Pitlochry, Scotland: The Enchanted Forest and a Fish Ladder

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My boyfriend and I recently spent a long weekend in Scotland, at least in part to try to see some autumn colour, which tends to be lacking in Southeast England, so it made sense to check out the “Enchanted Forest,” a whole forest experience set in Faskally Wood, near Pitlochry.  Our day started off rather horribly as our train to Edinburgh only made it as far as Newcastle, meaning we had to cram onto another, already full train for the remaining two hour journey, forced to stand in the vestibule, essentially packed in like cattle.  When we finally made it to Edinburgh and picked up our rental car, we then got stuck in traffic for another couple of hours, so we barely had time to drop our stuff off at our hotel before we had to leave again for the Enchanted Forest shuttle bus.  This meant we were both tired and cranky, and didn’t much feel like strolling around in the rain, but we’d already spent over 40 quid on non-refundable tickets for both of us, so we were damn well going to see this thing.

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It seemed like the shuttle bus pretty much just drove us around the corner, but it was long enough for us to listen to a humorous health and safety tape narrated by a mother and her son, Finlay, where Finlay advised us that if we didn’t wear proper clothes, we might get so cold that our legs would fall off (bit late telling us this when we were already on the bus, fortunately I was dressed sensibly for once with wellies and my very own waterproof coat (bought specially for the trip, and the first one I’ve owned in six years of living in Britain).  This turned out to be sensible advice, as it drizzled intermittently throughout the evening, and it was extremely muddy.

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I’m tempted to compare the experience in some ways to the Great Jack o’ Lantern Blaze we visited last year, but obviously pumpkins and American foodstuffs like cider doughnuts and mulled cider win out over lights and vegetarian stovies (and Crabbie’s mulled wine, surely they could have at least made their own?).  However, although the Enchanted Forest was also sold out, it seemed much more efficiently organised, and the area was large enough that the crowds weren’t really a problem.  The theme for this year’s event was “Elemental,” which was manifested through the use of fire and water elements.  Basically, you walk in a loop around the forest (you can go around as many times as you like, though it took us about an hour to circle once) and stop at various points to watch sound and light shows.

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The trees are also lit up in various attractive ways, with a myriad of colours, though the lighting effects did make it difficult to see any natural leaf colouring.  There was a storytelling tent for children, and they seemed to be doing a roaring trade in balloons with a glowstick inside, much to my dismay (I have an aversion towards balloons because I hate sudden loud noises.  Sure, they’re fun when they’re inflated, but they’re inevitably going to pop at some point, and every time I’m near balloons, I can’t help cringing in anticipation of the explosion.  Yes, I am weird.).  The whole lake was transformed with fountains spewing coloured water, and there was a fire show further up along the lake accompanied by loud music, as well as some flashing strobe lights.

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The freakiest thing was probably the aerial acrobats, who had to wear weird outfits and scary-ass masks for some reason.  Though I didn’t mind the shows, I probably just enjoyed walking through the lighted forest the most, especially the strange pipe garden that shot out smoke, and the hillside with tube lights snaking down it.  It wasn’t a terrible time, but I feel like children might have enjoyed it much more than I did (though for once, we weren’t the only childless people there by a long shot – there were plenty of other couples, both older and younger), and it was too expensive for what it was.  I think a tenner would have been a reasonable amount to pay, but the fact that we stuck around, being as tired as we were, meant it can’t have been that bad.

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After an awful night’s sleep on a lumpy mattress with a pillow that destroyed my neck, I wasn’t exactly raring to explore Pitlochry, but we were already there, and the fish ladder beckoned.  The town itself was very touristy, full of sweet and cake shops and the ubiquitous Scottish woolens, but the scenery as we headed down to the dam was quite pretty, and the leaves made me feel as though I was temporarily back in America.  And we got to cross some weird bridge that was extremely bouncy, so that I felt a bit ill walking across it, but in a fun way.

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You can see for yourself that the scenery was fairly spectacular, and this was the one non-rainy day of our trip, so we had to make the most of it.  The fish ladder itself is just a set of stepped pools, that I guess salmon somehow climb up (not sure exactly how it works, there was a sign that claimed there was an exhibition room about it in the dam, but nothing was open when we were there, even though it was supposed to be open til the end of October).

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I can’t pretend that Pitlochry is the most amazing place to visit, and the fish ladder is less than thrilling, but it was undeniably a gorgeous setting, and I was glad of the chance to finally see some leaves in a colour other than brown!  Never fear though, the Scotland adventures continue throughout the next few posts, and there’ll be lots more stunning scenery and attractions of varying quality to take in!

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5 comments

  1. ah you went past my area of England, the north east 😀 Yup, the trains are often overpacked here due to sheer laziness in investment for rail. If you want to be really squashed check out the Middlesbrough to Manchester line!

    1. This was really exceptionally bad though, since there was a problem with the overhead lines and they were only letting maybe half the trains through. Everyone on the full train we were on had to cram onto another train that was already filled beyond capacity, and I had to huddle in a corner by the toilets, next to a horrible woman who kept yelling at her mother and husband whilst ignoring her child. The child started screaming so hard she threw up right next to me (and the husband and wife carried on fighting off the train so loudly that a policeman came running over). I just got a 20 quid voucher from East Coast for my trouble, so I guess it’s not all bad, even though it’s not valid on online ticket purchases… 😦
      I don’t know about Middlesbrough to Manchester, but it’s long been a dream of mine to ride the nearby Penistone Line because I am immature like that (it’s the same instinct that led me to make a detour on the way from Tetbury to Birmingham just to see Minge Lane), although I hear it’s really mainly for old people and/or weird rail enthusiast types.

      1. Now that sounds like an utterly awful experience! ah as if it isn’t available for discount online either. I once caught a train back from York to my hometown and I was opposite a drunken man who was bragging about his conviction for manslaughter, uncomfortable was not the word. Everything else in my carriage sat at the opposite end but because I was in my wheelchair I had literally nowhere else to sit.

        Haha! That is an amazing name for a place. Once you are past Leeds on the M’boro to M’chester line you get to see a nice bit of the Pennines which is good. I really want to do the Carsilse-Settle route, heard that is meant to be particularly beautiful!

  2. Not been to the Enchanted Forest, but looking forward to finding out where else you went and what you thought of it. Will try not to get too upset if you don’t like places I like!

    1. I didn’t make it to as many places as I would have liked, since arriving late on the first day really threw our whole schedule off, as did deciding to go back to Edinburgh early on the last day. There’s a few more Scotland posts coming up though, and I don’t think I have that many negative things to say…relatively speaking anyway.

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