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.

…. a’mouldering in the grave

July 3rd, 2010

THE GRAVEYARD of St Skae overlooks the Elephant Rock, a cliff-top walk well known to Montrosians of a certain age   A white-painted iron gate on the coastal road that runs past Dunninald Castle to Seaton of Usan Farm and the Fishtown of Usan marks the track down to the ruined chapel   I was a teenager the last time I visited the ancient site with my father, and it was time to visit again.
By the time we – the dogs and I, that is – started our walk the wind had dropped, the clouds were high in the sky and the sun was beating down   The water was quite still, almost motionless, and it was only the gentle movement of seaweed on the incoming tide that confirmed the ineluctable rhythm of the seas   If I'd had my dookin' suit with me I might have taken the plunge.

White rumps above their notched tails identified house martins, curvetting over the fields and round cliffy headlands in their constant search for food   Common gulls were guarding their young on the Elephant Rock   The chicks are big lumps of bairns covered with grey down, not old enough for their feathers to have developed and looking somewhat embarrassed, as if they know how unbonny they are!

Skylark song filled the air; yellowhammers, sparrows, bumblebees, Large White and Meadow Brown butterflies and a most beautiful ivory wild rose were some of the distractions.

The track is well maintained, making easy going of the half mile or so trek round to the Boddin – a haunt of my youth   By the time we got there the dogs were fairly plottin' – especially Macbeth with his thick coat   So it was fortuitous that we met Kirsty and Tracy who kindly provided a welcome bowl of cool water to set them up for the walk back.

In a surprising act of indulgence for an ecclesiastical site – or perhaps it was a sense of moral ascendancy – there's a grave at St Skae's of a man who is supposed to have sold his soul to the devil   It's so overgrown I couldn't find it, but several headstones tell the pathetic story of infant mortality of a hundred and fifty years ago   Like James Macdonald of Dunninald who buried five of his children before succumbing himself.

From the high elevation of the path the Elephant Rock really does look like an elephant, dipping its trunk into the sea   It's odd that on that rocky cliff where the soil can scarcely be more than a foot deep in most places, there should be this isolated patch where the gravediggers could delve down six feet   Here, men and women, separated in life by divisive social proprieties, spin out the rest of their memorial in neighbourly decay.

And who was St Skae anyhow, and what made him so saintly?

Written on Saturday, July 3rd, 2010 at 9:20 pm for Weekly.