A few weekend ago we were lucky to visit the Hovercraft Museum, in Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire which is situated on a museum heritage site. This museum is the only museum, run by a registered charity, dedicated to the hovercraft. The museum has a collection of over 50 hovercraft of various designs in various conditions, and these can be visited at weekends and school holidays.
A family trip to the Hovercraft Museum
What is a hovercraft? A hovercraft is an amphibious craft capable of travelling over land, water, mud, ice, and other surfaces. They use blowers to produce a large volume of air below the hull (or air cushion) that is slightly above atmospheric pressure. This produces lift, which causes the hull to float above the surface.
Growing up on the Isle of Wight meant I was used to seeing and travelling by hovercraft. It is the quickest way to travel from the Isle of Wight to the mainland, and also a really fun experience!
We visited the museum with friends and really enjoyed our visit. The museum is staffed by volunteers and they help bring the collection to life. The collection includes a James Bond craft to machines built to TV’s Scrapheap Challenge, military hovers and the world’s largest passenger hovercraft, ex-cross Channel SRN4Mk3, The Princess Anne.
The exhibits are displayed in historic hangars and around the site which was once known as HM Naval Seaplane Training School and later HMS Daedalus. Five hovercraft are listed on the National Historic Ships’ Register and you can see some exhibits being restored in the restoration hangar.
I loved seeing this huge sewing machine, used to stitch the skirts of hovercrafts.
Of special interest were The Princess Anne SRN4 Mk 3, the largest commercial car carrying hovercraft ever built, and BH7, a military hovercraft which flew to the Arctic Circle and back. She was the first warship to be fitted with a microwave which I think was my favourite fact of our trip!
I also loved the list of how the crew took their tea and coffee!
There was so much to see and do. There were lots of volunteers around and they were very patient in telling us about each exhibit. Little Sis did the Children’s Trail, and the volunteers helped us with some of the trickier questions. The kids had lots of questions and the volunteers were very patients with us all, especially when they were asking why hovercraft are no longer used as much as they were.
The Children’s Trail was a great way for us to learn about hovercraft and what happened to the channel hovercraft. We even saw a small part of the Princess Margaret hovercraft. As well as the historic hovercrafts, the collection includes models and uniform, which means there is something for everyone to see,
The museum also holds special events and during our visit we were lucky to be able to see BHT-130 ‘Solent Express’ which was passing by. There were lots of people out to see it go past, and it even did some special manoeuvres in front of the museum slipway. It was a great extra for our little trip and really topped off a fantastic family day out at The Hovercraft Museum.
Marine Parade West
Open Saturdays 10.00am-4.00pm
Family ticket £22.00
Toilets, cafe and gift shop