If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise…Well, if you head down to Faskally Woods this Autumn, that’s definitely going to be the case! Every year, Scotland’s Perthshire town of Pitlochry becomes home to one of the country’s most exciting outdoor events – The Enchanted Forest.
The Enchanted Forest is a stunning light and sound show which takes place from October to early November. Using Faskally Woods and Dunmore Loch as a natural canvas, clever illuminations, visual effects and original music are played out as visitors walk the 1.5km circuit. Cleverly-placed food and drink stops are peppered throughout.
It’s a massively popular event. Tickets go on sale a year in advance, and many weekend slots book up months in advance. I’d been itching to go for years. In 2018, I was invited to attend one of the 9pm shows on a Friday night. Cheeky road trip into the depths of the Scottish wilderness? Don’t mind if I do…
As we made the two hour drive from Edinburgh to Pitlochry, it was hard not to let the excitement take hold. Gone were the bustling city roads, and in their place lay miles of Perthshire forest. The trees danced with colour as Autumn swept through their leaves.
As soon as we’d parked up in town, I knew that I wanted to catch the last of the day’s light while we could. We took a walk down to the banks of the River Tummel, and were lucky enough to find a secluded beach with gorgeous views out across the water.
With a few hours to spare before our time slot, we had some time free to explore the town. Luckily, Pitlochry has a lot to offer. With its nearby mountain ranges, rivers and castles, the town is popular year-round with outdoors enthusiasts and holiday-makers.
After wandering down the river and exploring the impressive dam and salmon ladder, it was over to Port Na Craig. This little hamlet is home to a rather fun suspension bridge, the Pitlochry Festival Theatre and the gorgeous Port Na Craig Inn. There, we had to a fine feast, complete with homemade bread and riverside views.
After dinner, it was time to head towards the Fisher’s Hotel, which is the pick-up point for the Enchanted Forest busses. It’s worth noting that although the forest is very close to town, there is no parking, and so it can only be reached by official shuttles. We were pretty cold after our walk across the river and didn’t fancy spending half an hour queuing just to bag an early spot on the bus. Thankfully the Fisher’s Hotel had a cosy wee whisky bar. Perfect for warming the cockles!
With some much-needed Hendricks coursing through my veins, there was no putting off the inevitable. It was time to brave the sub-zero temperatures and join the queue. Although there must have been hundreds of folk waiting to be picked up, I was pleasantly surprised at how slick the process was. There were at least half-a-dozen buses running on a continual circuit of picking people up and dropping people off at the forest. We can’t have waited for more than fifteen minutes before our tickets were checked and we were able to board. The atmosphere, as we turned off the main road and into the depths of the deep dark woods was infectious. As the multi-coloured trees began to loom into view, it seemed that everyone on board had reverted to a state of childhood glee!
The Enchanted Forest
Stepping into the Enchanted Forest was a bit like stepping into a dream. The combination of wonderful woodland smells, moonlit skies and softly piped music seemed to change around every bend. These married together with the lighting displays to create a tranquil, dazzling sensation. It counteracted the cold, for sure!
Every year, The Enchanted Forest follows a theme. This year, the theme was Of the Wild. As we wound our way around the path, we came upon lots of informative signs, telling us about the local wildlife and fauna. We also met lots of mysterious woodland critters like this guy:
I loved the way one exhibition flowed into the next. From fire lamps which spread like lava to snake-like rows of bulbs which shimmied along the surface of the loch. Everything about the display felt incredibly fluid.
The sound traveled with you, dulcet tones which whispered out from hidden speakers. The route is carefully crafted, guiding you from one sight to the next, leading you over glittering bridges and towards curious clearings.
Needless to say, the mulled wine stall was well appreciated!
My favourite stop, however, was at the very foot of the loch. From a viewing platform, you could watch as animal animations were projected across the water. From leaping salmon to buzzing bees and scurrying squirrels, it was amazing to watch. Just look at the owl!
All good things…
Our tour around the forest culminated with a trip to the Illumaphonium, a multi-sensory music making installation (think giant twinkly xylophone!). Then came the closing display, In the Woods, a dramatic show celebrating all the mysterious celtic creatures who dwell within the forest walls. Kudos to Kate Bonney, Simon Hayes, RJ McConnell and Jon Beales who were the creative genius behind this closing piece. It definitely left us with all the feels!
Nippy it may have been, but I absolutely loved our journey through the enchanted forest. It’s the type of experience which would be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. There was certainly something magical about heading into the woods on a frosty October evening as the snow began to twinkle in the sky and as the moonlight bounced off the still water of the loch. It was a night I won’t be forgetting in a while, and an experience I’d recommend to all.
If you’re heading to the event, here’s a few things you might want to know:
Tickets are very likely to sell out so make sure you book in advance. Head to their website here, or call the team on 0871 288 7655 to avoid disappointment.
The time on your ticket refers to your pick-up time from the Fisher’s Hotel in the centre of Pitlochry. I wouldn’t actually recommend standing in the queue too far in advance. You won’t be allowed on to a slot earlier than the one stated on your ticket and it gets mighty cold hanging about!
It takes around 60 – 90 minutes to complete the walk around The Enchanted Forest, depending on how long you want to spend at each display. It’s an easy walk on flat terrain, so suitable for children and people with mobility difficulty. Here’s a copy of the map so you can get the gist of what to expect:
The show closes at 10.30pm every night and the last buses leave shortly after this time; don’t worry though, they won’t leave anyone behind!
There are plenty of toilets and a few food and drink stands dotted around. There are no cash machines, so make sure you head to an ATM before getting on the bus! The nearest bank is just down the road from the Fisher’s Hotel.
The walk is not suitable for dogs due to the amount of cables hidden from view. Assistance dogs, however, are welcome.
Photography is permitted, but no drones!