Over Easter, we spent the weekend in Somerset and took the opportunity to visit the Fleet Air Arm Museum based at RNAS Yeovilton. It’s a place that we have wanted to visit for a while as I have a real interest in the Navy (I wanted to work onboard an aircraft carrier when I was younger) and having been to many an airshow as a youngster I was keen to have a look and introduce Olly to the aircraft up close.
Fleet Air Arm Museum is home to Europe’s largest naval aviation collection with exhibitions spanning four huge halls. The exhibitions are all inside and it was such a welcome relief given the usual bank holiday weather. Visitors enter the museum on the upper floor through the shop which is great for bargaining good behaviour with a three year old (ahem!) as it’s also the way out at the end.
What struck me as we entered was how much history there was about naval aviation that I didn’t have a clue about. There was so much to see, read and learn about.
As we made our way around the museum, there’s plenty for children to see and get involved in. Setting inside a Royal Navy helicopter was a particular highlight for Olly and my hubby!
We were concerned that Olly might get a little bit bored but there’s a real focus on letting little ones learn all about the naval aviation history with child inspired learning workbooks and worksheets to work through and set off exploring.
When we visited there was an Easter inspired egg hunt to find Penelope, a WW1 messenger Pigeon, find her eggs hidden around the museum. It was good fun, it kept Olly interested and we all had a good look around the exhibitions.
We didn’t have to worry about Olly being bored as there was loads to keep him interested with various airplanes to look at, helicopters to explore, life rafts to sit in and adventures to dream up.
Our favourite part of visiting the museum was the Aircraft Carrier experience; a mock up of HMS Ark Royal. It’s a 40 minute guided tour so worth thinking about before you enter the experience but Olly really enjoyed it. As soon as we stepped foot into the mock up helicopter to transport us to the carrier, Olly was convinced he was in a real helicopter. We loved the simulation of an air craft taking off and watching the aircraft land on deck and we went inside the carrier to see how it would have looked back in the 1970s. As you walk through the experience, there’s mock ups of the various different areas aboard the carrier and we all really enjoyed it, so fascinating. It did make me wonder what life would have been like if I had signed up to the navy after school all those years ago!
To complete our visit to the Fleet Air Arm Museum, we were able to climb aboard and have a good look inside Concorde 002. Hubby was in awe of the prototype which actually completed seven years of extensive supersonic testing back in 1976. How amazing is that! It was much smaller inside than I thought it would be and Olly wanted to climb into the cockpit and test out the controls.
After spending a small fortune in the gift shop, we headed to the on-site Swordfish restaurant for a bite to eat and escape the rain. Had the weather been dry and clear we would have been able to see aircraft landing at RNAS Yeovilton but unfortunately the weather was horrendous with Storm Katie making an appearance during our visit. We would really recommend visiting the Fleet Air Arm Museum if your family have an interest in the military and are obsessed with planes like Olly.
Disclosure: We were invited to visit Fleet Air Arm Museum for the purpose of the above review however all opinions are my own.