Farnborough is a town in the northeastern corner of the English county of Hampshire, adjacent to the borders with Surrey and Berkshire. Farnborough used to be an isolated hamlet, and grew into a medium-sized town over the course of the 20th century. This growth was built on the back of the aviation industry; Farnborough was the site of the first powered flight in Britain, made by Samuel Cody in 1904. Today, the aerospace, defence and technology industries thrive and aviation heritage is evident all around the town. Farnborough is best known as the home of the biennial Farnborough International Airshow, which has been running since 1948.
The town is also the final resting place of deposed French Emperor Napoléon III and his wife Eugénie de Montijo.
The northeasternmost town in Hampshire, Farnborough is contiguous with Aldershot (with which it shares a local authority, the Borough of Rushmoor) to the south, and Camberley (in Surrey) to the north. The town's eastern boundary is marked by the River Blackwater, on the other side of which are the suburban villages Ash, Frimley and Mytchett, which are nowadays considered part of Camberley. Farnborough Airport is immediately to the south-west of the town centre, and west of that is beautiful mixed forest and heathland leading to Fleet.
Although locals divide Farnborough north and south, and into other named areas not relevant here, the visitor may understand it better as a town of four quadrants:
- The north-west covers the mostly residential areas known as Cove and Southwood, which were formerly independent villages. Although there are some older buildings, the bulk of this part's urbanisation took place in the mid- to late 20th century, and there is little here of interest to a visitor.
- The north-east is separated from the NW by Farnborough Road. This is the oldest part of town and contains the former village centre (Farnborough Street), the parish church of St Peter, St Michael's Abbey and Farnborough Hill House (Farnborough Park).
- The south-east was Farnborough's 19th-century town centre, and is still today predominantly Victorian in character, known as South Farnborough or North Camp. It is mixed residential and commercial, and has many of the best restaurants and pubs.
- The south-west is dominated by Farnborough Airport, and the high-tech industry, business parks and hotels which surround it. This is also the location of the RAE Heritage Quarter and FAST Museum.
The modern town centre sits where these four quadrants meet.
While Farnborough has been settled for at least 1000 years (it was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Ferneberga, Old English for "Fern Hill"), it was for most of its history a tiny hamlet in the midst of a lawless and remote heathland, on the outer edges of Windsor Forest, a royal hunting estate. Its location at the borders of Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire meant it was frequently used by outlaws as diverse as highwaymen and illegal boxers; before the 20th century, county police forces had no powers beyond their areas of jurisdiction, so all criminals had to do to escape justice was pass from one county to the next. The area's comparative remoteness and frontier town vibes kept Farnborough small for centuries; there are therefore few buildings today that date from before the 19th century, and those that do are rustic-looking timber-framed cottages.
The arrival of the British Army to neighbouring Aldershot in the mid-1800s brought more settlers to the area, and many officers built fine villas in what is now Farnborough's southern suburb of North Camp - so called because it is north of the Army garrison ("camp"). Shops, services and a town hall sprang up to serve the growing town, and North Camp remained the town's commercial centre for another hundred years.
The town welcomed foreign royalty in 1880, when the Empress Eugénie de Montijo moved into Farnborough Hill, a manor house and estate. Eugénie was the Spanish-born widow of Emperor Napoléon III of France. Deposed in 1870, the couple fled to England, where they settled in Kent. The Emperor died in 1873, but was survived by the couple's only child, Louis Napoléon Eugène. The prince imperial was the last hope for a Bonapartist restoration, until he was killed by Zulu warriors while serving as an attaché to the British Army in 1879. The following year, the grieving Empress moved into and greatly expanded Farnborough Hill, transforming it into a château where she received regular visits from her close friend, Queen Victoria. On the estate, she ordered the construction of a neo-Gothic Roman Catholic monastery, to which were invited monks of the Benedictine order from France, who were to watch over the imperial mausoleum. Named for St Michael, the monastery was made an abbey by the Pope in 1903. Remaining in Farnborough until her death in 1920, Eugénie is buried in the family crypt of the abbey alongside her husband and son.
Farnborough got its economic breakthrough when the Army set up a balloon factory on what was then a grassy plain on the western edge of town. In 1904, the wild west showman and Iowa native Samuel Franklin Cody designed and flew his 'Army Aeroplane Number One' in what was Britain's first powered flight. Within a few years the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), as the Army balloon factory was now known, had made Farnborough its headquarters, and the grassy plain was transformed into an airfield. Cody continued to develop prototype aircraft, and became increasingly ambitious, entering competitions such as the 'Circuit of Britain' and the 'Michelin Cup'. In 1913, his luck finally ran out when his latest prototype broke up mid-flight; Cody and his unfortunate passenger were thrown to their deaths. His funeral procession was attended by 100,000 people and he is buried in Aldershot Military Cemetery.
Ever since Cody's era, the town has been synonymous with the aviation industry. Captured enemy aircraft were 'reverse engineered' in Farnborough during the Second World War, helping to give the RAF the edge over the Luftwaffe. This caused tragedy when a test pilot lost control of a Dornier Do-335 over the town and crashed into a local primary school, scattering burning debris and fuel over the schoolyard. The pilot was killed instantly, but by extremely good fortune, there were only a few minor injuries sustained by the children and their teachers. Post-war, the innovation continued. Jet engines were pioneered here in the mid 1940s, while supersonic passenger flight was successfully engineered with Concorde in the 1960s, continuing Farnborough's French connection. The RAE and airport were privatised in the 1990s, but several large aerospace and defence corporations continue to have their headquarters in the town, while the airport is now Britain's busiest for business aviation.
The first Farnborough International Airshow was held in 1948, and it has taken place every two years continuously in even-numbered years. It is one of the largest airshows in the world, and is held over one week in the summer. FIA is primarily a civil and military trade show, facilitating trade and investment in aircraft and new technologies. It attracts a lot of press attention, usually sees the visit of high profile politicians and/or royalty, and also draws anti-arms trade and climate change protesters. The airshow ground is open to the public at the end of the week, on Saturday and Sunday. However, air displays take place every afternoon of the show, and these can easily be seen from most parts of the town.
Farnborough's population of 65,000 largely stems from the post-war era, when slum clearance brought thousands of inner-city Londoners to new housing estates. Much of the town you see today dates from that period of questionable architectural tastes. Farnborough's centre of gravity shifted once again in the 1960s, when a civic and shopping area designed around the car was constructed closer to the town's geographical midpoint. The town is now firmly in the capital's commuter belt.
Since the 2000s, thousands of Nepalese people have made their home in Farnborough, Aldershot and the surrounding area, after a long campaign to give former British Gurkhas and their families the right to live in the UK. The presence of Nepali people, language, traditional dress and businesses is very noticeable.
Farnborough is 35 miles (56 km) south-west of central London.
Farnborough is served by the M3 motorway (junctions 4 and 4a) which runs from London to Southampton. The town is about an hour's drive from central London, and 15 minutes from junction 12 of the M25. Other major routes which pass through or near Farnborough are the A3, A30, A31 and A331.
All listed 'see' and 'do' attractions, and most of the sleep listings, have on-site or nearby parking, and visitors to the town in general won't have trouble finding a car park. The Meads multi-storey car park on Kingsmead is particularly helpful, as are the Pinehurst car parks slightly further down the same road. Less useful is the "secret car park" on the roof of Sainsbury's; since it was built and painted up, it has only been accessible to pedestrians, as a ramp up from the road is yet to be built! Its 'discovery' by a reporter in 2016 prompted much derision in the national media.
Farnborough is served by five railway stations, listed in decreasing order of utility:
- 1 Farnborough Main Station, Union Street, GU14 7NL. South Western Railway services from London (Waterloo, Clapham Junction), Woking, Basingstoke, Southampton (Central, Airport Parkway), Portsmouth (Harbour), Bournemouth and Poole. Trains depart from Waterloo four times an hour Monday-Saturday and twice an hour on Sundays; the quickest trains take 35 minutes, while the slowest about an hour - count on spending around £17 for a single. The journey from Clapham Junction takes 25 min and costs £15, the trip from Southampton takes 1 hr and costs about £20, while trains from Portsmouth take 1 hr 30 min and cost around £25.
- 2 Farnborough North Station, Farnborough Street, GU14 8AQ. and 3 North Camp Station, Lynchford Road, GU12 5QA (same line). Great Western Railway trains from Reading (25 min, £7), Guildford (15 min, £6), Redhill (1 hr, £15), and London Gatwick Airport (55 min, £17). North Camp is served by two trains per hour, while Farnborough North only receives one.
- 4 Ash Vale Station, Station Approach, GU12 5LP. and 5 Frimley Station, Frimley High Street, GU16 7QH (same line). South Western Railway services from Ascot (20 min, £5), Farnham (10 min, £4) and Alton (25 min, £7), as well as limited services from London Waterloo (50 min, £16).
By coach and bus
Farnborough is served by a single, daily National Express service, route 031 between London Victoria Coach Station (which offers connections all over Britain and Europe) and Portsmouth Harbour (for ferries from France and Spain). The coach sets you down at 6 Kingsmead, a small bus interchange in the centre of town. The journey from London leaves at 5PM and takes 1 hr 35 min M-F, or 1 hr 50 min Sa Su, while the journey from Portsmouth leaves 7:30AM M-F, or 8AM Sa Su, and takes 2 hr M-F, or 1 hr 35 min Sa Su.
Frequent and direct local buses serve Farnborough from only Aldershot, Camberley, Fleet and a few neighbouring villages. See below for details.
Farnborough is well served by airports. For travellers coming directly to Farnborough, the closest airports are:
- London Heathrow Airport (LHR IATA) is 25 mi (40 km) away. Drive to Farnborough via the M4, M25 and M3 motorways. Public transport options from Heathrow to Farnborough are indirect and take much longer than driving. You can either take a Rail Air bus shuttle to Woking railway station, and catch the train, or take the London Underground (Piccadilly line to Piccadilly Circus, then Bakerloo line to Waterloo) to London Waterloo and catch the train from there.
- Southampton Airport (SOU IATA) is 45 mi (72 km) away. Drive to Farnborough via the M27 and M3 motorways. There are also frequent express trains between Southampton Airport Parkway and Farnborough Main stations.
- London Gatwick Airport (LGW IATA) is 46 mi (74 km) away. Drive to Farnborough via the M23, M25 and M3 motorways. Direct trains to Farnborough North and North Camp operate from Gatwick Airport station.
- London Luton Airport (LTN IATA) is 53 mi (85 km) away. Drive to Farnborough via the M1, M25 and M3 motorways. Trains connect Luton Airport Parkway to London St Pancras International every 35 minutes. From there, take the London Underground (Victoria line to Oxford Circus, then Bakerloo line to Waterloo) to London Waterloo station.
Farnborough also has its own private airport. There are no scheduled commercial flights to and from 7 Farnborough Airport (FAB IATA); rather it is dedicated exclusively to private and business aviation. If you have the money, the sky really is the limitǃ
Farnborough is a small town and it is very easy and quick to get around on foot or by car. The town centre has lots of signs, maps and information boards for pedestrians. Parking is widely available, though you will be hard-pressed to find anything free.
Farnborough has a good network of cycle routes, the majority being either off-road or along lanes segregated from motor traffic. Some of these are shared with pedestrians, and some are reserved for bikes. There are a few unsegregated cycle lanes, but these are mostly on minor roads. Signage is comprehensive with accurate distances, though some of the signs have been vandalised and now point the wrong way, so it would be best to have a map to hand: Rushmoor Borough Council publishes such a map.
- 1 Silvester Brothers Bike Hire, 5 Cove Road, GU14 0EH, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 9AM-5PM. Independent bicycle shop with a selection of Raleigh bikes to hire. You must phone or email ahead and bring photo ID. Helmets and locks available on request. 1 day £25, 2 days £31, weekend (Sa-M) £29, 5 days £55, all plus refundable deposit. Discounts available for multiple bikes hired.
There are a number of local bus services which serve the town from 1 in the town centre. All routes are operated by Stagecoach, though Surrey County Council publish the most informative timetables and maps. Fares are cheaper than in London, but fairly typical of the rest of the South East. Count on a single within Farnborough costing up to £2, a day ticket for the wider network costing £6.10, and a night ticket costing £2.50. You can pay with cash or contactless credit/debit card. All times given are the earliest and latest departures from Kingsmead:
- 1: Camberley-Frimley-Farnborough (Main station, town centre, College of Technology, North Camp)-Aldershot. 24 hour service. Every 4-10 mins during the day, every 30 mins-1 hour overnight.
- 2: Farnborough (town centre, Cove, Fernhill, Hawley Lane)-Frimley-Frimley Park Hospital-Heatherside-Camberley. M-F 6:15AM-8:20PM every 20 mins. Sa 7:05AM-8:20AM, every 30 mins. Su 9AM-6:10PM, every hour.
- 9: Within Farnborough (town centre, Cove, Southwood). M-F 9:15AM-2:25PM. Every hour.
- 10: Farnborough (town centre, Sixth Form College, Cove)-Fleet-Church Crookham. M-F 7:35AM-7:25PM, Sa 8:25AM-6:35PM. Roughly every hour.
- 11: Farnborough (town centre, Main station, Rectory Road)-Mytchett-Frimley Green-Deepcut-Heatherside-Camberley-Frimley Park Hospital. M-F 7:50AM-6PM, Sa 9AM-6PM. Every hour.
- 41: Frimley Park Hospital-Farnborough (Main station, town centre, Highgate Lane, North station, College of Technology, Queensgate, North Camp, North Camp Station)-Ash Vale-Ash-Tongham. M-F 9:30AM-1:10PM. Every hour.
- YoYo: Within Farnborough (town centre, Main station, Cherrywood Road, Prospect Estate). M-F 6AM-11:15PM, Sa 7AM-11:15PM, Su 8:15AM-6:15PM. Every 10 mins during the day / every 30 mins evenings and Su.
Fares and routes correct as of August 2019.
Farnborough has both hackney carriages (black cabs), which can be pre-booked or hailed on the street, and minicabs, which must be pre-booked. Hackney carriage fares are regulated by the borough, and use a meter: weekday daytimes cost £3 base fare, plus £0.20 for every 150 yards (140 m) travelled. Evenings and weekends cost £3.60 base fare, plus £0.20 for every 150 yards (140 m) travelled; after 11PM, this goes up to £4.50 base fare, plus £0.30 for every 150 yards (140 m) travelled. These fares are correct as of March 2020. Minicabs' fares are unregulated, so prices can be negotiated.
- A-Line Taxis, ☏ . Operates fleets of black cabs in town. Online and in-app booking available.
- Rushmoor Taxis, ☏ . Operates fleets of black cabs in town. Online and in-app booking available.
In general terms, Farnborough is not a tourist town, but there are a few sights worth seeing, especially for those interested in history.
- 1 Farnborough Air Sciences Trust Museum (FAST), Trenchard House, 85 Farnborough Road, GU14 6TF, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Sa Su bank holiday M 10AM-4PM. Local gem dedicated to retelling Farnborough's extensive aviation history, from early balloons and canvas aircraft, through the town's contributions to two world wars, the first jet engine, wind tunnel trials, supersonic flight and space exploration. The static aircraft outside include a Hawker Hunter, Harrier T4, English Electric Lightning, Puma and Gazelle, which you can sit inside. The to-scale replica of Samuel Cody's first aeroplane and the fighter pilot simulation are not to be missed. The museum is run by friendly and knowledgeable volunteers who are always keen (occasionally a little too keen!) to tell you all about the exhibits in expert detail. Count on spending between 30 minutes and 3 hours, depending on your level of interest. Free; donations welcome. Small gift shop and café on-site.
- 2 "First Flight in the UK" memorial, Farnborough Road (50 m south of Aviator Hotel). The now rather mundane site of Samuel Cody's first flight is marked by a stone and plaque. You can still look across the airfield from here and admire Cody's legacy.
- 3 RAE Heritage Quarter (Within Farnborough Business Park). The Royal Aircraft Establishment was the aviation research establishment of the British government for most of the 20th century, and its successor institutions are still based in Farnborough. The RAE has left a wealth of listed buildings, among them the 4 airship hangar, three 5 wind tunnel buildings, and the famous 6 black sheds. All are now sympathetically integrated into a modern business park sitting alongside the airport. The 7 National Aerospace Library is open to the public Tu–F 10AM–4PM. Free.
- 8 Samuel Franklin Cody memorial (in front of the FAST Museum, on the public highway). A statue of Cody's likeness, unveiled in 2013 on the centenary of the aviator's death in a crash of one of his experimental aircraft.
- 9 Scout Experimental SE5A fighter plane, Princes Mead, GU14 6YA ("Flying" above the food court in Princes Mead shopping centre), ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-5:30PM, Su 10AM-4PM. A replica of the first ever aircraft built by the RAE's factory at Farnborough. This model represents that which was flown by World War I ace pilot Edward "Mick" Hancock, who was awarded the Victoria Cross medal posthumously. You can read about his life on a small poster in the centre. Free.
- 10 Sir Frank Whittle memorial (on A327 Ively Road roundabout, outside the main entrance to the airport). A sculpture of Whittle's Gloster Meteor, a pioneering jet aircraft created at the RAE. See the original plane in London's Science Museum.
- 11 Watch the planes coming and going (the best spot is by the iron bridge on Laffans Road, just off the A323). For aviation enthusiasts, there is always something interesting going on around the airport. A loyal band of spotters can usually be found there on most days, often with their car radios tuned into air traffic control, and always open to sharing their passion with like-minded visitors from near and far.
|“||A little corner of England which is forever France, irreclaimably French||”|
—Monsignor Ronald Knox, on St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough
- 12 St Michael's Abbey (Chapelle Impériale), 280 Farnborough Road, GU14 7NQ (when travelling south on Farnborough Road, turn left at Abbey House, immediately after the Ham and Blackbird roundabout; cars and pedestrians must wait at the entrance until 2:50PM, when the gates will swing open automatically), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Public guided tours: Sa 3PM, private tours by appointment; Su services: Mass 9AM, Vespers 4:45PM; shop open M–F 10:30AM–3:30PM, Sa after tours. Built by the Spanish-born Empress of France Eugénie de Montijo in the 1880s, the abbey's main attraction is its typically French Flamboyant Neo-Gothic chapel, the crypt of which is the burial place of Napoleon III, his wife and their son, Louis Napoléon Eugène. The abbey is today home to a small community of Benedictine (Roman Catholic) monks, and also houses a relic of St Alban. The guided tour involves a visit to the chapel, the grounds and the Imperial Crypt. The Sunday services can be an experience, with both being sung in Latin Gregorian chant. The shop stocks historical and religious memorabilia, as well as food produced by the monks in a farm on site. £3 minimum donation; children free.
- 13 St Peter's Church, 60 Church Avenue, GU14 7AP (from the smaller of the two Clockhouse roundabouts, Salisbury Road leads into Church Avenue), ☏ . This Anglican church's crypt is believed to house the remains of many of the Earls of Anglesey, and it is a pretty Norman church in its own right, probably with Saxon origins. On one of the walls inside is the damaged remains of a medieval fresco depicting Saints Agnes, Eugenia, and Mary Magdalene, which was uncovered by accident in 1880 at roughly the same time the Empress moved into Farnborough; coincidence or Divine providence? Free.
The Empress Eugénie's former stately home is now a private girls' school, called Farnborough Hill. Despite being an impressive grade-I listed monument, essentially a French-style château, the school is sadly not open to the public at any time. The best view of the house you can get without trespassing on the estate is from a 14 footpath which runs between Ship Lane and Highgate Lane. The distance allows you to see the building in its entirety, but you can't see many of the architectural details.
- 1 360 Play, The Meads Shopping Centre, GU14 7GL (next to Sainsbury's), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A giant indoor play zone for kids featuring an 8,500 sq ft soft play frame, dodgems, a carousel, a full-sized 'high street' for shop-based role play, a 'messy play' area for arts and crafts, and a café. Your kids will probably love you for it; your wallet may not. £5 registration fee per family, plus: £8.25 per child aged 1-3, £10.25 per child aged 4-12, £3.50 per accompanying adult. Babies younger than 1 enter free.
- 2 Go-Karting (Teamsport Farnborough), 28 Invincible Road, GU14 7QU (follow yellow signs for "Indoor GoKarting" from A327 Sulzers Roundabout), ☏ . Open every day, contact venue for times. Race electric karts at up to 65 km/h along an 800-m indoor track on two levels. For 30 minutes' race time: Adults and teens £33, children (ages 8–13) £30.
- 3 Laser Run, Building 301, The Fairway, GU14 0LP, ☏ . Open every day, contact venue for times. Indoor laser tag arena for kids and teens. From £4.25 pp per game.
- 4 Ping Pong Parlour, 17 Kingsmead, GU14 7SJ (inside The Meads shopping centre, opposite the cinema). M-Sa 7:30AM-midnight, Su 9AM-midnight. Three indoor ping-pong tables, with bats and balls provided. Free.
- 5 Run-About, Building 301, The Fairway, GU14 0LP, ☏ . M–F 9:30AM–6PM; Sa Su 10AM–6PM. Indoor soft play centre for kids. Children 0–6 months old: free; 6 months–1 year old: £1.50; 1–2 years old: £3.50; 2–4 years old: £5; 4–10 years old: £6. Parents and accompanying adults: free.
- 6 Vue Cinema, Kingsmead Shopping Centre, Queensmead, GU14 7SR, ☏ . 8-screen multiplex cinema showing all the latest new releases. Nearly unbeatable flat price of £4.99 for any movie, any time.
- 7 Runways End Outdoor Centre, Laffan's Rd, Aldershot, GU11 2RE (from Queens Roundabout (the junction of A325 Farnborough Road and A3011 Lynchford Road), follow the signs), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers activities such as indoor and outdoor climbing walls, an archery range, rifle shooting, orienteering, caving, and with the benefit of being next to the Basingstoke Canal, watersports such as kayaking, canoeing and raft-building. For groups, there is permanent indoor accommodation and an extensive area for camping. Prices vary.
- 8 Watersports at Hawley Lake, Gibraltar Barracks, Hawley, GU17 9LP (2 minutes' drive from M3 junction 4a, just off the A327 Minley Road), ☏ . Offers a wide range of watersports courses: canoeing, dinghy sailing, kayaking, windsurfing and powerboating, for adults, children, families and groups. Course lengths vary but one-day taster sessions are offered. Taster sessions £32 for 2 hours 30 minutes; other prices vary.
Parks and greenspace
All parks are owned and managed by the borough's parks department, ☏ .
- 9 Cove Green, Prospect Road, GU14 0EE (½-mile (800 m) walk west of town centre, and the same distance from Main station. Buses 2 and 9 serve the south side of the green (Cove Road). Limited parking.). 24 hours daily. Cove's village green is mostly a flat expanse of grass for ball games, exercise and picnics, but it also has a children's playground and free tennis courts. A popular place to watch the airshow for free; if you do so, arrive by public transport.
- 10 King George V Playing Fields, Sycamore Road, GU14 6PQ (1 mile (1.6 km) south-east of town centre. Bus 41 to Canterbury Road. Parking off Sycamore Road.). 24 hours daily. Extensive open space which hosts a number of events throughout the year, including Farnborough's famous donkey derby. Three football pitches, a cricket pitch and bowling green. Large playground.
- 11 Queen Elizabeth Park, Cabrol Road, GU14 8NY (½-mile (800 m) walk north of town centre and close to Main station. Buses 1 or 10 to Napoleon Avenue / Empress Avenue stops. Parking off Farnborough Road and Cabrol Road.). 24 hours daily, but car parks open dawn to dusk. The last vestige of Windsor Forest in Farnborough was once part of Farnborough Hill Estate; Empress Eugénie used to call it Compiègne Wood after the royal estate in France. There are plenty of beautiful mature trees and rhododendron shrubs which flower in spring. Lots of wildlife including foxes, buzzards, red kites, woodpeckers and common garden birds. Small pond, play area, and children's climbing wall near Cabrol Road end.
- 12 Southwood Country Park, Ively Road, GU14 0LJ (Best accessed by car: parking areas off Ively Road or Kennels Lane. Bus 9 serves Links Way, from where you'll have to double back on foot to the park entrance by the leisure centre. Walking route from town centre is about 1½ miles (2.4 km) to edge of park via Victoria Road and Cove Road.). 24 hours daily. 220 acres (89 hectares) of greenspace linked together in 2019. The easternmost part, known as Rafborough Marshes, is mixed wetland and woodland at the source of Cove Brook. Straddling Ively Road is a former golf course which has been converted into parkland. West of this area is the deciduous Southwood Woodland, mostly of birch and oak, but with some clearings where heather prospers. The whole park has a multitude of wildlife, including badgers, nationally-rare insects, reptiles and amphibians.
- 13 Farnborough International Airshow (free shuttle buses operate from Farnborough Main, North Camp and Aldershot railway stations). 2020 show cancelled. Next one 2022. The airshow is held in Farnborough Airport for one week every two years. Public days are the last weekend only (Sat 25 and Sun 26 July), although there are many locations around town to watch the displays all week. Local pubs' beer gardens, such as The Swan and The Alexandra are good places to try, as are parks such as Cove Green and Southwood Pavilion. On-site, static exhibits cover civilian and military aircraft, as well as innovation in technology and scientific discovery. The afternoon's 5 hour flying display of modern and heritage aircraft is of course the main attraction, climaxing in the stunning RAF display team the "Red Arrows". You can also visit town during the so-called "validation week", which normally lasts a week to ten days before the show officially opens, although flying display times are unpredictable and often repetitive.
- 14 Farnborough Donkey Derby, King George V Playing Fields, Sycamore Road, GU14 6PQ. 2020 cancelled; next one 31 May 2021. Farnborough's annual Donkey Derby is held every Spring Bank Holiday. In addition to the signature donkey races, be prepared for campy British summertime entertainment: music, dancing, dog and baby shows, fairground attractions and rides. Jolly good fun, and all in the name of charity; the Rotary Club organisers usually raise thousands of pounds for worthy causes every year. Adults £2; Children £1.
- 15 Organ recitals at the abbey, St Michael's Abbey, 280 Farnborough Road, GU14 7NQ. 2020 series cancelled until further notice. Annual series of six summer concerts, first Sunday of the month between May and October, and a special Advent concert. The Cavaillé-Coll organ is played by either resident organist Neil Wright or a guest recitalist; the 2019 season welcomed organists from Westminster Central Hall, San Sebastián Basilica, St Lawrence Church Upminster, and Roskilde Cathedral. Free, church collection.
Farnborough has a high concentration of high-tech jobs, and is a frequent destination for business travel. TAG Aviation operate the airport, while Farnborough International are responsible for the airshow and a large events venue. Defence corporations BAE Systems and QinetiQ both have their world headquarters here, and BMW has its UK HQ in the town. The government's Air Accident and Rail Accident Investigation Branches (AAIB/RAIB) are based on the edge of the airfield. Other major employers include Autodesk, FlightSafety, Fluor, Lockheed Martin, Qualcomm, and Zurich.
The town centre is reasonably well-equipped with high street chains and supermarkets, but it has a smaller range of shops than might be expected for a town its size. Built between the 1960s and the present day, with some parts still a literal construction site, the result is a depressingly ugly mix of indoor shopping malls (Kingsmead and Princes Mead), pedestrianised high street (Queensmead) and retail parks.
- 1 Farnborough Market, Queensmead. Tu F 9AM-4PM. Colourful street market with a variety of stalls selling fruit and veg, meat, seafood, cheese, bread and pastries, clothing and carpets. Free.
- 2 Pinehurst car-boot sale, Pinehurst car park. Su 9:30AM–1:30PM. British version of a yard sale, selling knickknacks and bits of potentially-valuable junk. Early buyers' (9:30–11AM) admission: £5; Normal admission (after 11AM): £0.50; under 16s and concessions: free.
In the south of Farnborough, the suburb of North Camp has a varied selection of independent specialist shops, including bakeries, butchers, delicatessens, book shops, and sports and outdoor equipment stores.
For a more complete shopping experience, the nearby town of Camberley is more promising, and slightly further afield Basingstoke, Guildford, Kingston upon Thames, Reading and Woking are the leading regional shopping centres, central London notwithstanding.
- 3 ASDA, Westmead, GU14 7LT. M 7AM–Sa 9PM, during which time it is open non-stop; Su 10AM–4PM. 24-hour hypermarket
- 4 Morrisons, Summit Avenue, Southwood, GU14 0NA. M–Sa 7AM–10PM, Su 10AM–4PM. Convenient for travellers staying in Cove or Southwood. Equipped with a petrol station.
- 5 Sainsbury's, 6 Queensmead, GU14 7GL. M–F 7AM–11PM, Sa 7AM–10PM, Su 11AM–5PM. Handy for town centre hotels.
North-East Hampshire is the place to try Nepalese food in Britain, being home to around 10,000 Nepali people. Aside from Himalayan cuisine, Farnborough has a good choice of independent restaurants and cafés to suit any taste or budget and, with some exceptions, is mercifully free of the chain restaurants found everywhere else (if you're looking for the likes of Pizza Express or Nando's, go to Aldershot). Some pubs listed in the 'drink' section also serve food, but are primarily known as drinking establishments.
In the Town Centre, you will find the usual selection of chain coffee shops (Starbucks and Costa) and fast food (McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Subway, Domino's, Papa John's and Wimpy), but below are some independent budget eateries worth your time:
- 1 Aviators Café and Bar, The Hub, Fowler Avenue, GU14 7JP (In RAE Heritage Quarter), ☏ . M–F 7:30AM–4PM. Serves a tasty selection of breakfasts and lunches, popular with local workers.
- 2 Daisy's Cafe, 86 Queens Road, GU14 6JR, ☏ . M–F 6AM–10PM, Sa 7AM–10PM, Su 8AM–9PM. Super-friendly local cafe, serving delicious Turkish-influenced fried food in outrageously big portions. Best breakfast in Farnborough.
- 3 FAB Café, Farnborough Library, Pinehurst Roundabout, GU14 7JZ, ☏ . M–Sa 10AM–4PM. Community café within a public library, staffed by young people with learning disabilities, aiming to pick up new skills for starting their careers. Read happy with coffee and a cake!
- 4 Good Taste, 76 Queensmead, GU14 7SB, ☏ . M–Sa;8AM–5PM; Su 10AM–4PM. Farnborough's only artisan bakery; prepares sandwiches to order at lunchtime.
- 5 Mart's Fish and Chips, 61 Cove Rd, GU14 0EX, ☏ . Daily 11:45AM–2PM, 5–10PM. The best chippy in town, always busy. Takeaway only.
- 6 The Gallery, Farnborough College of Technology, Boundary Road, GU14 6SB, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M Tu noon-2:30PM, Th 6-8:30PM, F noon-1PM. Absurdly cheap fine dining courtesy of FCOT's catering and hospitality students. The chefs and waiters get to hone their skills on you, and you get to dine on scallops and venison for peanuts. 3-course lunch £11, 5-course dinner £18.
- 7 The Triangle, 64 Kingsmead, GU14 7SR (Inside The Meads shopping mall), ☏ . M–Sa 9AM–5PM. Pleasant town centre café and Christian bookstore, eat in or takeaway.
- 8 The Tea Shop Around The Corner, 40 Camp Road, GU14 6EP, ☏ . M–F 8:30AM–5PM; Sa 9AM–4PM. A cute tea shop serving all the classics: scones, cakes, sandwiches and light meals.
- 9 Dolce Italia, 47A Peabody Road, GU14 6EB, ☏ . Lunch: Tu–Sa noon–2PM, Dinner: M–Sa 6–10PM. This family-owned restaurant serves real Italian food just like Nonna used to make. The dated interior is more than offset by the friendly welcome.
- 10 Everest Tandoori, 69 Lynchford Road, GU14 6EJ, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily: lunch (reservation only): noon–2PM; dinner: 5:45–11PM. Himalayan (Nepalese and Indian) restaurant, serves delicious food. A firm favourite with locals, so you can try something new with confidence.
- 11 Gurkha Palace, 78 Farnborough Road, GU14 6TH (opposite the FAST Museum), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Lunch: M 1PM–2:30PM, Tu–Sa noon–2:30PM, Su (buffet) noon–3PM; Dinner: M–Sa 6–11PM, Su 6–10PM. Nepalese cuisine amidst decoration inspired by the Brigade of Gurkhas, who are largely based in the area. Known for its Sunday lunch buffet.
- 12 Il Colosseo, 18 Alexandra Road, GU14 6DA, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Lunch: M–Sa noon–2PM; dinner: M–Sa 6–10PM. Chef Antonio prepares regional dishes from his native southern Italy. The warm hospitality and tasty food more than make up for the décor.
- 13 Malacca, 94 Reading Road, GU14 6NL (in the middle of a residential area; follow brown signs from St Mark's Church roundabout), ☏ . Daily: noon–2:30PM, 6–11PM. Pan-Asian cooking, specialising in Malaysian and Thai food. One of Farnborough's best-loved restaurants, so don't be put off by their website or location.
- 14 One Eleven, The Aviator Hotel, 55 Farnborough Road, GU14 6EL, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 10AM–11PM. Informal American dining, serving Louisiana Creole specialities, milkshakes and cocktails. Mains £8–14.50.
- 15 The Crab & Anchor, Links Way, GU14 0NA (next to Morrisons), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M–Sa noon–11PM, Su noon–10:30PM. Great British pub grub, popular with travellers staying in Southwood and those on business.
- 16 The Snow Goose, 135 Fernhill Road, GU14 9DX, ☏ . M-Sa noon-9PM, Su 10AM-4PM (food); M-Th 11AM-11PM, F Sa 11AM-12:30AM, Su noon-10:30PM (bar). Family- and pet-friendly pub with a great selection of traditional meat dishes, including Hampshire pork chops and sausages. Two gardens, of which the family one is home to pigs, rabbits and a golden retriever called Russell. Mains £9-17.
- 17 The Swan, 91 Farnborough Road, GU14 6TL, ☏ . Gastropub serving seasonal and locally-produced British food, in a similar style to its sister restaurant (the Aviator Brasserie) but at more affordable prices. Mains: £12–16.
- 18 The Aviator Brasserie, The Aviator Hotel, 55 Farnborough Road, GU14 6EL, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Lunch: M–F noon–2PM, Sa 12:30–3PM, Su 12:45–3:45PM; afternoon tea: daily 2–5PM; dinner: M–Th 6–10PM, F Sa 6:30–10:30PM, Su 6–9:30PM. The only fine dining restaurant in town serves seasonal British and European cuisine. Many dishes use local produce, all are well-prepared and are of impressive quality. The restaurant itself is an intimate setting in low light. Weekday lunch: 3 courses £25; Sunday lunch: 3 courses £35; tasting menu: £95 incl. wine; à la carte mains: £16–£38.
- 19 Verve Grill, Village Hotel, Pinehurst Road, GU14 7BF (Farnborough Business Park), ☏ . Open all day, every day. Specialist in grilled meat and fish. The wine list is expensive, but not that extensive. Mains: £14.50–23.50.
Farnborough is something of a ghost town after dark, despite the new cinema and great restaurant selection bringing in extra evening footfall. Visitors looking for proper nightlife are advised to head into London. The glittering lights of the wallet-munching West End - Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Soho - are only 45 minutes away on the train and Tube, after all. The last train home leaves Waterloo just after 1AM, though true night owls will hold out for the first morning service at 6:12AM!
For those content with a quieter evening, Farnborough does offer a selection of decent pubs and bars, many of which hum with locals on weekend nights. If nothing else, you will find a proper pint and good conversation.
- 1 Aviator Sky Bar, Aviator Hotel, 55 Farnborough Road, GU14 6EL, ☏ . M–F 8AM–late; Sa Su 10:30&AMndash;late. Stylish lounge bar for cocktails.
- 2 The Alexandra, 74 Victoria Road, GU14 7PH, ☏ . M–Th 11AM–11PM; F Sa 11AM–1AM; Su noon–10:30PM. Traditional red brick pub with beer garden and rooms available (see 'sleep' section). Bar food served weekday lunchtimes and live music every Sa and Su evenings.
- 3 The Prince of Wales, 184 Rectory Road, GU14 8AL, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M–Th 11:30AM–2:30PM, 5:30–11PM; F Sa 11:30AM–11PM; Su noon–11PM. CAMRA award-winning local pub with good real ales and traditional pub food.
- 4 The Public House, Village Hotel, Pinehurst Road, GU14 7BF (Farnborough Business Park), ☏ . Open all day. Hotel sports bar with decent wine list.
- 5 The Squirrel, 125 Park Road, GU14 6LR, ☏ . Daily 11:30AM–11PM or midnight. Quiet locals' pub with beer garden and pub food served.
- 6 The Swan, 91 Farnborough Road, GU14, ☏ . Although more a 'gastropub' these days with the prices to match, The Swan deserves a mention here due to its good range of ales from local brewers, in addition to a well-stocked wine bar. No longer lets rooms.
- 7 The Tilly Shilling, The Meads, Victoria Road, GU14 7PG, ☏ . Su–W 8AM–midnight; Th–Sa 8AM–1AM. A large JD Wetherspoon pub named for Beatrice Shilling, an aeronautical engineer who worked at Farnborough during the Second World War, repairing fighter planes. The pub retains an aviation ambiance. Meals and bar snacks available.
Farnborough is a common destination for business travellers, and is a well-connected location for exploring London and the South East (see below), so has a strong and varied accommodation base. Those wishing to stay in the town in the run up to or during the airshow (spring-summer 2020) are advised to reserve a room well in advance, as local hotels are usually full of contractors and other temporary workers at this time.
- 1 Premier Inn Farnborough Town Centre, 3 Kingsmead, GU14 7SJ, ☏ , fax: . Modern town centre branch of the reliable motel chain. Rooms are insulated from road noise. Free Wi-Fi, air conditioning. Beefeater restaurant on-site. Parking available offsite, pay and display. £45–£77.
- 2 Premier Inn Farnborough West (Southwood), 101 Ively Road, Southwood, GU14 0JP, ☏ , fax: . Older, suburban branch. Free wifi, Brewers Fayre restaurant (breakfast and dinner) next door. £31–£82.
- 3 Silverdale Guest House, 68 Alexandra Road, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Bed and breakfast in Edwardian townhouse. Free Wi-Fi, TV and DVD in room, communal lounge, free off-street parking. Breakfast included. Single room from £35/night; twin, double rooms from £50/night.
- 4 Travelodge Farnborough Central, Victoria Road, GU14 9RQ, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM; early check in available, check-out: noon; late check out available. Town centre branch of the budget hotel chain. Hotel warns there may be road noise. Breakfast and dinner available in on-site restaurant. Pay for Wi-Fi. Parking available offsite, pay and display. £65–95/night.
- 5 Travelodge Fleet, Cove Road, Fleet GU51 2SH, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM; early check in available, check-out: noon; late check out available. At a small service station on the western edge of Farnborough, and cheaper than the central Travelodge. No on-site restaurant. £4.95, booked in advance, will buy you a rather depressing "breakfast box". Pay for Wi-Fi. Free parking. £48–£59/night.
- 6 Airport Lodge Guest House, 110 Farnborough Road, GU14 6TN, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Small B&B overlooking the airport. Free Wi-Fi, tea and coffee. Fridge and en;suite in each room. Continental breakfast. Free off-street parking. £68–98/night.
- 7 Falcon Hotel, 68 Farnborough Road, GU14 6TH, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Three-star (self-awarded) boutique hotel with 30 bedrooms. Lobby bar, private hire restaurant, wifi, airport views. Free off-street parking. £109–139/night.
- 8 Holiday Inn (Queen's Hotel), Lynchford Road, GU14 6AZ (On Queen's Roundabout), ☏ . Email: online contact form on website. A grand Victorian hotel offering the standard Holiday Inn experience across 142 rooms: free Wi-Fi, 24-hour room service and health club with swimming pool, steam room and gym. Restaurant on site, where kids eat free. £100–130/night.
- 9 SACO Aparthotel, 2 Victoria Road, GU14 7GX, ☏ . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. In a converted office building. Well-supplied with essentials (milk, laundry detergent, etc.), with fully-equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. From £78/night.
- 10 The Alexandra, 74 Victoria Road, GU14 7PH, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Three-star (AA) inn. Primarily a pub (see 'drink' section), the Alexandra also has three en suite bedrooms. Free Wi-Fi, tea and coffee. TV snd DVD in room. Room: £75/night; breakfast: £6.50.
- 11 Village Hotel, Pinehurst Road, GU14 7BF (Farnborough Business Park), ☏ . Large and modern 4-star hotel with flat screen TV and free Wi-Fi as standard. Upgrade for Sky TV and access to the hotel's gym and swimming pool. On-site restaurant (see 'eat' section) and bar (see 'drink'). £65–130/night.
- 12 The Aviator Hotel, 55 Farnborough Road, GU14 6EL, ☏ . Four-star contemporary luxury, with rooms, studios and suites overlooking the airfield. Home to two restaurants (see 'eat' section), a bar (see 'drink' section) and gym. Beauty treatments available. Also holds events and exhibitions. Free off-street parking. Room from £145/night, studio from £245/night, suite from £345/night.
- 13 Runway's End Outdoor Centre, 1 Forge Lane, Aldershot GU11 2RE (from Queen's Roundabout, follow the signs), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. The outdoor centre has indoor, self-catering accommodation, and extensive camping ground for groups. Toilets, showers and washing-up facilities provided. All the activities listed in the 'do' section of this page are available. Booking is essential. These facilities are aimed at groups, especially school and youth groups, but other groups are welcome.
- 14 Live with monks at St Michael's Abbey, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Male visitors may stay in the monastery itself and share the Benedictine monks' daily lives and worship. Separate self-catering accommodation exists for female visitors and families. No long-term retreats are offered, but visits may last up to several days. All such visits must be pre-negotiated and are entirely at the discretion of the monks themselves - write to the guest master.
Farnborough's area code for landline numbers is 01252 when dialled from within the UK or +44 1252 from outside the UK. Calls made from one local landline to another do not require the area code to connect.
- 2 Farnborough Library, Pinehurst, GU14 7JZ, ☏ . M 9:30AM–7PM, Tu–Th 9:30AM–6PM, F 09:30–7PM, Sa 9:30AM–5PM, Su closed. The municipal library offers computers, printing and photocopying facilities, free Wi-Fi, and a quiet place to sit and read. Tourist information, including brochures for local attractions, is available.
- 3 Rushmoor Borough Council, Council Offices, Farnborough Road, GU14 7JU, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M–Th 8:30AM–5PM, F 8:30AM–4:30PM, Sa Su closed. The local government authority for Farnborough and neighbouring town Aldershot. The council also provides details for places of worship in the borough.
If you're exploring South East England, Farnborough is a great place to base yourself. All the towns and attractions listed below are within 30 miles of Farnborough (with one obvious exception!), and many are a lot closer.
- 1 Aldershot, Farnborough's immediate neighbour to the south, is the natural next port of call. The "home of the British Army" is home to two military museums, an artificial ski slope and a lido, as well as Rushmoor's two theatres.
- 2 Camberley, the neighbouring town to the north has a wider range of shops, the Royal Logistics Corps Museum and the popular canal-side Frimley Lodge Park.
- 3 Farnham, an historic market town with an attractive selection of independent shops and a castle. Just to the south is avian zoo Birdworld.
- 4 Fleet, a nearby town named after a 28-ha medieval lake that used to supplied fish to the monks in Winchester.
- 5 Guildford, the nearby county town of Surrey has the newest Anglican cathedral in Britain, an art deco masterpiece dating from the 1930s.
- 6 Odiham, a small Georgian market town surrounded by pretty countryside and a castle which was once besieged by the French.
- 7 Sandhurst, a village whose name is synonymous with military prestige, as it is where all British Army officers receive initial training.
- 8 Woking, another commuter town like Farnborough with its own sights, including the oldest mosque in Britain.
- London is impossible to sum up in a sentence, and impossible to miss out when you're this close.
- Alton is a pretty mid-Hants market town, start of the Watercress Line steam railway, and near to the homes of Jane Austen and Gilbert White.
- Ascot is perfect for a day at the races, with the annual highlight being Royal Ascot.
- Hampton Court Palace is often compared unfavourably to Versailles - by fools overlooking the magnificent 500-year-old royal palace in front of them!
- The South Downs National Park's rolling chalk hills are south of Farnham.
- Winchester, the ancient cathedral city of King Alfred the Great.
- Windsor, home to the famous royal castle and expansive Great Park. Nearby Eton is home to the prestigious boys' school, while Runnymede was the island where King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta.
- A trio of theme parks: Chessington World of Adventures, Legoland and Thorpe Park
- Tons of fine gardens and stately homes: RHS Wisley, Clandon Park, Hatchlands Park, Leith Hill, Loseley and Painshill (all near Guildford), Bushy Park (Kingston-upon-Thames), Ham House, Richmond Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew), The Vyne (Tadley), Highclere Castle (north Hampshire, near Newbury), Valley Gardens and Savill Garden (Windsor Great Park).
- Oberursel, Farnborough's German twin town, is a medieval gem near Frankfurt.
|Routes through Farnborough|
|Southampton ← Basingstoke ←||W E||→ Ascot → London|
|Reading ← Camberley ←||N S||→ Aldershot → Farnham|
|Basingstoke ← Fleet ←||W E||→ Woking → London Waterloo|
|Reading ← Sandhurst ←||N S||→ Guildford → London Gatwick Airport|