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.

Scotland’s north-east fishing villages

September 25th, 2004

RETURN VISITS usually mean that previous ones have been a great success. Which is just why the Doyenne and I, and Macbeth too, have spent two restful weeks at Portnockie enjoying a somewhat belated summer holiday. The more we get to know the Banff and Moray coast the more we enjoy returning there.

It lived up to its reputation of the  Riviera of the North' and we had bright, sunny days. When the rest of the east of Scotland was struggling with the frightful weather of recent weeks, they had twenty seven days of unbroken sunshine.

I have a passion for harbours and boats thankfully shared, or at least tolerated, by La D. and without going further than Pennan (of film  Local Hero' fame) to the east and Buckie to the west, was able to indulge myself.

The smaller harbours are no longer the full-time working places of the past, and fill with the clear, clean ice-blue water of the Firth on the other side of the breakwaters, built high for protection against the ferocity of the winter seas.

 Sinnine' for Sandend,  Finechty' for Findochty,  Game-rie' for Gardenstown – you need a day or two getting acquainted with the local versions of the village names to be sure you are asking the right directions for where you want to go.

Ask for bannocks at the baker and you'll be given large, plate-sized pancakes.  Roweys' are butteries in Portsoy, but Cathy our neighbour over the fence in Portknockie, calls them  rowleys'. If you want oatcakes ask for them as such, or just point them out if you're starting to get flustered!

The original villages grew up informally around their harbours, unrestricted by the procedural requirements of planning laws. Many of the cottages sit gable-end onto the sea presenting least resistance to the winter gales, like boats riding out a storm.

Portnockie is the only one to have been built on the clifftop as there was no suitable land by the shore. The twenty or so houses at Crovie ( Crivie', locally) hang by their eyebrows to the cliff base and are so close to the sea there's no room for cars, and everything heavy must be conveyed by wheelbarrow.

Inland from this north facing coast the land is fertile, the fields are big, and the harvest was all cut. It seemed mostly to have been barley, which I suppose is inevitable so close to the distilleries of the Spey valley, which need the malted barley to start the sublime process of making malt whisky.

Macbeth quite took to village life – folk take a moment to greet you and pass the time of day, and even have a word for a small, white dog. And I was introduced to the Victoria Hotel where we discussed the relative merits of several whiskies I hadn’t met before.