The Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum occupies the control tower and surrounding area of what was once RAF Dumfries, two miles north-east of the centre of Dumfries and well signposted from the A701. What you find is one of Scotland's best and most varied aviation museums and, for anyone with the slightest interest in aviation, a superb day out.
At the heart of any good aviation museum is its collection of aircraft. Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum has a remarkably large collection on outdoor display. It would be fair to say that many show signs of age and are in rather less than showroom condition. But this brings considerable benefits.
In particular it means that the museum does not feel the need to rope off exhibits, and visitors are encouraged to get up close and personal with the aircraft on display. In addition a number of aircraft cockpits are accessible, as is the flight deck and cabin of the museum's Hawker Siddeley Trident. (Continues below images...)
For us the highlight of the collection is English Electric Lightning F.53, ZF584. This has been painted in the guise of a 111 Squadron F.6 aircraft. Other classic British military aircraft of the Cold War era are also very well represented at the museum. A cockpit section of the early (though very long lived) Canberra jet bomber can be viewed and sat in. Examples of a Gloster Meteor, a Hawker Hunter, part of a Blackburn Buccaneer and a Jet Provost are also present from this era. Less speedy aircraft include a Fairey Gannet, arguably the ugliest aircraft that has ever flown, a Westland Wessex helicopter which saw action in the Falklands War, and a Bristol Sycamore helicopter which first flew in 1950.
US built aircraft on show include a North American F-100D Super Sabre and an early Lockheed T-33 training aircraft. Other foreign aircraft include a Dassault Mystere IVA, and a Saab J 35A Draken.
Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum offers visitors much more than just its collection of aircraft. The focal point of the museum is the three storey control tower. The ground floor is home to a large and varied collection of aircraft engines on the floor and aircraft models hanging from the ceiling. The middle floor is home to extensive displays of aviation memorabilia that reflect of a century of aircraft. On the upper floor of the control tower is a recreation of a wartime control and operations room, complete with figures of pilots and controllers.
Near the control tower are three small hangars each that house fascinating displays. One is home to the Loch Doon Spitfire, P7540. This crashed in Loch Doon in Ayrshire on 25 October 1941. After a five year search the wreckage was found in 1982 and subsequently recovered. A remarkable restoration followed, and the beautiful aircraft you can see today was the result.
Another hangar is home to the museum's magnificent airborne forces exhibition telling the story of the use of airborne troops from their inception in World War Two to the present day. A third hangar tells the story of RAF Dumfries itself and is home to a Halifax cockpit replica and a restored Frazer Nash gun turret.
Elsewhere on the site are further displays looking at the home front, recreating domestic conditions during World War II, including a shop, a kitchen and an Anderson bomb shelter. One section of the site is given over to a memorial to the many aircrew who lost their lives while flying from bases in Dumfries and Galloway between 1939 and 1945.
The origins of Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum date back to 1973, when local enthusiasts excavated the site of the crash of a Vickers Wellington bomber. HE746 had come down close to what had been RAF Dumfries on the night of 3/4 June 1943, with the loss of three lives. The engines were recovered, which raised the question of where to exhibit them. A flight hut on part of the site once occupied by RAF Dumfries was available and seemed the obvious choice, and having acquired its first complete airframes in 1976, Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum opened its doors for the first time in 1977. In 1979 it moved to the larger site it occupies today, which includes the now listed old control tower of RAF Dumfries.