The Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships is usually referred to as 'The Irish Meet'. It is the longest running National ballooning event in the world. The first event was held in 1971 at Newcastle House in Ballymahon, Co Longford and was attended by a handful of balloons. The event now attracts up 40 balloons and has been held in Boyle, Co. Roscommon; Kilkenny; Waterford; Athlone; Trim, Co. Meath; Kells, Co. Meath; Killenkere, Co. Cavan and Drumshambo, Co. Leitrim.
Balloonists from UK, USA, France, Holland, Belgium, Chile, Germany and Ireland are regular attendees to the event (which is by invitation only). The event, the biggest of its kind in Ireland, is a huge spectacle with these huge ancient aircraft flying totally dependent on the wind for direction.
Following a hugely successful “meet” last year the international balloonists this year (2018) are headed back to fly over the Birr, Co. Offaly countryside - kindly sponsored and supported by Ballygowan and Birr Castle Gardens. The main launch HQ for the event will be the Birr Castle Gardens with flights taking place over the beautiful town of Birr throughout the week - weather permitting. The event takes place from 23rd to 28th of September inclusive.
We aim for the balloons flights to take place twice each day, weather permitting, at approximately 7:30am and 6:00pm. The status and location of these flights will be updated on the official Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships Facebook page throughout the event (although our main launch site will be the Birr Castle Gardens, this may have to change depending on the weather and/or ground conditions).
The public are actively encouraged to come out and see the balloons as they launch. The balloons will make a spectacular display in the skies over Birr so bring your camera. (The attraction of so many balloons flying can be mesmerizing, so we issue a note of caution to be mindful of traffic and road users while enjoying the spectacle!). Please note, for castle entry fees and parking information head to www.birrcastle.com – the Irish Ballooning Association operates the Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships as a private event therefore a fee may be payable to Birr Castle for castle entry on the day/ launch.
It is not possible to provide flights to the public during the week however it is a fun, social event for everyone’s enjoyment so get your cameras ready and record your favourite shots for the album.
For more information on how and why ballooning is so weather dependant, please see our “About Ballooning” page. Each pilot attending the Championships wants to be in the air as much as you want to see us in the air however, safety must come first and, if the weather isn’t suitable, unfortunately we have to stay on the ground.
It may be necessary to postpone a flight at any time if the weather conditions are not suitable, it may also be necessary to cancel a flight at any time up to the moment of launch – even if we are all in the field looking like we are ready to go – the weather can be unpredictable and each Pilot must make a final call on whether he/ she thinks it is safe to fly immediately prior to the launch (no matter the decision that is made during the earlier Pilots briefing). We appreciate each and every one of you that come out to support us and apologise if you make a trip and we do not end up flying but, the safety of all our Pilots and Crew has to be a priority.
During the week, a number of light-hearted competitions will take place to challenge the skill of the participating pilots. Here is a sample of those that could take place:
Hare and Hounds
This involves a single balloon flying away first (the 'hare') and the remaining balloons follow the hare balloon, who will be doing their best to find winds to make the task more difficult for the chasing pack. The winner will be the balloon that either lands nearest or drops their 'marker' nearest the landed hare balloon.
This will involve the nomination and placement of a target area. The balloon teams will then be sent off to find their own launch site locations a pre-specified distance (Usually 5 miles!) away from the target area. The pilots will then use their skill to fly towards the target area using the minimal steerage offered by winds at different heights.
Long Distance Competition
Throughout the week, a competition will be run where a prize is awarded to the balloon team that manages to fly the furthest throughout the week's event.