Ever since it started, in its first year as a walk through a magical wood at The Hermitage, I have loved The Enchanted Forest. Now one of Scotland’s most successful events, the annual light show at Pitlochry heralds the start of Perthshire’s winter in a glow of pinks, mauves, blues and greens dancing across the still waters of Loch Faskgally.
And so it was, when Small City was told about a similar event, being held to bring Perth’s Winter Festival to a close, I unpacked my red & white light show hat, rounded up sister, nieces and RG and waited patiently for the show to begin.
The day arrived, with rain falling from the skies as heavy as it had all year and sleet turning dark pavements into slick, shiny deathtraps. The kids looked out from my city centre window and miserably asked if it meant we could no longer go. Who were these children? Saft about the ears and worrying on a wee bit of water? Of course we were going – we’d just be doubly wrapped up, boot-footed and maybe with some of these handwarmers in our pockets. We were Scots – if we allowed rain to stop the games then we’d never deem to venture outdoors.
We headed out, three adults, three kids, at around 5pm on Saturday night; the dark night had just fallen into place and a light drizzle held up the promise of the weatherman. We strolled from the High Street into Tay Street and were met with a glow of pinks, oranges, blues and green made all the more glorious by their mirror reflections shining out from the River Tay. Strobes reached into the charcoal-grey night sky causing us all to stop, stare up and… well, it is 2017 so we of course whipped out our phones!
Across the bridge we went - right over and down left into Riverside, the wee path off into Norie Miller is closed during the event – peering through the fence as we went into the turquoise blue of a mystical garden. The sense that there could be faerie folk watching from every corner was soon proved right, as a Scottish kelpie appeared at the gate, eyes glowing and strange tales told in native Gaelic tongue greeting us as we wandered in. A wee note… these strange beasts have kept up with the work of us human folks and do love a #KelpieSelfie!
The lights across the walk are stunning; the water of the pond still and dark against the dancing strobes of pink and blue, strings of bright white peas guide walkers down the wooden steps – wear your sturdy boots, it is slippy when wet - past the waterfall which has been made to look magical with stones glistening under the colourful streams of water and light.
Families, couples, infants in prams and groups of teenage friends all circled around the paths, stopping to watch hardy Highland Dancers spinning in the rain and fire jugglers in kilts adding further glow to the dark night sky.
The Burns Night theme brought with it lone pipers, pipe bands and carefully chosen prose scrawled across pathways as a reminder that ‘Nae man can tether time or tide.” Regular dog walkers, used to only street lights soaked up the sights of their new surroundings, and toddlers stooped over sprightly patterns, leading their way along the riverside path, tried to catch the light as smiling mums and dads looked on.
We were pulled in, under the bridge, by the sight of the wonderful Adventure Circus and after a bit of a warm up, all three girls were lining up to take turns in spinning from Gemma’s thick navy ribbons. She has the patience of a saint – after even being headbutted by an overeager Keris – and encouraged them all to let go and have a spin! As wonderful it was to watch it was the sight of my 50-something other half concentrating as he attempted to spin an orange plate on a stick that gave me my under-the-bridge highlight!
We wandered on, stopped by Kelpies – not all speak Gaelic – as they attempted to our fingers... Who knew I smelled nice and would make a good snack!? We popped into the horsebox photobooth for some snaps and a quick warm up and wandered down to a covered shelter where we enjoyed hot chocolates and marshmallows (girls!), piping hot coffee (me and sis), and fruity mulled wine (RG – now known as circus boy).
After a quick blether with some friends we’d met, a dry off and a pic or two across the river to the beautifully lit-up council buildings (please do St Matthews!) we headed back the way we came, keen to soak it all up again and to see each wee corner glow differently under the kaleidoscope of colour.
We felt it necessary to experience the full affair and so stopped to grab a burger on the way out at Ann’s Kitchen. Many of you will know this fab local catering van from the edges of Guildton, locally sourced burgers a speciality! I can confirm it was bloody good and the perfect way to end our Light Night walk by the river – after all I’d chalked up close to 6000 steps on my fitbit from start to finish!
We spent about an hour and a half wandering and we barely noticed the drizzle; and given that I had ten year old twins and an eleven year old with me I think it’s safe to say we’d have heard all about it unless they were suitably distracted! The lights are magical, and move you effortlessly through this decades old walk along the river to give a new and wonderful experience.
The entire event has been executed beautifully and the fun extras from Adventure Circus and the Partybox Events Photobooth made a real night out of it. Admittedly, I am someone who finds great pleasure in simple, beautiful things, in faerie tales and a sprinkling of magic but I would defy even the most vocal of cultural adversaries to find fault with this! It is a FREE event, bringing a much needed lift and a big boost of joy to a dreary – and let’s face it, skint! – time of year.
Go! Go again and again and soak up a little Light Night magic to see you through until the days begin to stretch and Norie Miller pond is lit with the silvery spikes of sticklebacks and the wings of dragon flies.
As a wee aside, as we walked back over the bridge we realised we were but a hop, skip and a jump from a pint of real ale at Greyfriars and a wee gin or two at The Venue. Surrounded by children we headed to Watsons for a bag of chips instead, but next week, after we walk the wonderland theme, we fully intend to finish with something a bit stronger!
RUNNING 28th January to 14th February
FREE EVENT | FIND OUT TIMES, SPECIAL EVENTS DETAILS AND MORE OVER ON OUR EVENTS SECTION.