Whilst visiting the fairy village at Balfron last September, I noticed some flyers for their ‘Santa Experience’. I had been pretty impressed with the fairy village, and thought that the setting would make for a magical Santa Experience too. I booked up that night for 8 adults and 6 children (ranging from ages 2 to 5), on the 4.30pm slot. Trailers leave every 15 minutes and start at either 10am until 8.30pm or 4.30pm until 8.30pm depending on the day.
They ask you to arrive 25 minutes before your slot time, to allow time for check in and to get some necessary details about your children. But don’t worry about being bored, there was lots to do to get you in the Christmas spirit, including getting your ‘Elf Name’, colouring in, grabbing some food from their delicious vendor (more on that later), or browsing the various items on sale in the shop. There was also a face painter, who was truly fantastic, and well worth the additional charge (from memory this was between £3 and £5). I am hoping she is there again this year, but there are no guarantees that she will be there every day. There was also complimentary juice and biscuits for the children (I may have snaffled some…)
The barn has a certain rustic charm, with hay sprawled about, and higgledy-piggledy chairs here and there; it adds to the experience as it gives a sense of being outdoors and somewhere special, which is exactly what you want when you meet Santa.
When it was nearly time to board we made our way over to a designated area to await our trailer.
After boarding our trailer, we wound our way through the woods, where a couple of the trees were up-lit, which was particularly lovely in the dark, and added to the atmosphere and excitement. All the while our accompanying ‘elves’ kept up a running commentary with various jokes, and pointed out some of the sights to see along the way, including some mischievous elves – this part probably appealed most to the adults. They had lots of energy though, and definitely made it a more enjoyable experience for everyone. We walked the final part through the woods – a review on Facebook described it as a “twinkling walkway” which I think sums it up really well. The trees were covered in fairy lights and there were some nice touches, such as Santa’s washing hanging out on the line. All the children with us absolutely loved it.
Santa’s cabin itself is exactly how you would hope it to be: a small wooden chalet covered in lights with lots of attention to detail, particularly inside. Santa welcomed all the children into the cabin and then took up a seat in his chair, with the children all sitting in stools around him and the adults standing at the back. There were only 8 children in total in our party, and they were able to comfortably sit round Santa. If there had been the maximum of 10 then it might have been a bit more snug, but still a comfortable amount.
During our experience, Santa told a story before listening to every child’s request in turn. The children all then got to pick an unwrapped present from three huge piles. To be honest I had expected there to be a bit of a rammy at this point, but it’s a testament to the quality of the presents on offer that there was no fighting between the children over them – especially as 5 of the 6 in our party are related and not adverse to arguing with one another! My daughter chose a Frozen pillow, which she still uses every night. Santa then got everyone to sit back down before leading in a song and giving them all a present to open under the tree (last year this was an age-appropriate book).
Afterwards, we went outside where it was ‘snowing’, which was a particular delight for my niece and nephew who live in Australia. All the children were given a sweet and the opportunity to have their picture taken with Santa, before heading off back to the trailer, for a return journey of Christmas singing, headed up by the elves.
Unlike some events that I’ve been to, where the food on offer is over-priced and a bit blah, the food on offer here was delicious. It is prepared and sold by local butchers Skinner of Kippen. A range of meat and vegetarian options were for sale as well as hot drinks and snacks. None of our party had the vegetarian options so I can’t comment on them, but I had one of their rolls and sausage and it was scrummy. My dad enjoyed his burger so much, he had two. It was quality meat and well worth the money.
Adult tickets cost £8.50 – which unfortunately does not include a gift! – and children are £16 (this includes the £1 admin charge per ticket). Infants (0 to 18 months) are £7.50 with a gift or Free without a gift. You can also book a full trailer for £201, with a maximum of 20 people, 10 of which can be children.
Before I went, I thought the adult tickets were a bit on the pricey side. However, I enjoyed the whole experience so much, especially seeing how excited the kids were, I think the cost for adults is more than reasonable.
It’s a bit of a hike to get there (it took us about an hour from East Renfrewshire, but takes about 45 minutes from Glasgow West End), and is in the country, with the accompanying windy roads! The website has lots of useful information on getting there by car and by public transport. There is loads of free parking.
Accessible trailers are available with wheelchair access, but they ask that you book via telephone and inform them at time of booking.
As a rough guide, the whole experience probably takes around an hour to an hour and a half, which includes the 25 minutes beforehand.
I am sure that it’s pretty clear from the review that I loved it; from start to finish, the attention to detail, friendly staff and little touches, made it a truly fantastic experience. So much so, that I booked up again for this year when they did their early-bird tickets in March. Most importantly, all of the children had a truly magical time. One thing I would say is that we went when it was dark, and this definitely added to the experience. However, I still think going in the daylight would be worth it.
I honestly don’t know what else could be expected for the money you pay. I would highly recommend it – but book soon as tickets are going fast!
Santa’s Woodland Experience takes place at North Ballochruin Farm, Balfron Station, G63 0LE.