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.

Swan Lake country

December 20th, 2003

THE SUN is low in the sky at this time of year and on bright mornings when I go into my office I need to pull the curtains to. Otherwise the sun shining in through the window completely obscures my computer screen. The glare of the low setting sun in the afternoons sometimes makes for difficult driving on winding country roads.

An appointment in Blairgowrie at half past eight meant an early start. The sun was up as I turned off the A94 at Coupar Angus and headed up the A923 to Blair.

On the outskirts of Coupar Angus is a house called Boatlands overlooking the River Ericht. Each time I pass it I wonder whether there may have been a ferry crossing there before the bridge was built several hundred yards further upstream.

The river at this point flows wide and slow, and as I drove over the bridge a swan was making heavy weather of getting off the water and into full flight. They are somewhat clumsy creatures until properly airborne, and this one was having difficulty dodging round the traffic crossing the bridge.

It appeared to fly straight at the pickup in front of me, before taking urgent evasive action and scraping over the top of the pickup and my own car. A bit scary for the driver to see so large a bird just about in his lap! And I imagine it jangled the swan's nerves as well.

Driving through Scone on the homeward journey from Perth, I noticed again the sign to the David Douglas Memorial. It was a sunny afternoon, so I decided to investigate.

The memorial is in Scone Old Parish Kirkyard and commemorates the celebrated plant hunter David Douglas, who started his working life at the age of 11 on the Scone Estate.

By the time he died at the age of 35 in 1834 he had explored much of the American Pacific Northwest and the Columbia River. It was he who introduced those magnificent trees – Douglas firs (named after him of course) – to Britain.

Perthshire is called the Big Tree Country, and surely the Douglas firs planted by the Victorians who followed David Douglas, have contributed to this characterisation of the county.

In his short life of exploration David Douglas sent home more than 200 flowers, shrubs and trees, including the sitka spruce, another tall and graceful conifer, and lupins, sunflowers and monkey flowers.

I didn't know such a famous Scot had grown up in Scone. Knew nothing about his important contribution to our woodlands and gardens. So I'm glad my curiosity got the better of me.

It must be confusing for visitors. They stop for a break in Perth and eat a “skon” with jam and butter. Leaving the Fair City they ask the way to “Skon”, but get directed to “Skoon” instead.

Written on Saturday, December 20th, 2003 at 1:31 pm for Weekly.