The first flight in Scotland was made by the Italian balloonist Vincenzo Lunardi, on 5 October 1785. Early balloonists had no control over their vehicles, and on this occasion the wind took him from Edinburgh, over the Firth of Forth, to a remote country road near Coaltown of Callange in Fife (a place now consisting of a couple of farm cottages and a shed). (On a subsequent flight, he came down in the sea near the Isle of May, from which he had to be rescued by a fishing boat.)
On Sunday, an unusually bright sunny day, we walked out to see the spot where he landed, leaving home after breakfast, walking along Lade Braes and Lumbo Den, past Drumcarrow Craigs (where a cycling event was going on) and Kinninmonth farm, and arriving there at noon.
An unremarkable corner; but there is a plaque recording the event on a stone to the right of the field gap.
Lunardi had his fifteen minutes of fame as a result. Contemporary accounts (notably his own, in his book An Account of Five Aerial Voyages in Scotland), record that, after resting in Cupar, he was invited to St Andrews by the “Gentleman Golfers”, where he played on the Old Course and was celebrated at a ball in his honour.
But ballooning in those days was a dangerous enterprise, and Lunardi’s subsequent career was not so successful; it is reported that he died in poverty in Lisbon in 1806.
The plaque was unveiled 200 years after the achievement it commemorates, by the Italian Consul-General in Scotland (one of the more unusual parts of a diplomat’s job, presumably!)
After seeing the spot, we took the slightly muddy footpath to Ceres, had lunch in the cafe at the Fife Folk Museum, and walked over the Hill of Tarvit to Cupar, and so home by bus.