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.


July 4th, 2009

NORWEGIANS AND Scots have generations, indeed centuries, of strong ties linking the two nations and peoples. It wasn't always thus and, in the early days when it all started, things were a bit on the debit side for the Scots. Around the year 800AD the Vikings began to take an interest in fledgling Scotland and their first excursion here, on a fine sunny afternoon, was to attack, and loot, the holy island of Iona.

Keen to learn more about our one-time warlike neighbours and their country, the Doyenne and I have just spent a fortnight's holiday in Norway. The further north up the country we travelled the more we became aware of how like Scotland's west coast Norway's landscape is. It's just much bigger and longer and higher. We were forever pointing out views which reminded us of familiar places back home.

Jagged mountain ridges, snow capped especially on the north faces which the sun hardly touches, and some of it will never melt. Below the snow line dark shadows of naturally seeded fir trees and birch woods. Fjords, whose grandeur exceeded our expectations, strike far inland. Long bridges and mountain tunnels go some way to reducing the length of what would otherwise be interminable road journeys round the heads of them.

Reindeer grazing along unfenced roadsides, just like the sheep in our own Highlands. Lochs and lochans (Norwegian-style, of course) round almost every corner. All down the west coast an endless necklace of islands – especially the Lofoten Islands, reminiscent of Scotland's own archipelago of Inner and Outer Hebrides, and with similar traditions of fishing and crofting type farming.

In 1098 the Viking king Magnus Barefoot led a raiding party, sailing round Cape Wrath, to duff up the Hebrides. Business accomplished, as he set sail for home he decided to adopt the Gaelic dress which left his lower legs bare, which accounts for one of the earliest examples of a Scottish by-name or nickname.

The Norwegians welcomed us as kindred spirits. They are hospitable, outgoing and interested in the Scots. Once all the nonsense with the Vikings was sorted the two countries developed close trading and commercial links. Cultural links have been just as important as evidenced by Edvard Grieg, Norway's national composer, of Scots descent, whose ancestors farmed Mosstoun of Cairnbulg near Fraserburgh. The high noon of all these historical bonds was the friendship and shared adversities of WW2.

Puffins, red squirrels, dolphins, weasels – sea eagles too, with a wingspan of eight feet and known as “flying barn doors”. Both countries share much of the same flora and fauna but Scotland isn't home, yet(?), to walrus, wolverine, brown bear or lynx

And we saw the midnight sun. Our first night at the North Cape was highlighted, in more ways than one, by brilliant sunshine which never slid beneath the north horizon.

Written on Saturday, July 4th, 2009 at 1:27 pm for Weekly.