NLV Fingal

Fingal Edinburgh

NLV Fingal is the former lighthouse service vessel for the Northern Lighthouse Board.

NLV Fingal’s early days

Registered in Leith, NLV Fingal was built in 1963.  The last ship built by Blythswood Shipbuilding Company in Glasgow, Fingal was also the last of the classic motor ship tenders within the lighthouse authorities.

She was also the only Northern Lighthouse Board tender named Fingal; usually, tenders’ names are transferred to their replacement.   However, the name lives on; Fingal is now the name of one of NLV Pharos‘s workboats.

NLV Fingal was launched on 8th August 1963 and spent most of her 30 years’ service as a lighthouse tender for the NLB based in Oban.  She worked relieving and supplying offshore lighthouses and maintaining buoys and navigation aids around Scotland’s west coast.

The steel twin screw motor ship was 238’9” long by 40’3” wide and 18’5” draught and weight 1,342 gross tons.   She had two 6 cylinder oil engines.   During the latter half of her service, a flight deck was added aft for helicopter operations.

Footage of NLV Fingal visiting Iona whilst still in service

Lighthouse service

On occasions, NLV Fingal would share duties between the three General Lighthouse Authorities of the UK and Ireland: Trinity House and the Commissioners of Irish Lighthouses.

In 1994 NLV Fingal was called to Dun Laoghaire Harbour for service. Simultaneously, the Trinity House vessel Mermaid was also called to action, a rare occasion for vessels working for different lighthouse authorities to meet.

In 1988 the seventh Pharos was sold; like Fingal, she was fundamentally a lighthouse tender, but she carried the Northern Lighthouse Board Commissioners on their inspection voyages for a few weeks each summer.

The Orkney based NLV Pole Star was sold in 1993, and Fingal was relocated to the Stromness Depot to work the northern isles and the east coast mainly.

1993 also saw the new NLV Pharos‘ introduction, the eighth NLB ship to carry this name. Pharos was more versatile for helicopter operations, and she was employed in much helicopter work at offshore lights, with Fingal being used solely for buoy work.

Fingal was occasionally requested to accompany the Royal Yacht Britannia during official visits to Scotland.  In August 1991, the Queen visited Fort William on board the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Fingal escorted the Royal Yacht from the Corran Narrows into Loch Linnhe and on towards Fort William, where she anchored, and some members of the Royal Family came on board.     After their visit, Fingal again escorted the party southwards.

Replacement vessel: Pole Star

In April 1999, the Northern Lighthouse Board announced that a new buoy tender, the fourth Pole Star, was to be built to replace NLV Fingal.     The Fingal crew were to be transferred to the replacement vessel, and both Fingal and her staff were present to see the launching of the new vessel at Greenock, on the Clyde, by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal in April 2000.

Relocation to Falmouth

Fingal at Falmouth
Renamed Windsor Castle, Fingal relocated in Falmouth

Subsequently sold out of service, she left the main NLB depot at Oban on 13th August 2000 for her southwards journey where her next destination was Falmouth.  Off St Anthony’s Head, in unfamiliar waters, a pilot boarded and took her into the River Fal, beyond the King Harry Ferry, and berthed her alongside the cargo ship Tamamima.

The Northern Lighthouse Board sold Tamahine Investments Ltd of Hong Kong.     She was renamed the Windsor Castle and would spend 14 well maintained years in Cornish waters.

Fingal Falmouth
Fingal, renamed Windsor Castle, moored alongside Tamamima in the River Fal

Return to Edinburgh

In December 2008, negotiations began for her acquisition. After several years of discussion, in 2014, she was acquired by the Royal Yacht Britannia operators.  Fingal had come to the end of her royal duties and was relocated to the Leith waterfront as a tourist attraction.     After heading for the dry dock in Falmouth, Fingal was towed to Leith, finally arriving on 22nd August 2014.

She reverted to her original name, Fingal, and was converted as part of a £5 million investment into a 23 bedroom luxury ‘boatique’ hotel, Fingal Edinburgh, over a two year period.

During her conversion period, in the summer of 2016, she was briefly painted as a “dazzle ship”, as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival to commemorate the First World War.

Fingal Edinburgh Dazzle Ship
Fingal painted as a Dazzle Ship

Dazzle ships were so-called because they were painted with confusing patterns to make it more difficult for German U-boats to clock their speed and distance.

Read about Fingal’s transformation into a luxury hotel

Read more about Fingal in Fingal’s Wake


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Established: 1963
Discontinued: 2000