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.

An Irish blue moon

June 23rd, 2007

AN IRISHMAN told us where the expression  once in a blue moon' came from. It's when a second full moon occurs in a single calendar month. The moon isn't actually blue, of course, and why it should be so described the Irishman did not say.The explanation was unimportant for we were on the west coast of Ireland, staying in a holiday cottage in Connemara, about six miles from the hotel where we spent our honeymoon – nearly forty three years ago!

The Irishman explained further that the weather at the time of a blue moon was a forecast of the weather for the ensuing month. There had been such a moon at the end of May and the weather had been fine and sunny.

The rain tipped down from the moment we got off the car ferry at Belfast and continued every mile of the way to our destination at Ballynakill Bay. By next morning the skies had cleared and we had ten days of constant sunshine – practically unheard of in that part of Ireland.

Away from the tyranny of the telephone, and surrounded by quite magnificent scenery, we set out to revive past happy times. The Twelve Pins Mountains preside over a countryside which is surprisingly reminiscent of Sutherland in northwest Scotland. You're never far from water – sea or loughs and rivers are round most corners.

Connemara has transformed itself from the place we remembered. The natural feature of thatched cottages has been lost from the Connemara landscape because today's home buyers want contemporary homes with modern amenities. In their place are new and substantial houses, more often than not two stories, and what seems to be an indicator of essential style – a grand set of gates at the end of each drive.

It's unrealistic to expect people to maintain a lifestyle that would be hopelessly outdated. The traditional Irish thatched cottage was one of the most evocative and appealing sights for visitors but it's a sight that has gone, now, for ever.

What we were unprepared for was the diversity of wildlife. There aren't great numbers of any one species, but in this wildlife paradise nature co-exists very comfortably with man and we had some  memorable sightings. Great northern divers which I've only ever seen once before, and a pair of ravens. Most unexpected of all was my first sighting of a pair of choughs – I didn't know they bred on the west coast of Ireland. Cuckoos greeted us in the morning and were the last sound we heard at night. And the Doyenne watched an otter ambling across the road.

It's clear we go to Connemara but once in a blue moon, but after this holiday I think I'd like to return rather sooner. Despite the changes it's still a wonderful holiday destination if you're looking for complete peace and quiet.

Written on Saturday, June 23rd, 2007 at 10:13 pm for Weekly.