Those magnificent men (and women) in their flying machines! We have a glorious history of aviation here in the UK, and what better way to take in all of the exciting airshows dotted around the country than by hopping on the train? Here are some top Britain’s top ‘air-tractions’, and some handy hints on how to make your way there by rail. It really is the only way to fly…
The Royal International Air Tattoo – RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire – 17-19 July
The world’s largest military airshow, RIAT showcases truly incredible aircraft, including US Air force Black Hawks and Apaches, with pride of place going to those iconic RAF ‘planes flown by the heroic ‘few’ during the Battle of Britain, the Hurricane and Spitfire. Oh,and a little troupe you might be familiar with:The Red Arrows.
Getting There: The closest major station to the site is Swindon, which has direct links to stations in London and Wales, plus trains to Swindon come from as far afield as Manchester without having to change more than once. Once you arrive, a shuttle bus will be waiting to take you direct to RAF Fairford.
Scotland’s National Airshow – National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, East Lothian – 25 July
Scotland’s largest airshow features the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and an aerial display by the awesome RAF Red Arrows, not to mention air acrobats the TRIG team in their biplanes, as well as classic aircraft from Spain, Jordan, the USA and much, much more.
Getting There: You’re not going to want to miss this, and the best way to ensure that is to travel to Scotland, stopping at Edinburgh where there is a regular rail service to North Berwick, the closest station to the site. Once at North Berwick, simply take the free shuttle bus straight to the museum. Easy!
Red Bull Air Race – Royal Ascot 15-16 August
The UK leg of the world’s most adrenaline-fueled motorsport competition comes to Ascot racecourse! Watch Britain’s own Paul Bonhomme and Nigel Lamb take on the world’s best as they negotiate the twists and turns of the unique Red Bull air race course, each one vying to take home the championship crown. Gripping stuff.
Getting There: Reading station runs regular services to Ascot, making the site easily accessible from London. Indeed, trains from Waterloo to Ascot will get you there in under an hour, including the (roughly) 7 minutes it takes to walk to Royal Ascot from Ascot station. There are also direct trains to Reading from as far away as Manchester and Newcastle.
Bournemouth Air Festival – Bournemouth – 20-23 August
Bournemouth airshow plays host to a jam-packed festival of flying fun, with music, military displays and, of course, the very finest in classic aircraft – you can watch it all, right on the beach. The Red Arrows will be on display, not to mention the state-of-the-art RAF Typhoon and a rare chance to see the history-making Avro Vulcan, a true marvel of British engineering brilliance in it’s final year of flying.
Getting There: Did you know It’s possible to get from Glasgow to Bournemouth by train, only having to change once? Yes, Dorset is a well connected part of the world, with services to Bournemouth running from most major cities, with very few changes. Trains from London Waterloo to Bournemouth will get you there in less than two hours, on average.
Battle of Britain Anniversary Show – IWM Duxford – 19-20 September
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. 2015 marks the 75th anniversary of the RAF victory in the Battle of Britain, the desperate struggle for our nation’s very survival. What better way to pay tribute to sacrifices made by those brave airmen than to witness the magnificent sight of their Spitfires and Hurricanes as they take to the sky at RAF Duxford, home of the first WWII Spitfire squadrons. Not only that, but just in case you missed them earlier in the year, you’ll have another opportunity to see the Red Arrows in action.
Getting There: The closest station to the site is Cambridge, which will be running a free bus to IWM Duxford on the day of the airshow. Cambridge station is well-connected, and trains from relatively distant UK cities (Cardiff or Leeds, for example) will get you there with no more than two changes required. Chocks away!