The Secret Valley
By A H Forbes
The secret valley, if it ever had a name it has been lost, lies off the Grantown-on-Spey to Forres road 10 miles south of Forres, just beyond the hairpin bend and bridge at Edenkillie Church. It is recognised by an insignificant sign reading “The Beachans” the valley is not even well known locally except to a few people who have returned to renovate the once abandoned houses. The valley can hardly be described as one of outstanding beauty, but, once visited it lays a spell upon the traveller who has time to tarry along its way.
After passing the little group of occupied houses the valley or actually two valleys come into view. One runs eastward and the other towards the south. Both are fairly level at an altitude of 800 feet. This encircling barrier gives and illusion of distance, which is brought home to the driver when the white house of Rochuln (Ro-hooln) comes into view, apparently many miles ahead, but in fact is only two miles along the road. ( Today Rochuln is hidden by forestry trees ) The eastern road ( track ) continues for two miles until Johnstrype is reached, and here a rough track turns to the left over the hills, but this should be ignored unless one wants to stretch the legs. Another mile brings a further choice of routes. Take the right hand one as the other, leading to Dallas, cannot now be traversed by car as the ( two ) bridges crossing the little streams have collapsed, although the traveller on foot can soon reach the village.
The right hand track passes Rochuln, unoccupied except during the grouse shooting season. Another mile brings you to Loch Dallas, the largest of the many lochs and lochans, and an attraction for anglers. Ahead are Loch-an-Noir and the Loch Trevie, both the sources of the streams that help to make up the river Lossie, and here the track ends. In this area there are more than 30 of these little lochs, and in the two valleys an equal if not greater number of small streams rising from springs, and eventually making two rivers, the Divie and the Lossie. These flow in opposite directions and reach the sea fifteen miles apart, though here only yards separate them. ( In recent years a new track has been made which goes round the hill and links up with the metalled road via the ruins at Berryburn and then on to Tomcork farm. )
Returning to the Beachans the south road follows the Divie closely, crossing it at the falls of Feakirk, and continues past Shenval, Glenmore and Lynagowan. From here a path leads to the former village of Ourach, (Chaorach in Gaelic) which still had inhabitants at the turn of the century. ( One can then chose to continue south over Fox Hill and eventually to Grantown on Spey, or turn westward following this track up past Aitendhu to Dava Station and the A940. )
The valley had never been sheep country, and until the railways came in 1863 the year’s quota of black cattle was assembled from the various crofts at Feakirk and driven by Ourach to the Spey where the main drovers were joined. It was said that the drovers went from Feakirk to Fa’kirk, as Falkirk was pronounced then. This road to the Spey was the one used by the Romans according to records, and maintained as an alternative route if the tribes of the Laich of Moray were troublesome. It can still be walked or traversed by Landrover. We know from the many Stone Age graves ( and hut settlements ) in the valleys that had been occupied for over 3000 years, safe in the isolation from marauders and cattle thieves. The surrounding hills shelter it also from the worst of the storms, and the air is usually calmer and warmer than in the more exposed parts of the country.
Thanks to Davie Munro for digging this out. ( The additions in italics are mine JF. )
Belvlair. (Balvlair) – From the Gaelic Baile, a residence, and Blair, Blar, a plan or field, and by extension a field of battle. The residence on plain.
Edenkillie. – The first part of this word is from the Gaelic^ Eudan, the face, literally a brow ; hence by extension it is applied to the face of a hill. It is also found as Aodann, and contracted to Ediji, Eden, Edan, and Edn. The latter part is from the Gaelic Coille, a wood, and in topography takes the forms of Kel, Kil^ Kelly, Killy, and Kyle, the wood. Signifies the woody hillside or braeface.
Lochnuan. – From the Gaelic Loch, a lake, and the Gaelic Uan, a lamb, cognate with the Latin Agnus, Welsh Oen. As is usually the case, it occurs here in the genitive plural with the preposition of prefixed, forming the word Nanuan, of the lambs. Uanan is the diminutive form. The loch of the lambs.
Oichquhorn. (Aucheorn) — The first part Oich is from the obsolete Gaelic word Oiche, water, as found in the Oich river, the Oichel, and Loch Oich. It is also found as Ock, Ocker, Ocke, Eck, and Uich. The latter part of the word is from the Gaelic Cam, a mound, and by extension applied to a stack-like hill. The genitive form is Chuirn ; hence the old form of the word would have been Oich-a- Chuirn. The mountain stream or the mountain lake, as the case might be.
Pressley. – From the Gaelic Preas, a furrow or ground cut up by running water, and Ley, a meadow. The furrowed meadow land.
Regall. (Regaul) – Is from the Gaelic Reidh, a plain or level field, and more commonly employed to signify a mountain flat, and Anglicised Rea, Re, and Ray, and the second part is from the Gaelic Ail, a hill or rock. The smooth hill or rock.
Tillyglens. – The prefix here is from the Gaelic Tilach, a little hill or mound, and variously found as Tilla, Tillow, Tilly, and Tilli. In an Irish glossary it is given as the equivalent of Briy which is another word for a little hill, and cognate with which is the English Brae. The latter part is from the English Glen, and has the same signification as the Gaelic Gleann, and though nearly identical in form, the one has not been derived from the other, the one being Anglo-Saxon, and of much later date than the Gaelic Gleann, Welsh Glyn, The hill glen.
Information from “Place Names of Elginshire” by D Matheson. Published 1905Available for download from http://www.archive.org/details/placenamesofelgi00mathrich