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 work of the weaver

January 2nd, 2010

THE TWEED-CLAD figure standing beside me at the Christmas party, dressed fit to kill, prompted the question whether he was wearing an estate check. Our erstwhile neighbour Ronald confirmed that indeed he was, and it went back to his days as Resident Factor to the Stirlings of Keir in Perthshire.

Estate tweeds, often described as  checks', have a history going back to the nineteenth century and were popularised, like so many things Scottish, by Prince Albert when he and Queen Victoria built Balmoral Castle. He soon designed a Balmoral Tweed to be worn by all estate stalkers and ghillies.

Estate checks evolved partly as estate uniform, but most have a practical application as camouflage for deer stalkers and gamekeepers, helping to break up their outline when out on the hill. Ronald's tweed is woven in a green background with a darker check stripe and reflects the predominantly green character of the countryside in lowland Perthshire.

Living all my life in north Angus I'm used to seeing the granite-coloured Dalhousie tweed worn by the keepering staff on Invermark estate, and by the laird himself, Lord Dalhousie, and the estate factor. It echoes the Aberdeenshire granite of the hills at the western bounds of the estate.

By contrast, on the west coast Kinlochewe and Lochrosque estates, laird Pat Wilson has taken the light brown colour of bracken dying back in September and October, mixed with fading heather and overlaid with a light green stripe, to produce a tweed which blends in consummately with the landscape in which it is worn.

Traditionally, each season estate gamekeepers receive a new suiting of jacket, waistcoat, plus-four trousers (technically described as knickers), and a bunnet. It's hardly surprising they need them replaced regularly when you think of the punishment their clothes take in the course of a year, outdoors in all weathers.

Some years ago the Doyenne and I were guests at Drumtochty Highland Games. Another guest was sporting a most beautifully cut kilt jacket and waistcoat, made up in what I would call a heather mixture tweed. It was so impressive that I had to ask where he got the cloth and who had made it up for him.

His reply that they had been made for his grandfather in 1904 fairly knocked the wind out of my sails. Our fellow guest was the late Sir Hamish Forbes of Newe (pronounced  Nieow', much like as in miaow), and I was so blown away by his rig that I never thought to ask if it was his estate tweed.

In the great tradition of hand-me-down clothes the best I can come up with is my father's overcoat of Hand Woven Shetland Tweed which he bought in 1926. I'm not sure I can boast about it too much, however, because the label says the coat was Made in England!

Written on Saturday, January 2nd, 2010 at 8:00 pm for Weekly.