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.

Hands across the ocean

April 4th, 2009

LOUD KNOCKING had me cantering to the front door to find two girls bearing books – “Man with two dogs” and “Sea Dog Bamse” (which I co-wrote with my friend Andrew Orr) – which they hoped I would sign for them. You can't turn away these sorts of request when they're accompanied by American smiles! Our callers were mother Babette and her daughter Marin who were on a flying visit to Scotland from London where Marin is spending a year studying at the London School of Economics.

They were on their way to Dunnottar Castle, which has all the elements of history, atmosphere, royal connections and dark intrigue to match any castle in Scotland. What else, they asked, could they see in the time they had available to give them a true flavour of the area? Had they been up Glen Esk, enquired the Doyenne? “What's a glen?” was the response. “We'll take you there when you come back” we said.

Built on a precipitous, rocky headland jutting into the sea just below Stonehaven, Dunnottar had matched all their expectations, and a gentle drive up the glen in the early evening sun was a total contrast. We are lucky to have the variety to be found in the glens of Angus on our doorstep, and I like nothing better than introducing visitors to some of my favourite places.

We took them to the head of the glen to look at the towered fortalice of Invermark Castle which sentinelled the upper reaches of the glen and controlled the pass over Mount Keen into Deeside. In its own understated way this smaller fortress will have seen as much of the good, the bad and the infamy of life in Scotland in earlier centuries.

Cock pheasants paraded about displaying their handsome mating plumage, indifferent to passing traffic. It explained why we saw two buzzards lifting off the roadside with pheasant carcases hanging from their talons. The clocks had changed that morning giving our guests an extra hour to enjoy their surroundings. There's not a great deal of colour on the hills at this season of the year but the sunlight playing on the brae faces and stony outcrops prompted many photographs.

We explained what a busy place the glen once had been, with a population large enough to support two schools, three churches and a Masonic Lodge. Now there's only one church holding regular services, the remaining school has a healthy school roll and the Masonic Lodge seems thriving. Nothing stands still and Glen Esk will continue to adapt, but I can think of few other glens which have so much vitality and activity going on in them.

The contrast to our new friends' life in America was striking. I like to think that they took away with them the romance and reality of an altogether Scottish glen.

Written on Saturday, April 4th, 2009 at 9:26 am for Weekly.