Whenever I speak of it to acquaintances they seem never to have heard of it before, and when I point out its position on the map to folk who walk, they note its situation and shrug their shoulders; it is too far out of the beaten track, they say. But that is the very charm of it. It is a lost valley "where nobody goes," which nobody wants to penetrate. Besides I have a feeling its ground is forbidden and my sojourn there is a trespass.
On all sides, loch and moor and mountain hedge it round. No roads lead into it, and only sheep-tracks out. It lies about midway between the long dark tarns - not of Auber in the region of Weir, but - of Treig and Ericht in the waste of Rannoch. On the east and west Ben Alder and Lochaber tower above it, and away to the southwest across a howling watershed where springs the well-heads of wild rivers, stretches the hopeless desolation of the great Moor of Rannoch, no mean barrier even to the eye.
I happened on the valley from the south, and caught my first glimpse of it far below me in the sunlight through the swirling mists and sleety drizzle on the brow of Carn Dearg. I had been forced to climb the mountain, for, in wandering about the moor, companionless except for the occasional wildfowl that exploded from my feet and the wan ghosts of David and Allan on their everlasting flight through the heather. I had completely lost my bearings. The sun was invisible: I had no compass, and I twirled my gully's blade-point on my thumbnail in vain - it cast not the vestige of a shadow.
I took two hours to climb the mountain, but descended it, on the other side, in twenty minutes.
Up on the hilltop all had been gloom and soddenness, but down in the valley was brightness, dryness and a land smiling in genial sunshine. While the shining expanse of Loch Ossian, like a vast silver shield, lay by my left, fronting me was the lost valley itself - the Strath of Ossian. "Glen" is to wild a name to apply to it, "valley" too tame, but the Gaelic "strath" exactly fits it.
Two perfectly parallel walls of emerald-green, cliff-like hills form the sides. Their lines, gently falling to the bottom in wonderfully beautiful curves, melt so easily and imperceptibly into each other that it is impossible to tell where sides leave off and bottom begins, all jointure being lost and obliterated.
A thin blue ribbon of water meandered peacefully through this highland Vale of Tempe, and a flock of snowy-fleeced sheep dotted the green sward.
Overhead, great piled masses of cumulus floated serenely in the blue and a soft wind breathed fitfully down the valley.
As I headed for Lochaber, I wondered if Tennyson knew of the Strath of Ossian when he wrote: -
To the island-valley of Avilion;
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly;