Fly a plane at Compton Abbas Airfield...
Compton Abbas Airfield is “just the thing” if you’re after something a bit out of the ordinary.
Perched on top of Compton Down, on the edge of the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), this scenically located grass airstrip is just 4 miles South of Shaftesbury. It offers a range of opportunities for enjoyment, large and small.
At the small end of the spectrum, this is simply a nice place to be and would be whether there was an airfield here or not, but because there is one, there is usually something to see, even if you only happen to be passing through. So for those enjoying some of the local footpaths, bridleways and nearby National Trust-owned Countryside Access land, the sight of a light aircraft parked up may be just an additional point of interest on a scenic stroll or longer ramble.
Seeing planes on the ground is as close to a certainty as you can get at any time of year at Compton Abbas Airfield. But when weather conditions are suitable for flying, there’s also a good chance of seeing take-offs and landings too. These can be seen and heard from the roadside and from other local walks and viewpoints. And if incidental engagement with flying is all you want or need, this will suffice. For the deeply green, it may even be too much – but before you get too grumpy, remember people have been flying aeroplanes here for over half a century.
For those wanting to take a closer look, they can. There is a parking area beside the airstrip – heed all local signage – and there is a well-appointed and well-regarded restaurant-café. This is open pretty much all day, from breakfast to four p.m., and serves full hot meals through to coffee and cake, all at reasonable prices. But you need to be reasonable too, so don’t expect to take up table space for tea and cake during the lunchtime peak when others are after a full-on meal.
The café is open to the general public, as well as flyers, and has amazing views of whatever airstrip activity is underway but also panoramic views over the surrounding landscape, which is a visual feast of its own.
If watching and eating isn’t enough and simply whets your appetite for something more, the big enjoyment opportunity is to take to the air yourself. There is no “turn up and go” option so any “flying visit” will need pre-planning well in advance and even then will be weather dependent.
Compton Abbas Airfield offers a whole range of different flight experiences in an impressive array of modern and vintage aircraft. Prices run from just under a £100 for 30 minutes in a modern-day two seater to several hundred quid and more for time in a genuine WWII combat aircraft. On some flights you may be able to take someone else with you and you’ll usually be given a choice of routes and sights to overfly. On many flights, once the pilot has you airborne, you’ll even get the chance to take the controls – or at least some of them!
Unless you are truly terrified of flying or a regular flyer already, this is likely to be one of the most memorable experiences of your life. It is undoubtedly the best way to see the Dorset countryside, and if you’re lucky enough, on a clear day, the most impressive way to view the Jurassic Coast.
From start to finish, a flight out of Compton Abbas Airfield is nothing like regular air travel in a modern passenger jet. From the rumbling grass runway take-off to bursting out over hedges and trees into the magnificent skies over Dorset’s green and rolling hills; shadowing the spectacular, cliffy coastline and finally rumbling back to an exhilarated halt beside the Compton Abbas Flying Club, this will be a day you will remember for a very long time.
Do it yourself if you can. Or if you love someone very deeply give them a gift they will never forget for all the right reasons.
This is likely to be one of the most memorable experiences of your life. It is undoubtedly the best way to see the Dorset countryside, and if you’re lucky enough, on a clear day, the most impressive way to view the Jurassic Coast......"