You could easily drive past and never know it was there. Even hoping that we were on the right road and might just find it, we almost missed it… almost, but not quite. I have never known the name of this place that I had stumbled on so long ago by accident, I just know it is beautiful in a way that has always sung to my heart.
Pushing through the green veil of leaves, what first appears to be no more than a russet stream reveals itself to be a little piece of heaven. Heather crowns the sheer cliffs that embrace the tumbling waters. Where the stream is shallow, it runs crystal clear but tinted with peat, the gold of the moors. Where it runs deep… and it does… the pools are dark, icy cold and yet inviting.
The flow is swift, channelled to the lower falls through a steep, rocky gorge. The sound is pervasive, the roar of red water as the lifeblood of earth. We climbed the cliffs to look down on the falls, then clambered down beyond them to explore.
Movement, sound, colour and light assault senses already heightened by the fragrance of pine and damp earth. Wood, stone and water are vibrant and alive and their presence feeds and revivifies, in some inexplicable way, as we immerse ourselves in the moment.
Later, I would trace our route on the map and learn that the place is called Pattack Falls. I would find that had we had the time to wander a mile or two farther up the stream, there are wide, isolated pools and falls some forty feet high. It gives me one more reason to return with time to spare for exploring… not that I need one.
There is a sense of magic about the place… everywhere. No photograph can capture its spirit, nor all its beauty. Even the stones sparkle; great boulders reflecting the shifting light with the silvery delicacy of diamond dust… and small pebbles, worn smooth by the churning waters, that somehow found their way into my pocket as a tangible memory of that wonder.
I, for one, could have happily spent the whole day there, playing on the glittering rocks, walking the paths beside the stream and seeking the icy intimacy of the waters.
But already it had been a long and eventful day, driving from Inverurie to Inverness, then down the length of Loch Ness. The light would soon begin to fail and we still had a long way to drive through the Highlands to our hotel somewhere just south of Pitlochry.
Even so, with my skirt hitched up out of the way and with nowhere near enough time to play, I was a very happy hobbit…