Up, Up and Away with Virgin Balloon Flights

For years going up in a Hot Air Balloon was top of my bucket list and I dropped so many hints to Hubby about it that he completely ignored that I thought it was something I would have to book myself.

Finally for my 40th birthday he bought us the opportunity to go up in a Hot Air Balloon with Virgin Balloon Flights and I couldn’t wait to book a date.

I wouldn’t normally start a post with a negative but I have to admit that I found the whole booking process frustrating, although it is no fault of Virgin Balloon Flights who did their very best to help us and make things as pain free as possible. I found the places they flew from quite restricting and all the dates we were available they either fully booked or Hubby was working. The staff advised us when flights were released for each location, in our case every Wednesday at 5pm, and to login as close to that time as possible as they were snapped up almost immediately.

Using this system I finally had our flight booked and we were really excited. We were instructed to call the flight line to check if the flight was going ahead a few hours before hand, as they need to be sure the weather conditions are favourable. Sadly I seemed to book our flights when the weather was atrocious and our flight was cancelled not once, but seven times.

I always dreaded phoning the flight line as I was literally stalking weather forecasts each time we booked and knew the answer before we heard it but finally, 99 weeks and 1 day from when I received my gift our flight, we were good to go!

We set off from home on Saturday to get to Henstridge Airfield at 6.30pm, although arrived super early with no sign of a crew or a balloon but were reassured that we were in the right place as other passengers started to arrive. I have to admit that I had assumed the balloon would be ready to go, in  we climbed and off we went, but we had to muck in and help unpack it and get it in the air.

Virgin Balloon Flights

Richard, our pilot, and a colleague arrived and immediately put us to work getting the fans and basket off a flatbed lorry, before laying out the fabric that would be our balloon on the field. I loved that we got to be involved in the whole process and it was fascinating seeing how everything was done.

Virgin Balloon Flights

The first thing we had was a safety briefing, followed by spreading the balloon out on the floor whilst Richard attached all the ropes and wires to the basket.

Virgin Balloon Flights

Once it was all attached and spread out it was time to inflate it with two giant fans. Hubby bravely volunteered to help hold the balloon open to get the air inside, with another volunteer the other side and a couple holding a rope at the top of the balloon.

Virgin Balloon Flights

I did look nervously on as Richard lit the burners to warm the air inside the balloon as Hubby was really close to the fire and he did admit he got a little warm doing it, but soon the balloon itself was in the air and we were ready to board.

Virgin Balloon Flights

Clambering inside a huge basket is not the most graceful of things to do but we all helped each other inside. At this point the basket was still attached to the flatbed truck and you could feel it trying to pull away. Richard took us through another quick safety briefing and we all practiced our landing positions before being released.

Virgin Balloon Flights

Drifting gently into the air was probably the most magical experience I have ever had. It was incredibly peaceful and we were soon high above the fields below. It didn’t feel like we were flying and there was no fear of heights at all.

Virgin Balloon Flights

We could hear animals below such as dogs barking and the occasional roar of the burners but other than that it was silent and relaxing. The views were quite spectacular and we could see as far as Southampton to the East and Glastonbury Tor to the West.

Balloon Flight

We rose to around 2000ft at our highest point and drifted along with the wind for around 75 minutes before it was time to find a landing spot.

Virgin Balloon Flights

Richard made sure he didn’t land in a field of crops or with animals in and soon identified a large green field to land in. We came down as gently as we took off and assumed the landing position which involved sitting on a padded seat and leaning into the basket wall. We touched down and bumped off the ground gently two or three more times before coming to rest – a perfect landing apparently. Richard then let the air out of the top of the balloon to help it fall down to earth.

Virgin Balloon Flights

Once we had got our of the basket it was time for a quick photo before helping pack it all away again and we started off by trampling over the balloon to get the remaining air out.

Virgin Balloon Flights

Deflating and repacking a Hot Air Balloon is an art in itself but I was really surprised by how little time it took. With most of the air out we gently folded it in to a compact strip ready for it to be put back into its bag.

Virgin Balloon Flights

It took everyone’s help to get the balloon into the bag, with the ladies pushing it in and the gentlemen lifting it in bit by bit. We had to stop at one point and all sit on the bag to get rid of the air that was still inside. By this time Richard’s colleague had arrived with his lorry to help.

Virgin Balloon Flights

Once everything had been winched onto the lorry we were treated to a glass of Champagne to celebrate our flight, which was much-needed after all that work.

Virgin Balloon Flights

The final journey of the trip was a minibus ride back to Henstridge Airfield to collect our car and head home. It really was the most magical trip and I would do it again in a heartbeat, despite the trouble with booking the flight itself. I only wish we were flying for longer.

Have you ever been up in a Hot Air Balloon?








31 thoughts on “Up, Up and Away with Virgin Balloon Flights

  1. 7 times cancelled, love you have the patience and because it’s on your bucketlist I guess it had to be done. Looks like a great experience, I just need to get over my fear of heights (i fly just fine though lol) and I would book.

    1. I sometimes feel wobbly at the top of a high building but this was fine – so gentle it didn’t bother me

  2. 99 weeks, woah, I am not sure I would have waited that long. I have never been up in a hot air balloon. I am hoping when we eventually to the grand canyon that we can do a family one!

  3. Oh Kara that sounds simply brilliant! I’ve never been in a hot air balloon but guessed from your Sunday photo that you must have. I’m delighted to read the full experience and what a clever birthday present idea. I do find booking anything on line a tad frustrating, sounds like booking hot air balloon rides is no exception but definitely worth it.

  4. That’s a shame you had a bit of nightmare with booking but it looked amazing when you finally got there!! I too keep dropping hints to Hubby I’d love to go in a hot air balloon! Xx

  5. Woah, that’s some time to wait for your gift! I’m sure I remember you saying about that gift a few years back – did you?? Despite the wait, it looks and sounds to me that it was well worth it! x

  6. Well done, I would have loved to have done this years ago, but now, you’d find me sitting in the basket hiding. The views looks incredible.

  7. Going in a hot air balloon was always on my bucket list too and we booked one in Melbourne when we were on holiday – we also had it cancelled twice due to the weather and ran out of time to do it! So you have been VERY patient to get on this balloon! I have to confess, after reading this post I’m now not feeling as keen to go on one. I would have thought it was all ready to go upon arrival too! I wouldn’t want to get up so early then unpack it and re-pack it. Doesn’t make for a relaxing adventure!

  8. I’ve never been in a hot air balloon but would love to. It’s definitely the unpredictability that puts me off. It would probably never happen in the limited time I ever have to try and organise things.

  9. Sounds like you had a fab time. Shame it was such a palava booking it. You’re much braver than me. I’m not very good with heights. Hubby would love to do this though. X

  10. Looks amazing! I’d love to do that. When my Gran was in her late 80s, she suddenly announced she’d always wanted to do a glider flight, a hot air balloon flight and a parachute jump! We bought her the glider and balloon flights as birthday presents so at the grand old age of 87 she hopped into the basket and went for a ride, we all went along to watch and it was fascinating watching the balloon get unrolled and packed away by the participants. She never did the parachute jump, nobody would insure her, but I think she was content she did the balloon flight – she loved it!

  11. Oh how wonderful Kara and what superb views. You must have thought it was never going to happen after all those weeks. I’ve always fancied a balloon flight although I’m a little nervous at the prospect! I need to get a grip before the summer, there’s a cable car to the mountains with my name on it 🙂

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