Every year, for four days in August, Ashton Court Estate in Bristol hosts the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, the biggest ballooning event in Europe.
With 850 acres of parkland, including deer parks, trails for walking and cycling and, a mountain bike trail, Ashton Court Estate offers the perfect backdrop for the Fiesta; on the way to the arena where the main events are staged, visitors have the chance to see Ashton Court Mansion, nowadays used as a weddings and conferences venue.
The party atmosphere is completed by a number of fairground rides, food stalls and trade stands attracting a large number of visitors to the Fiesta. Running from Thursday to Sunday, the event includes Mass Hot Air Balloon launches at 6 p.m. on Thursday and at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; there are evening launches on Thursday and Saturday at 9.15 p.m. when, around 30 balloons, are lit up before taking to the sky followed by a fireworks display. To reach Ashton Court Estate from Bristol city center it is about 20 minutes walk and, for visitors using public transport, there are shuttle buses running at 10 minutes intervals between Bristol Temple Meads railway station and Ashton Court Estate; they also stop in the town center, to pick up visitors who want to combine a visit to the Fiesta, with a look around Bristol and all it has to offer. An area of the estate is transformed into a campsite for people who want to stay the night to see the early morning launches.
To entertain the crowds during the day, there are a number of attractions like wing-walkers, parachute displays, model aircraft displays and fly-pasts including an acrobatic display of the famous RAF Red Arrows.
There are also helicopters available, offering the chance to visitors to experience a short helicopter flight over Bristol. But what people come to see are the balloons: driven into the arena on the back of trucks, they are slowly inflated before a wind assessment is taken to make sure that it is safe to fly.
And then they go, flying over Bristol and its famous Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Together with the traditional balloons, there are special shaped balloons with some favorites returning year after year and, new being added all the time, to the delight of young and the young at heart.
The Fiesta and its colorful balloons is very popular with photographers, with plenty of opportunities to take pictures of the process involved in getting the balloons off the ground, and the attractions that makes the Fiesta one of the biggest event of the summer calendar in the UK.