A working steam line operating over 11 miles of track between East Grinstead and Sheffield Park...Bluebell Railway
Home to an airport and not much else? Yes, but that doesn’t make Gatwick a place you don’t want to be. It’s the jumping off point for trips to the far flung corners of the globe, and thanks to its location just off the M25 (and on main line railways with raid connections to London) it’s one of the easiest major airports in the world to travel from.
Gatwick is situated in one of England’s loveliest counties (West Sussex) and is relatively close to some of the most famous tourist attractions and Royal sites in the country. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump to the awesomeness of Legoland, the Bluebell Railway is just around the corner and Windsor Castle, home of the Royal Family when they’re not in residence in London, is just up the Thames. Sure, and airport town itself might not have much in the way of beauty to recommend it, but when you get out into the fields of Sussex you’ll be glad you came.Read more
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The primary reason to visit Gatwick is of course the airport: one of the biggest in the world, and the second largest in London (and the UK) after Heathrow. Gatwick has two terminals, and serves destinations as far away as China and Africa, or as close at hand as Paris. The South Terminal (the two are named North and South respectively) is home to the railway station, which links Gatwick rapidly with central London.
While most travellers visit Gatwick with an onward destination in mind, there are sights and attractions within striking distance of the airport that can bring in the out of towner. These, coupled with the pubs and villages of the Sussex countryside, make the area around the UK’s second largest airport worth a second look.
Crawley and London
For shopping and general amenities, head to Crawley: a standard English satellite town, whose high street is stocked with all the usual suspects and whose nightlife is rowdy enough to satisfy the social urges of a traveller with a long layover! For more cosmopolitan vibes, you can be in central London in half an hour, going straight from Gatwick station to London Victoria.
If you want tourist gold, you won’t get better than Legoland. It’s one of Britain’s biggest tourist attractions, a whopping 31 worlds themed on the much-loved little plastic bricks. Adults and kids alike will love the scenes from Europe and around the world faithfully recreated in Lego, and they’re only the beginning. With more rides than you could go on in a single day, hotels to stay in and an actual Lego boating school, it’s a hit you can’t afford to miss.
Gatwick’s close enough to Brighton to make a dash for the beach: head down the A23 and you’ll be in Fatboy Slim-land before you can say “Weapon of Choice”. It’s close to historic battle sites, within easy driving or train journey’s distance of the British Wildlife Centre, and near the Tudor hamlets of Lingfield and Turners Hill. The great British getaway starts here!
Gatwick is well served by road and rail. The Gatwick Express runs into Gatwick Airport Station at regular intervals and takes half an hour between London Victoria and the airport.
Local trains also run from Horley, Redhill and Croydon. You can walk up to the South Terminal from the station platforms, which are less than 100 metres away from the Terminal entrance. Four different train services serve the stations: First Capital Connect, First Great Western, Gatwick Express and Southern.
The M25 is linked to Gatwick Airport via the M23 motorway – which then turns into the A23 and heads down to Brighton on the South Coast. Expect major traffic jams around Junction 7 of the M25 (the Gatwick M23 junction) during peak flow hours (early mornings through to around 10 am, and mid-afternoon through to early evenings) and when multiple flights are due to leave. It can be advisable to book an airport transfer taxi rather than paying for long stay in the Gatwick car parks.
The airport itself is designed for major foot traffic, and can support millions of passengers every year. Gatwick Airport station has averaged nearly 13 million passengers each year since 2007.
Both North and South terminals have an airside shopping complex complete with lounges, bars and restaurants. Gatwick was one of the first airports to have a V Room (a lounge for Virgin customers to chill out in).
National bus services stop at Gatwick, and run routes from the airport to other airports in the region as well as to most major towns and cities. Local bus services connect the airport with Crawley, Horsham, Caterham, Redhill and Horley.
Gatwick’s South Terminal is on the National Cycle Network (route 21). You can access the cycle route from the terminal close to Zone L, using the lift provided.
Gatwick Airport is built on the site of Gatwick Manor, an originally Anglo Saxon place owned by the De Gatwick family. The name means “Goat Farm”. Gatwick Racecourse, which was built near the railway, hosted the Grand National during the First World War.
The first airport was founded close to the racecourse as an aerodrome in the 1920s. By the end of the 1930s, the aerodrome had been bought by Redwing Aircraft Company, licensed for commercial flights and sold to an investor named Jackaman, who paved the way for the Gatwick we know today. In 1935, Gatwick station was opened, as was “The Beehive” – the world’s first circular airport terminal building. The Beehive is now part of City Place Gatwick, a complex of serviced offices that exists on the site of the modern airport. No longer used as a terminal building, it is occupied by private commercial tenants.
Second World War
During the Second World War, Gatwick was used as a base for night fighters, and for general maintenance and repair. After the war, the decommissioned airport was almost closed for good: however a resurgence in private flights in the 1950s saw the airport generate enough business to keep going. By the late 1970s, a vastly remodelled runway and a new airport station had sealed the fate of Gatwick: it was to become London’s second busiest international airport.
The South Terminal
The South Terminal, which was started in the 1950s, was added to over the intervening years: then in 1988 the North Terminal was opened by Queen Elizabeth II. The two terminals were expanded during the early 21st century to add retail outlets, more seating, and improved departure lounges. Modern improvements continue, including the bridge to Pier 6 at the North Terminal – which is the biggest air passenger bridge in any airport in the world.
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