Imagine, what could be more festive than an illuminated forest walk, sipping on a traditional glass of gluhwein and listening to a children’s choir singing carols by a warming open fire.
So, sit back and enjoy for this is Beecraigs Festive Forest. It’s a new venture for 2019, organised by local company Rowen Events and assisted by the team behind, what has now become one of Scotland’s most successful music festivals, Party at the Palace.
This West Lothian sound and light spectacular encourages guests to take a stroll along a 1.5km path while marvelling at the special effects and lighting – and some surprises along the way – which brings the forest alive.
And that’s not all. This was a fun-filled evening out with fire eaters, stilt walkers, and community choirs singing their hearts out as the crowds jostled to get the best view.
But, let’s back up a bit first. The event is based at Beecraigs Country Park on the outskirts of the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow in the West Lothian hills which affords a great view across the Firth of Forth and the Queensferry Bridges. The roads leading to the venue are, in places, single track, so do take care if you are driving.
This year there were two ticket options, one with parking and another with a free shuttle bus from Linlithgow town centre, due to there only being limited parking available at the location. There is also disabled parking available for approximately 20 cars, but even if you book tickets with parking, these are not reserved spaces and are used on a first-come-first-served basis. Ticket prices are £16 for adults, £11 for children, babies and toddlers to the age of three go free, and there are special rates for disabled and carers.
The organisers have told me they intend to review the ticket options for next year with the possibility of adding in a family ticket and some other alternative options, possibly including some of the attractions which were chargeable extras this year.
One of the event organisers John Richardson commented: “Following on from the success of Party at the Palace, we were delighted to be asked by local company Rowen Events to help put on a winter-themed event for the residents of West Lothian, and beyond, and hence Beecraigs Festive Forest was born. These events are always a steep learning curve and the weather for the first few days could not have been worse. However, overall, we are pleased with the way it’s all turned out. The feedback has been fantastic with lots of people already pitching in ideas for next year as well so you can expect more from Beecraigs Festive Forest in 2020.”
All paths are fully accessible for the disabled and are either hard-packed gravel or tarmac. In places, the organisers have laid plates out to level off some sections. On the night of my visit, we saw people using disabled buggies, adults pushing prams, and elderly visitors with walking sticks. Assistance dogs are also welcomed at the site.
The event is basically split into two sections. The visitor centre, where there are toilets located is the temporary home for the main man – Santa Claus and his grotto. Visits, (not included in the entrance fee), include a gift for every child and are priced at £7. It’s excellent value for money, as all the children can also enjoy Santa and his effervescent elves who will tell them a story, in addition to that personal visit. There can be few things more heartwarming at this time of year than seeing the joy in a child’s eyes as they look on in awe at the jolly fellow in red.
I’ve never seen children so quiet! If only the magic could be bottled and sold!
The event also caters for adults with a number of various food & drink stalls dotted about. On the evening of my visit, there was also an interactive fire show which had everyone joining in with the fun. And did I mention toasting marshmallows?
So, after leaving the car park, you can visit Santa’s grotto first at the centre, where there’s also a kiddies roundabout. be aware last entry this year to the grotto was at 7.30pm, so don’t leave it until the last minute as it can get fairly busy as last entry times draw closer.
Once you leave the visitor centre you’ll walk a short distance to the entrance of this winter wonderland. You won’t miss it, there’s a walk-through fairytale canopy surrounded by a forest of green lighting. Note: perfect Instagram pic opportunity here.
Follow the pathway around the marked 1.5km route, which, given this is an illuminated event is helpfully well-lit. Perhaps this would be a good opportunity to comment on the staff at the event. Professional, helpful, and good fun – they were all happy to engage with guests, and it was nice to see a mix of ages across the board from students to OAPs who were working on the night of my visit.
As well as the walk through the forest there are a number of additional features, at an extra cost, including funfair rides, a silent disco, helter-skelter, and prize stalls. Card payments are fairly hit and miss in the forest, as one might expect, so you should probably take some cash, just in case.
Halfway around the trail, you’ll come to a section of the event where the food and drink stalls are located, as well as the stage where the shows take place. Oh, and I know I mentioned this earlier but there’s also a fire pit to toast those marshmallows in.
Your ticket fee merely permits access to the forested walk, so do bear in mind that the attractions and food etc are all extras. There was some grumbling over prices of food and drink, but, frankly, you’ll pay £5 for a burger at any Christmas event. In fact, I paid £7 for one at Edinburgh’s Christmas markets. £2 for a bottle of soft drink certainly is not extortionate, nor was £3 for the silent disco.
Sometimes you just have to accept that some people like to have a moan about anything, for any reason. The event website makes it very clear that there are extras on-site which require a fee to be paid, so nobody should be surprised!
The Grinch section of the forest was fantastic and had the kids squealing in delight as he left his home in the forest to a soundtrack of breaking wind. It was a laugh watching as they were unsure whether to stay or run as he approached them.
There were plenty of selfie opportunities throughout the walk with illuminated picture frames strategically placed in locations where they wouldn’t create a bottleneck. I had a sense that the organisers had really thought this out well. The paths were wide enough so they were never overcrowded, and allowed people the opportunity to stop and admire the multi-coloured forest around them as they wandered from section to section, some of which had Christmas music playing.
The son et lumière finale was an amazing spectacle with lighting effects, including strobes and smoke set to music and was easily the sweet spot of the event. It was so good I stopped and watched it twice, and have included the video above so you can similarly enjoy this.
We managed to get around without any rain, which is always a bonus, after all this is a forest, in winter, in Scotland – we are not best known for balmy tropical temperatures so wrap up well and you’ll be just fine.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this event, with the organisers pedigree, is going to grow in strength and content in the years to come until it’s one of the largest winter must-go-to events in Scotland.
Tickets from: this link but be quick for next year as 2019 was almost a complete sell-out event. A remarkable achievement for its first year in production.