“ Postcode: DN4 7NW „
Doncaster Air Museum is located on the home of the former RAF Doncaster at Dakota Way, Doncaster. This is located behind the Vue cinema. We had driven past the sign for this attraction many times since having our children, but it is only recently that we actually thought the kids would be big enough to enjoy visiting the site.
We drove to the site from our home in Rotherham using the M18 motorway, getting off at Junction 3, and driving past the Yorkshire Outlet and Keepmoat stadium. For anyone needing Sat nav to get there, the postcode is DN4 7NW.
We went to the site for a Mother's Day outing last month. The particular day was a pretty cold one with occasional bouts of snow, so it did affect our visit a little, but we still had an enjoyable outing for the four hours or so we were on site. We visited while it is still winter opening hours (10am-4pm). The site is open on Tuesdays to Sundays, although this increases to 7 days a week in school holidays and the site is also open on bank holidays.
Entering the site, there was a small but adequate car park. There was a crashed plane outside the site which looked pretty interesting. Entry is via the gift shop/café. Cost for a days entry was £13.50 for a family of four. We added on 10% gift aid to support the work of the charity in renovating air craft at the site.
There are 3 buildings on the site to explore. 2 of these buildings are aircraft hangers. The first one is the largest, with lots of planes of various ages and conditions. Some are literally just cockpit sections, while there is also a full size wooden plane like the one that Louis Bleriot crossed the English Channel from France to Kent in. We enjoyed seeing this as we have visited the site where he landed, but there is no model of the plane at that site.
You are free to wander round the hangars as you like. There are plenty of information boards around about the models, alongside a history to the Falklands war. Areas where the air craft are more fragile are roped off, but there were at least 3 cockpits that the children could climb inside in the main hangar, and another couple in the smaller second hangar, and my children were awed at being able to climb in and fiddle about with switches and seatbelts pretending that they were flying.
There is a strong influence from military aircraft, and I have to admit not having a great interest in aeroplane construction or history, but I was happy to take part in the visit because my children were happy.
The third hangar we went to was much more interesting to me. There was a display about world war two, including displays of households with products available in that era. There was also a shop display, an air raid shelter showing how children would sleep through an air raid, and a street which had been bombed. In a large gallery, there were displays containing newspaper cuttings and handwritten accounts from people in nearby Sheffield who had been through the bombing and been affected by it. My children were more impressed by two flight simulator computers which allowed them to take off from RAF Finningley, which is now Robin Hood Airport. We are really familiar with the Geography of this area as my parents live virtually at the bottom of the runway of this airport. It was interesting to see this, and a lot more tricky than you would think to use the machines.
Around the outside of the site there are various other old army vehicles and emergency vehicles that you can look at the outside of and compare in your head to modern day versions. It was interesting for the kids to see that they were so much smaller than modern day versions.
Facilities on the site such as the toilet block were clean but basic. In the ladies there was just one cubicle. Baby changing was inside the disabled toilet. I had a little concern about a bottle of spray cleaning product which was on the window sill. It was high up but I still think that sort of product should be put well away in a locked cupboard when children use these facilities.
There was disabled access with ramps, but I think it would be hard for someone in a wheelchair to get the most from this location as they wouldn't be at the right height to read the information boards and certainly could not see inside the accessible cockpits.
I felt there was plenty on the site to keep you occupied for a good few hours. On the day of our visit, the site was fairly quiet and we were able to spend a decent amount of time in the open cockpits. I noticed that the site also has special days where the entrance price is higher, but there are more cockpits open on the more fragile planes. There are details about these special days on the website for the museum. http://www.southyorkshireaircraftmuseum.org.uk/#!events/cpon
The cost of a visit is similar to what we have spent visiting other attractions in the area. A swimming session at nearby Doncaster Dome is about £15.50. A visit to the Vue cinema next to the site is about £16 too. Here you could take up to 6 hours exploring the site if you wish.
There are places outside to sit and have a picnic if you wish, and you can buy snacks within the shop. We spent a few pounds buying some canned drinks and cakes to supplement our lunch. We did eat in the car however as it was snowing and we couldn't sit out.
This is a place I would definitely return to with my children, but I would wait till it was a warmer day I think.