I’ve probably mentioned (a few times!) that I’m not a morning person. However, there are occasions when an early start is well worth it and this morning was definitely one of those times. Today is the final day of the 48th Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships, which are taking place in Birr this year. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to try and see the balloons in action, particularly as it’s so close to home.

This year’s Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships started last Sunday 23rd September, with the possibility of flights each morning and evening. However, as ballooning is totally weather dependent, a decision on whether the balloons can fly or not can’t be made until pretty much the last minute. Some years it may not be possible to fly at all and that’s just the way it is, as safety is paramount. Thankfully, this year the balloons have been able to launch a few times and though it was touch and go this morning due to fog, they were given the green light.

A hot air balloon floats above Birr Castle gates. Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships 2018.

Hot air balloons launching from the grounds of Birr Castle. Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships 2018.

Hot air balloon in flight with moon showing in the sky. Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships 2018.

Hot air balloon launching in front of Birr Castle. Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships 2018.

I was watching the Facebook page for updates, so was able to just throw on some clothes and hop into the car as soon as I knew it was a go (hence the need to take advantage if the event happens near where you live)! The fog was pretty thick and seemed to be getting worse the closer I got to Birr but I spotted a balloon in the distance on my way, so things were looking good.

By the time I pulled up outside Birr Castle, there were a few balloons floating off into the distance. Luckily I still managed to catch a number of other balloons preparing for launch and taking off. It really was a magical sight, particularly with the combination of the early morning light, the fog and the spectacular setting of Birr Castle Gardens.

Hot air balloons in the distance after launching from the grounds of Birr Castle. Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships 2018.

Hot air balloons launching from the grounds of Birr Castle. Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships 2018.

A balloon launches from Birr Castle in the early morning light and fog. Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships 2018.

People watch as a hot air balloon launches from the grounds of Birr Castle. Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships 2018.

Fingers crossed they’ll get to take off again this evening. If you’re anywhere near Birr, keep an eye out for balloons. I’d definitely recommend getting a ticket to get into Birr Castle to see them launch but if it doesn’t happen there is always next year to look forward to.

Longest Running National Ballooning Event

The Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships is the longest running event of it’s kind in the world. The first meet was held in Ballymahon, Co. Longford back in 1971 with a just small number of balloons. Now the event, which is by invitation only, attracts up to 40 balloons from around the globe.

Balloons launching from Birr Castle in the early morning light and fog. Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships 2018.

Early morning light disperses through the trees and fog as a hot air balloon passes. Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships 2018.

Two hot air balloons launching from the grounds of Birr Castle. Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships 2018.

The event is run as a private event for hobby balloonists. Therefore those attending are flying for pleasure and do not offer flights to the public. However, spectators are always welcome and encouraged to come and watch the balloons as they launch.

The Irish Ballooning Association does not charge a fee. However, as the launch this year is from the grounds of Birr Castle there is an entrance fee is you wish to watch them launch there (details here). Otherwise, you can always watch from outside the Castle once they have launched.