THE first balloons of Longleat's Sky Safari took to the skies above Longleat this morning.

The pre-event launch was brought forward to today after a bad weather forecast for tomorrow, so the pilots could test their launch procedures and plan how they would showcase the estate to the public from the air.

Six balloons, Simbaloo the lion, Wes the wolf, Adelaide the koala, Duma the cheetah, an owl and a panther, were inflated in front of Longleat House before taking off for a short flight. Our reporter John Baker was among those taking a first looik at Longleat from the air - read his full report later online and in the Wiltshire Times this week.

200 balloons are taking part in the three day festival, which opens to the public on Friday and runs until Sunday. There will be mass balloon launches, the chance to enjoy tethered balloon flights and a nightglow, with the balloons lighting their burners to a dramatic musical soundtrack.

Full details of the Sky Safari at