Home Airport Spotting Guide The Best of Plane Spotting in the UK

The Best of Plane Spotting in the UK

by Matt Falcus

The United Kingdom is an amazing place for plane spotting.

It is home to some of the world’s busiest and most interesting airports, it is a place to see historic aviation, general aviation, military aviation, aviation museums and much more.

Plus, there’s a thriving aviation enthusiasts scene in the UK, so you’ll feel at home among fellow spotters.

In this guide we’ll introduce you to the best of spotting in Britain. It will cover:

  • The Top 10 Spotting Locations in the UK
  • The UK’s Most Important Airlines
  • Interesting Aircraft You Can See in the UK
  • The UK’s Best Aviation Museums
  • The UK’s Best Spotting Hotels
  • The Best UK General Aviation Airfields for Spotters
  • The Best Military Airfields in the UK for Plane Spotting
  • Other UK Airports of Note

So read on and enjoy!


The Top 10 Spotting Locations in the UK

Myrtle Avenue, London Heathrow

Spotting at Myrtle Avenue, Heathrow.

This is one of the most popular spots at Heathrow, and one of the most famous in the UK. But note, it is only useful when aircraft are landing on runway 27L.

The spot gets its name from a small residential street close to Hatton Cross, with a grass area at the end. Spotters congregate on this area to log and photograph aircraft as they pass low overhead.

The postcode is TW14 9QU. There is very limited parking, so it’s best to walk from Hatton Cross Tube Station.


Castle Donington, East Midlands

Most spotters at East Midlands congregate at the crash gate on the northern side of the airfield as it is an accepted place to spot and offers the best views of all movements.

To reach the gate, head to the village of Castle Donington. Close to the Aeropark museum, there’s a pub with a small road next to it (Diseworth Road, postcode DE74 2PS). This road leads to the crash gate.

You can see the passenger terminal and DHL apron, and all runway movements. It is good for photography through holes in the fence and once aircraft are above the fence line. You can also wander along the path which extends along the airport’s northern boundary from here.


South Side, Manchester

A favourite for the photographers at Manchester is a spot on the south side of the airport, alongside runway 23L/05R.

When driving from the terminal area or motorway, instead of turning into the Runway Visitor Park, continue along Wilmslow Road (A538) and through the tunnels underneath the runways. Immediately afterwards, turn left at the roundabout onto Altrincham Road. Park here, or in the adjacent hotel car park, then follow the footpath up through the woods towards the perimeter fence. Walk along the fence and find the raised hill right next to the runway.

The sun is in a good position and the airliners are very close!


Dockside, London City

On the dock opposite London City airport, to the north, there is a walkway running the length of the runway with great views.

From here you will see every movement and be able to read off aircraft parked at the terminal. Some parked biz jets are a little awkward to read from here, however.

Photography is also great from this spot with a 300mm lens.

To get here head for Royal Albert Way, off the A1020, or walk 20 minutes across the Connaught Bridge from the terminal; it is also the Royal Albert stop on the DLR. The University of East London is here, and there is ample parking space.


Runway End, Birmingham

Photo (c) Wikispotters

At the northern end of Birmingham airport, this spot is good for approach and crosswind photographs. A path here runs across the approach path.

It is best accessed from Hazeldene Road (postcode B33 0QB), off The Radleys. If you’re heading from Birmingham city centre, follow the A45 and then turn left onto Sheaf Lane in Sheldon. This turns into Church Road. After a mile turn right onto The Radleys, and right again opposite the car garage.

Alternatively, get the train to Marston Green station (one stop from the airport/NEC) and walk along the path to the viewing area.


Cemetery Road, Leeds Bradford

Walking to the north west from the terminal at Leeds Bradford you’ll see the road tunnel which passes underneath the runway on your left. Don’t go through the tunnel, but continue over the roundabout, then left at the T-junction. You’ll come to a cemetery which is used by local spotters which is great for runway 14 operations.

You can drive to the area, but there’s not much space for parking.


Renaissance Hotel, London Heathrow

This is one of the best spotting hotels in the world. Request a room overlooking the airport (you sometimes have to pay more). All movements on the northern runway can be read off and photographed easily, but lower floors have lamp posts and the fence in the way.

Movements around the terminals are easy to spot. Those using flight tracking websites can continue to spot throughout the night. Although this hotel is not the cheapest at Heathrow, the quality of spotting makes up for it and it offers special spotter packages through its website.


Runway End, RAF Brize Norton

One of the best locations for photography at Brize Norton is at the end of runway 25 where Station Road passes very close. You can’t park here, so need to find a spot in Brize Norton village which is a 10 minute walk.

Aircraft landing on the runway, which often include large military transport types, pass very low overhead!


Viewing Area, RAF Waddington

Line 'em up and ...Shoot

A dedicated viewing area exists on the north eastern side of the airfield, with good views across the runway. You can see most of the parking areas from here, and all movements.

The viewing area is well equipped with parking spaces and on-site toilet facilities and a café.

While the viewing area is good, spotters often wander across the road for better photographs at close range. However you’ll need a ladder.

To reach the viewing area, head south from Lincoln on the A15 and you’ll see it signposted on your left as you pass the runway 20 end.




The UK’s Most Important Airlines

Britain’s major airports are served by airlines from all around the world, particularly at hub airports like London Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The UK also has its fair share of major airlines based in the country, with large fleets of aircraft flying in and out every day.

Even the country’s regional airports can see some interesting airlines operating daily.

The UK’s most important airlines include:


British Airways & BA Cityflyer


The national airline has a large fleet of almost 300 aircraft. These comprise narrowbody Airbus A320/A320neo family aircraft, and widebody Airbus A350, A380, Boeing 777 and 787 types.

The airline’s main bases are at London Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and they fly many domestic routes.

In addition, BA Cityflyer is a regional airline based at London City with a fleet of Embraer E190s.


Virgin Atlantic

The second major long-haul force in the UK is Virgin Atlantic. Set up by Richard Branson in 1984, it has grown to operate a modern fleet of Airbus A330neo, A350 and Boeing 787-9 aircraft on long-haul routes from its base at London Heathrow, as well as from Manchester.



The UK’s largest regional airline. Loganair has existed in various forms since the 1960s, and has its heritage in Scotland where much of its flying still continues, linking the Highlands and Islands with Glasgow and Edinburgh, including the famous beach landing at Barra.

Elsewhere Loganair’s fleet of ATR 42, 72 and Embraer 145 aircraft ply routes around the UK from many regional airports.



Originating from the UK and still with a large presence here, easyJet is one of Europe’s largest airlines. It provides low-cost flights from many UK regional airports, with a fleet of Airbus aircraft.



The largest holiday airline in the UK. Jet2 is essentially a low-cost airline but has a large holiday business too. Its fleet of Airbus A321, Boeing 737-800 and 757-200 aircraft wear either the standard Jet2 red-and-silver livery, or the Jet2Holidays white-blue-and-orange scheme.

They fly from many bases all over the UK.


TUI Airways

TUI Airlines

With its divisions across Europe, TUI’s fleet of Boeing 737-800/MAX and 787 aircraft are a common sight all over the UK, and in particular at their hubs in Manchester, London Gatwick and Stansted.




Interesting Aircraft You Can See in the UK

Alongside the main airlines listed above, the UK has many smaller carriers with specialist roles and interesting aircraft in their fleets.

Some of the more interesting ones include:


2Excel Boeing 727s

2Excel has many specialist roles and aircraft types. Most interesting are a pair of Boeing 727-200s used in oil spill response roles. They are based at Teesside Airport.


AirTanker A330s

The Royal Air Force contracts AirTanker to provide troop transports, an air bridge to the Falklands Islands, and aerial refuelling roles with its fleet of Airbus A330-243(MRTT) multi-role aircraft, based at RAF Brize Norton.


Bristow Helicopters

The North Sea, to the east of the UK, is still a very active oilfield with many rigs in operation. As a result, thousands of workers are regularly ferried to and from the mainland to these workplaces every week.

The helicopter fleet of Bristow Helicopters (as well as some smaller companies) fly from hubs like Aberdeen and Humberside.


Isles of Scilly Skybus Fleet

A small archipelago of islands off the south-west coast of England known as the Isles of Scilly are a popular place for tourists. The locals also need a regular link to the mainland. This is provided by a dedicated ferry, and also a fleet of DHC-6 Twin Otters and BN2 Islanders operated by Isles of Scilly Skybus from Lands End airport in Cornwall.


Aurigny’s Island Hoppers

Aurigny ATR 72

This small airline provides a dedicated link to the Channel Islands (Alderney, Guernsey and Jersey) off the coast of France.

Their bright yellow coloured aircraft fly links between the islands, and also to airports in the mainland UK.



The UK’s Best Aviation Museums

There are many great aviation museums and collections scattered around the United Kingdom and Ireland. Here are some of the favourites and most substantial:


Aerospace Bristol

Hayes Way, Patchway, Bristol BS34 5BZ | www.aerospacebristol.org
One of the newest aviation museums in Britain. Aerospace Bristol is located on the former Filton Airfield site to exhibit the history of aircraft manufacturing in the city. It includes the last Concorde to fly and other aircraft.

Open daily except Monday 10am-4.30pm (open Mondays in school summer holidays). Adults £18, Concessions £16, Children £10, Family £25/£42/£52, Under 4s & Essential carers Free.


Brooklands Museum

Brooklands Road, Weybridge, Surrey, KT13 0QN | www.brooklandsmuseum.com
Occupying the historic Brooklands race circuit and former aircraft factory where many British types were built. Museum combines aircraft and automotive history. Impressive collection of airliners (VC-10s, Vanguard, Varsity, Viscounts, Concorde prototype) and wartime aircraft. Many are open to enter.

Open daily 10am-5pm (March-late October), 10am-4pm (November-February). Adults £18.10, Seniors £17.20, Children £10, Family £29.60/£47.70, Under 5s free.


de Havilland Aircraft Museum

Salisbury Hall, London Colney, Hertfordshire, AL2 1BU | www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk
Celebrating the history of this famous British aircraft designer and manufacturer. Exhibits include most de Havilland types, plus some of the larger designs including Comet 1, BAe 146 and Trident.

Open Tuesday to Sunday, plus public holidays, 10.30am-5pm. Adults £12, Concessions £10.90, Children £8, Family £35. Under 5’s and carers of disabled free.


Duxford Imperial War Museum

Duxford, Cambridgeshire, CB22 4QR | www.iwm.org.uk
A historic airfield and one of the country’s best aircraft collections. Includes many historic warplanes, fighters, airliners, and an on-site American Air Museum with its own interesting aircraft. Airliners include Concorde, VC-10, Trident 2E, BAC One Eleven, Viscount and Bristol Britannia.

Open daily 10am-6pm. Adults £25, Concessions £22.50, Children (5-15) £12.50, Under 5s and IWM Members free.


Fleet Air Arm Museum

RNAS Yeovilton, BA22 8HW | 01935 840565 | www.fleetairarm.com
Many aircraft and artefacts relating mostly to the Royal Navy and its history. Also houses one of the Concorde prototypes.

Open Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-4.30pm. Adults £19, Concessions £18, Children £14, Family £39/£49, Under 3s free.


Manchester Runway Visitor Park

Sunbank Lane, Altrincham, WA15 8XQ | www.runwayvisitorpark.co.uk
Widely used as a spotting location at Manchester Airport, the Runway Visitor Park is also home to a collection of aircraft including Avro RJX, Concorde, Trident 3B, Nimrod, and McDonnell Douglas DC-10 forward fuselage. Most are open to the public.

Open daily except 25-26 December from 8am. Closes 4pm (November-February), 5pm (March), 6pm (April-May/September-October), 8pm (June-August). Free entry but car parking charges apply (£5-£12).


National Museum of Flight

East Fortune Airfield, East Lothian, EH39 5LF, Scotland | 0300 123 6789 | www.nms.ac.uk/national-museum-of-flight
A significant aviation museum with many indoor and outdoor aircraft exhibits covering British aviation history in particular. Airliners on display include a Comet 4, BAC One-Eleven, Concorde, Dove and Twin Pioneer, plus forward sections of Boeing 707 and Trident 1C. Also many military and wartime aircraft.

Open daily 10am-5pm (late March-late October), Saturday-Sunday 10am-4pm (November-March). Adults £12.50, Concessions £10.50, Children £7.50, Family £33, Under 5s and NMS members free.


Royal Air Force Museum Cosford

Comet 1 G-APAS at Cosford. Photo (C) Alan Wilson

Shifnal, Shropshire, TF11 8UP | 01902 376 200 | www.rafmuseum.org.uk/cosford
A large museum with many interesting exhibits related to the history of the Royal Air Force. Mostly military aircraft, but also includes complete DC-3, Viscount, Bristol Britannia and Comet 1.

Open daily 10am-5pm (March-October), 10am-4pm (November-February). Free entry.


Royal Air Force Museum London

Grahame Park Way, London, NW9 5LL | 020 8205 2266 | www.rafmuseum.org.uk/london
The other museum telling the history of the Royal Air Force with some significant aircraft and designs on display on the historic Hendon Airfield site. Includes Lancaster, Vulcan, B17G Flying Fortress, Spitfires, Hurricanes and many World War I aircraft.

Open daily 10am-5pm. Free entry.

Visiting the RAF Museum, Hendon


Science Museum, London

Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD | www.sciencemuseum.org.uk
Large museum in central London. The aviation hall has a number of complete aircraft and sections to explain the history and science of flight.

Open daily, 10am-6pm. Free entry.


Solway Aviation Museum

Carlisle Airport, Cumbria, CA6 4NW | 01228 573823 | www.solway-aviation-museum.co.uk
Mostly military collection, with complete Vulcan, Canberra, Hunter, Lightning, Phantom. Trident 1C cockpit.

Open: Fri, Sat, Sun and public holidays from 1 April-30 October. Adults £6, Senior/Child £4, Family £15.


The Shuttleworth Collection

Old Warden Aerodrome, Bedfordshire, SG18 9EP | 01767 627 927 | www.shuttleworth.org
Britain’s premier collection of flyable vintage aeroplanes, mostly from World War I era. The collection often takes part in air displays, particularly at its Old Warden home. When not flying visitors can see them at close quarters.

Open daily 10am-5pm (February-October), 10am-4pm (November-February). Check event dates on website. Adults £19.50, Children & Essential carers free.



The UK’s Best Spotting Hotels

premier inn terminal 4 heathrow

Spotters wanting a room with a view have some good options in the UK.

The following hotels are great for plane spotting if you get the right room:


Radisson Blu East Midlands
Pegasus Business Park, Herald Way, East Midlands Airport DE74 2TZ | +44 1509 670575 | www.radissonhotels.com
Many rooms overlook the threshold of runway 27 and parts of the eastern cargo ramp. You can see most movements, and photograph aircraft arriving/departing with a 300mm lens. The hotel is located to the east of the terminal and cargo areas.

BLOC Hotel London Gatwick
South Terminal Gatwick Airport, RH6 0NP | +44 20 3051 0101 | www.blochotels.com
Situated atop the South Terminal in the former administration building, the BLOC Hotel is a great place to spot if you have a room facing the airport. It has similar views to the old viewing terrace. Depending on the room you will usually have a view of both terminals and part of the runway.

Renaissance London Heathrow
140 Bath Road, Hounslow TW6 2AQ | +44 20 88 97 63 63 | www.marriott.com
This is one of the best spotting hotels in the world. Request a room overlooking the airport (you sometimes have to pay more). All movements on the northern runway can be read off and photographed easily, but lower floors have lamp posts and the fence in the way. Movements around the terminals are easy to spot. Those using flight tracking websites can continue to spot throughout the night. Although this hotel is not the cheapest at Heathrow, the quality of spotting makes up for it and it offers special spotter packages through its website.

London Heathrow Renaissance Spotting Hotel Review

Premier Inn Terminal 4 London Heathrow
Sheffield Rod, Heathrow TW6 3AF | +44 (0) 333 234 6600 | www.premierinn.com
A relatively new hotel, situated near the entrance to Terminal 4 on the south eastern corner of the airport, close to Hatton Cross and the Myrtle Avenue spotting location. Rooms on the 6th and 7th floor facing the runway have excellent views of aircraft using runway 27L, with Terminal 2 and runway 27R in the distance. Photography possible through two sets of double glazing. You won’t miss much here.

Premier Inn Terminal 4 London Heathrow Spotting Hotel Review

Hampton by Hilton London Stansted
Bassingbourn Rd, Stansted CM24 1QW | +44 1279 701101 | www.hilton.com
A recent addition to Stansted, to the south of the main terminal. Rooms in the even-numbered 634-658 and 734-758 range have a panoramic view over most of the terminal and part of the cargo area. You will also see all runway movements. Photography is easy, through glass, until sun moves over on the afternoon.

Hampton by Hilton London Stansted Spotting Hotel Review

Radisson Blu Manchester Airport
Chicago Avenue, Manchester M90 3RA | +44 161 490 5000 | www.radissonhotels.com
The best hotel for spotting at Manchester. Located behind Terminal 2, rooms on high floors overlook the aprons and the runways in the distance. The restaurant also offers the same view. Some good opportunities for photographs with a long lens.

Crowne Plaza Aberdeen Airport
2 International Gate, Dyce, Aberdeen AB21 0BE | +44 1224 608350 | www.ihg.com
This hotel is just to the south of the terminal, close to other hotels but has the best views of all of them (along with the Holiday Inn Express). Ask for a room facing the runway for views of aircraft movements and helicopter operations.



The Best UK General Aviation Airfields for Spotters

General aviation is a thriving industry in the UK.

There are hundreds of airfields scattered around the country, ranging from small farm strips to large facilities with concrete runways; many make use of the hundreds of former wartime airfields still littering the countryside.

Generally spotters are encouraged at most airfields, as long as rules are followed and safety is observed. In most cases you’ll be asked to wear a hi-viz vest, and if you want to walk around the active area or in any of the hangars, a polite request at reception or the control tower is usually enough.

Some of the best airfields to visit are:

Brighton City Airport

Known by most as Shoreham Airport, Brighton City is known as a centre for flight training. The airport does not have any passenger airline service, but has a lovely Art Deco terminal building in front of the aircraft parking apron and amongst the many small hangars running along the access road. The airport is used mostly by light aircraft, pleasure flights, helicopters and vintage aircraft. Follow Cecil Pashley Way past the terminal and you’ll find a number of parking places along the fence line to watch movements from.


City Airport & Manchester Heliport

Barton Panorama

Acting as the general aviation gateway to the city of Manchester, this is a very historic airfield and an interesting place to visit.

Previously known as Barton Airfield, City Airport is located just off the M60 and M62 motorways, near the Trafford Centre. It’s around a ten minute drive from Manchester Airport.

There’s a nice café at the heart of the airfield with views, and you can wander around to see parked aircraft. The historic control tower also has a balcony you can climb up to.


Cotswold Airport

Belfast scrapping compound at Cotswold Airport. Photo (c) David Stevens

Located at Kemble in Gloucestershire, this former wartime airfield is now a busy general aviation airfield and a huge draw for enthusiasts thanks to the large numbers of airliners which are ever present awaiting parting-out and scrapping. Aircraft from all over the world, particularly Airbus and Boeing airliners, arrive regularly and park on the various ramps and taxiways around the airfield before they work their way to the scrapping area in the north-east corner.

You can spot them from the central area near the control tower, where there’s also a café and a preserved Bristol Britannia.

[Kemble Cotswold – Current Storage List]



Denham Aerodrome is just inside the M25 London orbital motorway, close to where the M40 intersects. It is 13 miles north of Heathrow Airport. Denham has a concrete and a grass runway and is a busy general aviation airfield for London. Light aircraft and helicopters make up most movements, with the occasional biz jet or prop.

The airfield is split into north and south sections, with Tilehouse Lane linking them. The north side is home to The Pilot Centre flying school, who are known to allow airside access for logging and photography if you have a hi-viz vest. There’s also a café with views here. The south side has a parking area alongside the fence and a restaurant with views.



Elstree is a busy little general aviation airfield to the north of London, just inside the M25 motorway and alongside the M1 as it leaves London.

The airfield has a single concrete runway, with parking aprons, hangars, café etc to the south. Views are possible from the café, or ask at the control tower to walk out and log aircraft.


Gloucestershire Airport

Gloucestershire Airport is one of Britain’s most popular airfields for general aviation, and also sees a good number of executive aircraft movements and helicopters.

The Aviator café is probably the best place for views. It serves food and drink and has outdoor seating with views over the airfield, flying clubs and runway 27 threshold, which is great for photographs. You can find it next to the airport entrance, off Bamfurlong Lane (postcode GL51 6SR).


Leeds East

The former RAF Church Fenton is now in civilian hands and operating as Leeds East Airport. It’s located near Selby and Tadcaster in North Yorkshire.

While ambitions to attract commercial flights have faltered, the number of general aviation and even executive movements has grown. The roads around the hangars, and the Fenton Flyer café, have some views of parked aircraft and movements.


London Biggin Hill

N750GX Bombardier Global 7500 (Global Flight Inc)

Biggin Hill was a wartime base famous for its involvement in the Battle of Britain. Located near Bromley, some 14 miles south of central London, today it acts as a gateway for biz jets and general aviation traffic.

The Lookout Coffee Shop (1) offers a place to enjoy a drink whilst watching aircraft movements at Biggin Hill. You can find it on Maitland View (postcode TN16 3BN). From here you will see most movements, particularly on the main runway and nearby parking areas.


North Weald

An interesting general aviation airfield near Epping, between London and Chelmsford. North Weald Airfield was an important Battle of Britain station and many of the remaining buildings on the site are listed. Today it is a busy gateway for private aircraft flights, and is home to a number of vintage aircraft, including a Douglas C-54 Skymaster.

There are two cafes on site, the Wings Café and Rosey Lea Café, both good places to watch movements from. Access is by requesting permission from the gatehouse, which then involves driving around the taxiway. Beware of parked and taxiing aircraft! From here you can see most of the aircraft and any movements. Access is via Merlin Way (postcode CM16 6HR).



Oxford Airport occupies a fairly compact site 7 miles north of the city, next to the town of Kidlington. It no longer has passenger services, but is kept busy with executive aircraft movements, and as the home of CAE Oxford – one of the largest pilot training organisation of its kind in Europe. Its fleet of single- and twin-engine aircraft are on the go most days.

Langford Lane (postcode OX5 1RY) runs past the southern end of the main runway. There is a small layby to park in from where you can walk to the crash gate or back along the A44 to look across the parking aprons.



Perth is not a commercial airport, but is one of the busiest general aviation airfields in Scotland. It is three miles northeast of the city and has a number of flight training schools based.

If you bring a hi-viz vest and ask at the tower or flying schools you are likely to be permitted access airside to see aircraft on the ground and in the hangars.



A very popular general aviation airfield on the Isle of Wight. It is particularly busy during the summer months and weekends, and prides itself on shunning the sutffy atmosphere you can often find at other GA airfields.

All movements can be seen from the café area. You’ll find the Wight Aviation Museum on site, too.


Wellesbourne Mountford

This is a busy little general aviation airfield in Warwickshire, close to Stratford-upon-Avon. It has an active Avro Vulcan bomber on site which sometimes performs taxi runs. The best views of this, and all other resident aircraft, can be had by driving along Loxley Lane (postcode CV35 9EU) which passes the flying clubs, café, small museum and helicopter centre. You can pull into the car park at each to log what is visible.


Wycombe Air Park


Wycombe Air Park is an airfield at Booker in Buckinghamshire, to the west of London and north of Reading. It is often known as Booker Airfield.

The airfield was established in World War II, but today is a busy general aviation field with hundreds of daily movements – mostly through based training aircraft.

Wycombe is located just off the M40 motorway. Drive to the main car park at the airfield and you’ll be able to see most aircraft parked outside.



The Best Military Airfields in the UK for Plane Spotting

The UK’s airborne military force is the Royal Air Force, which still maintains a number of active air bases around the country.

The United States Air Force also has a presence in the UK, with its own bases.

As such, military plane spotting in the UK is a popular pastime and there are some good opportunities, including the following:


RAF Coningsby

Lancaster J78A1953

Coningsby, in Lincolnshire, is one of the most popular military airfields in Britain thanks to the presence of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BoBMF) – a squadron of preserved and airworthy historic aircraft, including Spitfires, Hurricanes and one of only two airworthy Avro Lancasters in the world. These aircraft regularly take part in displays and fly-pasts around the country, and can often be seen in the air around this airfield.

Coningsby today is also home to Eurofighter squadrons, including a training unit, and is a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) base.

Along Dogdyke Lane there is a car park situated at the end of runway 07 (postcode LN4 4TE). From here you can sit and watch or photograph movements on the runway (however 25 departures are a little high by this point).

A little further up Dogdyke Lane is a layby next to the fence which looks out onto the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight hangar and apron. It’s great for seeing these aircraft coming and going, and you can also see Typhoons parked up beyond.


RAF Cranwell

Home of the Royal Air Force’s Central Flying School and Royal Air Force College, which are responsible for training and turning out new officers and aircrew, Cranwell in Lincolnshire is a busy air base. As such, most aircraft based here are turboprop and jet training aircraft, such as the Grob Prefect, Beech King Air and Embraer Phenom T1.

The best general location for spotting is along the A17, which runs down the western side of the airfield. Adjacent to the end of runway 09 is a small parking area, where spotters usually congregate.


RAF Lakenheath

RAF Lakenheath is a host base for the United States Air Force (USAF) in Suffolk. It hosts the 48th Fighter Wing and its individual squadrons, which at present see based F-15 and F-35A Lightning aircraft based. The airfield is only a short distance from RAF Mildenhall (see below), another USAF base in south east England.

An official viewing area is situated at the northern end of the runway, close to the 24 threshold. It is reached off the A1065. Just to the north of the airfield, turn left onto Wangford Road, then left again to the signposted viewing area (postcode IP27 0SJ).


RAF Lossiemouth

The only remaining operational Royal Air Force base in Scotland, following the closure of RAF Lecuhars in 2015. Lossiemouth is one of the most active fast-jet stations in the country, and situated right on the coast, which makes for excellent training areas and good proximity to any threats from the east.

Today Lossiemouth is home to Typhoon fast jets, and Boeing 737-based Poseidon MRA1 maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. E-7 Wedgetail aircraft are also expected to be positioned there.

You can park your car in the small gravel car park near the entrance to the base, where the B9040 and B9135 meet. Then walk back along the road into the golf course. A path on your left leads to the perimeter fence, which you can follow along toward the end of runway 23. An elevated spot has views, and approaching aircraft can be photographed.


RAF Mildenhall

Polish Air Force F16

Mildenhall is a major military airfield at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, a short distance north east of Cambridge. Despite its RAF status, it is primarily used by the United States Air Force (USAF), and in particular their UK-based Air Refuelling Wing with based Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers.

Other based aircraft include CV-22 Ospreys and MC-130J Hercules. You’ll also regularly see other USAF aircraft transiting through.

A popular spot for watching and photographing movements is known as Nook Camp, with views of runway 10 arrivals and some of the parking ramps.

From Mildenhall town, head west along W Row Road, turning into Mildenhall Road, into Thistley Green. Turn north along Jarman’s Lane and Pollards Lane, continuing to The Nook Campsite (postcode IP28 8RA). Go through the gate and follow the rough dirt track.


RAF Waddington

Waddington is a busy air base just outside Lincoln in eastern England. It is home to the Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) base, which uses RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft – a derivative of the Boeing 707 – amongst others.

The Waddington Aircraft Viewing Area (details in Top 10 section above) is the best place for spotting.



Other UK Airports of Note

There are many airports and airfields around the UK which it’s good to go spotting at. Our book (details below) includes them all.

Some others you might want to try:



As well as hosting the Imperial War Museum (see above), Duxford hosts many air shows throughout the year and is an interesting general aviation airfield.



A busy airport and gateway to Scotland, served by many airlines from around Europe and further afield. It has some spotting opportunities at either runway end.

[Edinburgh Airport Plane Spotting Guide]



A busy airport for biz jet movements throughout the year, with service centres for Gulfstream on site. Every second year it hosts the Farnborough Air Show.

There’s also the FAST Museum just next door, celebrating the many milestones in aviation achieved at Farnborough.


London Luton

A crowded passenger airport popular with low-cost flights. But for enthusiasts, Luton is probably the best airport in the UK for spotting biz jets. They come from all over the world.

[London Luton Plane Spotting Guide]


Glasgow Prestwick

A fairly quiet airport with a fantastic history. It still handles many interesting cargo movements, and some aircraft transiting the Atlantic in need of a fuel stop.



A storage and maintenance airfield at Alton, Hampshire, which is also one of the busiest gliding sites in the UK.

There are always a few stored and retired airlines on site.


St Athan

A semi-military airfield in South Wales, a few miles from Cardiff. It is a storage and scrapping location with many airliners from around the world usually present. The South Wales Aviation Museum is also nearby.

[Guide to Spotting at St Athan Storage Airport]



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John Millar May 10, 2023 - 7:23 pm

Reference South Side at Manchester Airport, you can no longer get access to the Hotel from 1st left at Altrincham Rd, you need to carry on on Wilmslow Road to the next junction.

Matt Falcus May 16, 2023 - 1:22 pm

Thanks for the info John! Good to know.

Andrew Clarke May 10, 2023 - 8:54 pm

Hi Matt, I wanted to book a weekend at the Renaissance at LHR in February for my birthday and I phoned them. I was told that they were no longer doing the plane spotters package. Has anyone else been told this? I booked at the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel instead with a guaranteed Runway view, but very expensive. I tried to book the Premier Inn but they couldn’t guarantee a runway view, I was told.

Matt Falcus May 16, 2023 - 1:23 pm

Hi Andrew, I’m booked to stay in July. I selected a runway view room on the booking, so I hope it is honoured!


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