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.

Dream holidays

September 24th, 2005

PEOPLE DREAM of holidays abroad, and in conversation recently a friend berated our Scottish weather, saying he couldn't wait to retire to the south of France, or some other part where the sun shines permanently.

We've had holidays abroad and enjoyed them all. But when the time comes, I dream of my bones being laid to rest in my own country. And while I look forward to more foreign holidays, there is so much of Scotland to revisit and more to explore.

The Doyenne and I have had a week's holiday staying with son James and his family, who now live near Peebles. The Scottish Borders have been a great favourite since our university days at Edinburgh when we explored them at weekends. Then, when our family were young we regularly borrowed a tiny cottage on a farm near Cockburnspath which my mother rented for £1 per week. Happy days down beside the sea. It was a pretty basic cottage, but the rent is unthinkable now.

We planned to visit some of the places with old associations, and do a bit of  pathfinding' for new ones. I was all set to go back to Neidpath Castle which sits on the bank of the River Tweed just upriver of Peebles. Then I remembered I had gone there with a different girl friend – so that was a memory which we didn't share!

We spent a wonderful afternoon at Dawyck (as in Hawick) Garden which is in upper Tweeddale near Stobo, where the Tweed begins to look more like a large stream than the great river it grows into. Our visit was helped by perfect weather, but we agreed that it was a magical place in any conditions.

It's one of three gardens which have been left to the care of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh which, along with the RBGE, illustrate the story of Scotland's botanical heritage.

It's predominantly a tree garden planted out on fifty acres of hillside, forming a backdrop to the house which is still privately owned. What makes it so special is that, unlike commercially planted woodlands, there is space between the trees to see them as individuals, and to really enjoy their shapes and colours.

In December 2003 I wrote about David Douglas, one of Scotland's famous nineteenth century plant hunters, and  father' of the Douglas Fir. An interesting comment was that there would have been 50% fewer specimens of conifer in the garden if Douglas had not undertaken his great expeditions. Seeds which he sent back were planted at Dawyck and have grown into some of the tallest trees in Britain.

As we drove away from the garden a travelling farrier was shoeing a horse in a layby. He'd had a puncture, and it was easier for the horse to come to him than for him to get to the horse.