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Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Up, up and away - In the air with Virgin - a balloon flight over Perth

(My stupidity has given me a camera problem. While climbing over a drystone dyke on Saturday's walk I neglected to protect my camera lens, and now I have a couple of scratches on it. It'll still take decent pictures, but in sunlight it'll show flare on the pictures. There's one or two on this post. Looking at the advice on line, it seems getting a new lens fitted will be just as expensive as a new camera. I'm undecided as yet. )

I was talking to my friend the 'Sloane Ranger' on Saturday's walk.
I learned that her friend from Skye had given up after ten cancellations of a balloon flight due to weather conditions. She now had a spare ticket and was I interested.
I'd been up in a balloon a few years ago, it's a very enjoyable experience.
OK, so it might get cancelled a couple of times, but it'll eventually get off the ground.
It happened sooner than later!
I get a phone call on Sunday asking if I was alright for Monday morning. Wow !
No sleep Sunday night, I was on the road at 01.30 am to join the Ranger at 3.00 am who'd drive us up to Perth for a 5.30 am start.
We arrived at 5 am and were getting worried at seeing no one around by twenty past.
Seeing a four tracker with a trailer on we breathed a sigh of relief.
Virgin Perth had arrived.
All was not OK just yet though, there had been a couple of late cancellations and our pilot(s) were unsure whether we'd get enough aboard for ballast.
Among the other passengers were a lady from Crieff who'd had 17 cancellation. She had her fingers crossed. Others were more lucky and were here first time of asking.
We got word that the flight would go ahead. They've enough people for the weight. 'Yippee' said the Ranger, she was ecstatic. A few of today's pictures are hers.

So here we are in Perth on the North Inch alongside the River Tay 

The first thing to do is to prepare the basket and balloon.
It's a hands on experience.

It looks like everyone's pushing, but the guy in the middle seems to be hanging on.

The balloon is first stretched out then air is blown in.

I get the job of holding one end.

The opening get's wide enough for the crew to walk inside. (I'll be able to let go soon)

It's a big balloon.

I guess things could get tangled.

No need to hold it anymore now,

It's a blooming big balloon.

Now comes the hot air.............

.............................and the basket is up-righted

Well, we're in but where's the pilot ?

It's platonic, we're just happy to be going up.

We have two pilots on board today. There's a technical reason why Celia Morley is piloting today, but I can't remember why, maybe something to do with getting flight hours in. The regular pilot out of Perth is Martin Cowling who I find is originally from the Scunthorpe area.
Information about all the pilots can be found on this page by clicking their thumbnail.
That'll be the A85 going over the Tay

There's not much wind, but it looks like we'll be going south-west

Trust a woman to look out for the shops !

As a youth I visited Perth on the occasional Saturday night for the 'Drink and the Dancin'.
I'm afraid I don't know the city nowadays.

This looks a very nice area.

Not too far away to the north is Scone Palace

How about the old joke.....The dead centre of town. 

My childhood county of Fife has a bank of fog obscuring it, however a full zoom of my camera gets this picture of the Tay bridges to Dundee.

We are leaving the city, but Celia is turning the balloon so we get 360 degree views.

This sits between Craigiebank Golf Course and Cherrybank Gardens and on the OS map comes up as 'offices' ?

Cherrybank Gardens and the Cherrybank Centre home of Braveheart Investment I believe.

Bottom left is the schools area. Just out of shot is Perth Academy.

They're on Facebook
I talked to Martin quite a bit about Scunthorpe, seems his family once had the Ferryboat Inn at West Butterwick. He's been away from the area quite a while now but remembers lots. 

I also took some video during the flight.
This is a great picture, what a lovely patchwork. It's not one of mine though., the honours go to the Ranger for this one.

The Tay is ever dominant in views to the east and north

Fife is at the back of those clouds.

That's us.

The A9 and the M90 are never far away.

I wondered why I was seeing Cameron in this picture. I found out when we'd landed it was ballast bags over the basket sides made by Cameron of Bristol

Colourful views

Are these Shires or Clydsdales

Traffic on the A9

Dupplin Loch, we'll eventually land in that green field

I'm not sure where this is ?

Windfarm over Rowantree Craig

It's still early morning and there's no sign of the tractor driver !

That's us again

There was something about this view that made me take the picture. I'm not sure what it is, but I like it.

This is Dupplin, now an upmarket hotel.
There once stood a castle on this site, the present 'castle' was built in 1969.
It's the family seat of the Earl of Kinnoull

The cattle in the top field and the sheep in the lower field were on the move as we passed over.

This is Dupplin Loch again. There's a number of swans on the loch.

Martin had mentioned a lone tree in an area to the east with an Osprey's nest.
Well, eagle eyed Sloane Ranger spotted a nest below us.
Can I get a closer view ?

That looks like an Osprey on this nest doesn't it.

We had to sit down in the basket for the landing. After a bit of bumping and maneuvering, Celia got us on to a farm track.    
Now came the stripping down.

It'll be hands on again.

Celia and the Ranger.

Rolling up the balloon........

...............and into it's little bag ! Amazing something so big can fit in there. 

It's time for champagne and bucks fizz

I'm on the straight bubbles, I'm not driving for a while.

The transport arrives for the kit and a minibus arrives for the trippers.

It's the presentation of certificates time.

Here's mine. They've all been signed by Richard Branson.
That was brilliant.

We breakfasted at Morrisons before heading back to Ayrshire.
I slept that night.


  1. The setting up was fascinating to see in pictures Jim! The ride itself was awesome, the views magnificent. Do tell though, does the basket rock if people move about? (just curious) Perhaps I should put hot air ballooning on my list of things to do. Oh and really a bummer about your lens :(

  2. PS: I've really been going for those mandarins, is that why my stricken finger is up like a balloon?!

  3. Looks like an awesome time! I have never been in a hot air balloon! Such gorgeous views! Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. Some great pictures Jim. Daring stuff as I've heard a lot of funny landing stories concerning balloons. I think The Cherrybank Buildings are the offices of Arthur Bell and Sons owned by United Distillers. I've passed by it several times in cars.
    Shame about your camera. Same thing happened to me a while back.

  5. Aye you are certainly full of wind!! See you on Saturday.

  6. Jim, that would appear to be an awesome & exciting experience, now your living the good life! Sorry to hear you bashed your camera, don't feel to bad, I totally wrecked one of my expensive digital cameras a few years ago! : )

  7. whoa, what a journey
    looks like you all had to work for your ride
    that is a lot of cancellations for some people.

    so fun seeing your photos!

  8. The basket is split into compartments Rose. The pilot is in a separate compartment in the middle, the rest of the basket is split into four other compartments which theoretically will carry four persons each (a bit tight for large people)so moving about isn't an option. I think the rules on ballooning have been tightened after a few disasters hitting the headlines. I'm still getting by with my camera though I'm on the lookout for an upgrade.

    With regards to citrus fruits and arthritis opinion is split. This website Healthyway Magazine tells you to avoid them. While this website Everyday Health encourages you to eat more. My own experiences were that oranges made my arthritis flare up.

  9. Hi Linda, thanks for visiting. I know you suffer arthritis too so I don't know what you think of the above comment. I guess each individual metabolism reacts differently.

    Hello Bob, Arthur Bell offices eh. Maybe I should have dropped them a note from the balloon asking for some free samples. Whisky is very good for arthritis sufferers !

    Wish I could get myself as trim as you Gordon. More John Smith and less Arthur Bell do you think?

    Hi Michael, glad to see that AB's getting good weather after a prolonged winter. The camera will get me by till I see something I can't resist.

    You pay to work on a balloon flight Tammie. Love your seasonal pictures of Montana

  10. wow!!! my kids would LOVE you!!!! you have one adventure after another. we're going zip lining today...that about does it for my thrill seeking!

  11. Jings, that looks a cracking day out and back in time for breakfast. I see they do them from Gretna too - I'll have to keep my eyes on the sky now to see if it's floating past on my travels. Quite fancy a go at this myself.

  12. Wow, looks like fun. The balloon really is huge. I've only seen them flying in the sky and you don't really understand the size of the balloon then.


Thanks for all your comments. I may not get to reply to them all, but you may be sure they'll be appreciated.

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