Unless you've actually been living in a wood for the past fifteen years, you will know that The Enchanted Forest is Perthshire's award-winning sound and light show held annually at Faskally Woods just outside Pitlochry. This year the increasingly popular event is running from Thursday 29th September-Friday 30th October, and Small City were invited along to last night’s preview show. Freya loves a press pass so we had a family outing along with her grandparents, Florence and Leslie.
Sales this year are already expected to surpass the 62,000 visitors who booked tickets last year, and they’ll be raising money for worthwhile charities and local community groups. People come from far and wide to experience a series of choreographed sound and light shows while following a fully-accessible path (and it really is comfortably wide enough for a buggy!) through the woods and around Faskally loch.
Our journey began as it has in previous years at the Fishers Hotel on the main Street, where your pre-booked ticket will correspond to the time of a coach which leaves the hotel and takes you into the heart of the forest in a matter of a few minutes. I say this because when you're doing anything with kids or a baby, you want to know it’s going to happen EXACTLY where and when you expect it to! I can assure you it’s a slick operation- the team of over 100 staff behind The Enchanted Forest are well rehearsed and know exactly what they’re doing.
The event staff and coach drivers couldn’t have been more helpful; they dismantled Freya’s pram to store in the luggage hold and even re-assembled it at the other end so it was ready and waiting for us getting off the bus. You enter the forest via a clearing which has a great selection of warm food and drinks to fill up on before setting off on the trail- I can thoroughly recommend the lentil soup.
The trail itself is 1.8km long and can be walked at a brisk pace in 25 minutes, although in order to appreciate the surroundings and take in the show I would recommend anticipating at least twice that time. We found this year’s show to be much more interactive than previously; Freya was enthralled with the lights and surround sound, and all thoughts I'd had about whether or not she was too young left me immediately!
Once in the forest visitors are welcome to do as many laps as they like of the figure of eight shaped path and can return to Pitlochry via any of the shuttle buses which arrive approx. every 10 minutes. (Handy for older children's cries of 'Just Once More' I'm sure!). We’ve been to the Enchanted Forest in previous years and always felt that the whole operation runs like a well-oiled machine - which is especially important if you are relying on getting home for some sort of reasonable kid's bedtime.
Every year the show has a theme and this years is called ‘SHIMMER’- as you might expect this means there’s hardly a corner of the woods where there isn’t something dazzling and sparkly to draw your eye. SHIMMER sees the return of creative team Kate Bonney and Simon Hayes as lighting designers, with RJ McConnell and Jon Beales providing sound design and composition, plus creative producer Derek Allan.
The highlight for us was an immersive, walk-through light installation by digital artists Squidsoup, Freya could easily have stayed there all night running through the dangly (plastic) lights! This year there’s also projections on to the loch with a special pontoon so people can step down on to the water. We’d heard that Leith-based agency Vision Mechanics has created a “larger-than-life” shiny character as part of the programme and it didn’t disappoint; just when we thought we’d seen it all there it was, a GIANT sparkly interactive puppet (you have to see it to believe it!).
The original aims behind the first Enchanted Forest 15 years ago were to bring people outside, celebrate the great outdoors and the arts, and get them to look up rather than down, as you normally would in the woods. These basic principles still underpin the whole production, which manages to successfully reinvent itself each year. A phenomenal amount of work, skill and passion goes into it every year, and it shows.
There’s plenty of surprises along the way, including a story telling Yurt for wee ones to go and be entertained by tales of fairies and forest magic, a campfire for toasting marshmallows where we were entertained by the very amusing ‘Shimmer Man’, and plenty of stops for hot food and drinks (think mulled wine and hot chocolate).
This show leaves a real impact; big, bold, and ultra-sparkly. A can’t think of a better way to spend some family time together-wrap up and wander around Faskally Woods sipping hot chocolate and taking lots of selfies. If I had to sum it up in one word? Tree-mendous! (yup…I did it!).
The Enchanted Forest 2015 runs from Thursday 29th September– Friday 30th October. Proceeds from the first night’s show on 29th Sept will be equally split between: Scottish Charity Air Ambulance, Kidney Kids Scotland; and British Heart Foundation.