This weekend I travelled to Ashton Court Estate in Bristol, UK for the 39th Bristol International Balloon Fiesta – Europe’s largest annual meeting of hot air balloons – and wow, what a weekend it was!
I arrived at the site around lunchtime with high expectations, having heard so many great stories from previous years, not to mention seen some truly amazing photographs.
Immediately, I could feel a buzz in the air; from families and friends to solo day-trippers, everybody was excited for the day’s celebrations, which included trade stands, fairground rides and entertainment as well as the infamous mass hot air balloon lift and nightglow.
After walking around the site to scope out where everything was, I made a beeline for the bar to get a refreshing glass of Pimm’s. At £5, it was a little pricey, but also no more than you’d expect to pay at other festivals.
Pimm’s in hand, I sat down on the grass close to the entertainment arena in the middle of the site, where I stayed for about an hour. I managed to see a member of the Air Force pull off some pretty impressive manoeuvres in the sky above me – not forgetting three brave souls skydive out of a plane.
I absolutely love theme parks and fairground rides regardless of how expensive they might be, and so I weaved my way through the crowd to the fairground next. There was such a huge variety of rides, activities and inflatables, and none of it was badly priced or overly busy.
As the mass hot air balloon lift approached, I headed back towards the entertainment arena after a dizzying number of rides, but not before stopping at a wood fired pizza stand I spotted earlier in the day to pick up one of the most delicious margherita pizzas I’ve ever had.
At 6pm, pilots started to arrive with their balloons. I was in complete awe of the size and scale of the balloons, and the noise of them being blown up is something that I’ll never forget.
Everybody ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ as the balloons started to lift, including me, and the sight of the balloons filling the skies was definitely a snap happy moment – and something else I’ll never forget.
Once the first bunch of pilots had left the arena, a second batch rolled in ready for the nightglow display. This was another stunning sight, with around 30 ballooning teams lighting up their balloon in time to music.
The nightglow display finished with a spectacular firework finale overhead that sent everybody home happy.
I’m so glad that I made the decision to go to the Bristol Balloon Fiesta this year. It was a magical day, and I 100% intend to repeat it next year and many years after that. If you’re ever in the UK for summer, you should 100% consider going to Bristol Balloon Fiesta as well. You won’t regret it, I promise!
Check out the videos below to see more from this year’s Fiesta:
Have you been to the Fiesta before? Share your story in the comments – I’d love to hear it!