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.

The grass is greener ….

May 24th, 2008

WE'RE HOME – the Doyenne and I, that is – after a short break at Tarland. It wasn't far to go, just a forty minute drive over the Cairn o'Mount and into the Vale of Cromar.

It's always been a bit of an adventure climbing (in the car, of course; I'm a  fair weather' climber!) that long winding hill and stopping at the summit to scramble up the Cairn and add another stone to the top. When I was a youngster, and the family lived in Montrose, such a journey was a bit of an expedition, and was planned for several days in advance.

The weather was clear and the view from the top, eastwards to the coast, was just stunning. To paraphrase the great Dr Samuel Johnson – “the noblest prospect which an Angus loon ever sees is his home county spread out below him from the top of the Cairn.” Having said that, our bedroom at Douneside House looked south, and each morning we were greeted by glorious vistas of hills and forests coming to life in the rising sun.

Crossing that summit takes you not only into another county but into its own micro climate. The hills form a barrier and you can leave one side in glorious sunshine and drop down the other into teeming rain – even snow. And the geography on either side is as different as chalk from cheese. Looking across Deeside, all you see are the Grampian hills marching westward like so many Roman legionaries. As the Doyenne remarked – “there are no flat fields in Deeside.”

A rickle of gravestones, several hundred yards off the road, caught my eye and I just had to investigate. It's always fascinating to read who lived and worked and died in a place. Farms called Coldhome and Hardgate were aptly named, and give an idea of the nature of the landscape and of the kind of lives that the families who worked the land, a hundred years and more ago, lived.

We were surprised that in such a lonely spot the grass round the graves was all neatly cut and tidy. An absolutely plain building, without even the simplest bell-housing on the gable, gave no indication that this was the very ancient Migvie Kirk.

A carved Pictish symbol stone standing at the entrance to the graveyard, confirms the antiquity of the site which is dedicated to St Finan and dates back to the 8th century. We pushed open the door expecting to see cobwebs and a few broken down pews. We couldn't possibly have anticipated the sight that greeted us. As a memorial to his parents, the local laird the Hon. Philip Astor of Tillypronie, has restored the building and transformed the interior to a place of beauty and peace for quiet reflection.

And I'll tell you more about this remarkable place next week.

Written on Saturday, May 24th, 2008 at 9:13 pm for Weekly.