By Janice Hopper

AS autumn approaches and the leaves start to turn, light up your life with the perfect Perthshire weekend.
With more than 200,000 acres of woodland to explore, Perthshire is known as big tree country and it’s home to world renowned specimens such as the Fortingall Yew (one of the oldest living things in Europe at approximately 5000 years of age) and the Birnam Oak from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. But if you want to see the Perthshire woods in, quite literally, a new light then September and October are the perfect time to plan a nocturnal visit. This is when Faskally Woods are illuminated and sparkle in the autumn evenings as part of Scotland’s premier light and sound event, ‘Enchanted Forest’, which this year falls on the September 29 to October 30, 2016. 
Every evening the woods comes alive with light and music. The theme for 2016 is ‘Shimmer’, a motif with the potential to bring out the child in everyone. Visitors can stroll through the forest at their own pace, taking in the atmospheric lighting design, and listen to an original music score and orchestral pieces. 
Derek Allan, producer and creative director of Enchanted Forest, says: “We like to think that the music and light complement the natural beauty of Faskally Wood and shine a light on the forest in a way that’s open to different interpretations for all ages and backgrounds.”
The Enchanted Forest has a storytelling yurt for little ones, and on-site catering rustling up burgers, hot dogs, mulled wine and hot chocolate. Transport is provided by shuttle bus to the forest from Fisher’s Hotel in Pitlochry, so guests park up in the town before boarding the bus for a short drive into the atmospheric woods. 
Ian Sim, acting chairman of Enchanted Forest, adds: “It’s a different way to engage people with the great outdoors. Every twist and turn of the forest reveals a new display, with light beautifully reflecting off the water and bouncing from the treetops.”
As well being a visual feast, visitors raise huge sums for the local area, as this is no private operation but a social enterprise run by the Enchanted Forest Community Trust. So far it’s contributed more than £2million to the local community, and last year attracted more than 62,000 guests, so book your tickets now!

As Enchanted Forest starts and finishes after nightfall it’s a wonderful excuse to avoid a nocturnal drive home, stay a little longer in Perthshire and make the most of a visit to the heart of Scotland. Here’s a range of activities and accommodation to plan the perfect autumnal break in the region.

Quality and convenience – an obvious choice is Fisher’s Hotel in Pitlochry. Not only does it offer a range of ensuite rooms, from garden rooms to ‘accessible’ accommodation, it’s also the departure point for the shuttle bus that transports all guests to the woods.  Fisher’s is running an ‘Enchanted Offer’ package at

Self catering cottages - For those looking for self-catering accommodation with all the benefits of a hotel then the Moness Resort near Aberfeldy has a choice of 106 cottages as well as four-star hotel accommodation. All guests, whether self-catering or booked into the hotel, can access the two restaurants and Moness’ pool and spa facilities.

Excellent cuisine - For a traditional Scottish hotel with excellent food the Atholl Arms Hotel in Dunkeld is a picturesque option, sitting on the banks of the river Tay, with views towards Birnam Hill. With 17 ensuite rooms, the hotel’s award-winning cuisine punches above its weight.

Budget – A low cost option is the Pitlochry Backpackers Hotel. Its dormitory accommodation (four to eight beds) starts at £17.50 and ensuite twin/double rooms are also available.

Birnam Oak – continuing in the theme of forests and the great outdoors it’s worth taking a short walk from Birnam, along the river, to find the Birnam Oak. In ‘the Scottish play’, the trio of witches prophesy that Macbeth will “never vanquish’d be until Great Birnam Wood to High Dunsinane Hill shall come against him”. That prediction later comes to pass as Macbeth’s enemies camouflage themselves with branches from the wood and march on Dunsinane Castle.
As visitors walk along the forest path and approach a huge tree with a mighty flagstone in front of it common sense tells you that this must be the famous Birnam Oak. But alas, no, it’s just a bluffing sycamore – at a mere 300 years old the Birnam Sycamore is a young pretender. The Birnam Oak, located a little further along the path, is at least 500 years old and would have been growing when Shakespeare visited the area in 1599. In June of this year the mighty oak had essential repair work carried out to shorten and remove branches as there were fears it could split in two, so it’s best to visit sooner rather than later. 
For further tree exploration head to Cluny Bank Gardens in Aberfeldy to see a giant redwood that can proudly boast the title of Britain’s widest tree. 
And to track down the Fortingall Yew head eight miles further west to the local churchyard in the village of Fortingall.

Highland Safaris – experiencing the local wildlife is core to understanding an area’s rural environment. Highland Safaris, near the village of Dull (wonderfully twinned with Boring in Oregon), offers adventures which are not dull in the slightest. As well as providing a range of safaris, be it by 4x4, biking or walking, and potentially spotting animals such as the famous grouse, mountain hare and golden eagle in their natural habitat, there’s also the perfect rainy day option of the Red Deer and Barn Owl experience.  
The centre has its own red deer enclosure where a safari ranger explains the quirky details, seasonal behaviour and mating habits of this iconic Scottish beast. It’s then time to get up close to the elegant creatures and feed Britain’s largest UK land mammal by hand, before returning indoors to encounter a barn owl in full, silent flight. The centre also has a short walking trail, a cafe, shop and a play area with toy tractors for children to play with.

The Scottish Crannog Centre – a wonderful opportunity to embrace Scottish history, architecture, sociology and scenery on the banks of Loch Tay is the Scottish Crannog Centre which explores how prehistoric Scots lived more than 5000 years ago. The centre staff haven’t just researched and explained how crannog life may have occurred, they’ve built an actual crannog on the waterside.  Wander through the museum to uncover the engineering, archaeology and history behind the crannog, before being led by a guide inside the dwelling itself. Here it’s clear how the living quarters were divided, how material was weaved to create clothing and bedding, and grains hanging from the ceiling suggest the potential crops and diet of our forefathers.
Back onshore there’s time for a wood-turning demonstration, stone-drilling and fire-starting, and you can visit the herb garden and vegetable garden. A truly fascinating glimpse into what life in Scotland was like before records began.

Dewars Whisky – for a taste of the local uisge beatha take a tour of Dewar’s distillery, warehouse and heritage centre in Aberfeldy where the stills have been creating the famous single malt since 1898. Once the history lesson is complete relax in the whisky lounge and sample a dram.  

Birnam Arts Centre – as well as a great lunch or coffee stop this modern centre always has a new exhibition or performance brewing. It’s also home to the Beatrix Potter exhibition and garden as the author spent her childhood summer months, from May to October, in nearby Dalguise. In Scotland she wrote a ‘picture letter’ which is said to have provided the basis for her first book ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’. Similarly, ‘The Tale of Jeremy Fisher’ is said to contain characters based on her explorations along the Tay.

Enchanted Forest ticket information

Tickets can increase in price but early birds can secure them for:

Monday-Thursday – Child under three years, free; child three-15 years, £7; adult, £14; family ticket, £37. 

Monday-Thursday prime time (7pm-8pm) – Child under three years, free; child three-15 years, £8; adult, £16; family ticket, £45. 

Friday, Saturday and Sunday – Child under three years, free; child three-15 years, £10; adult, £20; family ticket, £55. 
Children under three, although free, require a ticket to secure a seat allocation on the bus.

Find out more about the event at