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.

Scottish country garden

May 1st, 2004

CAPERCAILLIE WATCHING at 4.30am certainly wasn't on our – the Doyenne and I, that is – agenda. But a very enthusiastic couple from Cheshire, who we met over a pub supper were looking forward to the experience with great excitement.

Friends of the Capercaillie (or capercailzie, in the older Scottish spelling), would be rising at that unlikely hour, and guided onto the Abernethy Nature Reserve to watch the birds  lekking' or performing their courtship display.

We were spending a few days at Nethybridge, in the middle of Cairngorm country, still with snow on the high tops. Down in the valley all was fresh spring green of larches, and white blossom of geans (the Scottish wild cherry) and blackthorn.

Our first short excursion was to Loch Garten and the possibility of seeing the resident ospreys snatch a fish out of the water for supper. There was no sign of them so we sat and just enjoyed the complete peace of our surroundings.

Before we left we had seen a tree creeper, and what we were assured were a pair of crested tits.

The township of Tulloch on our road back is typically Highland, you're not sure where it starts and finishes. But I noticed the post box in a gable end was stamped  VR' – Victoria Regina. Installed in Queen Victoria's reign, and still going strong, although boxes so old must be pretty uncommon now.

Juniper bushes were everywhere; it is the plant badge of the Gunn and Ross clans.

Well worth a visit is the recently established Millennium Garden at Auchgourish which is building up a collection of alpines and rhododendrons. There is also a small herd of white Highland cattle, which is a strain we hadn't seen before.

Seeing the amount of physical effort involved in developing these new gardens you can understand what a labour of love gardens like Inverewe and Arduaine must have been, which were created without the assistance of modern machinery.

We were never far from the River Spey which runs through malt whisky country, surely a blessed spot to be! Although there has been plenty rain there is concern about river levels which depend, long-term, more on snow melt of which there has been too little, rather than rainfall.

We revisited the brilliant Italian ice cream parlour in Grantown-on-Spey and as usual threw cholesterol caution to the winds. A lady came in for ice cream to carry out. Could she get two  sliders' please. Profound pause – was it wafers she was wanting?

I'm obviously losing touch because I hadn't imagined that a word as embedded in my childhood as  slider', might no longer be part of everyday conversation.

The water in Speyside is soft, and good for washing in. The Doyenne and I have returned with refreshed complexions but not able to do a thing with our hair.