Well, with all the touring lately it cropped up over a beer as many things do. What are my five best UK airsoft sites and why?
Traditional to go in reverse order I reckon…
5. Humber Airsoft
Kicking this list off is Humber airsoft, a 35-acre mixed quarry and woodland site, with an impressive Middle Eastern style hesco firebase as a centrepiece. The firebase provides some great attack and defend games, but thankfully the staff don’t spend all day slinging it back and forth there, so you do get to go out and explore the site. The quarry, sunk deep into a craterous hole in the middle of the countryside, funnels out into the woodland area which is an unusual shape, but from a snipers perspective allows for some great positions on the steep hillsides overlooking objectives. Lunch here is something else; orders are taken during the morning and mains and desserts are available from the cafeteria, a far cry from the burger van setup at some sites. And there’s dessert too! The shop is well stocked and the safezone well maintained, but for me the biggest attraction at Humber is the way it is marshaled – it’s strict. It’s great actually being able to listen to the game brief without having some idiot fucking about after he’s had all morning to chat shit. You follow the rules here and listen up during briefs or you’re out, no messing about. Which means you can actually get on with games and get your money’s worth, so hats off to the staff.
4. The Gaol
I went to the Gaol a few years back for a charity game for Military Minds, and it’s one of two cqb sites on my list because I’m not just about the woodland game. A former prison, the Gaol is a very unique and atmospheric place to play in. As much as I do enjoy a bit of cqb however, I can’t cope with stuffy little indoor warehouses stacked full of plywood and sweaty players who put all the emphasis on speed, most of which aren’t even big enough to test the max range out on an aeg. The Gaol mixes indoor and outdoor play on a huge site, backed up by a sizeable safezone area for getting your squad organised. There’s a darkened kill house building too which is worth the entry fee alone to play through. Cqb sites large enough to not get repetitive are rare, and this would almost take top spot for cqb, were it not for number three on the list…
3. Catterick – Whinny Hill FIBUA
OK, for those who don’t know, Catterick is a garrison town and Whinny Hill is a British Army training facility, so it’s bound to be good. Thankfully for UK players, Stirling Airsoft get to use it every month for games. Regular readers will know I’m here every December to play for England against Scotland, so it’s a special place for me in that respect but I’ve done other stuff here too, such as Operation Gothic Serpent (Black Hawk Down) and it’s a fantastic experience every time. The site is based on a typical Western European urban area, largely full of houses, and so you find yourself playing in a very realistic environment rather than a field full of pallets. Stirling delivers a superb event and the standard of play is very high, meaning you really have to be at the top of your game, and that’s the bit I enjoy the most. Some might call it elitist, and I know and respect that some players enjoy turning up in fancy dress to sites to plink their friends and have a laugh, but equally, there are some of us that prefer more of a challenge on the field and Catterick certainly delivers.
2. No Man’s Land
It’s new, and I absolutely love it. No Man’s Land is like an all weekend party, and our party (of players) were able to stay from Friday evening, play Saturday, stay Saturday evening and play Sunday for the ultimate Airsoft weekender. Both nights we camped over, there was a disco blasting out from the safe zone and alcohol flowed until the very early hours, and it’s the first site I’ve been to that I’ve seen anything like it. Facilities are good, food is good, and campfires are there for warmth and atmosphere. It’s a fun and friendly atmosphere, very welcoming and constantly developing, which is great credit to the staff. The site itself is mixed woodland, but with a large clearing in the centre that has a very well built trench system (authentic enough for reenactment types) and lots of buildings to fight through. Although still early days, I would say that the site is nowhere near developed to its full potential yet, but the fact that you can make a proper weekend away of it is brilliant, where many sites fall down with sunday-only opening. Oh, and the photographer is pretty good too, which is always a bonus…
1. Raw War Aspatria
Ultimately, I’m a sniper, and my number one pick for this list is based purely on that. Raw War for me delivers exactly the experience I want as an airsoft sniper. A vast, gorgeous sprawling woodland site, with a mix of everything from pine to birch woods, open areas, paths, numerous small bases dotted all over and the experience of a full day game without returning to the safezone every half hour to reload. I know for some players now it has become a necessity to be able to come back and reload/eat/drink/chat but with all this load bearing we use, it’s great to actually be able to use it fully instead of a few fast mag pouches slapped to a tiny “high speed” plate carrier. Every airsofter loves collecting kit, and this is one of those places you get to really make use of it. It’s one of the reasons we adopted it for Sniperworks. Facilities too are limited on site – you really need to bring it all with you, which for me just adds to the atmosphere. This is Raw and it means it. Games unfortunately aren’t weekly though – look them up on Facebook for dates.
For those who know me well enough, you might wonder why I didn’t name my local, Dirty Dog airsoft. It’s an amazing site that always delivers, but for me as a sniper, it’s getting far too busy (200 players each week) and comes with a lot of sniper restrictions at the moment which is a bit too limiting.
And there are three sites that sadly are no longer with us that would’ve definitely made the list – The Sandpit, Airsoft Edinburgh and Rifleworks in particular. But, sites change and we have to keep searching out new ones. Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any.