Home Airport Spotting Guide UPDATED Britain’s Best Plane Spotting Locations

UPDATED Britain’s Best Plane Spotting Locations

by Matt Falcus

This month sees the release of a new edition of one of our most popular resources – Airport Spotting Guides UK & Ireland.

This book lists every major airport, airfield and military airfield across England, Scotland, Wales, Channel Islands, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and details where to spot and what you’ll see.

It has been completely updated from the 2015 edition.

With that in mind, here’s a summary of what we think are the best plane spotting locations in the UK today.


Manchester South Side

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

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 behind you most of the day, and the airliners are very close when using runway 23L for departure (think wide-angle lens!). All other movements are visible, too.



London Heathrow Myrtle Avenue

Spotting at Myrtle Avenue, Heathrow.

Granted, this spot is only good when one particular runway direction (out of four) is in use. But statistically there’s a good chance of this being the case for 12 hours of every day.

Myrtle Avenue is one of the most popular spots at Heathrow, but 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.

At Heathrow, the predominant runway direction in use is 27. When this is the case, one runway is used for departures and the other for landings for 12 hours each, with the switch taking place at 3pm each afternoon.


RAF Coningsby Spotters Car Park

RAF Typhoon taxing at RAF Coningsby

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. It is also home to Eurofighter squadrons.

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 runway 25 departures are a little high by this point).



Birmingham Runway End

Emirates Airbus A380

Birmingham Airport has an official viewing location in the long-stay car park, and an unofficial one on the multi-storey car park at the Elmdon side of the airfield.

Both are good, however the best for getting up close to the action if aircraft are landing on runway 15 is at the northern end of the airfield.

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.


Brize Norton Runway End


RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire is the main transport and logistics hub for the Royal Air Force.

It’s where you’ll find the A400M, C-130 Hercules, C-17 and AirTanker A330 MRTT fleets based, as well as lots of charter and ad-hoc visitors through the week (both civil and military).

One of the best locations for photography is the end of runway 25 where Station Road passes very close.

You can’t park here, sadly. So need to find a spot in Brize Norton village which is a 10 minute walk.


Kemble Control Tower

You won’t see many movements here, but for something completely different head to the central area at Cotswold Airport in Kemble, Gloucestershire.

This airport is the final resting place of scores of older airliners, from small regional jets to giant Boeing 747s.

This spot outside the control tower, with the AV8 café to use, is right at the heart of all the parking areas, with great views. Former British Airways Boeing 747 G-CIVB (in the Negus retro livery) is preserved as an events venue here, too.


London Heathrow Renaissance Hotel

Heathrow Renaissance Spotting hotel

While we don’t like to require you to spend money in order to enjoy spotting, this one gets a mention as a favourite in the UK.

The Renaissance Hotel is located on the northern perimeter of Heathrow.

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.

Another good option is the Premier Inn at Terminal 4.


London Luton Central Area

Luton Biz Jets

This is a complicated one where you’ll be required to drive or walk in and out of lots of nooks and crannies in the central area at Luton Airport. But it can be worth it if you like biz jets.

Luton is where the vast majority of executive and biz jet movements visiting London land. Therefore you’ll usually find a good selection from all over the world parked at different aprons.

Driving around the access roads to the hangars, cargo centre and other parts of the central complex will offer glimpses of many business jets and other aircraft parked around the various aprons. Signs discourage spotters from parking in these areas, so make only quick stops to log what you can see. You can park at the Holiday Inn for the nearer ramps, and you can use the Long Stay Term car park for free up to an hour (follow the road as far as you can) to log the biz jets parked alongside it.


RAF Waddington Viewing Area

Line 'em up and ...Shoot

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.

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.


Glasgow North Side

Wamos Widebody (EC-NCK)

Glasgow International is a major gateway to Scotland, with a good mix of international and local flights, with the Highlands and Islands services originating here to the rest of Scotland.

From the terminal head west for Barnsford Road/A726 (avoid joining the M8 motorway) which loops around the end of runway 05. You’ll come to a small lane called Walkinshaw Road on your right (postcode PA4 9LP) which runs along the northern perimeter to a farm and crash gate. Do not block the road or crash gate, or park on the farm’s land. You have a good view across the airport and runway here, with most of the terminal in view and decent photography opportunities through the fence.


Manchester Runway Visitor Park

This is a controversial one among spotters.

Manchester Airport provides the Runway Visitor Park close to the end of runway 05L. It is a fantastic facility which has a collection of preserved airliners on display (Concorde, Trident, Avro RJX, Nimrod and DC-10). It has a café, and a shop full of goodies that spotters like (books, models, posters etc). And it provides a raised area to view movements on the runways and taxiway.

However, in recent years the size of the site has reduced due to airport building work and greatly limited the views of the airport.

Plus, photography is mostly into the sun, and you have to pay to park here.

However, we include it here because it’s great for kids and new enthusiasts. You can certainly log all movements, even if photography isn’t great. And which other airport provides such an aviation attraction for enthusiasts and locals alike?


Glasgow Prestwick Mound

Prestwick Mound - An-225 Day 2020

Prestwick in Ayrshire is no longer the stopover point for aircraft heading across the Atlantic, but it does still see some interesting traffic – particularly military and cargo movements.

A popular unofficial place to watch movements is a mound and area of waste ground close to the intersection of the two runways. It has views across to the apron used by biz jets and some cargo aircraft, and excellent views of the runway. To reach the location head east from the terminal along the A79, Shawfarm Road, and then left onto Shaw Road (postcode KA9 2LN). The track to the waste ground is on your left.


What’s your favourite spotting location in the UK? Leave a comment below!


For more on these and hundreds more spotting locations across the UK and Ireland, order your copy of Airport Spotting Guides UK & Ireland (2nd Edition) today.

It features maps, directions, detailed information on what you’ll see, plus where to find the best spotting hotels and aviation museums.

Order Now



You may also like


John murdoch December 18, 2022 - 9:57 pm

The motorway round the side of Glasgow Airport is the M8 not the M6.
Cheers John.

Matt Falcus December 19, 2022 - 7:55 pm

Thanks John! That’s been updated.

Jez December 28, 2022 - 7:16 pm

Rennaissance Hotel

I’ve just returned home after a 4 night xmas weekend spotting break at the Rennaissance. The only way to guarantee an airport view is to book a runway view room on the website (IMO the spotters breaks aren’t worth the extra). I’ve stayed here several times for spotting trips & usually rise at at 0530 to catch the early arrivals & finish at around 2230 – with breaks for meals of course! For a hotel of this standard the food is a let down & is expensive (buffet breakfast is ok). A few minutes walk away is a convienience store & a garage so you can get sandwiches & drinks to stock your in room fridge. Make sure you get a room on level 2 or 3 to mostly avoid lamp posts in your photographs. Generally you will not miss a single movement in one of these rooms, you will however need a flight tracking app to identify some aircraft.

Matt Falcus December 31, 2022 - 12:38 pm

Thanks Jez!

Spotting guide and best locations for watching planes at UK airports April 3, 2024 - 4:01 pm

[…] After visiting various airports across the UK, we have compiled a comprehensive list of the best plane spotting locations in the country. For more detailed information, make sure to check out UPDATED Britain’s Best Plane Spotting Locations. […]


Leave a Comment