The Out About Scotland complete guide to The National Museum of Flight in East Lothian
Category: Military, Museum, Science and technology
Suitable for ages: 5 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 8 out of 10
About 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 boats 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 at this museum there are quite a few that you can interact with and the museum has gone to great lengths to include lots of science-themed fun/educational exhibits that are genuinely interesting to play with – even if you’re just a big kid like me.
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’s both educational and fun, so if you’re looking for a family day out and you’re in East Lothian it’s definitely worth considering.
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 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 education side as it is for the fun they’ll have romping around the old aircraft. But whatever your reasons for visiting I genuinely think you’ll enjoy it (although let’s be honest, dads and kids are going find it way more interesting than most mums will).
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 here 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 so a visit with the kids is highly recommended.
There’s also a cafe on the site and a shop that’s full of enough models and aviation-themed gifts that anyone will find something worth buying, and all I’ll say is 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 just £41 annually (as of 2019).
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.
What I liked about this attraction
- The collection of aircraft is very well maintained
- There are loads of things to see and do
- Both kids and adults will enjoy this attraction
My top tips
- 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
Address and map
Prices and opening times
- Adult £12
- Concession £10
- Child: £7 (under 5 free)
- Family £31 (2 adults and 2 children)
- National Museum of Flight members: Free
- National Art Pass holders: Free (charge for special events)
Open weekends until end March 2019
Saturday and Sunday 10:00-16:00
April – October 2019: Open every day 10:00-17:00
- Telephone: 0300 123 6789
- Website: National Museum of Flight
Getting there: Car park on-site
Getting around: Disabled access, Easy-access paths, Pushchair access
On-site conveniences: Gift shop, Hot drinks, Picnic area, Restaurant or cafe, Snacks, Toilets
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