The Enchanted Forest ~ A Retrospective

The Enchanted Forest ~ A Retrospective

Back in May the Enchanted Forest team made the difficult decision to cancel the event due to the pandemic. It’s a shame as we were so looking forward to taking our daughter to see it for the first time but we’ve already booked our tickets and lodgings for next year as the team are optimistic that it will go ahead in 2021. However, as I’ve been visiting the Enchanted Forest for almost a decade, I thought I’d share a little retrospective of highlights from previous years.

My first visit to the Enchanted Forest was in 2010, after I saw it advertised on the Glasgow subway. The first year I went with a friend (though every year after with my husband, and we got engaged during our visit to the Enchanted Forest in 2013), and I loved it so much that I’ve faithfully returned to Pitlochry every October since.

The Enchanted Forest roughly follows the same figure of eight path around Loch Dunmore and Faskally Woods but the design team choose a different theme every year and always make the most of the natural and permanent features such as the towering fir trees, the Loch and the bridge, as well as building temporary viewing platforms for projections and synchronised light displays around the forest.

It’s an incredibly creative and innovative light and sound show, and given that it runs for the full month of October in all but the very worst Scottish weather, and attracts 80,000 visitors, I’m always impressed by how smoothly the event runs.

I’ve shared posts from our visits in 2017, 2018 and 2019, but enjoyed this little trip down memory lane, seeing how the Enchanted Forest has grown and developed – though my photos don’t do it justice at all. It’s one of my favourite events, it’s been the setting of some wonderful memories and I’m very much looking forward to returning when we’re able to. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

A Windswept Walk on the Beach

CroyRocks

I’ve written before about our favourite beach, Croy Shore, and over the years my husband and I have enjoyed relaxing walks watching the sunset in the weeks leading up to our wedding, summer days paddling in the sea and searching for starfish in the rockpools, and refreshing New Year’s Day walks here.

We didn’t make it to Croy Shore for a walk on New Year’s Day itself this year as we were visiting my family instead, but wanted to visit before January was out. Unsurprisingly, on an overcast, cold and blustery day, we had the beach almost to ourselves and spent some time exploring the cave and rock formations towards the North of the beach. No matter the weather, I always find a wander along this familiar shoreline so steadying and reinvigorating.

This stretch of the coast is a place we’ve come to contemplate some of our most life-defining decisions and changes, to gather our thoughts and stretch our legs but also to immerse ourselves in the moment and savour the the regular crash of the waves against the shore and the view of Culzean Castle and Ailsa Craig in one direction and the Isle of Arran in the other. Have a lovely week. X

Walking with Dinosaurs

LostWorlds

Of all the nocturnal light shows competing for visitors across the country, the Giant Lanterns of China at Edinburgh Zoo is definitely worth wrapping up and venturing out on a winter evening to see. This was our third time visiting the Giant Lanterns of China, and while previous years have focused on Chinese Astrology and Scottish and Chinese Myths and Legends, this year the theme was on the Lost Worlds of the Prehistoric Eras and was probably the best yet.

Wrapped up in boots and winter coats, with cold hands curled around cups of hot chocolate, we enjoyed wandering (or in my case waddling!) around the displays and learning about the different prehistoric eras from the infamous Jurassic era all the way up to the marsupial and ice ages. I’m always impressed by the scale and details of the lanterns with their feathers, spines, teeth, eyes, expressions and shading.

I have mixed feelings about zoos, but this event always reminds me of the valuable conservation work that Edinburgh Zoo does, as well as raising awareness that we must all do whatever we can to prevent other endangered species from extinction in our lifetimes. Have a lovely week. X

EndangeredSpecies

2009 – 2019 Reflections

2009-2019 Mara

We’ve reached the end of another year and a whole decade to boot, and I’ve been reflecting on how much my life has changed in that time:

  • Ten years ago, I moved to Glasgow;
  • Eight years ago, I passed my driving test and returned to university to study a post-graduate qualification that led to my current career;
  • Six years ago, my then boyfriend and I moved in together, and got engaged shortly after;
  • Four years ago, we were married and adopted our cat, Mara;
  • Three years ago, we bought our house, and I started this blog.
  • In the last ten years, I’ve traveled to Budapest, Berlin, Barcelona, Rome, Dublin, Iceland (twice!), Japan, New York and Oslo as well as various places around Great Britain.

2009-2019 Travel
Fulfilling childhood dreams of travelling to Japan and New York

It helps to have a bit of perspective because 2019 has been one of the most challenging years I’ve faced in a long time. We’ve mourned the passing of two of my husband’s relatives, and helped my nanna move into a care home. A member of my family was admitted to hospital three times and spent six months as an in-patient, and there’s a question mark over my own health after I temporarily lost vision in my left eye.

2019 highlights

It hasn’t all been bad news though, we’ve enjoyed the RSNO performing the music of Harry Potter, supported our local team at a rugby match, visited the Giant Lanterns of China at Edinburgh Zoo and the Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry to list just a few of the most memorable moments. We’ve both changed jobs, with my husband returning to the NHS after a stint in the private sector and self-employment, and I returned to the front lines of social services after a secondment in a finance driven role. The biggest change is still on the horizon, and all being well, we’ll meet our baby in just a few weeks.

I don’t have any grand plans or ambitions for the next decade and I can’t imagine what 2020 will hold, yet I hope I’ll continue to love, learn, travel and practice gratitude whatever happens. Wishing everyone a very happy New Year. X

The Enchanted Forest ~ Lighting Up Dark Nights

The Enchanted Forest

Last weekend we made our annual jaunt to Pitlochry for the Enchanted Forest, which remains one of our favourite traditions, and a seasonal midpoint marking the transition into the colder, darker months of the year.

The theme this year was ‘Cosmos’, inspired by the skies above the forest and commemorating 50 years since astronauts walked on the moon. Now in its 18th year (and this was our 8th year visiting), it still impresses me that the creative team continue to explore new ideas and technologies, never content to just repeat what they’ve done before, and always striving to make it an immersive and interactive experience.

EFCosmos3

EFCosmos4

It’s so refreshing and restorative to have a night away at this time of year, from watching the scenery change as we cross the country with trees lining the roads already various shades of red, amber and gold, to treading the familiar paths around an illuminated Faskally Woods, pausing to take photos and appreciate the displays, sipping hot chocolate and treating ourselves to a little Christmas decoration from the merchandise stall, before returning to the hotel for a well-earned rest and waking up to marmalade on toast and porridge with honey for breakfast.

The Enchanted Forest is the first of a few seasonal activities we’ve got planned over the next couple of months, and as the nights draw in and life moves indoors, it’s lovely to wrap up warm and get outside for events like this that light up the long, dark nights. Have a lovely week. X

By the Sea

On a windy, overcast day, we took a trip to the little village of Portencross in North Ayrshire, somewhere we’d never visited before, but somewhere we’ll definitely be returning to.

Portencross

There is a small castle at Portencross, which is free to explore, but a little underwhelming compared to some of the other sprawling castles steeped in history around Scotland. The top of the castle does offer some lovely views of the coastline, the islands of Wee Cumbrae and Great Cumbrae, and even the CalMac ferries transporting passengers from Largs to Millport and back again.

From Portencross we wandered north to Hunterston Power Station. It’s a short walk, only a mile each way on a relatively flat and straight path with crocosmia, aster and yarrow growing wild on either side. We probably walked a little further as we deviated from the path a few times to scramble closer to the sea to watch the waves crashing against the rocks and so my husband could search the rock pools for crabs and other marine life – always the highlight of a trip to the seaside for him.

With everything else we’ve had going on this year, we haven’t had much time for day-trips or adventures, but we both felt refreshed after our day by the sea, enjoying the fresh air and the chance to explore somewhere new, chatting about everything and nothing, and just letting our minds and feet wander. Have a lovely week. X

A Day Trip to Jupiter

JupiterArtland

Summer has been a bit stop-start in our part of the country but we recently took advantage of a very sunny day with clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-20s (hot by our standards!) for a little day trip.

Jupiter Artland is a contemporary sculpture park set across 100 acres of forest and meadows near Edinburgh. There’s a lot to see but I thought I’d share a few photos of our favourite exhibits.

In a clearing in the forest, there are statues of five little girls in various stages of a tantrum, it is a little bit creepy but Laura Ford’s Weeping Girl sculptures capture so much emotion and movement.

Several years ago, we visited The Cosmic Garden of Speculation designed by Charles Jencks and the highlight was climbing the spiral mounds, although the Cosmic Garden of Speculation is only open to the public one day of the year (or by special arrangement), the Cells of Life provide a similar experience here.

There was much more to see but these were the exhibits I found most memorable. Jupiter Artland appears to be a little off the beaten path but it was a fun place to explore and offers a more interactive and multi-sensory experience than traditional art galleries. Have a lovely week! X

The Giant Lanterns of China

One of my highlights of 2018 was visiting the Giant Lanterns of China at Edinburgh Zoo for Chinese New Year, and I was thrilled when I found out they were putting on another show this year. This time around the theme was Myths and Legends, and I loved the clash of Scottish and Chinese mythology, like the Loch Ness Monster tangling with a Chinese water dragon.

Nessie and Dragon

There were a few lanterns recycled from the previous event but I was impressed by how much thought and effort had been made to ensure it was every bit as original and memorable as the first, and I thought it was even better than the previous year.

Aside from all the fantastical creatures, there was also a section displaying extinct animals alongside currently endangered species, providing a pertinent reminder that we must act now to prevent species from disappearing in our lifetime due to climate change, hunting and loss of habitat.

Living in Scotland, we’re no strangers to inclement weather, but when it started snowing, it only made the experience seem more magical as we meandered between the gorgeous lanterns with cold hands wrapped around hot drinks, and it was a wonderful way to spend a wintry evening in February. Have a lovely week! X

A New Year’s Day Walk on the Beach

Arran and the Holy Isle

We were up bright and early yesterday for a New Year’s Day walk at our favourite beach, Croy Shore in Ayrshire. We never remember to check the tides before visiting but we were happy to discover that it was out when we arrived giving us an opportunity to meander towards the rocky outcrops that are usually inaccessible when the tide is in.

Strolling side by side with our hoods up against the chill wind and the sun warming our backs, the pale blue skies gave us a perfect view of the Isle of Arran and the Holy Isle. My spouse and I weren’t brave enough to take a dip in the sea, but it was a refreshing walk and felt like we were breathing in all the hope of a new year and letting go of the year before. I always feel inspired by new beginnings, and it’s exciting to think of all the opportunities to meet new people, visit new places, try new experiences, to learn and grow that a new year promises.

This week I’m enjoying a few more days off at home before we put the Christmas decorations away for another year, we return to work and normality resumes. Happy New Year and have a lovely week! X

2018 ~ Looking Back, Looking Forward

End of the Year

We’re in the midst of that peaceful and cosy time between Christmas and New Year when everything seems to slow down and I struggle to remember what day of the week it is.

2018 has been a year full of adventures and experiences for us, and it’s genuinely hard to pick out personal highlights because there have been so many from our roadtrip around Iceland (something my husband and I have been talking about since our first visit to Reykjavik in 2014) to day trips around Scotland, and slowly but surely transforming our garden.

The three most popular posts on my blog this year were:

  1. On the road around Iceland
  2. Pottering around with houseplants
  3. An Unruly Tangle of Flowers

I always find it interesting to see which posts seem to resonate with readers, but I try not to worry too much about likes and followers, and focus on writing about what interests me and what’s going on in our lives.

I was just shy of my reading target this year, which I blame on three books I started but didn’t finish. I’ve accepted that I’ll never read 52 books a year, but a couple of books a month seems like a realistic goal. This week I re-organised my bookshelves (still two rows deep) and I like seeing old favourites rubbing shoulders with new books waiting to be read.

I didn’t share many recipes this year, which was largely due to my husband and I adopting a gluten-free diet as he has suspected Crohn’s Disease. We both enjoy cooking (almost as much as eating!) and make as much as we can from scratch and I’m hoping to share a few new vegetarian and gluten-free recipes soon.

Looking back at our photos and all the memories we’ve made, I’m a little sad this wonderful year is ending, but I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 holds. Wishing everyone a very happy New Year when it comes, and thank you so much to everyone who takes the time to read, like, comment on or follow my little blog. X