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.

Remote but not lonely

September 22nd, 2007

REMOTE, IS a word applied to much of Scotland – and with good reason. It's not difficult to find remote places – drive to the end of the road, pull on your walking boots and walk.

Look at a map of any rural part of Scotland and see how much of it shows only hill names and contour lines, and not a sign of habitation. Drive up to Sutherland and Caithness, or onto Skye and, as you turn the first corner after the last house, what stretches out before you is beautiful and remote, and peaceful and empty and much else besides.

OK, so “remote” is relative, and compared to the vastness of the Himalayas there are fewer places in wee Scotland that can be judged as truly so. If there's a bit of a frontier attitude associated with the word it isn't always borne out by our actions. We jump in our cars to go to remote places and once we get there most of us don't stray far from the road. So, for me, remoteness is more a state of mind than geographical distance.

Go to the head of any of the Angus glens and you'll soon know what remoteness is. Glen Clova ends where the bridge crosses the River South Esk just below the old post office, now long closed, which was run by Mrs Cameron, her son Rab and his wife Patsy. I've only twice been in nearby Clova Kirk – once for Rab's funeral when the congregation of friends was so big it spilled out into the kirkyard.

Don't cross the bridge but carry straight on to the head of Glen Doll where Jock's Road starts. Named after shepherd Jock Winter, the track is an old drove road across to Braemar. Get caught in a winter storm on some of the high parts of the road (you skirt round several Munro's on the way) and you'll appreciate the insignificance of man in lonely places.

Walk westwards from Clova over the hills to Glen Prosen, cross the Spott Bridge at Glenprosen village and the road peters out somewhere past Glenprosen Lodge. Across the Prosen Water you'll see a shepherd's cottage on the opposite brae which is named Craigiemeg on the map. There's not even a track shown to it, and while the nearest neighbour is not all that far as the crow flies it would be far enough to go for help in an emergency.

She must have been a special sort of girl who married the shepherd and went with him to live there, bringing up a family maybe with no services but the spring outside for water. The bairns would walk to school, doubtless barefoot in the summer. And you certainly made sure you forgot nothing on the shopping list when you went for the messages! Yes, I'd call that remote.




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Written on Saturday, September 22nd, 2007 at 10:18 am for Weekly.