Enchanted Forest – Explorers’ Garden, Perthshire

Pitlochry from the air

The Enchanted Forest is a 3 week light and sound event showing off the Explorers Woodland Garden in Pitlochry, Perthshire. The show moved this year from Faskally Wood where it had been held since 2004, having inaugurated at The Hermitage in Dunkeld in 2002.

This year the event is called, fittingly, Transitions. It had its genesis in the roots of the Perthshire Big Tree Country and has attracted a number of sponsors while garnering prestigious awards:

Beating off stiff competition from some of Scotland’s finest events, The Enchanted Forest has scooped the Event Management Grand Prix, alongside the awards for Best Cultural Event and a commendation for Best Large Event.

We went to see this light and sound show – neither of us had ever been before. The web site hype is what drove us up to Pitlochry through some of the loveliest country on offer. The River Tay runs alongside the road until Dunkeld and Inver where the River Tummel joins it. Driving north from Inver which houses the River Braan also flowing into the Tay, the Tummel is a visual treat of a river seen winding its way below the hills all the way to Pitlochry.

I really like the forested hills and the smattering of deciduous woodlands that are on the valley floor. Of course sheep and cattle are always in view. I love it. Picturesque treat in the autumn when the trees are turning.

Of course Inver is of interest to me because it is so close to Birnam where Macbeth had to understand why the wood was coming to him.

Birnam Wood in Sepia 1800

And it also has a woodworking group called Burhouse  2.0 Ltd with all manner of tools, woods and machinery. The day we went, Burhouse was hosting a wood turning clinic. Combining a trip through the Enchanted Forest with the hunter gatherer’s penchant for wood and tools was a bonus.

This is the gorgeous view down Pitlochry's main street

Pitlochry itself is a pretty town and is one of those obvious reasonably well off arts and crafts towns. It sports a charming view down its main street.   It also has the Salmon Leap seen from the Pitlochry Fish Ladder

This is the Fish Leap - it looks amazing - I have to see it.

which is built into the Pitlochry Dam and power station. It is definitely a tourist attraction. We travelled through there when I first came to Scotland and my memories of Pitlochry stood the test. It is still a beautiful little town.

The photos we took at the Explorers Woodland Garden that night didn’t come out very well but here are a couple.

This is me touching the seed pod!!

There is a gallery of professional photos on the web site that are a treat and taken by proper photographers. Andy from Stravaiging would have taken excellent photographs. I will aspire to be a better photographer:-)

Of interest in the Garden are the Scots plant explorers who travelled far and wide finding plants. It could be a risky business in countries that hadn’t seen white men. My all time favourite is Robert Fortune.

I am a fervent tea drinker and when I came across a book called For all the Tea in China by Sarah Rose, I just had to have it. I couldn’t put the book down!

Fortune collected a lot more than tea from China; he brought back the Buddleja among other species. He had to disguise himself on occasion because of the hostility westerners could experience in China and elsewhere. His achievement though, was being able to finally (after years of disappointment and plant deaths) bring living tea plants back to India thus laying the foundations for the Indian tea trade. He also risked life and limb to extract the secret of preparing and making tea from the Chinese. He was intrepid. I owe him because I always need tea!!

He wasn’t the only plant hunter from Scotland of course. There was David Douglas who brought back the Douglas-fir from Canada. Then there was George Forrest who also travelled to China and Yunnan. He brought back the Rhododendrons and Primulas among hundreds of other species.

Francis Masson introduced Strelitzia and the Trilliums. One of my neighbours is fascinated by the trillium family. Thomas Drummond came back with the Acers and Phlox. William Forsyth had the Forsythias named after him.

These are a few of the names to be found on the Explorers Woodland Garden website. It is worth a visit. We plant and tea aficionados owe these explorers more than we can really appreciate.

Lights at Faskally

The Hermitage is a place I will visit soon. It sits on the River Braan and has a heritage Douglas fir, supposedly 200 feet high. The photos of the attractions look stunning. And it just over the road from Inver. Dunkeld here we come!!

Stone Steps at the Hermitage

What a walk!


4 comments on “Enchanted Forest – Explorers’ Garden, Perthshire

  1. Really enjoyed this one, interesting and informative.

  2. Jack says:

    Hi Vee
    I loved your article. I’m glad to know you like my part of the country. I was a member of Pitlochry golf club a few seasons ago and when working in Craigvenian forest as a chokerman on a sky-lining crew often walked through the Hermitage on my way to Dunkeld for a well-earned pint of cider.

    • Veronique says:

      Oh yes, Jack, it is certainly a beautiful part of this lovely country. Apparently there is snow in Inver today so the hunter gatherer tells me. So I guess Pitclochry would be a visual treat of the white kind:-)

      I am looking forward to visiting the Hermitage and will have a pint and toast you.

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