The National Museum of Flight in East Lothian offers an amazing family day out for anyone with a love of air travel and aircraft. This popular tourist attraction features outdoor displays as well as aircraft hangers full of planes, helicopters and more. There’s also an on-site café and gift shop.
Review of The National Museum of Flight
The National Museum of Flight in East Lothian is the perfect day out for family members of all ages.
Sited on an old World War II airfield the museum comprises a number of aircraft hangars filled to the brim with pristine examples of different types of aircraft from the last hundred-or-so years, from the very first days of flight right up to modern times.
Described as containing one of Europe’s finest collections of aircraft, the museum boasts everything from gyrocopters to fighter jets and you can get up close to all the exhibits on show – and even climb aboard and walk around some of them.
While you can’t prod and poke every aircraft in the museum there are quite a few that you can interact with and the curators have gone to great lengths to include lots of science-themed fun/educational exhibits that are genuinely interesting to play with (adults included).
As you’d expect with a military base there are quite a few workshops and engineering bays spread across the attraction and most of them have been restored to how they would have looked during WWII.
There are also several areas where you can learn the mechanics of military aircraft, their history, and the role they played in defending the nation when the base was in full operation over 70 years ago.
The National Museum of Flight is a great attraction that will appeal to adults and children alike so if you’re looking for a family day out and you’re in East Lothian it’s definitely worth considering.
Discover more places to visit with my Scottish Tourist Attractions Map.
Out About Scotland recommends...
Things to do at The National Museum of Flight
Each exhibition showcases a certain stage in aviation history, with military and civilian aviation being held in the two biggest hangars and the science of flight exhibited in smaller buildings on the old airfield.
The National Museums of Scotland who manage this attraction have to be commended for the amount of detail they’ve put into the information displays and even if you’re a bit of a plane nerd like me I guarantee you’ll walk away having learned quite a few new facts about aviation.
Kids especially will absolutely lap this stuff up so I suppose you could almost say a visit here is just as important for the educational side as it is for the fun they’ll have romping around the old aircraft.
There are fairly big expanses of grass outside the hangars so you can enjoy the East Lothian countryside while you’re walking around and it’s there where you can view some of the biggest aircraft on display – including the mighty Avro Vulcan, the massive delta-winged aircraft that became synonymous with the cold war.
You won’t believe how big that thing is until you walk underneath it.
But for me, the highlight of the museum has to be the fully restored Concorde which sits inside one of the main hangars, and if you’ve ever wanted to look inside one of these incredible aircraft then visiting this museum might be your only chance to do so.
As with all the exhibits at the National Museum of Flight, Concorde has a fascinating collection of storyboards and activities that all ages will find interesting and it’s worth a trip to the hangar to learn a few interesting facts about this important part of Britain’s aviation history.
As well as Concorde you can view a huge Boeing 707, a Hawker Sea Harrier (better known as the Jump Jet), an F4 Phantom and many others, and as previously mentioned each exhibition is cleverly designed with an educational twist.
There’s also a café on the site and a gift shop that’s full of enough models and aviation-themed gifts that everyone will find something worth buying. I’ll just say this – if you’re a fan of model aircraft you’d better make sure you’ve got your wallet with you.
If you’re looking to save some money on the entrance costs I recommend you consider buying a membership of the National Museums of Scotland which allows you free return visits to this attraction and three other major Scottish museums for around £45 annually.
If you’ve got any interest in planes, helicopters, and the history of flight then I think a visit to the National Museum of Flight in East Lothian is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.
You’ll find more places to visit with my Lothians articles.
- The collection of aircraft is amazingly varied and you’ll find every form of air transport from hot air balloons to jet fighters.
- There are loads of things to see and do in the halls, outside areas and side-rooms. This museum is very good value for money in my opinion.
- Both kids and adults will enjoy this attraction and I love the fact that many of the displays are educational.
- The museum is in quite a remote location so get your bearings on Google Maps before you head out.
- Become a National Museums of Scotland member to get into this attraction for free.
- Looking for a historic attraction nearby? Visit the Athelstaneford National Flag Centre or Hailes Castle.
East Fortune Airfield,
Photo gallery and video
Things to do near the National Museum of Flight
- Hailes Castle. Haddington EH41 4PY. 14-minute drive. 13th-century castle situated on the banks of the River Tyne. The majority of the castle is roofless but most of the walls are still intact and there are notable features like the brewery, kitchen and great hall to explore. Parking is limited to roadside spaces but entry is free.
- Preston Mill and Phantassie Doocot. Preston Road, East Linton EH40 3DS. 11-minute drive. An attractive historic mill and a 16th-century dovecot that was used to house over 500 pigeons. The mill is open for public viewing but the main attraction for many visitors is the nearby River Tyne which is a haven for otters, kingfishers and herons. There are footpaths that follow the river for several miles.
- Athelstaneford National Flag Centre. North Berwick EH39 5BE. 5-minute drive. Athelstaneford is a small parish village in East Lothian that legend says is the place where a Scottish King founded the Saltire national flag after seeing it pictured in a cloud formation. There is a small museum dedicated to the Saltire behind the church.
- Traprain Law. Haddington EH41 4PY. 13-minute drive. A steep hill that is a well-known landmark in the centre of East Lothian. A 1-mile path from a small car park to the summit offers panoramic views of the area. The summit is a popular picnic spot with locals.
- Myreton Motor Museum. Aberlady, Longniddry EH32 0PZ. 12-minute drive. A small privately-run yet highly-rated motor museum that celebrates automobilia with a collection of cars, bikes, motorcycles and trucks.
More places to visit in The Lothians
- Prestongrange Museum – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuidePrestongrange in the coastal village of Prestonpans is a free-to-visit outdoor museum that showcases East Lothian’s rich industrial heritage. The museum aims to educate visitors about the 800-years of industrial activity that left its mark on the area, from the almost-vanished harbour to the long-abandoned colliery.
- Dalkeith Country Park – Midlothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe historic county of Midlothian seems to be permanently out of favour with visiting tourists – mainly due to the fact that it borders Edinburgh and most sightseers have already got their hands full trying to fit in as many city attractions as possible before hopping on the coach to their next destination.
- Jupiter Artland – Edinburgh: Complete Visitor GuideIt was with great pleasure that I happened to stumble upon Jupiter Artland recently, a contemporary sculpture park near Edinburgh that gave me one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in a long time.
- Dunbar Harbour – East Lothian: Complete Visitor GuideThe quaint coastal town of Dunbar is located just 30 miles east of Edinburgh on a stretch of coastline that’s famed for being one of the most scenic in Scotland.