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.

Romance and street lights

June 20th, 2009

A ROMANTIC midnight drive – just the Doyenne and me – is something we haven't done for a while but, as we drove home after a very pleasant evening out for dinner with congenial friends, memories came flooding back.

It's fun to go to new places and see new sights, but I'm a bit of a home bird. Having grown up in Montrose and scarcely ever left my home county of Angus I enjoy the certainty of knowing what I can expect to see when I drive round a corner or reach the top of the next hill.

Half way down the Rossie Braes (the hill leading down into Montrose when you drive in from Arbroath) a narrow unclassified road branches off left towards Montrose Basin and joins the Montrose-Forfar road at Maryton. As we reached the crest of the hill, midway between the two main roads, I could see the darkened woods on the top of Maryton Law rising above us on the left. Off to the right was the familiar sweep of Montrose's street lights curving round the Basin, reflected in the waters of the high tide. I knew how it was going to be and the certainty of that familiarity added to my pleasure.

In the 1950s and 1960s travelling folk used to arrive about this time of year for the seasonal agricultural work and camped in a little den just below the turn-off. They built their bough houses, as they were called; tarpaulins stretched over saplings bent over and stuck into the ground. Sometimes you would see ponies tethered, and usually there was a wisp of smoke rising from a cooking fire.

We drove round the Basin, turning right at Barnhead and headed for the Bridge of Dun. What a blessing the bridge must have been for travellers when it was opened in 1787, saving a long walk round by Brechin. It has semicircular pedestrian refuges built out over the river so that travellers could leap nimbly out of the way when phaetons and curricles and stagecoaches with their high stepping four-in-hand horses came clattering down the turnpike. Nowadays folk lean over the parapet to see if the salmon and seatrout are making their way upriver to spawn.

We headed off for Stracathro Hill. Like Maryton, the Stracathro brae isn't big, but it's got big views. What a choice of views for the traveller with time to stop and look – up Strathmore towards Stonehaven, and down the strath towards Perth. It was dark, of course, so all we could see were the myriad lights of farms and cottages, many of which were familiar to us. Ahead of us was the shadowy bellmouth of Glen Esk.

By the time we clambered into bed the first of the dawn chorus was clearing its throat and starting to tune up.

Written on Saturday, June 20th, 2009 at 6:38 am for Weekly.