I’m tangled deep in the heart of a neon-green kelp forest, having narrowly escaped the clutches of a sinister-looking tentacled beastie.
Bioluminescent jellyfish dangle from trees, and colourful lights flash up into the canopy. I’m at The Enchanted Forest – Scotland’s premier light and sound show, held in Faskally Woods near Pitlochry. This year’s event, From The Deep, sees visitors transported into a magical underwater forest, through the medium of light, video and sound.
I’ve been to the family-friendly extravaganza multiple times, and I’m delighted to say that this year’s offering doesn’t disappoint.
As you wander around at leisure, you’ll cross a bubble coral bridge – brilliant for selfie-takers, as the bubbles change colour and glow – and follow a funky wee fish called Solas on a watery adventure.
Other highlights include a trail of sea bed stepping stones, interactive springs and waterfalls, and an underwater volcano that sends smoke and illuminated lava skywards.
Dazzling visuals and whirling sprays light up the loch, and the gurgling, splashing and tinkling noises that resonate through the forest are awesome.
However, the Beastie has to be my favourite feature. He’s got huge purple tentacles that poke out from a boathouse, ready to grab unsuspecting visitors, so watch out!
Also pretty cool, if a little scary, is the view across the loch of his giant, whirling, eyeball. It’s as if his gaze is boring right into you. With six catering stations dotted along the trail, you won’t go hungry. I scoff a fish supper huddled round a fire pit, and gorge on donuts and hot chocolate.
A record 80,000 visitors are expected for the autumn spectacle, which runs until November 5, so be sure to book your tickets pronto. After leaving the forest, I head to my hotel – Craigmhor Lodge and Courtyard. It’s a short walk from Pitlochry’s bustling centre, tucked away in woodland. As I run a relaxing bubble bath, I sit on the balcony and gaze up at the silvery moon. What a magical end to a wonderful day. I enjoy a fabulous sleep and wake feeling refreshed and excited about breakfast.
I’ve got great expectations, having heard Craigmhor once won the best Guest House Breakfast in Scotland award. Calum MacLellan, the lovely owner, offers me a table in the airy conservatory, and presents me with a menu. I opt for coffee, orange juice, fruit, yogurt and a finale of poached eggs and avocado on a toasted bagel. Scrumptious.
It’s tipping it down as I prepare to leave, and, of course, I’ve left my waterproof trousers at home. Luckily, there are outdoors stores galore in Pitlochry, so I’m able to buy a pair. I browse a few other shops while I’m at it, and then stroll down to the dam and famous fish ladder, with its tiered pools that shepherd salmon upriver. The path continues along the river to Pitlochry Festival Theatre, where you can hang out in the cafe, check out the explorers garden, or catch a performance.
My plan for the afternoon, had it not been quite so dreich, was to climb Ben Vrackie, the Corbett behind the town.
In the past I’ve scaled the iconic peak of Schiehallion, plus the Munros of Beinn a’ Ghlo, and hiked up Glen Tilt – the options for walking in the area are endless.
However, because of the wet weather, I settle on a low-level stroll around the Hermitage near Dunkeld.
Here, autumn is in full flourish, with leaves bursting into flamboyant shades of red, orange and yellow. The towering Douglas firs afford great shelter from the elements and are among the tallest trees in Britain. It only takes a few minutes to walk to Ossian’s Hall, a curious folly built in 1757 overlooking the thundering Black Linn falls. Look out for a totem pole hidden in the woods, salmon leaping up the falls, and red squirrels. I’m lucky enough to spot two darting about in the trees.
After all that exploring, I’ve worked up an appetite. My plan is to dine at Taste Perthshire, off the A9, at Bankfoot. This is a veritable one-stopshop for all things Perthshire! You can eat in the restaurant or funky new outdoor huts, pick up supplies in the deli, or just browse the gift, clothing, whisky and gin shops.
I enjoy a delicious dinner of hot smoked salmon and prawn salad followed by a chocolate brownie and cappuccino, before picking up some wine and cheese and ordering a gift hamper for a friend.
It’s a brilliant time to book a break in Big Tree Country, with the landscape bursting into a riot of rich autumnal colours – and the Enchanted Forest awaits you.
To book tickets, see enchantedforest.org.uk For more information and to book a room at Craigmhor Lodge and Courtyard, visit craigmhorlodge.co.uk
To find out more about Taste Perthshire, see tasteperthshire.co.uk
It’s free to visit The Hermitage but parking is £3. For inspiration on other places to visit in Perthshire, see nts.org.uk
P.S. More than 650,000 visitors have flocked to the Enchanted Forest since it launched in 2002. The event has come a long way since, with a transit van’s headlights and brake lights shining through a stand of trees. The even moved to Faskally where organisers had the capacity to expand their vision.
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