18 April 2013

Wings Over the UK

What's the best way to see the United Kingdom?  From the air of course!  Starting today, the MoMI proudly presents a pictorial tour of the UK as seen from the air...or at least the simulated air of Flight Simulator X.  

Flying a Beechcraft King Air of the Royal Air Force, we commence a realtime clockwise circumnavigation of England, Wales, and Scotland.  Flying low and slow, we'll hug the coast as we explore the diverse geography of this fascinating country.

Day 1 (18 April 2013): London City Airport - Southampton Airport
Royal Air Force Beechcraft King Air on the runway at London City Airport.

Flying over the heart of London.

Heading east over the Thames, the O2 Centre and Canary Wharf in the background.

Cruising southbound over the mouth of the Thames between Shoeburyness and Sheerness.

Dusk in Southampton, making a low pass over the ocean liner Queen Mary 2 in Southampton Water.

Parked at the gate at Southampton Airport after dark.

Day 2 (20 April 2013): Southampton Airport - Land's End Airport

Heading west from Southampton after skirting the south coast of the Isle of Wight and flying over The Needles, a jagged rocky outcrop extending from the western end of the island.

Flying past the estuary of the River Dart, near Dartmouth.
Flying low over Isambard Kingdom Brunel's 1859 Royal Albert Bridge (foreground) and the 1961-built Tamar Bridge (background), spanning the River Tamar in Saltash.   
Parked at Land's End Airport on the Penwith Peninsula of southwestern Cornwall, south of the village of St. Just and west of the town of Penzance. 
Leaving the aircraft in the capable hands of the Land's End airport refuellers, took the B3306 (West Cornwall Coast Road) to the village of St. Just, to spend the night at the Wellington Hotel in Market Square, but not before sauntering across the street to the Kings Arm Pub to enjoy a Cornish Scrumpy Cider, along with an 8oz sirloin steak served with hand cut chips, homemade onion rings, dressed salad garnish, and pepper sauce, and topped off with a seasonal crumble with clotted cream.

Day 3 (21 April 2013): Land's End Airport - West Wales Airport

Flying east up the Bristol Channel.  The cliffs of Exmoor National Park can be seen in the background.
Flying over the Second Severn Crossing (foreground) and the Severn Bridge (background) connecting England and Wales.
Flying past Cardiff International Airport in Wales.
Rounding Ramsey Island off the St. David's peninsula in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
Parked and refuelling at the tiny West Wales Airport, located off the A487 road south of the village of Aberporth.
Taking the A487 south to the town of Cardigan, on the banks of the River Teifi, we check in at the Black Lion Hotel on High Street, before proceeding to Bridge Street for a roast dinner at The Grosvenor, along with a glass of Gwynt y Ddraig's Haymaker medium draught cider.

Day 4 (22 April 2013): West Wales Airport - Carlisle Airport

Flying past the town of Barmouth, Wales on the estuary of the Afon Mawddach (River Mawddach) in the county of Gwynned.  The Mawddach empties into Cardigan Bay off the Irish Sea.
Banking left over the eastern end of the Menai Strait separating mainland Wales and the island of Anglesey.
Flying over the Silver Jubilee Bridge (also known as the Runcorn-Widnes Bridge) crossing the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal at the Runcorn Gap near Liverpool.  The bridge opened in 1961 and carries the A533 road.
Flying over Liverpool John Lennon Airport in Liverpool, England.  The airport, located along the River Mersey, is 12 kilometres southeast of the city centre and is the 10th busiest airport in the UK.
Parked for the night and refuelling at Carlisle Airport near the city of Carlisle in the county of Cumbria, northwestern England.  Carlisle is known as the Border City, given its location 10 kilometres south of the Scottish border, and sits
at the confluence of the rivers Eden, Caldew, and Petteril.   
Taking the A689 road from Carlisle Airport into town, we enjoy a dinner of battered cod fillet with peas and chips and a glass Cumbria's own Cowmire Hall Ancient Orchard Cider at The Cumberland Inn on Botchergate before checking in at the Hallmark Hotel Carlisle, located off Court Square Brow.

Day 5 (23 April 2013): Carlisle Airport - Benbecula Airport

Flying past the Ailsa Craig, an uninhabited rocky
island rising 1,110 feet above sea level in the
Firth of Clyde that was once home to a blue
hone granite quarry.  The Ailsa Craig was formed
from the volcanic plug of an extinct volcano
and the granite cut here from the mid-1800s
to the mid-1900s was used to make curling stones. 
The island is owned by the 8th Marquess of Ailsa 
and is for sale for 1.5 million UK pounds. 
Flying over the Garvellachs (or Isles of the Sea)
while proceeding up the Firth of Lorn in Scotland. 
The Isle of Mull is on the far left.
Flying northwest through the Sound of Mull
separating the Isle of Mull from the mainland
Scottish Highland region of Lochaber.

Parked at Benbecula Airport, located on Benbecula
Island in the Outer Hebrides chain.  The airport
services the Scottish mainland and other 
Hebridean islands. 
Taking a taxi from Benbecula Airport to the Dark Island Hotel via the B892 road, we enjoy a glass of Thistly Cross Original Cider and a dinner of Highland venison sausages served with mashed potatoes, vegetables, and onion confit, and capped off with a dessert of sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream before retiring to our room for the night. 

Day 6 (24 April 2013): Benbecula Airport - Sumburgh Airport

Cruising along the coast of northwestern Scotland.
Rounding Cape Wrath, the most northwesterly
point in the mainland UK.  Most of Cape Wrath
is owned by the UK Ministry of Defence and is
used for military exercises, including as a live
fire range. 
Flying north up the inner leads in the Orkney Islands.
Looking out the cockpit while flying south
down the channel separating the mainland of
Shetland and the island of East Burra.
Parked at the gate at Sumburgh Airport, the
main airport serving the Shetland Islands.  
Originally RAF Sumburgh, a military airfield,
the current civilian airport features two
asphalt runways over 4,000 feet in length. 
Having called ahead from the plane while en route to Sumburgh, we pick up our hired car at the airport and drive north 40 minutes to the town of Lerwick, via the A970 road.  Checking in at the Grand Hotel on Lerwick's Commercial Street, we dine in the hotel's restaurant, enjoying an appetiser of deep-fried mushrooms stuffed with Orkney cheese and served with garlic dip; an entree of roast silverside of beef accompanied by red onion gravy and Yorkshire pudding; and washed down with a bottle of Thistly Cross sparkling Farmhouse Cider.  A long day of flying over the UK's northernmost reaches comes to a close with a serving of homemade Bramble apple pie with ice cream and a cup of black tea with milk and sugar, before we retire to bed.         

Day 7 (25 April 2013): Sumburgh Airport

Delayed at Sumburgh Airport due to mechanical issues.  Spare parts flown up from RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire and repairs carried out overnight.      

Day 8 (26 April 2013): Sumburgh Airport - Edinburgh Airport

Flying south over Fair Isle, located midway between mainland Shetland and the Orkney Islands.  The island is renowned as a migratory bird habitat and is home to a famous bird observatory.
Cruising along the cliffs of northern Scotland's east coast.
Flying over RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland.  This Royal Air Force station is the main base for the RAF's Tornado GR4 fighter and, with the closure of RAF Leuchars in 2013, RAF Lossiemouth remains as the only operational RAF station in Scotland.
A cockpit view of the bridges over the Firth of Forth, linking Edinburgh on the south shore (right) with Fife on the north shore (left).
The bridges over the Firth of Forth: the Forth Road Bridge, carrying the A90 road, in the foreground, and the 8,296-foot long cantilevered Forth Bridge in the background.
The iconic Forth Bridge, a railway bridge, opened on 4 March 1890 after 7 years of construction.
Flying over Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh's west end.  The stadium built in 1925 and renovated in 1995, seats 67,144 people and is home to the Scottish Rugby Union.
Meadowbank Stadium, site of the Commonwealth Games of 1970 and 1986.  Built between 1967 and 1970, Meadowbank seats 7,500 in the covered grandstand and 16,500 total (including uncovered benches around the track).  Despite opposition from locals, Edinburgh Council decided in 2008 to sell the stadium land for redevelopment and build a new, smaller sports facility at the eastern end of the site. 
Flying low over Barclay Viewforth Church, opened in 1864, and a parish church of the Church of Scotland.  The church's spire reaches to 250 feet, making it one of the tallest landmarks in Edinburgh.
Buzzing St. Mary's Cathedral, a Gothic-style cathedral of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, built in the late-19th century.
Edinburgh Castle, sitting atop the volcanic Castle Rock.  The site has housed royal castles since at least as far back as the reign of David I in the 12th century and hosted royal residences up to the Union of the Crowns in 1603.  While most of the castle's buildings date from the 16th century and later, a notable exception is St. Mary's Chapel, which dates from the early 12th century and is Edinburgh's oldest surviving building.  Now the city's top tourist attraction, Edinburgh castle houses the Scottish War Memorial and the National War Museum of Scotland.    
Flying over a couple of freighters docked at Edinburgh's port in the city's east end.
Parked and refuelling at Edinburgh Airport.

Hailing one of Edinburgh's "Black Cabs" at the UK Arrivals end of the airport terminal, we drive 25 minutes into the city to the 5-star Balmoral Hotel at 1 Princes Street, located near Edinburgh Waverley railway station and in the heart of the city's shopping district.  Checking in, we deposit our bags, change, and freshen up before heading down to the hotel's stylish brasserie, Hadrian's, for dinner: terrine of Scottish game with mascerated grapes; Blairgowrie Rib Eye steak served with hand cut chips, watercress and bearnaise sauce; classic bourbon vanilla creme brule with almond biscuit for dessert, and a lovely cheese plate of Isle of Mull cheddar with Scottish oatcakes and homemade apple chutney.  Following dinner, we retire to the hotel's Balmoral Bar for a Lemon Breeze Champagne cocktail (Tanqueray, Limoncello, Elderflower Cordial, Moet & Chandon Brut) and, in a nod to our flying tour of the UK, a signature cocktail named The Aviation (Tanqueray Gin, Lemon Juice, Maraschino Liqueur & Crème de Violette).  A final non-alcoholic cocktail, the Apple Twist (cloudy apple juice shaken with pineapple juice & peach puree) ends our stay at the Balmoral Bar, and we head out west along Princes Street to the charming Kenilworth pub on Rose Street to enjoy a glass or two of draught Wyld Wood cider (organic cider apples aged in old oak casks) by the Aspall Suffolk Cyder company.  Accompanying our cider, we enjoy a warming bowl of Tomato and Davidstow Cheddar soup and a scotch egg, before returning to the Balmoral Hotel.       

Day 9 (27 April 2013): Edinburgh Airport - Humberside Airport

Flying past Berwick-on-Tweed, the northernmost town in England, located on the east coast at the mouth of the River Tweed in the county of Northumberland.

Flying past the estuary of the River Tees and the city of Middlesbrough in North Yorkshire, England.

Flying low alongside the steep cliffs lining the North Sea coast of the North York Moors National Park in North Yorkshire, England.  This section of coast lies between the towns of Whitby, in the north, and Scarborough, in the south.   

Flying directly over the rocky, limestone headland of the town of Scarborough in North Yorkshire.  Scarborough is the most popular holiday resort on the Yorkshire coast, and has been dubbed 'the Brighton of the North'. 

Flying over a car ferry destined for Zeebrugge or Rotterdam.  The land mass in the background is the Holderness area of the East Riding of Yorkshire, England.  A rich agricultural area, Holderness was marshland until drained in the Middle Ages.
Flying over the Humber Bridge, the 7,280 foot long suspension bridge crossing the River Humber.  The bridge opened in June 1981 and connects Barton-upon-Humber on the river's south shore with Hessle on the north shore, carrying the A15 road.

Touching down on Runway 03 at Humberside Airport, located near the town of Kirmington in North Lincolnshire.  The city of Grimsby lies 19km to the east and Hull is about 24km to the north.
Parked at Humberside Airport for the night.
Jumping aboard a Stagecoach 'Humber Flyer' bus at the Humberside Airport, we make the roughly 30 minute drive to the north side of the Humber Bridge and proceed on foot to the Country Park Inn on the banks of the Humber, close to the bridge.  Following check-in, we take a short taxi ride to Home Farm, a pub of the Brewers Fayre chain, off Ferriby Road in Hull, where we enjoy a dinner of slow cooked, on-the-bone lamb shoulder served with rosemary and redcurrent gravy, mashed potatoes, and peas, washed down with a glass of Swedish Kopparberg Mixed Berry cider.  The meal is capped off with a sponge pudding, drizzled with treacle, and served with custard, and a cup of hot tea.  After dinner, we proceed via taxi back to the Country Park Inn for the night.  

Day 10 (28 April 2013): Humberside Airport

All departures and arrivals cancelled by Humberside Police and security intelligence officials following reports of two suspicious South Asian men loitering around the airport's WHSmith newsstand.  Although the men were speaking Arabic, an unidentified local witness stated that he heard them use the words 'dirka dirka Mohammed jihad' and 'Allahu Ackbar'; police arrested the men shortly after under a protective custody order and they are now being held incommunicado at an undisclosed location pending formal charges, which should be laid in the next 7 to 30 days.  The airport has been cleared to resume flights on 29 April.    

Day 11 (29 April 2013): Humberside Airport - Norwich International Airport

Flying south along the Lincolnshire coast.
Banking right over the Holkham National Nature Reserve which, at 9,600 acres, is England's largest nature reserve, located between Burnham Overy Staithe and Blakeney on the Norfolk coast.  The habitats in the Holkham Reserve include salt marshes, grazing marshes, woodland, sand dunes, and foreshore.
Cruising along the topographically unremarkable Norfolk coast as dusk sets in.

Landing on Runway 27 at Norwich International Airport, we taxi to the fuelling station and, having topped up our tanks, we proceed four miles by taxi to the Premier Inn Nelson Norwich City Centre on Prince of Wales Road.  After checking into the hotel, conveniently located in the heart of historic Norwich on the bank of the River Wensum, we grab a quick dinner at the hotel's Table Table Restaurant: ham, egg & chips and, for dessert, Eton Mess (fresh strawberries, crumbled meringue, and whipped cream folded together with a blackcurrant coulis).  Following dinner, we embark on the Alan Partridge Walking Tour of Norwich, visiting such famous landmarks as Norwich Town Hall, from where Adolph Hitler was to have delivered his victory address had the Nazis conquered Britain; Norwich Cathedral; and Norwich Market.  The Alan Partridge Walking Tour of Norwich ends with a 2.4km walk to the BP gas station at the intersection of the A146 road and Hall Road, where we enjoy a styrofoam cup of hot tea and a microwaved Bramble apple turnover while we converse with the dimwitted Geordie cashier.  Following a mediocre tour of a mediocre city, we return to the hotel to turn in for the night.        

Day 12 (30 April 2013): Norwich International Airport - London City Airport

Cruising along the Suffolk coast near Lowestoft.

Heading southwest along the Suffolk coast near Felixstowe.

Passing over the town of Harwich, at the mouth of the rivers Stour and Orwell in Essex.

Commencing our flight up the River Thames.

Banking over the Port of Tilbury, London's principal port, located on the Thames. 
Flying over the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge over the Thames near Dartford.
A low pass over Tower Bridge and, on the left, the Tower of London.
St. Paul's Cathedral.

Flying over the old Battersea Power Station in London.
A wild, low-level ride through Westminster.
Making a requested flyover of Hertfordshire, northwest of London, we buzz cottages - and their terrified residents - near the town of Letchworth Garden City.    
A highly illegal low pass over the runway at London Luton Airport in Bedfordshire.
Final approach to Runway 10 at London City Airport.
Touching down at London City airport at dusk.
Engines off, parked at the gate at London City airport.  A setting sun and dusky, purple sky caps off a successful circumnavigation of England, Wales, and Scotland.

Thanks for Flying with Us!


  1. Are you staying the night in Southampton? You should tell us which pub you have a pint of cider in at each location, before retiring for the evening.

  2. That's more like it! If you're still in Penzance then I'd also recommend Harris's restaurant. Have fish.

  3. The Edinburgh stop was a veritable tour de force. Surely I am not alone amongst the readers in being virtually transported to this virtual Edinburgh and virtually eating those handcut chips and virtually drinking an Aviator cocktail (what a delightfully whimsical name!).
    I am less keen on the Brewers Fayre chain though. I once vomited there.