All aboard Fingal! Permanently berthed in Leith’s Alexandra Dock, this former lighthouse tender has come home to the port where she was first registered, to live out her old age in glamorous luxury liner style.

Fingal was the last ship to be built by Blythswood Ship Building Company in Glasgow and was launched in 1962. Most of her sea-going life was spent working out of Oban as a service vessel for the Northern Lighthouse Board, a connection proudly celebrated throughout the elegant £5m five-year refurbishment by new owners The Royal Yacht Britannia.

On the top deck is The Lighthouse Restaurant and Bar, open to non-residents, with wide views of Leith docks and out to the islands in the Forth. The rippling steel ceilings are illuminated by warm orange lights, creating an intimate and relaxed atmosphere, which the clever sectioning of the restaurant adds to. In the dark the amber ceiling reflects in the windows giving the illusion of the last rays of an incredible sunset. From behind a gleaming bar, suited staff mix sailor-strength cocktails. The Lighthouse Bar Martini is the house pour, made with Britannia Gin, Great British Vermouth made on the Dalmeny estate, grapefruit bitters and pickled Amalfi lemon.

The menu is short, seasonal, and interesting with Scottish seafood a speciality, connecting both the maritime heritage and the dock-side location. Executive chef Mark Alston and head chef Brendan Willis have pitched their menus perfectly – adventurous diners will be delighted, without alienating those who prefer a more traditional approach. The house hot smoked salmon is tender and aromatic, served with a creamy cucumber relish, fruit chutney and buckwheat blinis: a classic. The scallop starter takes a bolder approach: seared slices of scallop are served on a deep, rich scallop roe taramasalata, with red grapefruit adding a citrus lift and pine nuts a nutty crunch and a little sweetness: a triumph.

A main course of cod loin arrives with a cumin-scented spiced crab macher jhol sauce, crisp roast Jerusalem artichokes and a rice cracker dusted with seaweed and topped with white crab and dill. It’s a delicious, slightly unexpected combination. Leave space for pudding if you can, both the toffee-apple reminiscent apple tart tatin, and the vanilla seed flecked coffee panna cotta are incredible.


Delightfully, many of the ship’s original features have been preserved: a glass walkway allows guests to see into the former engine room. The floors slant slightly, keeping the ship's original camber (which may feel more pronounced after sampling The Lighthouse Martini). A double height ballroom with a shimmering beaten stainless steel ceiling allows light to bounce beautifully around.

Recently the AA placed Fingal in the UK’s top 25 five-star hotels and awarded the restaurant two AA Rosettes. The floating hotel has 22 elegant cabins, ranging from the smaller classics to two-floor luxury duplexes with sitting rooms. Once, spotting Fingal on the horizon would have been a welcome sight to lonely lighthouse keepers; today it’s a welcome escape from landlubber life into a world of gleaming art-deco interiors, cocktails and wonderful food: a real beacon of Scottish hospitality.