"A little corner of England which is forever France, irreclaimably French"
- -- Monsignor Ronald Knox, on St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough
Farnborough is a town in the north-eastern corner of the English county of Hampshire, adjacent to the borders with Surrey and Berkshire. Originally an isolated hamlet, Farnborough 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 Air Show, which has been running for over 60 years.
The town centre is currently undergoing rapid development including a radical rebuilding of the shopping centre to include new shops, bars, restaurants, cinema and hotels.
Farnborough is well served by airports. For travellers coming directly to Farnborough, the closest airports are:
- London Heathrow Airport is 25 miles away via the M4 (westbound), M25 (anti-clockwise) and M3 (westbound) motorways. You can also take a National Express coach service (route 031 to Portsmouth) from the airport's central bus station to Farnborough.
- Southampton Airport is 45 miles away via the M3 (London-bound) motorway. There are also frequent express trains between Southampton Airport Parkway and Farnborough Main station.
- London Gatwick Airport is 46 miles away via the M23 (northbound), M25 (clockwise) and M3 (westbound) motorways. Direct trains to Farnborough North operate from Gatwick Airport station.
- London Luton Airport is 53 miles away via the M1 (southbound), M25 (anti-clockwise) and M3 (westbound) motorways. Luton Airport Parkway connects the airport to London St Pancras International station every 35 minutes. Take the tube (Victoria line to Oxford Circus, then Bakerloo line to Waterloo is the best way) to London Waterloo station. Trains depart for Farnborough Main 4 times an hour Monday-Saturday and every hour on Sundays.
Farnborough also has its own private airport. There are no scheduled commercial flights to and from Farnborough Airport but rather it is the base of operation of two of the largest private jet hire companies in the UK. If you have the money, the sky really is the limitǃ
The port of Portsmouth (offering ferry services to and from France, Spain and the Channel Islands) is around 40 miles away, via the M275 (northbound), M27 (westbound) and M3 (London-bound) motorways. The port of Dover (ferries to and from France and Belgium) and the Channel Tunnel (car-trains from Calais in France) are 108 and 99 miles away respectively, via the M20 (westbound), M26 (westbound), M25 (clockwise) and M3 (south-westbound) motorways.
Farnborough is served by four railway stations:
- Farnborough Main railway station for South West Trains services from London Waterloo, Basingstoke, Southampton, Bournemouth and Poole.
- Farnborough North and North Camp railway stations (same line) for First Great Western trains from Reading, Guildford and London Gatwick Airport.
- Ash Vale railway station for South West Trains services from Camberley, Ascot, Aldershot, Farnham and Alton.
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 10 minutes from junction 12 of the M25.
Farnborough is a small town and so it is very easy and quick to get around on foot or by car. There are a number of local bus services which serve the town from Kingsmead bus station in the town centre, the main ones being:
- Gold 1: Camberley-Frimley-Farnborough (Main station, town centre, North Camp)-Aldershot (railway and bus station).
- The Marbles 2: Camberley-Heatherside-Frimley-Farnborough (Fernhill, Cove, town centre).
- YoYo 6: A service within Farnborough linking the town centre with the Prospect Estate.
- 11: Farnborough (town centre, Main station, Coleford Bridge)-Mytchett-Frimley Green-Deepcut-Camberley-Frimley Park Hospital.
- 41: Farnborough (town centre, Farnborough Park, North Camp)-Ash Vale-Ash.
- 73: Frimley Park Hospital-Frimley-Farnborough (Sixth Form College, Highgate Lane for Farnborough North station, Main Station, town centre, Cove)-Fleet-Zebon Copse.
- 82: Fleet-Farnborough (Southwood, IQ Farnborough business park, town centre, Main station)-Hawley-Darby Green-Yateley-Eversley-Riseley-Swallowfield-Spencers Wood-Three Mile Cross-Reading.
- Farnborough Air Sciences Trust Museum (F.A.S.T), Trenchard House, 85 Farnborough Road, GU14 6TF, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sa, Su, bank holiday Mː 10ː00 - 16ː00. A little-known local gem featuring many documents, objects and models relating to aviation. Of particular note are the static aircraft outside, the to-scale replica of Samuel Cody's first aeroplane (which made the first powered flight in the United Kingdom at Farnborough in 1908) and an interactive fighter pilot simulation in a real cockpit. The museum is staffed by friendly and knowledgeable volunteers who are always keen (occasionally a little too keen!) to tell you in depth about the exhibits and their history. Free; donations welcome..
- St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough Road, GU14 7NQ (When travelling south on Farnborough Road, turn left at Abbey House, immediately after the Ham and Blackbird roundabout.), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Guided tours every Saturday at 15ː00; Sunday Mass at 09ː00; shop open weekdays 10ː30 - 15ː30 and after Saturday tours. Built by the French Empress Eugénie de Montijo in the 1880s, the abbey's main attraction is its typically French Neogothic chapel, the crypt of which is the burial place of Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, his aforementioned wife and their son, Louis Napoléon Eugène. The abbey is also home to a small community of Benedictine monks. Visitors receive a guided tour, which takes them to the chapel, the grounds and the Imperial Crypt. There is an opportunity to buy historical and religious memorabilia, as well as food produced on site by the abbey's small farm. Tours are free.
- St Peter's Church, 60 Church Avenue, GU14 7AP. The church's crypt is believed to house the remains of many of the Earls of Anglesey, and it is a pretty Saxon church in its own right. Free.
- Farnborough International Air Show: 16-17 July 2016 . The air show is held in Farnborough Airport for one week every two years. Public days are the last weekend only, although there are many locations around town to watch the displays all week, as well as during the "validation" period the week before. Exhibits cover civilian & military aircraft both static and as an aerial display. The show's stunning highlight is the RAF display team the "Red Arrows".
- Hawley Lake, Gibraltar Barracks, Hawley, GU17 9LP (2 minutes' drive from M3 junction 4a, just off the A327 Minley Road), ☎ , e-mail: http://www.hawleylake.org.uk/contact. Offers a wide range of watersports courses: dinghy sailing, kayaking, windsurfing and powerboating, for adults, children and groups. Course lengths vary but one-day taster lessons are offered. Taster sessions £26 for 2 hours 30 minutes; other prices vary.
- Runways End Outdoor Centre, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers activities such as new indoor and outdoor climbing facilities, an archery range, rifle shooting, orienteering, caving, and with the benefit of being located next to the Basingstoke Canal, watersports such as kayaking, canoeing and raft-building. There is permanent indoor accommodation and an extensive area for camping. Prices vary.
- Tweseldown Racecourse, Beacon Hill Road, Church Crookham, Fleet GU52 8DY (Off the B3013), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Hosts horse trials throughout the year Prices vary.
- Watch the planes coming and going: for aviation enthusiasts, there is always something interesting going on around the airport. The best place for plane-spotting is by the iron bridge on Laffans Road (just off the A323)
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. For a larger range of shops, the nearby town of Camberley is more promising, and slightly further afield Basingstoke, Guildford and Kingston upon Thames are the leading regional shopping centres. In the south of Farnborough, the suburb of North Camp has a varied selection of independent specialist shops, including but not limited to bakeries, butchers, delicatessens, ethnic grocery stores, cakemakers, bookstores, interior design and sports and outdoor equipment.
- The Aviator Brasserie. Farnborough Road. Situated inside the hotel of the same name, it offers delicious, if pricey, 'fine dining'. Many dishes use local produce.
- Victory Chophouse. Village Hotel, IQ Farnborough business park.
- Aviators Café and Bar. The Hub, Fowler Avenue. Not the same venue as above, despite the similar name, this place serves a tasty selection of quality lunches. Very close proximity to the F.A.S.T. Museum and situated in Farnborough's 'Heritage Quarter'.
- Poppadoms Indian Restaurant, Medway Drive. Very good value for money with above-average curries. Worth trying, despite its location.
- Il Colosseo, Alexandra Road. Italian cuisine
- Dolce Italia, Peabody Road. Italian cuisine
- Gurkha Palace, Farnborough Road. This Nepalese restaurant reflects the fact that 1000s of Nepalese people have chosen to make Farnborough their home in recent years.
- Aviator Sky Bar. Farnborough Road. This is located within the hotel of the same name.
- Victory Ale House. Village Hotel, IQ Farnborough business park.
- Harry's Wine Bar. Lynchford Road.
- The Tilly Shilling. Pub, Victoria Road. A JD Wetherspoon pub.
- The Aviator Hotel, 55 Farnborough Road, ☎ . Farnborough Road. A four-star "luxury" hotel.
- Falcon Hotel, 68 Farnborough Road, ☎ .
- Silverdale Guest House, 68 Alexandra Road.
- Alexandra Hotel, 61 Alexandra Road, ☎ .
- The Swan Inn, 91 Farnborough Road, ☎ .
- Village Hotel, Pinehurst Road, ☎ . IQ Farnborough business park
- Holiday Inn, Lynchford Road, ☎ .
- Travelodge Farnborough Central, Victoria Road, ☎ .
- Travelodge Fleet, Fleet Road.
- Premier Inn, Summit Avenue.
- St Michael's Abbey (Farnborough Abbey), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For something a bit different, why not stay in a Benedictine monastery? Male visitors may stay in the monastery itself and share the monks' daily lives. Separate accommodation exists for female visitors and families. All such visits must be pre-arranged and are entirely at the discretion of the monks themselves.
- Farnborough Tourist Information, provided by the Hampshire tourist board.
- Rushmoor Borough Council is the local authority for Farnborough and neighbouring town Aldershot.
- Frimley Lodge Park, a pleasant park with woods, a canal walk and a popular miniature railway. There are also extensive fields for sports and barbecues / picnics.
- Farnham, an historic market town with an attractive selection of independent shops and a castle.
- Winchester. The ancient cathedral city of King Alfred the Great. Once England's capital, it is still the county town of Hampshire.
- Guildford, the nearby county town of Surrey has the newest Anglican cathedral in Britain.
- Windsor, home to the famous royal castle and Great Park.
- See Hampshire for a fuller list of attractions in the county.