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.

Shakespeare writes Macbeth

August 20th, 2005

“MACBETH SHALL never vanquish'd be until/ great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill/ shall come against him €¦ €¦” from  Macbeth', the Scottish play, the play whose name cannot be spoken, by Will Shakespeare.

We were looking at the summit of Dunsinane Hill, one of the Sidlaw Hills range which marches between Perth and Dundee. The information board at the roadside told the story of Macbeth's Castle, the remains of which can be clearly traced on the hilltop.

The meeting between old and new Macbeth might have been fateful, but a notice on the  kissing gate' into the field, said  no dogs; which was understandable as there were sheep in it. From new Macbeth's perspective, (which is pretty low slung) it was just another heather topped hill. He's not fond of heather. Much of the time he can't see over it, and it's hard going for a dog with such short legs!

The Doyenne and I were escaping from the work party organised by son Robert to help him and his family move into their new home in Kinrossie. We reckoned our best contribution was taking grandchildren Fergus and Cecily, and grandson James too, off  pathfinding' (a long-established Whitson activity) while the grown-ups got on with the hard work!

Historic Dunsinane is not a high hill, but it's steep. From the top it's easy to see why it was such a strategically good site for a fortress. There are clear views in every direction to spy the enemy approaching, and it seems likely that it was a place of defence as early as 1000BC.

You're not far, as the crow flies, from the River Tay. The two bridges at Dundee, and the Law, were clearly visible. To the south the Lomond Hills, overlooking Loch Leven, were in fine relief.

Ali and Lenka from the Czech Republic had climbed the hill the previous week and written a message for later climbers, on a stone on the hilltop cairn. We wondered if they were seasonal agricultural workers taking time out from berry picking to sup up some of Scotland's darker history.

Birnam, next door to Dunkeld, lies fifteen miles westwards in the foothills of the Grampian Mountains. Tradition says that Malcolm Canmore, who chased Macbeth out of his hilly fastness, ordered his men to cut down branches from the Forest of Birnam in order to camouflage the size of his army. You'd think there might have been sufficient woodlands a lot nearer Dunsinane to supply the attackers' needs.

I wonder if Malcolm Canmore, as he peched up the hill weighed down with his branch from Birnam, would have shared three-year-old Fergus' thought. “Look at the view” he announced, “you can see for years”.

I worry in case there's a hidden philosophy in that innocent remark that my cluttered adult mind has failed to connect with.

Written on Saturday, August 20th, 2005 at 5:08 pm for Weekly.