If you like noisy jets, dancing helicopters, the Red Arrows and 90 year old wing walkers you should spend a weekend in Bournemouth during the annual Air Festival. Now in its 9th year it attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators during the four days it runs, but don’t let the numbers put you off, with some savvy planning you can enjoy the whole spectacle from the comfort of your own picnic chair away from the main crowds but with a stunning cliff top view. Or, if you like to be in the thick of the action, you can pitch your beach umbrella right next to the beach assault arena where you will be treated to a live action display of our armed forces in action storming the beach. Over the last 9 years I have done both and, as lucky resident of Bournemouth, I can’t get enough of the excitement of the airshow. The promenade is lined with static displays, food outlets and interactive experiences. Add to this nightly illuminated flying displays, fireworks and live music events and you have enough to amuse every age group.
Now to the practical details. In 2017 the Bournemouth Air Festival gets under way on Thursday August 31st and finishes on Sunday September 3rd and as next year will be the 10th anniversary expect some amazing sights to be added to the usual array of events. It is worth booking accommodation early and if you want a prime view of the action then any of the cliff top hotels on East Overcliff Drive will give you that. The main display line for aircraft displays is sited almost midway between Bournemouth and Boscombe piers so the view from the cliff top in this area is excellent. As Bournemouth is sited in the curve of Poole Bay there is a great view from any of the beach and cliff top areas further east and west of the centre of Bournemouth and you will find plenty of locals with their picnic chairs in these areas. There are fewer large hotels in these areas but plenty of B&Bs and apartments, many within walking distance of the beach.
If you are considering a day trip it must be noted that traffic is always extremely heavy on the approaches to Bournemouth on the days of the shows but there are park and ride facilities available and a limited amount of disabled parking very close to the action, details are on the website http://bournemouth.co.uk/event/bournemouth-air-festival/. Parking on the cliff top and surrounding roads is still free in the areas of Boscombe and Southbourne but it gets full early, especially with the promise of good weather.
Any place on the 7 miles of sandy beach is a great place to watch all the action and especially good with youngsters who have the sea and sand to amuse them while the adults marvel at the aerobatic displays. If you prefer not to have the sand between your toes consider renting a beach hut for the day or longer from the council on this website https://beachhuts.bournemouth.gov.uk/Default.aspx.
Just a word of warning, be prepared for deafening displays by the modern aircraft such as the Eurofighter Typhoon which is put through its paces over the sea. Ear defenders are an absolute must for small children, also dogs are often distressed by the noise. The weather is also a huge factor of the show and when there is low cloud or high winds then the displays are disrupted or even cancelled as they were on Saturday this year, however the static displays, bands and events that are ground based will still go ahead.