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.

How it was

June 25th, 2011

EAST, WEST, home's best   The Doyenne and I can only imagine ever living where we do on the east coast but, as I wrote last week, Scotland's west coast is so attractive and varied that we never tire of returning there.

Along that meandering, fjord-like western seaboard there's a constant changing beauty of hill, woodland and water – the diversity is infinite   Up in the remote north-west the air smells different, the water tastes different and the further north you get the wilder the landscape, and there's an increasing awareness of uninhabited solitude.

Childhood caravan holidays near Ullapool are unforgettable as times of magical freedom   Fishing trips to Loch Shiel with an uncle and aunt, cottages at Loch Melfort and Ardnamurchan for holidays with our own family, sailing weekends and expeditions to the Outer Hebrides   Our recent holiday near Scourie just adds to the stock of memories.

Innocent-sounding butterwort, which is one of our few native carnivorous plants, catching insects on its sticky leaves, isn't restricted to the Highlands, but it's a plant I associate with Highland holidays   Likewise white orchids, cotton grass and yellow flags; and gathering mussels and long, light nights when it never gets completely dark and the oystercatchers are never completely silent.

House martins were building nests in the eaves of the neighbouring cottage.
Larks, siskins and a female greater spotted woodpecker visited the garden; wheatears and sandpipers kept us company on our walks with the dogs down by the loch   A snipe, guarding its nesting mate, sat atop a hummock overlooking the cottages relentlessly repeating its call,  €œchit chat; chit chat €

We hoped we might see a golden eagle and it was the Doyenne who spotted one lifting off from the far side of the loch, rising higher and higher on the air thermals and eventually flying off in the direction of Glen Dhu   It returned briefly the following morning, flying down Loch More.

I'd thought that traditional peat cutting had largely become a thing of the past in favour of clean, easy central heating – I've certainly missed seeing the familiar stacks of peat beside almost every croft and cottage   However in the corner of Sutherland we were visiting they continue to cut peat every year   Doubtless the rising cost of electricity and heating oil makes the labour-intensive effort of cutting the peats worthwhile.

What constitutes the Highlands is imprecise science – it's not just a matter of a north-south divide   If, like the proverbial crow, I flew directly westwards from my hometown of Montrose I should finish at Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, the most westerly point on mainland Britain – as Highland a destination as you can imagine   Yet no one would dream of suggesting that east-coast Montrose is in the Highlands.

The answer may be self-evident – Montrose is not favoured with the feared Highland midge!

Written on Saturday, June 25th, 2011 at 3:43 pm for Weekly.