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Issue 25 - Pattack Falls – Strathmashie, Badenoch

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 25
February 2006


This article is 12 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Pattack Falls – Strathmashie, Badenoch

Photographer Andy Hall captures the favourite place of accordonist and musical producer Phil Cunningham

Pattack Falls near Loch Laggan is a hidden secret of the Highlands. It is the favourite place of accordionist and musical producer, Phil Cunningham.

Deceptively close to the road west from Dalwhinnie, it needs to be sought out. Phil had to send me map references before I could locate this beautiful spot but on first sight, its photographic potential was considerable.

Phil first came across this spot by accident as a young musician returning home from the west. On taking a ‘rest’ stop and whilst waiting for the others from the band bus, he took a wander and had his first meeting with Highland waters. It had such a significant effect that he is compelled to stop every time he travels the road.

To me this picture exemplifies a typical ‘Highland river,’ a high sided gorge with powerful water rushing through the narrow opening. It reminds me of a scene from Kidnapped by RL Stevenson. You almost expect Allan Breck and David Balfour to jump down on their escape from the Redcoats in the thrilling adventure story, partly set in the Highlands.

The photograph was taken in autumn with lovely morning sunlight filtering through the woodland, and it just manages to pick up the pretty red berries of a wild herbaceous shrub to lift the foreground.

In his description in A Sense of Belonging to Scotland: Further Journeys, Phil explains his sense of awe, which I shared when I took the picture, when he reflected how “something so dark and powerful can instil in me such a sense of peace, tranquillity and wonder.”

The quality and the direction of the morning light is the key to the success of this shot although Phil explains that the ever-changing light ensures that it never looks the same twice.

I’m very proud of what was a challenging situation and particularly when Phil says that “Andy has managed to capture the very essence of what I saw that day in this beautiful shot. That unique light, immense power and serenity …. all rolled into one!”

Nowadays, Phil is probably best known for his extensive tours with Shetland fiddler, Aly Bain, playing to sell-out audiences but on every celebratory occasion from the opening of the Scottish Parliament to Hogmanay festivities, Phil’s wonderful musicianship fills the auditorium, lifting the spirits of Scots and friends of Scotland all over the world.

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