Prestwick, United Kingdom

Prestwick is a small town in Ayrshire on the Clyde coast of South West Scotland, sandwiched between Ayr to the south and Troon to the north. It grew up as a golf resort in Victorian times, hosting the earliest Open Championship golf tournaments from 1860. In 1930 the airport was built, and for the next 50 years this was a major gateway for military and commercial flights across the Atlantic, and base for related industries. It acted as a rest and re-fueling point on the "Great Circle", the shortest route between Europe and North America via Greenland, and it was seldom foggy. When the rest of Britain and Ireland were socked in by bad weather, Prestwick's big runway was the last hope for transatlantic aircraft. One that didn't make it was a USAAF flight in 1944 that crashed into the town, killing all 20 on board and five on the ground.

The airport lost much of its commercial passenger role from the 1980s when the next generation of aircraft had greater range, so Europe even to Los Angeles non-stop became routine. Those aircraft also had better instrumentation and bad-weather capability. However Prestwick continues to be a major base for aviation services, Atlantic air traffic control, sea-rescue helicopters, air cargo and military flights. That was how it came to be the only place in Britain where Elvis Presley ever set foot (at least in his earthly form), as he returned home in 1960 from US Air Force service in Germany. Foreign VIPs sometimes land here for the same reason (plus it's handy for Donald Trump's golf resort at Turnberry), and that big runway means there are proposals for Prestwick to become Europe’s “space port”. This is expected to come into operation about the same time that Elvis next turns up for open-mike night in an Ayrshire pub.


Prestwick Tours & Activities