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Experience the Thrills of Gliding in England

4 gliding clubs to go for a day trip from London

· 5 min read

Imagine soaring through the sky like a bird, feeling the rush of wind against your face and the exhilaration of being completely weightless. Gliding is a unique sport that allows you to experience the thrill of flying without an engine. And if you are looking for an adrenaline-pumping activity near London, buckle up and get ready for an adventure like no other!

Source: Surrey Hills Gliding Club
Source: Surrey Hills Gliding Club

What is** Gliding?**

Gliding, also known as sailplane flying, is a recreational and competitive sport that involves piloting an unpowered aircraft called a glider. Unlike conventional planes, gliders rely solely on natural forces such as wind currents and thermals to stay airborne. Gliding allows pilots to explore the skies in a way that is both exhilarating and serene. By harnessing the power of nature, gliders can stay aloft for hours and cover vast distances, experiencing the beauty of the world from a unique perspective.

Gliding Locations near London

Gliding requires a fairly vast and open space. While it is not quite possible to experience gliding in central London, there are a number of gliding locations and gliding clubs around London that you could experience as part of a day trip! So if you are looking for an unique experience for your next trip to London, why not add this experience to your itinerary?

London Gliding Club

Established in 1930, the London Gliding Club is one of the oldest and most prestigious clubs in the UK. The London Gliding Club is located in Dunstable, about an hour's drive away from central London. If you don't drive, there are also options to reach the club via public transport — the entire journey requires a couple of bus and train transfers, and will take approximately 1.5 hours.

Source: London Gliding Club Facebook Page
Source: London Gliding Club Facebook Page

The London Gliding Club primarily offers gliding courses for those who are interested to learn to glide and become a glider pilot; but they also have experiential packages (lasting 15-20 minutes, £125.00) available for those who just want to experience the thrill of gliding. These experiential packages are perfect for travelers to London who are looking to experience something different and to look at London from a different perspective.

The club's location provides breathtaking panoramic views of the Dunstable Downs, making it the perfect place for both beginners and experienced gliders. Imagine soaring through the sky, feeling the wind in your hair, and taking in the stunning natural beauty below.

Cambridge Gliding Centre

Another excellent club to consider is the Cambridge Gliding Centre, which was founded as the Cambridge University Gliding Club in 1935. The Cambridge Gliding Centre is based at Gransden Lodge Airfield, about a 1.5 hours drive away from central London, or a half an hour drive from Cambridge. Public transportation options to the Cambridge Gliding Centre is limited.

Source: Cambridge Gliding Club
Source: Cambridge Gliding Club

Similar to the London Gliding Club, while the Cambridge Gliding Centre provide full courses for those who want to learn and train to be a glider pilot, experiential and introductory flights that are suitable for travelers are also available. Experiential flights are at £120.00 and includes an Aerotow launch to 2,500 feet.

Nestled in the picturesque Cambridgeshire countryside, this club offers a tranquil and peaceful environment for gliding. The rolling fields, dotted with charming villages and ancient landmarks, create a serene atmosphere that adds to the joy of gliding.

Southdown Gliding Club

London is not just a bustling metropolis; its surroundings also boasts some stunning countryside and picturesque landscapes that are perfect for gliding. If you're looking for a scenic gliding experience in the south coast of UK, head to the Southdown Gliding Club. Located about a 1.5 hour drive from London (or approximately 2 hours by public transport), this expansive area of natural beauty offers a diverse range of gliding opportunities.

Source: Southdown Gliding Club Facebook Page
Source: Southdown Gliding Club Facebook Page

The introductory flights at Southdown Gliding Club will last approximately 15 to 20 minutes, and you will have the option to fly at 2,500 feet (at £130.00) or 3,000 feet (£150.00).

Imagine gliding over the rolling hills, with the patchwork of fields stretching out below you. The breathtaking views and peaceful atmosphere will make your gliding experience truly unforgettable.

Surrey Hills Gliding Club

Another popular spot for gliding enthusiasts is the Surrey Hills, and is the gliding club that is the most convenient to get to from central London. Situated in the southeastern part of England, it is about a 45 minutes drive from central London, or a 1 hour commute via public transport.

Source: Surrey Hills Gliding Club
Source: Surrey Hills Gliding Club

Surrey Hills Gliding Club also offers more affordable flight packages, at £57.00 for a single-flight trial lesson — though the flight times are much shorter, at approximately 5-10 minutes. If you are interested in a longer flight, you could consider purchasing a two-flight trial lesson (£92.00) and combine them into a single flight instead.

This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is known for its charming villages, lush greenery, and serene atmosphere. As you glide above the Surrey Hills, you'll be treated to panoramic views of London and the surrounding countryside of Surrey, with its gentle slopes, dense woodlands, and meandering rivers.

Preparing for Your Gliding Experience

When to Go Gliding

Gliding experiences are highly dependent on weather conditions. Most gliding clubs offer gliding experiences throughout the year, though available timings may differ depending on the season. Do check the schedules of the individual gliding clubs before making your reservations. Typically, a warm summer day allows the glider to stay airborne for a longer time; while the weather during winter allows for a much smoother flight.

Source: London Gliding Club Facebook Page
Source: London Gliding Club Facebook Page

Flying will not be permitted on days where it's raining heavily, when the winds are too strong, or visibility is impaired. Do check the weather conditions on the day of your flight and be prepared for any possible schedule changes - especially since weather conditions can be rather unpredictable.

What to Expect on Your Experiential Flight

Before you take to the skies, it's essential to know what to expect on your first gliding flight. While the flight itself is usually about 20 minutes, you should prepare to spend about 2-3 hours for the entire experience.

The experience typically begins with a pre-flight briefing, where your instructor will explain the basics of gliding, safety procedures, and what you can expect during the flight. They will take the time to answer any questions you may have and ensure that you feel comfortable and prepared for the adventure ahead.

As you soar through the sky, the pilot will demonstrate various maneuvers, allowing you to experience the thrill of aerobatics if you're feeling adventurous. From loops and rolls to stall turns and wingovers, these maneuvers will give you a taste of the incredible capabilities of gliders. The pilot will ensure that you feel safe and secure throughout, making the experience both thrilling and enjoyable.

The gliding clubs would usually also have restaurants (or at least a cafe) where you can chill and purchase some refreshments after your flight.

Essential Safety Tips for Gliding

While gliding is a relatively safe sport, it's crucial to prioritize safety at all times. Here are some essential safety tips to keep in mind: