WHEN Lady Sarah Bathurst opened the bathroom curtains of her stately home she was shocked to see more than a dozen sightseers gawping at her – from the basket of a hot air balloon, just yards away.

Decorum prevented the 52-year-old blasting the Virgin Balloon Flights pilot and passengers with a tirade of abuse for invading the privacy of her most inner sanctum.

But she vented her fury by immediately firing off a complaint to Virgin as well as posting details and a picture on Twitter.

Posting two pictures of the balloon which she believes was no more than forty feet high outside the bathroom window of her Cirencester Park mansion, she wrote: "NOT the sort of thing you wish to see when you draw the curtains in the morning. Gross invasion of privacy @VirginBalloons - not impressed.

"It was about 9am when it happened," she said. "I had been in my bedroom quietly catching up with emails and then I went into the bathroom.

"I opened the curtains and there was this bloody great big hot air balloon. It was so low that it looked to me as if it had to gain height just to be able to get over the house and carry on. It was totally unacceptable for the pilot to come so close and so low.

"He obviously wanted to be able to give his passengers a good close view of the house - and they certainly got one.

"There were at least a dozen passengers in the basket and they were so close I could see them clicking away on their cameras and mobile phone and the flashes going off.

"It filled me with alarm. I was in a most private place and although Cirencester Park has been open to the public for access to the grounds for over 300 years this was just not on.

"The grounds may be open but one has to be a little bit protective about one's own garden and house.

"I felt like remonstrating loudly with them but I didn't want them to be able to take pictures of that sight as well!

"I phoned Virgin Balloons straightaway and made a complaint. They promised me that the pilot would ring that day - which he did not.

"The next morning my Twitter followers were all very sympathetic and were asking what Virgin had to say about it. I said I had not heard anything. Whether it's co-incidence or not the pilot rang me within fifteen minutes and gave me an abject apology.

"He promised it will never happen again.

"I told him hot air balloons do fly over our estate and other big houses in Gloucestershire and that is fine as long as they keep a respectable distance.

"I suspect he rather took advantage of the direction he was heading and he let the balloon drop right down over the mansion and got as close as possible for the benefit of his passengers.

"But, of course, I have accepted his apology and I don't think they will pull a stunt like this again."

In response, a Virgin spokeswoman said: "We're sorry that our big red balloon caused concern for Countess Bathurst earlier this week.

"Having received a call from the Countess early on Monday morning, we arranged for our pilot to get in touch directly so he could explain in more detail how hot air balloons fly and why the balloon was over the estate.

"He was able to speak to the Countess early on Tuesday morning and explained that he had not deliberately 'steered' the balloon towards the estate.

"Hot air balloons travel where the wind takes them and cannot be steered in the traditional sense like other aircraft.

"Our Cirencester flight took off at about 8.45am that morning from Kemble airfield with 16 passengers on board, who all enjoyed a wonderful flight before coming in to land at about 9.45am.

"Our highly experienced pilot, who has flown in the area for more than 20 years, had initially looked to land near Cirencester rugby club, as the wind had taken the balloon over the grounds of the Bathurst Estate.

"However, a change in wind direction shortly afterwards meant he instead brought the balloon in for a textbook landing in a field to the east of Cirencester.

"Once again, we apologise that our balloon caused Countess Bathurst any distress that morning and while we can't control which way the wind takes us, our pilot and the Countess came to an understanding regarding future flights that may head in the direction of the estate."