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Son moving to Lakenheath AFB and not sure where to begin...

Miami, Florida
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Son moving to Lakenheath AFB and not sure where to begin...

Hello all,

My son and daughter-in-law will be moving to Lakenheath AFB for three plus years leaving next month. At this writing, I am looking for basic advice as we will probably be traveling to the U.K. this summer. I am having trouble finding resources giving some sort of guidelines as to which airport is best to fly into, transportation, and decent lodging information. We are not allowed to stay at guest housing on the base. I know it is early but it is my goal to learn as much about this area as possible. Thank you.

Upminster, United...
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1. Re: Son moving to Lakenheath AFB and not sure where to begin...

The nearest airport is Stansted, but it is mainly used by airlines for European routes. Few transatlantic flights land there.

After that there is little to chose between Heathrow and Gatwick for ease of getting to Suffolk. The USAF does run a transfer service between Heathrow and Lakenheath, but this may only be available for servicing personnel not their families.

There are plenty of local guest houses in the area. Will you be hiring a car as this will be fairly essential to get around.

Bingley, United...
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2. Re: Son moving to Lakenheath AFB and not sure where to begin...

If you do a search in the UK forum for "lakenheath" you'll get a number of responses.

middle england
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3. Re: Son moving to Lakenheath AFB and not sure where to begin...

You'll find plenty of useful information on


You'll also find local hotels and guest houses listed on Google.

One thing to emphasise is that Lakeheath station is practically useless as it has very limited service and no transport readily available.

Surrey UK
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4. Re: Son moving to Lakenheath AFB and not sure where to begin...

You might want to consider Manchester Airport. There's a station (= train station) at the airport and an hourly service - with just one change of train - to Ely/Brandon/Thetford whch are the nearest places of any size to the Lakenheath base. The journey from both Heathrow and Gatwick is awkward by public transport and a challenging drive if you're not used to the road conditions.

Sydney, Australia
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5. Re: Son moving to Lakenheath AFB and not sure where to begin...

The base is in quite a remote area (which is why it, and the neighbouring bases are there), with the drained swampland of the fens to the west and the thinly populated forested area of the Breckland to the east (villages never developed here because the soils are so poor) on the borders of Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk in the region of East Anglia.

So as you can imagine, public transport is quite poor. If you come over to stay for a while and want to go anywhere, then realistically you are going to need a car. Getting to the area in the first place also isn't that easy by public transport as other responses have suggested.

If it were me, I'd hire a car straight away from Heathrow, but I'm used to doing this in strange countries, you may be less confident

As to where to stay, the most immediate small towns of Lakenheath, Brandon and Mildenhall (where there is another huge US airbase) are all miltary towns with a few (not many) accommodation options. They do all have some shops and cafes catering to American tastes if that's what you're after. Then there's Thetford, which is slightly larger, but there's not that much to recommend it either, although it's of historical interest to many US visitors as the home of famous revolutionary Thomas Paine. These days it's an industrial town with a very high population of Portuguese immigrant labour.

If you want somewhere to stay that's nice for a holiday and a bit of tourism as well as being relatively close to your son, then the two best options I think are Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds - both about 15 miles away. The former is the home of horseracing in this country and a small country town in its own right. There are lots of places to stay because so many people come for the races and it's set in attractive countryside. The latter is a larger market town that's full of history (going back more than 1000 years) with a bustling town centre, lots of shops, restaurants and quite a few places to stay.

The surrounding region also has quite a lot that's worth a visit if you come over for a good few days; the University city of Cambridge is close by, then you've got a stunning cathedral in a nice small town at Ely, lots of very English rolling green countryside south and east of Bury in Suffolk, another old cathedral city in Norwich, and two great areas of coastline in East Suffolk and North Norfolk

Miami, Florida
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6. Re: Son moving to Lakenheath AFB and not sure where to begin...

Mr_C, Alanrow, aardvark, papluviose, and pintpot,

Please accept my sincere thanks for your extremely wise and helpful answers. I had to laugh regarding the town of Brandon because that is where I actually live, Brandon, Florida. These responses are a fantastic start and have given me many points to ponder. Thank you for your patience with answering this fairly ignorant question. I will continue to be open to any suggestions that may come to mind.


Edited: 9:24 pm, October 04, 2010
Sheffield, United...
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7. Re: Son moving to Lakenheath AFB and not sure where to begin...

Hi Rufus45, surely your son will collect (and return) you from the airport?

Driving after a long flight in a country that you are not used too, on the opposite side of the road, and travelling into remote countryside seems like a bad idea to me. Presumably you wont be visiting until he has been in UK for a while, by which time he will have become used to the driving, and will be able to get some ideas on accommodation from others on the base with similar needs. Hire a car locally when you get to your destination, and return before returning home.


Groomsport, United...
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8. Re: Son moving to Lakenheath AFB and not sure where to begin...

agree with all above.....there are some nice rural English Towns around e.g. Diss, Bury St Edmunds, Thetford..and the bigger town (Kings Lynn) city (Norwich) not far. You'll also be fairly close to the sea and the Norfolk Broads. If you come in the warmer months June/July/Aug there will be lots to see and do but it does get busier at those times. For a bit of culture and English Heritage check out the National Trust properties, there are some fabulous ones in this part of East Anglia. nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits.htm

There are plenty of decent hotels around

and if you get the chance try this place out for cafe/dining


You will need a rental car!!!

Good Luck and hope you enjoy the trip

Edited: 11:10 am, October 05, 2010
Bury St. Edmunds...
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9. Re: Son moving to Lakenheath AFB and not sure where to begin...

Nancy, you may find that Newmarket, whilst it is the home of horseracing and has some lovely hotels and houses is a bit more down-market than say Bury St Edmunds.

Bury St Edmunds is much more "tourist-friendly" and has a higher quality of life, which means that dining out and shopping for example are better than in Newmarket.

Don't get me wrong, Newmarket does have its positive points but Bury St Edmunds has more cultural and tourist advantages.

The journey time by car from Bury St Edmunds to Lakenheath is approximately 30 minutes out of business hours, and maybe a tiny bit less from Newmarket.

If you are looking to use the location only as a base and not actually spend any time there, eating, shopping or sightseeing, then Newmarket may be the best option if it is less expensive.

Both Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds are well located for going out to say Ely and Cambridge.

So far as other locations are concerned - again it depends on what you intend to do when you are here.

You will need a car wherever you choose to stay if you are planning on going out.

Feel free to leave any other questions here and I am sure I and others will be happy to help. In any event, you'll have a great time when you come over. It really is a lovely part of the Country.

Aberdeen, Scotland
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10. Re: Son moving to Lakenheath AFB and not sure where to begin...

You might consider a flight with KLM to Schiphol (Amsterdam) with a transfer their for the short flight to Norwich which is a lot more convenient for transfer to Lakenheath than Heathrow or Gatwick. Norwich is a small, efficient airport and it normally only takes a few minutes from flight arrival to the taxi rank. It's then around a 15min taxi ride to Norwich station which has an hourly train service to both Thetford and Ely taking 30min / 50min respectively. You don't need to worry about making train reservations in advance as for this route one simply buys tickets at Norwich station for immediate travel; trains start empty there thus it's easy to find seats. Thetford or Ely are normally the best train stations for Lakenheath as few trains stop at Lakenheath station itself.

I agree with other posters, renting a vehicle in an unfamiliar country (and driving on the left) is not a good idea after a long flight....and especially so from Heathrow or Gatwick as the journey would then involve travelling on some of the UK's busiest (and most congested) roads.

Edited: 5:16 pm, October 15, 2010
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