More than six months after it took flight from West Cork, a humble Christmas balloon returned whence it came — bringing a Norwegian family in tow.

The Taule-Leikanger family touched down in Cork Airport yesterday, having found a balloon while hiking last month.

It had been released — with a list of prizes for the finder attached — by the Dunmanway Chamber of Commerce, before Christmas.

Little did they know, but by taking the balloon down out of a tree, the family had won a stay in West Cork in the process.

Now, their story having captured the imagination of media both here and in Scandinavia, the family from Bergen in Norway have made it to Ireland to claim their prizes, after Norwegian Airlines provided them with flights from London to Cork.

Catherine Crowley from Dunmanway was among the welcome party at Cork Airport, and she said the special guests were surprised at all the people, banners, and of course balloons that greeted them on their arrival.

“I don’t think they expected so many here to welcome them,” said Ms Crowley.

Christmas balloon’s flight brings Norwegian family to Cork

The Taule-Leikangers were whisked away to Dunmanway to a special food tasting in the marquee of the Southern Bar, but today’s itinerary has been kept relatively light to allow the tourists some time to rest.

They will be the guests of honour at the Belle of Ballabuidhe pageant in the Parkway Hotel in Dunmanway tomorrow night, after paying a visit to Ballinacarriga Castle.

Excursions are also planned to Dunmanway Activity Centre, Gougane Barra, and, weather permitting, a hike up Nowen Hill is on the cards.

“They found the balloon while hiking, so we thought it was appropriate,” said Ms Crowley.

Christmas balloon’s flight brings Norwegian family to Cork

The balloon was released from Dunmanway’s live crib on the Green on December 19, 2015, with a note attached listing a set of prizes sponsored by local businesses, and Ms Crowley’s phone number.

Prizes included a stay for two in Galvin’s on the Green B&B; a box of chocolates from Deirdre Kelly; a gift hamper from For Goodness Sake health shop; a voucher from Connolly’s shoe shop; lunch for two in Marnies Restaurant; and a wash, cut, and shave and a bottle of champagne from Ms Crowley’s barber shop, Boyz to Men.

Christmas balloon’s flight brings Norwegian family to Cork

After time had passed, and no one had claimed the balloon, the Dunmanway locals had almost forgotten about the prize — until the Taule Leikanger family called to reveal that they had found it in a tree while they were hiking in west Norway — some 2,500km away from where the balloon had been released in West Cork.


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