'Juice and cakes and planes - brilliant': Readers share their best memories of Edinburgh's Turnhouse Airport

Today Edinburgh Airport is one of the UK's busiest, welcoming more than 14 million passengers each year, but it all started out from much humbler beginnings.

Thursday, 6th June 2019, 3:48 pm

A product of the First World War, Turnhouse began life in 1916 as a small air base that used a humble grass strip operated by the Royal Flying Corps and later the RAF.

Commercial passenger services were first introduced in the late 1940s and it soon became apparent that Turnhouse required a major overhaul and proper runways.

A slick new passenger terminal arrived in 1956 and, while it was positively minuscule compared to today's bustling international airport, it must have seemed incredibly futuristic for the era. The age of modern commercial air travel had finally reached Edinburgh and the city was now ready to welcome the world.

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Although the original building has since been relocated, replaced, renamed and massively expanded, memories of the early days, the gleaming interior and plush, Formica-topped furnishings of the 1956 terminal that welcomed just a handful of planes a day remain strong.

From visiting Turnhouse's modernistic cafe just to watch the planes taking off to recalling the plastic seats with in-built pay-as-you go tellies that waiting passengers could use to while away their time, we asked our readers to share their fond recollections of Edinburgh's first airport terminal.

'Mum, there's glass in my juice', 'No, son, that's ice'

Paul Mulhern: "As a special treat we were taken (to Turnhouse) for a meal one time. I just remember being told it was a special meal, no idea what now, and I said in a loud voice: "There is glass in my pineapple juice."

Crowds wave farewell to King Olav of Norway at Turnhouse airport after his state visit to Scotland in October 1962.

"My Mum informed me it was ice, not glass. See we were not that posh - never had ice in a drink before that."

Terminal tellies and John Menzies sweetie bonanza

Ivan Cameron: "There used to be plastic moulded seats with TV's built in. You put in a shilling!"

Andy Macrae: "We used to go out to airport regularly and go into terminal to watch the planes.

Turnhouse Airport - New Traffic Control Tower, 1962.

"Also used to watch the "pay as you go" TV's when anyone left them to get their plane.

"I recall once noticing that there was lots of loose change lying on tarmac under the viewing area so we told one of the airport workers that one of us had dropped our bus fares down there and could someone get it back for us. Somebody dutifully went out and collected our 'dropped' bus fare and then said: "Here you might as well have the rest that was lying about" - sweetie bonanza at the John Menzies in the terminal."


Arleen Hanna Baxter: "Worked there in 60s and 70s for BEA then British Airways. The terminal was so small you knew everyone there. Great times."

Two stewardesses arrive from London, 1964.

Caber capers in the cabin

John McMillan: "I flew in a BEA Dakota around 1964, to the Isle of Man for a form of Highland Games, us versus the IoM Team. I was a cyclist.

"Airborne, the Stewardess approached two strapping caber-tossers, who were sitting in the back row of seats. “Excuse me Gentlemen, but would you mind moving forward, as the pilot says you are upsetting the trim of the aircraft” They both dutifully stood up, whereupon she cried “Oh No, not both at once!”"


Iain Grant: "I would cycle out to Turnhouse to plane spot - had my wee book of numbers etc.."

David Steele: "It was a huge treat as a young child to go to Turnhouse for our tea and watch the planes. In those days you were lucky to see more than two flights. Very different now."

Turnhouse Airport Edinburgh - New terminal - a corner of the entrance lounge, 1956.

Lindsay Mitchell Smith: "Lived in Stockbridge and three of us used to cycle out to Turnhouse to see the planes from the viewing platform outside."

Colin Moss: "I remember going there the odd Sunday afternoon to watch the plane take off. And I MEAN the plane, there was one single flight about 2pm to London, then nothing for hours!"

Catherine Woodcock: "Took my daughter there in the late 1980s - just happened to be a Sunday afternoon after Scotland had played France at Murrayfield so there were loads of extra arrivals and departures to watch - if you managed to get a seat by the window."

Eric Paton: "My mum used to take me to the airport and visit the viewing area as a treat back in the day. Juice and cakes and planes. Brilliant."

Morag Gray: "My dad used to take me and my brother there. I must have been about 6 years old. I can clearly remember going out on the balcony to watch the planes landing and taking off. My brother had a notepad and he used to write down the plane numbers.

"I was fascinated by the air hostesses as i thought they were so glamorous, and my dad bought me an air-hostess badge so i could pretend i was one too!"

Margaret Timmons: "We used to go there on family outings and go on the outside balcony to watch the planes landing and taking off. Maybe why I love travelling - got the bug from an early age!"

Welcoming dad

Susan Wright: "My dad worked abroad. We only saw him once a year if we were lucky. I used to love going out to the balcony to watch him arrive, or depart. It was an amazing experience for me as a child and I still miss the delight in seeing him arrive."

Brotherly love

Kris Tolmie: "My brother was in the RAF there and put me in the Spitfire that sat outside the base. It was in the hangar getting a make-over (now at the new terminal) 1958."

VERY short haul

Douglas Kemp: "My first ever flight was from Turnhouse to Abbotsinch in Glasgow in the early ‘60s."

Fond farewells

Polly McCullum: "I left Edinburgh in 1974 as a young solo mum to start my new adventure in New Zealand. The first leg was to London and I remember it was a propeller plane (a Viscount?) and the wind was so strong it tossed as about."

Iain Scott: "Watched my brother emigrate to South Africa from Turnhouse in January 1966. It was a very emotional moment for all the family. In those days Spain was a huge adventure never mind South Africa. He is still there after 53 years. Airport was a tin shack then - incredible how things have developed since then."

Turnhouse Airport Edinburgh - New terminal - Exterior, 1956.
Passengers wait their turn to embark in the new Turnhouse terminal building at Edinburgh Airport, 1956.
Turnhouse Airport - Aerial View (Edinburgh Airport), 1963.
Mr Victor White & his sister Cherry at Turnhouse hoping to catch a plane to London, 1965.