon tea induced food coma we headed out to explore Leith. The area has come a long way since it's Trainspotting days and is now a vibrant hub for food, drink, shopping, creative industries of of course home to The Royal Yacht Britannia. As per the song, The Proclaimers - with a little help from the Chief - provided us with some late afternoon sunshine. 

Returning to Fingal it was time to try something that I'd spotted on Instagram and instantly decided that I must have - a Lighthouse Martini. This signature cocktail is served from a frozen lighthouse shaped bottle. Containing Britannia Gin, distilled in Edinburgh by Pickering’s and Vermouth created within the Dalmeny Estate near Edinburgh it was garnished with pickled Amalfi lemon. I must confess that I was sorely tempted to pop the lighthouse bottle into my handbag!

The Charcuterie and Cheese offerings on the evening supper menu were too tempting to resist and we enjoyed both (£14 each) with a glass of red wine. East Coast Cured charcuterie, fermented vegetables, and rosemary focaccia alongside a cheese selection from I.J Mellis, fruit chutney, sourdough and crispbreads.

Leith is very much a working port and we had been warned that there may be some noise overnight because of this. Luckily we didn't experience any however the air conditioning in the room was rather noisy and because the windows are portholes there was no other way to get fresh air. The king sized beds were amazingly comfortable and when we retired to our cabin there had been a turn down service. Sunday mornings call for a long lie and with that in mind breakfast is served until 11am and checkout time is noon. As is to be expected it was a suitably shipshape affair with continental buffet style options plus a range of cooked breakfast dishes. 

All too soon it was time to disembark and bid a fond farewell to the glamorous Fingal. A truly unique experience from start to finish which comes highly recommended. But don't just take my word for it. She is currently rated as the no 1 hotel on Tripadvisor for Edinburgh with all of her 82 reviews being five star. Fingal's royal connections stretch further than being run by the same trust as Britannia. The Princess Royal, in her role as Patron to the Northern Lighthouse Board, has spent time on board and the Saturday before we did The Queen dined onboard as part of her annual Hollyrood Week. I'd love to know if she had a Lighthouse Martini. And if so did anyone check her handbag?

Disclosure: This is not a paid post. We stayed as guests of Fingal which included accommodation, afternoon tea, breakfast and Royal Yacht Britannia tickets. All drinks and additional food were at our own expense. 
As always, all views expressed are my own. 
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