hot air balloons
You can fly into Plymouth…but only if you’ve got more than a few bob in the bank to pay for a private helicopter or hot air balloon!

Sadly, the city’s small airport saw its last passenger flight take off in July 2011. The demise of the airport, just north of the city at Roborough, had been on the cards for several years.

Direct flights to Heathrow from Plymouth were scrapped some years ago, dealing a severe blow to the city’s business community.

The lack of a direct link to the world’s busiest airport, competition from neighbouring Newquay and Exeter, a shortage of space (and money) to build a runway suitable for bigger aircraft and the recession all combined to sound the airport’s death knell.

And so ended an important chapter in the aviation history of a city which was the arrival point for the first hot air balloon to cross the Atlantic in 1919. In 1930 Amy Johnson was guest of honour at the city’s aviation day and a year later the Prince of Wales (before he was crowned King Edward VIII) officially opened the airport which had been built in 1925.

By the time Air South West announced that its passenger flights were no longer commercially viable, less than 100 people a day were using Plymouth Airport.

The nearest airports are Newquay (just over 40 miles west of Plymouth), Exeter (45 miles east) and Bristol (just under 100 miles to the east).

Newquay is a tiny airport in the countryside just outside the popular holiday resort famed for being one of Europe’s most popular surfing destinations. It’s about an hour and 20 minutes from Plymouth by car (depending on holiday traffic and other unforeseen headaches). From here you can take a flight to the beautiful Isles of Scilly, fly to several UK cities and to Ireland or book a special charter flight to popular package holiday destinations such as Lake Garda or Madeira.

Exeter Airport, an easy 45 minute drive along the A38 Devon Expressway, is home to the budget airline Flybe which offers cheap flights to destinations all over Europe.

If you hate the crowds, queues and sheer size of Heathrow and Gatwick then you’ll enjoy the relative calm and country feel of both Newquay and Exeter airports.

Bristol Airport is another hour or so by car, east of Exeter along the M5. It’s much bigger and busier than its westerly neighbours with many different airlines based there including Ryanair and Easyjet. Nearly six million passengers passed through Bristol Airport in 2010 – but it’s still quite a pleasant drive through the Somerset countryside to get to it once you’ve turned off the M5.

And we rather like the fact that a major international airport is based in a place called Lulsgate Bottom.

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