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.

High road to England

September 6th, 2003

NORTHUMBERLAND'S SWEEPING hills marked journey's end to Hexham. We – the haill unseemly crew of us, that is – were visiting son Robert and his family in their new home just outside the historic town.

We took the sunny road down the middle, the A68, driving through Lauder and Jedburgh, over Carter Bar and into England. We saw miles and miles of Scotland, looking its best, as most of Scotland does. Once you've crossed The Forth, it's over Soutra's summit and the Lammermuir Hills on your left. The Border hills are bonny hills, deceptively soft–looking compared with our Angus braes, but winter can be as hard, and bleak and desolate as anywhere.

Onwards south to the Border, and the tops of the Moorfoot Hills march away westwards. Past Eildon's three peaks, beloved of Sir Walter Scott, and where King Arthur and his Court lie sleeping. Close to Earlston is Sorrowlessfield, so named reputedly because it was the only farm not to suffer any deaths among its menfolk at the tragic Battle of Flodden.

Then Jedburgh with its history of Border reiving and rugby – a difference of pace rather than attitude! Read George MacDonald Fraser's, “The Steel Bonnets”, to really appreciate the horrors of the Border reiving years. You'll hear of Jock Half-Lugs Elliot, Nebless Clem Croser and Fingerless Will Nixon. Bynames earned from injuries received in the bloody feuding of these lawless times?

Carter Bar is the barren hilltop where you can stand with one foot in England and the other in Scotland. It was indeed a Bar or barrier, the gateway of Scotland. Then it's into Cheviot country, down the long straight Roman road of Dere Street, across Hadrian's Wall and into Hexham.

You never saw a house empty quicker than the first time granddaughter Cecily met Macbeth. She thought Macbeth's tail the most useful handle for pulling him round the garden backwards! Thankfully it wasn't repeated this visit and Macbeth obviously has no hard feelings.

Grandson Fergus, who is not yet two, is exhausting. He hasn't learnt to walk yet, he just runs everywhere and you need to keep your eyes peeled or he's into the next calamity. Sheba is very patient with him, seeming to understand that small people are a matter of survival.

Northumberland is a marvellous part of the country to live. Its people and the countryside strongly reflect our own on this side of the Border. But I always need back to Angus.

Dr Samuel Johnson said – “the noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!” And him with a fine Scots Border name.

H.V. Morton's farewell sentiments to Scotland at the end of his inspired travelogue “In Scotland Again”, better reflect my return home. “Thank you for all the good and kindly things, for friendship, for humour, for beauty”.

Written on Saturday, September 6th, 2003 at 7:55 pm for Weekly.