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.

Great road north

September 12th, 2009

 DAYS OUT here and there' are something the Doyenne and I look forward to.

Last weekend she and I took a day out to Lhanbryde, near Elgin, to visit Coxton Tower, built in 1644. Dundee's Claypotts Castle, in miniature, gives you an idea of how big (or small) Coxton is. It's a familiar trip to Morayshire which I've done in every season, and it never fails to delight.

Cairn o' Mount was shrouded in mist and rain but, as so often happens, crossing the summit is like turning a page. The weather cleared and the sun broke through as we drove down to sad, little, roofless Spittal Cottage at the foot of the hill, long ago destroyed by fire.

From Banchory we took the A980 to Bridge of Alford and headed past Mossat of Mossat Shop fame, the one-time only general store serving an enormous hinterland, and immortalised in the comedy songs of  Scotland the What'. We'd already passed wonderfully euphonic Bogendreip and Bogentassie – the sort of names you expect in darkest Aberdeenshire. Onwards then, and the distinctive kirk steeple and hexagonal belltower alerted me that we were nearing Rhynie. Turned left onto the A941, and saluted the vitrified fort crowning the Tap O'Noth on our right.

Curiosity got the better of me and I stopped to read the inscription on a fountain plaque just before crossing the River Fiddich. “Erected from surplus funds of a Bazaar held to pay off the debt on six bridges built on the road between Dufftown and Cabrach”. Imagine the confidence of holding a bazaar to pay for your road improvements, and having money over to erect a memorial.

We were in whisky country now, Aberlour, Knockando, Craigellachie, Spey – the names roll off the tongue as readily as the angel's breath slips down the thrapple. On the high road of the Cabrach a notice announced we were passing the Forestry Commission woods of Blackmiddens, one of the three Darroch Wids – it was like something out of Johnny Gibb of Gushetneuk!

There's no space left to tell you more about the wee tower of Coxton. Or about Auchanachie, another tower house near Huntly, but extended over several centuries and now a most attractive home.

To ring the changes on the road home we left the A97 and took the minor road to Clatt. The sign at Windyraw Farm road end told its own story of the bleak, backbreaking lives of the folk who farmed the land when they gave it its name. The prominent pap of Bennachie dominated the landscape to the east.

Give or take, it was ninety miles each way through the rolling hills and braes of Aberdeenshire and Moray, and hardly any traffic to bother us. These are not roads to hurry on but, even with the historical visits, we were home in good time to give the dogs their supper.

Written on Saturday, September 12th, 2009 at 10:04 am for Weekly.