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.

Dancing lights

November 8th, 2003

GLIMMERING, SHIMMERING, constantly moving like oil upon water, the Aurora Borealis filled our skies last week. It was hardly surprising that the night-time phenomenon was given such national press coverage. It was one of the most spectacular examples of the Northern Lights in memory and such an exciting example of nature's ability to move and inspire our imaginations. Unseen, unearthly power manipulating the skies above us.

I was delighted we had an opportunity to watch it. La D. and I were guests at a very convivial supper party, and before sitting down to eat we went outside to watch the heavens “declare the wondrous works” – if Handel can forgive my dire paraphrasing. The addition of a glass of wine to protect us from the chill night air contributed to the experience.

Short of disappearing into the trackless parts of Scotland's high hilly places, one of the best spots to watch the skies that evening must have been the Crask Inn in Sutherland. It lies midway between Lairg and Altnaharra on the A836 and is one of the most isolated places I know.

You're into flow country at Crask which sits on a high plateau surrounded by some pretty rugged mountains, so there's lots of sky to see. I called proprietors Michael and Kai Geldard who confirmed it had been as spectacular as I had thought it would be. There are no artificial urban lights within ten miles in any direction, so there is a complete absence of orange glow on the horizon.

Michael, with whom I once played a rough form of Highland farm cricket, told me the Lights had filled the whole sky. It had not been particularly colourful, mostly a green sensation, indefinably fluid, which illuminated the sky and the hills round about. But the complete suffusion of the visible sky had been its most dramatic feature.

What a welcome sight the Crask Inn must have seemed a hundred years ago when the road would have been a water bound track and the sense of remoteness more profound. Although, on reflection, perhaps not. Travellers then were better used to the idea of remoteness, but the idea of a welcome dram would likely have helped hurry their steps along. It's no less welcoming today.

There was a recent TV programme about the mountain rescue dogs of Snowdonia. Macbeth was absolutely riveted. He very quickly notices other dogs on the screen and sits in front of it with his ears cocked up, watching everything that goes on, the very picture of canine alertness.

There have been several sub-zero nights and in the mornings the car has been white with frost. By lunchtime the temperature has risen so much that small clouds of mosquitoes have been dancing in the sunny patches in the garden. I doubt if they'll be dancing for too much longer!

Written on Saturday, November 8th, 2003 at 3:32 pm for Weekly.