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.

Why Scotland invented whisky

November 4th, 2006

  DOGS, DOYENNE and I are all back from an autumn break on the west coast. We chose the dreadful week, weatherwise, that affected pretty well the whole of Scotland. That said, although it rained stair rods much of the time, we didn't have the terrific winds that affected this part of the country, with fallen trees and other damage.

As HV Morton wrote in  In Scotland Again' – “Rain fell all day with the nagging persistence of toothache  €¦ €¦ The sky fell. The earth gushed water  €¦ €¦.. it was made perfectly clear why Scotland invented whisky.”

At the beginning and end of the week we were joined by congenial friends who cheerfully shared the weather's vicissitudes. We managed walks in the breaks in the weather, and the rest of the time we sat indoors and defied the worst that the elements could throw at us. It's surprising how much you can defy sustained by a steady supply of conginiality and tonic!

Inka has boundless energy and the ancient oak woods down on the Kintyre peninsula were perfect for walking him. Thick, overgrown and hard to get through when you get off the established paths. It meant that he was never out of contact, ran several dozen times further than we walked and was happily tired by the end of the day.

By contrast, Macbeth was much more circumspect. His short legs are for taking him down fox holes, for West highland terriers were bred originally as hunting dogs to flush foxes out of their dens to be destroyed. He sees little sense in careering about the countryside when that's not his purpose in life.

Macbeth was, in fact, back in his spiritual home. The West Highland white terrier breed we know today was developed in the early 1900s by a Colonel Malcolm of Poltalloch, an estate about a dozen miles from where we were staying. The significance of it all was totally lost on  himself'.

We took a drive up to Ballachullish, which lies at the foot of fateful Glencoe. There's a road bridge now at Ballachullish, but I well remember the anticipation of driving onto the ferry which crossed the narrow neck of Loch Leven. It was a break in the journey for a wee laddie, and I was allowed out of the car for a breath of fresh air. There were warnings of dire consequences if I went too near the side of the ferry, especially if I was careless enough to fall overboard.

It was one of some dozen ferries that saved drivers long and wearisome detours round winding sea lochs which plunge inland from the coast. The bridges over these crossings speed up journeys and are a boon to tourism, but a bit of the romance of driving down the west coast was lost as, one by one, the ferries were discontinued.

Written on Saturday, November 4th, 2006 at 9:48 am for Weekly.