Today we realised a long-held ambition to make a hot air balloon flight. Almost a year ago we booked a flight with Alba Ballooning but circumstances conspired to stop us actually getting airborne. Until now! We drove to the meeting point just outside Edinburgh, and from there we were transported via LandRover to the launch site in Peebles. There were eight of us passengers, and we all helped to get the basket off the back of the trailer and unpack the balloon.
With the balloon now attached to the basket and laid out flat on the ground, the inflation process began, with air blown into the balloon’s opening with a large fan.
With the balloon filling with air most of the passengers got into the basket and Pete (the pilot) turned the burners on to heat the air. As the balloon became upright, the last two passengers (including myself) climbed into the basket, and moments later we left the ground and started to rise. The word which describes the situation best is “calm”. Unlike with a plane where you are connected to the ground and travelling at speed (with all the associated forces and friction) until the moment of take-off, leaving the ground in a balloon feels effortless, drifting upwards slowly and calmly.
It really was a very relaxed experience, climbing high above the trees of the park which served as our launch site, and crossing over roads and houses below.
The park was next to the River Tweed, and as we crossed the river a swan started to take off.
The balloon’s basket offers a unique viewpoint from which to look at Peebles, and with the sun low in the sky the colours were warm and the shadows long.
I found it quite difficult to judge how high we were when looking at hills and fields, but sheep made it much easier to appreciate the height we had reached.
By this point we had been in the air for almost an hour, travelling gradually north-west. After crossing several forests, we started our descent and as an area of empty fields opened up behind the old house of Lamancha we made our way towards them.
The closer we got to the ground, the faster it seemed we were travelling, but in reality it was probably because we’d had such a relaxed journey so far that the contrast seemed even greater now. The landing was uneventful, with just two gentle bumps before coming to a rest. With the burners off, Pete jumped out and started the process of deflating and detaching the balloon. The rest of us joined in, and it wasn’t long before the balloon was all folded and back in its bag.
While Pete headed off to find the LandRover – our driver had seen us come down, but didn’t know exactly where we’d landed – we waited in the field as the sun began to set, contemplating the fantastic journey we had just made. After a while, with the light fading fast, the lights of the LandRover appeared on the horizon preceded by Pete’s silhouette as he showed the way.
After loading the basket and balloon back onto the trailer we made our way out of the farm, and set off for Edinburgh. For more information on hot air balloon flights in Scotland, contact Alba Ballooning.