Remembering Queen Elizabeth II’s Life in Travel, From China to Balmoral Castle

Remembering Queen Elizabeth II’s Life in Travel, From China to Balmoral Castle

Her favorite way to travel, however, was said to have been aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, which the royal couple spent several months on during the Seventies. The plushly appointed yacht came with mahogany woodwork and chintzy sofas and armchairs, designed to recreate all the comforts of home. Over the course of 40 years, Britannia traveled more than a million miles and completed 968 official voyages before being decommissioned in 1997—a date that is often cited as one of the only times when the Queen has shed a tear in public. Now it is moored at Leith in Edinburgh, where it draws more than 300,000 tourists each year.

Queen Elizabeth II visits some Mexican ruins during a state visit, 1975.

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She was a travel trendsetter

When the Queen first ascended to the throne in 1952, most members of the public could only dream of travels to foreign climes, and millions in Britain lived vicariously through her glamorous and intrepid tours. But that all changed with the package holiday, which first took off in the Sixties, a period that is often hailed as the “Golden Age” of travel. Now suddenly many could emulate the sovereign’s travels. African safaris, Caribbean jaunts, and Brazilian beach trips have all become de rigeur since the Queen first went on them. And while she visited Canada the most often, having traveled to the country a staggering 27 times, it is actually in Australia where the Queen spent the most time, on one trip staying for just under two months.

Queen Elizabeth II visits the Town Hall in Sydney with Emmet McDermott in May 1970.

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She draws visitors to her homes

While the journey of her sovereignty can be told through her numerous excursions abroad, the Queen has been just as much of a travel icon in her own home. Tourists from all around the world flock to the U.K. for a glimpse inside one of her royal residences, with Buckingham Palace regularly receiving more than half a million visitors during its summer opening each year, when ticket holders get the chance to see 19 of the palace’s magnificent state rooms and take a tour of the garden where her famous annual garden parties are held. Research by VisitBritain revealed that more than 60 percent of overseas visitors that come to Britain are likely to visit places associated with the royal family, and almost one-third of all inbound trips to the U.K. include a visit to castles or historic houses. Since 2018, Windsor Castle and Frogmore House have actually eclipsed Buckingham Palace in popularity, with almost 1.6 million people visiting every year. This trend started when the Queen decided to live at Windsor Castle permanently and no longer use Buckingham Palace as a full-time residence.

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