Nestled in the rolling Somerset countryside, every year the picturesque Ashton Court plays host to The Bristol International Balloon Festival – Europe’s largest hot air balloon event. And this year, a few Wowcher elves were lucky enough to be among the visitors!
This year’s festival, the 37th annual event, proved to be a record-breaking spectacular, with around 500,000 turning out across four days to see seven mass ascents up into the sun-kissed skyline. We’re told that thanks to the glorious weather, it was in fact the first time in the festival’s history that all seven scheduled flights were able to go ahead. Just goes to show you can always count on the great British summertime – perfect weather conditions at just the 37th time of asking…
But these brave Wowcher elves weren’t just spectators – oh no, this year we got the chance to slip the surly bonds of earth and take to the skies for real! After all, what better way to drink in the breathtaking British countryside than in a hot air balloon?
At first, the thought of being suspended hundreds of feet above the earth in a basket, was, well, a wee bit unnerving. But speaking to our pilot, Virgin Balloon Flights’ very-own Mark Simmons, our, shall we say, anxieties were quickly allayed. A veteran of the skies, having flown all over the world (once with Richard Branson himself), Mark said the event was one of his favourite places to fly. And if he can be trusted to ferry around one of the world’s most beloved billionaires, we knew we must be in pretty good hands.
With typical Virgin panache, our balloon was of course among the most spectacular sights at the fiesta. Ascending alongside other balloons of all shapes and sizes, the iconic red balloon you’ve likely seen a hundred times gliding across the skyline must have looked pretty cool from down below. Other balloons at the fiesta included none other than a giant Minion (those things are everywhere nowadays) and even the event’s famous Power Ranger balloons. As much as children at the event may have been thrilled to see the Despicable Me franchise’s favourite sidekick ascend, it’s nothing compared to our thrill at seeing some genuine Mighty Morphin’ heroes take to the skies. Naturally, the theme song was stuck in our head for the rest of the day. Not quite the soundtrack to stunning aerial views of the countryside we had in mind at the beginning of the day, but never mind, eh?
Speaking of children, the fiesta also featured a very special guest – Peppa Pig! Joining the team at the Virgin Balloons exhibitors stand, everybody’s favourite cheeky piggy was on hand for photo opportunities and was even handing out hot air balloon goodie bags to her fans. Speaking to Peppa herself, we enquired if she’d be getting up in an air balloon on the day. She replied “When pigs fly!” much to our confusion. Only kidding, although she did say, “it’s snout my style”. Kidding again. Peppa in fact used to have a fear of flying, she’s cured now though…
Nothing less than an unforgettable day of high-flying fun and spectacular views, a flight with Virgin Balloons is really something you have to experience first-hand to believe. If you haven’t booked with Wowcher yet, now’s a good time – you don’t want this experience to fly straight over your head!