Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Romantic Scotland

May 31st, 2003

LOCH MAREE is as romantic a place as it sounds. We – the Doyenne and I, that is – had a short break at Kinlochewe, at the head of the loch. The loch flows into the River Ewe to meet the sea at Poolewe, close by the famous National Trust Inverewe Gardens.

This is a walkers paradise whatever your ability. From easy strolls along the lochside, to pretty arduous (to us at least) climbs up the likes of Slioch, and Beinn Eighe pronounced Ben A as in ABC, which belongs to Scottish Natural Heritage.

For some years SNH have maintained an artificial island in a bay at the head of the loch to encourage black-throated divers to nest. With binoculars we watched the current pair several times. Occasionally the hen bird swam with the male which never swam too far away from the nest, just in case danger arose.

They are quite spectacular birds with very distinctive black markings on the throat and neck. I noticed an advertisement in the village Post Office for boat trips from the Loch Maree Hotel to several other artificial nests beside the islands in the middle of the loch.

Another unusual sighting for me was a merganser. Although they are common enough over here on the east, I haven't seen one for some time. They are saw-billed ducks which effectively have a beak-full of teeth, which ensures the fish they catch stand little chance of escape.

We saw plenty of hoodie crows with their grey mantles and underparts contrasting with the overall black of carrion crows. A raven circled lazily round a stand of Scots pines clinging to the top of a high cliff. Its deep croaking cry sounded like it had a sore throat of monumental proportions. By contrast the cuckoos sounded very musical.

At the head of Loch Maree are a herd of wild goats which sometimes come down to the loch side to graze. They appear out of great yellow banks of prickly gorse which is in full bloom just now. It has an unmistakable smell of marzipan. Another plant I associate strongly with west coast holidays is bog myrtle which has a zesty, lemony tang of lavender.

Driving on unfenced Highland roads means always keeping an eye on the sheep that graze along the roadside. If there are two or more sheep, there's always one that may, or may not, want to cross to the other side. But it will wait till you are ten feet away before making a move. I think they do it to irritate, and to test our reactions.

And the dogs? They're always glad to see us when we collect them from the kennels, but the way they bound into them with such obvious anticipation makes us think they get spoilt rotten while we're away – and they rather like it!

Written on Saturday, May 31st, 2003 at 10:21 pm for Weekly.