Storybook Glen, Maryculter
Storybook Glen is a fairytale paradise situated 6 miles west of Aberdeen. Started in the 1980s after the owner saw something similar in Canada it's a childhood time capsule. The concept is pretty simple - it's a park full of statues of storybook characters. They run the gamut from classic to modern - from Wee Willie Winkie to Tinky Winky. Over 28 acres there are more than 100 characters scattered randomly throughout the park in a way that turns an amble into a journey of adventure. Some of the statues are in plain view, others are hidden along secret pathways so you never know who is going to loom at you out of a bush.
Some of the characters are instantly recognisable. Miss Muffet who was sitting on her tuffet eating her curds and whey is a no brainer. Others take a bit more thought - the lady lurking in the undergrowth brandishing a cleaver turns out to be the story of Three Blind Mice. A select few I'd never heard of at all, like Handy Pandy, the jack-a-dandy who loves plum cake and sugar candy. Luckily many of the tales are signposted and there's a map for the rest.
At a quick glance two themes emerge: violence and pies, or both in the tableau that is Who Killed Cock Robin. Unaccompanied children get themselves into all kinds of scrapes - Hansel and Gretel forced out by their wicked stepmother are almost eaten alive; Little Tommy Tucker is forced to sing for his supper; Jack Be Nimble burns himself jumping over the candlestick. And those are the lucky ones - The Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe is there giving some poor child a sound beating. In contrast, the modern day figures stand out by their blandness - Wallace and Gromit are Fireman Sam are so bloody helpful by comparison.
Many of the exhibits are pretty shonky, giving them comedy value. Thomas the Tank Engine appears to be wearing make-up (I always had my suspicions), Snoopy is completely unrecognisable. The trolls in Trollworld seem like an avuncular lot while the Pixies in Pixie Land look like they could do you some serious harm. Others have an otherworldly beauty like Mary, Mary Quite Contrary or Little Red Riding Hood, while the rest are plain surreal like the giant chicks hatching from giant egg cups on the way to the large and impressive fairytale castle.
Although it's easy to scoff at this for being home-made and old-fashioned it's a brilliant day out. Well worth the meagre entrance fee. There's isn't one single interactive element here, but it took the whole day to see. The way it's arranged encourages kids to explore every last nook and cranny and it's well-paced between characters everyone recognises to more obscure ones. It's fun, educational and thought-provoking all in one. Every park should be like this.
Storybook Glen photos
More of Anne's Storybook Glen photos
How to get there
Storybook Glen, Maryculter, Aberdeen AB12 5FT. Tel: 01224 732941. Follow the South Deeside Road (the B9077) from Aberdeen. It is well-signposted on the approach to Aberdeen.
It is open all year round, from 10-6 between March and October, and 10-4 between November and February. For admission prices please contact Storybook Glen directly.