Explore Britain's fascinating aviation and military museums

The Red Arrows, the incredible Royal Air Force Display Team, is currently on a tour of North America for the first time in more than a decade. The team, based at RAF Scampton, near Lincoln, puts the spotlight on Britain’s proud aviation heritage. If you’re a military and aviation buff, you can explore various sites across Britain and discover everything from Second World War classic airplanes such as the Spitfire and Lancaster, to Winston Churchill’s War Rooms.

Red Arrows over Buckingham Palace

1. Imperial War Museum Duxford

More than a century of aviation is on display in the hangars and buildings at RAF Duxford, the site where the first Spitfires first flew. See hundreds of aircraft and displays up close, including the B-52, Concorde, the Spitfire, Lancaster and Tiger Moth, and the interior of a Vulcan bomber. There’s a permanent display of American aircraft from the Second World War to present day models, as well as a special Battle of Britain display exploring the UK’s defences from the First World War and beyond. 

Tickets: Adult tickets cost £18, children ages 5-15 £9, under 4s free. A family ticket for 1 adult and up to 3 children is £31.50, for 2 adults and up to 6 children it's £45.

You can also experience the rush of life in the skies at the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show 2019, held on 21-22 September 2019 at the Imperial War Museum. Saturday tickets are £35, weekend tickets are £57.50, and children go free.

 

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Imperial War Museum Duxford

2. Imperial War Museum, London

The Imperial War Museum London explores conflicts throughout history including the Holocaust, the First World War and a special ‘Witnesses to War’, revealing how they’ve shaped past wars and modern society. Visit the museum and you'll see displays featuring a Harrier jet, Spitfire plane, a V-2 rocket, a T-34 tank and a 13-Pounder Gun from the First World War. There's also a Reuters Land Rover damaged by a rocket attack in Gaza.

Tickets: Free admission

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Imperial War Museum London

3. Churchill War Rooms, London

From these hidden bunkers beneath the streets of Westminster, Winston Churchill and his war cabinet plotted the allied route to victory during the Second World War. Churchill War Rooms encompass a series of rooms and walkways, well-sheltered from the German bombing raids above. A must-see for Churchill fans to learn about his life and legacy.

Tickets: Adult tickets cost £22, for children ages 5-15 tickets are £11, under 4s free. Family tickets start from £40.

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Churchill War Rooms

4. Farnborough Air Sciences Trust, Hampshire

The history of aviation is told at Farnborough Air Sciences Trust. From the first airborne cameras and flying clothing to high altitude 'space suits', night vision aids, head-up cockpit displays and the first carbon fibre experiments, the development of aeronautical science owes much to Farnborough. You can even tour a fully working demonstration wind tunnel!

Tickets: Free admission

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Farnborough Air Sciences Trust

5. Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, Chichester

Tangmere Military Aviation Museum is located in a corner of the old Tangmere airfield, famed as an RAF fighter station from 1918 until Fighter Command left in 1958. Walk through a vast collection of historic aircrafts, from Hurricanes to two world speed record holding aircrafts. As well as being displayed in hanger-style halls, there are also flight simulators, making this a truly immersive aviation experience.

Tickets: Adults: £10.00; Over 60s: £8.00; Children (5-16): £4.00; Under 5s free

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Tangmere Military Aviation Museum

6. Gatwick Aviation Museum, Surrey

Gatwick Aviation Museum has a unique collection of British aircraft from the “golden age” of British aircraft manufacture(from the end of the Second World War until the 1970s). You'll see aircraft from major manufacturers such as Avro, Hawker, Gloster, De Havilland, English Electric, Blackburn and Percival, plus aircraft engines from the likes of Bristol and Rolls Royce, and a collection of radio controlled and static models.

Tickets: Adults £7.50; Children(5-14) £2.50; Under 5s free

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Gatwick Aviation Museum

7. Dambusters Reservoir, Peak District

Derwent Dam (near Sheffield)offers a different view of aviation history, as the site where the famous RAF ‘dambusters’ would practice bombing raids during the Second World War. Derwent is a village 'drowned' in 1944 when the Ladybower Reservoir was created by flooding the village of Ashopton, Derwent Woodlands church and Derwent Hall. You can still walk around the tranquil Howden and Ladybower reservoirs and admire the dams today, or join organised walks of the area.

Tickets: Group tours £85 per person

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Dambusters Reservoir

8. National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, East Lothian

A highlight of the National Museum of Flight lets you get on board a G-BOAA Concorde (marking 40 years since Scotland’s first Concorde flight)and see a Red Arrows Hawk. You'll also enjoy hangar tours and see how East Fortune played a significant role in both World Wars.

Tickets: Adult £12.50; Concession £10.50; Child (5-15) £7.50 (under 5s free); Family (2 adults and 2 children) £33

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National Museum of Flight

9. Dumfries & Galloway Aviation Museum, Dumfries

The Dumfries & Galloway Aviation Museum collection started with a Bristol Hercules engine from a Wellington Bomber, and is now home to one of Europe’s most extensive collection of aero engines. You'll see some of the earliest piston and radial engines through to modern jet engines, built by manufacturers including Rolls Royce, Armstrong Siddeley and De Havilland. The Control Tower is a very rare surviving example of a Second World War RAF control tower, and is home to the majority of the museum’s collection of smaller artefacts and memorabilia.

Tickets: Adults: £5.40; Children and Concessions: £4.50; Family ticket (2 adults and 2 children): £16.00

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Dumfries & Galloway Aviation Museum

10. Caernarfon Airworld Aviation Museum, Caernarfon

As one of the leading defensive sites along the Welsh coast, the airfield of the former RAF Llandwrog is now home to the Caernarfon Airworld Aviation Museum. Its extensive collection of aircraft and aviation memorabilia houses iconic machines such as the Hawker Hunter, D.H. Vampire, along with the only T2 BAe Harrier remaining worldwide. You can even enter the cockpits of some of the aircraft and find out what it is like to sit in the narrow confines of a jet fighter aircraft, for a truly awe-inspiring insight into history.

Tickets: Adult £6.50; Child/Pensioner £5; Family (2 adults and 2 children) £17.50

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Caernarfon Airworld Aviation Museum

11. Fly in a Spitfire, Headcorn Aerodrome, Kent

Fly In A Spitfire offers the experience of a lifetime in a rare two-seater T9 Spitfire, as a Spitfire pilot guides you through your unforgettable flight. Flights are also available in a Tiger Moth and a Harvard, departing from Headcorn Aerodrome, Kent (former RAF Lashenden) or from Sywell Aerodrome, Northants.

Tickets: From £135 (Tiger Moth) to £2,750 (Spitfire)

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Headcorn Aerodrome
28 Aug 2019(last updated)