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.

Border Tales

August 21st, 2004

TWO DAYS of warm sunshine greeted us when we – The Doyenne and Macbeth, and me thrown in for good measure – visited La D's sister and her husband in their new home in Westmoreland. I noticed the emphasis is very much on the middle syllable – MORE.

The M74, which becomes the M6 motorway, takes you down the west side of the country and reminds me in some respects of the A9 from Perth to Inverness. It's a real pleasure to drive through such noble hill country with glorious long views.

Once you reach the border lands it's a bit of a haunted country, full of old tragedies from Flodden Field and the  rough wooing' by Henry VIIII, to the endless reiving from both sides of the Border. It's a wonder anyone ever lived there, it was such a wild place once.

HV Morton, in his seminal travelogue  In Search of Scotland', described it as  this queer compromise between fairyland and battle-field'. And it's that too – just think of Thomas the Rhymer and the Queen of Elfland, and Sir Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.

But we had no time to spare on such Homeric reflections as we had to get down to Long Marton in time for tea. It's a most attractive little village just off the A66. If we had carried on along that road we should have come to Bowes, which I understand is where the Bowes family line of the Bowes-Lyons of Glamis Castle originated.

We were in Pennine country, and specifically the Howgill Fells which have names such as Knott, Crook and Winder. I had expected the harvest would have been a lot further on than up here, but there seemed to be a lot of combining still to be done.

On Saturday we were taken to Orton which has a busy monthly Farmers' Market just like Forfar. I suppose we were close to original Cumberland sausage country and they would want to make a proper show, but I was much impressed by the sausages on sale, which seemed to be several feet longer than usual.

A plain stone building was billed as Orton Liberal Club 1888. I was tickled by the carving of William Gladstone's head which appeared above the door lintel. It was a fine reminder of Fasque House which was his Scottish home.

There can't have been many Liberals in Orton, because it's an awful wee hall.

There were plenty new walks for Macbeth to explore, and he enjoyed going out with Jess the Border collie for company.

After church we were introduced to the retired Suffragan Bishop of Penrith who lives in the neighbouring village of Milburn, which he told me had been built as a fortified village for protection against the marauding Scots. Which seemed just how it should have been.

Bring forrit the Tartan!

Written on Saturday, August 21st, 2004 at 2:14 pm for Weekly.