"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 is also the final resting place of deposed French Emperor Napoléon III and his wife Eugénie de Montijo.
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. Other major routes which pass through or near Farnborough are the A3, A30, A31 and A331.
Farnborough is served by five railway stations:
- Farnborough Main for South West Trains services from London Waterloo, Basingstoke, Southampton Central, Bournemouth and Poole.
- Farnborough North and North Camp (same line) for Great Western Railway trains from Reading, Guildford and London Gatwick Airport.
- Ash Vale and Frimley (same line) for South West Trains services from Ascot, Farnham and Alton.
Farnborough is well served by airports. For travellers coming directly to Farnborough, the closest airports are:
- London Heathrow Airport is 25 miles 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 is 45 miles away. Drive to Farnborough via the M3 motorway. There are also frequent express trains between Southampton Airport Parkway and Farnborough Main stations.
- London Gatwick Airport is 46 miles away. Drive to Farnborough via the M23, M25 and M3 motorways. Direct trains to Farnborough North operate from Gatwick Airport station.
- London Luton Airport is 53 miles 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. Trains depart for Farnborough Main four 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; rather it is the base of two of the largest private jet hire companies in the UK. If you have the money, the sky really is the limitǃ
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: email@example.com. 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 and the fighter pilot simulation. The museum is staffed by friendly and knowledgeable volunteers who are always keen (occasionally a little too keen!) to tell you all 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Guided tours: Sa 15ː00; Mass: Su 09ː00; shop open M–F 10:30–15:30, Sa after 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, his aforementioned wife and their son, Louis Napoléon Eugène. The abbey is today home to a small community of Benedictine monks. The guided tour involves a visit to the chapel, the grounds and the Imperial Crypt. The shop stocks historical and religious memorabilia, as well as food produced by the Monks in a farm on site. 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 Airshow: 11-17 July 2016 . The Airshow is held in Farnborough Airport for one week every two years. Public days are the last weekend only (Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 July), although there are many locations around town to watch the displays all week. Local pubs, such as The Swan and The Prince Alexander are good places to try. On-site, 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". You can also visit town during the so-called "practice week", which normally lasts a week to ten days before the show officially opens, although flying display times are unpredictable and often repetitive.
- 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 for "Scout Activity Centre"), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Hosts horse trials throughout the year. Prices vary.
- Vue Cinema, Kingsmead Shopping Centre, Queensmead, GU14 7SR, ☎ . 8-screen multiplex cinema showing all the latest new releases.
- 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.
- Watersports at 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.
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. If you are in Farnborough on a Tuesday or Saturday, be sure to check out the colourful Bi-weekly Market held in Queensmead. For a taste of a peculiar British version of a yard sale, why not try the Sunday Car-boot Sale in Pinehurst car park?
In the south of Farnborough, the suburb of North Camp has a varied selection of independent specialist shops, including bakeries, butchers, delicatessens, ethnic grocery stores, cakemakers, book shops, interior design and sports and outdoor equipment stores.
For a more cosmopolitan shopping experience, the nearby town of Camberley is more promising, and slightly further afield Basingstoke, Guildford, Kingston upon Thames and Woking are the leading regional shopping centres.
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 and Wimpy), but below are some independent budget eateries worth your time:
- Aviators Café and Bar. The Hub, Fowler Avenue. Serves a tasty selection of quality lunches. Very close proximity to the F.A.S.T. Museum and situated in Farnborough's 'Heritage Quarter'.
- Daisy's Cafe, 86 Queens Road, GU14 6JR, ☎ . M–F 06:00–22:00, Sa 07:00–22:00, Su 08:00–21:00. Super-friendly local cafe, serving delicious Turkish-influenced fried food in outrageous portions.
- Poppins Restaurant.
- The Lemon Plaice.
- The Triangle, 64 Kingsmead, GU14 7SR, ☎ . M–Sa 09:00–17:00. Pleasant town centre café and Christian bookstore, eat in or takeaway.
- Everest Tandoori.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: email@example.com. 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.
- Oberursel, Farnborough's German twin town, is a medieval gem near Frankfurt.