It might not be the flight you longed for during the lockdown, but a hot air balloon ride in the dark is a great way to lift your spirits.
Summer and fall are the perfect times of the year to take off, and there is a fantastic variety to choose from with more than 100 launch sites across the UK.
While James Bond used a hot air balloon decorated with the Union Jack to pounce on an evil mastermind in Octopussy, adrenaline lovers can use it to spy on London landmarks like Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and even the MI5 HQ.
Up to the occasion: Balloons fly over Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge during the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, which has been held almost annually in the city since 1979
This makes the capital one of the most fascinating travel destinations to experience from above – as long as you don’t get too close to The Shard … However, due to strict weather and wind speed criteria, it can be frustratingly frequent that flights over London are canceled while air traffic restrictions mean that they are only allowed on weekday mornings shortly after sunrise (adventureballoons.co.uk).
When a marriage proposal is in the air, then there’s nothing more romantic than floating with your heads in the clouds over the perfect spot (literally, if you go high enough). You can plan every detail, e.g. For example, request your own song (Fly Me To The Moon?), A bottle of sparkling wine to take away if all goes well, and to celebrate your engagement when you’re back on earth, a sparkling wine breakfast or romantic dinner.
Champagne balloon flights are now a popular way to toast an anniversary or important birthday, but in the old days French aristocrats carried fizzy drinks as a peace offering to appease disgruntled farmers whose crops they often crashed.
The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, which attracts more than 130 hot air balloons from around the world, will return to Ashton Court August 12-15
The annual Yorkshire Balloon Fiesta, held August 27-30 at York Racecourse, will feature balloons of all shapes and sizes
You can fly over the Lake District with Virgin Balloon Flights
But no matter whether you want a flight for two or would rather cope with the occasion with a party for up to 16 (Covid and age restrictions apply), there are matching baskets from a venue near you (ballooning.co.uk).
York is already one of the most magical travel destinations thanks to its city walls, historic minster, former chocolate factories and boats on the River Ouse (yorkshireballoonflights.co.uk), but the annual Yorkshire Balloon Fiesta takes it to a whole new level.
Taking place August 27-30 at York Racecourse, it will feature balloons of all shapes and sizes, including cartoon characters, along with a fun fair, live music and family entertainment.
This year promises to be the biggest and brightest yet, with the Balloon Night Glow, followed by a new fireworks display, drones and laser show (yorkshireballoonfiesta.co.uk). Bristol has put hot air ballooning on the map more than anywhere else in the UK.
In 1967, Bristol Belle, the first modern hot air balloon, took off from the city on its maiden flight, and since 1979 the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, Europe’s largest balloon festival, has been held here almost every year.
This year, the free event, which attracts more than 130 hot air balloons from around the world, returns to Ashton Court August 12-15. The spectacular mass ascents at dawn and dusk make for a particularly unforgettable experience (bristolballoonfiesta.co.uk).
Notable landmarks in the area include Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge, which spans the Avon Gorge, the Bristol Channel, Avebury Menhirs and Wales to the north and the Mendips to the south. Specialists in the area worth trying out include Bailey Balloons, Bristol Balloons, and Elite Air.
But here’s maybe the perfect Father’s Day treat. Take a balloon ride over Kent from a launch site in Hop Farm Country Park near Tunbridge Wells – home to the world’s largest collection of distinctive Victorian oasthouses used in the beer industry in the 19th and 20th centuries. Enjoy aerial views of the hilly fields around the Hop Farm as well as the vineyards of the nearby wineries and the apple orchards at cider makers.
From such a refreshing standpoint, it’s easy to see why glorious Kent is nicknamed the Garden of England. You can even fly in a Spitfire Kentish ale balloon and perhaps toast your trip with a pint instead of a traditional sparkling wine (kentballooning.com).