• With Kids in the Westcountry

[AD] Fleet Air Arm Museum, Ilchester, Somerset

Updated: Jan 21

Open Weds-Sun 10.00am – 4.30pm

All-weather attraction

Historic aircraft and naval aviation history

Suitable for all ages

Age 2 & under go free

Book online for best rates

Tickets allow unlimited re-entry for a year

Partially accessible/partially buggy friendly

Café, changing facilities, toilets & free parking

Fleet Air Arm aircraft navy museum Somerset

[AD - tickets gifted]

We’ve just returned from our visit to the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm Museum and my first thought is – why haven’t we taken the kids before??

Now, I admit to being something of a closet aircraft enthusiast after a ten-year stint working at a helicopter factory, and the same can be said of Mr With Kids in the Westcountry, so we’d been before but this was our first experience as a family.

The Fleet Air Arm Museum is an impressive attraction, housing a huge collection of historic aircraft and so much to see and do, on the perimeter of Ilchester’s Royal Navy base in South Somerset. Its location on the edge of a working airfield means you can often spot helicopters taking off and flying at close range, adding to the excitement.

Arranged over four huge halls, the museum is a truly immersive experience, allowing you to get right up close to all sorts of helicopters, jets, planes and even a Concorde, surrounding you with the sights, sounds and genuine oily smells of old aircraft. Even better for hands-on kids (and grown-ups!), you can actually get on board a Search and Rescue Sea King and a Concorde for a good old nosey around rather than just looking at them from afar.

Older kids can learn about the history of flying in the Royal Navy with lots of interactive displays and younger kids will marvel at the size and presence of the aircraft up close.

A family trail adds extra engagement as you walk around the large facility with things to spot and questions to answer, and it’s free to complete.

A highlight was the Helicopter Transfer & Aircraft Carrier experience – cleverly designed so you take a simulated ride in a Wessex helicopter to the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. It’s a couple of minutes spent in the belly of a Wessex which, along with lighting and sound effects, vibrates quite realistically as if in flight – our two children (aged 5&8) could easily have been fooled!

You exit the ‘ride’ in the next hall of the museum, designed to replicate the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, where a big screen, lighting and sound effects take you through a noisy jet take-off at sea.

Our girls also really enjoyed being able to climb up the steps into the back of a real-life retired Concorde – the closest they’ve got to flying so far as they’ve never been in a plane! You can walk all the way through this first British-built Concorde to the cockpit at the front.

Warnefords tea-room/café halfway through is a handy pit-stop, offering children’s lunchboxes with colouring sheet and pencils to keep the kids entertained along with sandwiches, pasties, snacks and drinks.

There are lots of toilets dotted around, with baby change facilities; and accessible routes around the museum make the venue partially buggy and wheelchair accessible. However, a sling might be handy for babies if you want to get into the aircraft or climb up to the viewing platforms in the Concorde hall.

Outside, there’s a great little themed playground for younger children to run off some steam, and picnic benches – bring your own snacks or buy at the café inside.

Before you leave, there’s a great gift shop with all sorts of toys, models, books and clothing – a great place to spend any pocket money or pick up a birthday gift.

We spent about 2.5 hours looking around, stopping for a quick lunch and a play in the playground afterwards. Just as a point to note, in the winter the halls are a little chilly so it’s advisable to bring layers.

On to pricing. A link to the most up to date ticket information can be found here. At the time of visiting (Jan 2022), admission was priced as follows:

Children aged 2 and under visit FREE and there’s a big saving to be made if you book tickets online in advance. (Pre-booking a time slot is strongly encouraged by the venue during the COVID-19 pandemic.) A key thing to note is that tickets grant you unlimited free re-entry to the museum for a whole year!

The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday 10am-4.30pm and has lots of free parking close to the museum entrance.

A great all-weather attraction for families with children of all ages – especially those with an interest in engineering and aviation, but not a pre-requisite!

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