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.

Militarily speaking

November 12th, 2011

THE BLACK Isle is one of those off-the-main-track parts of Scotland that I reproach people for racing past in their haste to get somewhere else. The name reflects the rich, fertile land of the peninsula whose shores are washed by the waters of the Cromarty Firth on the north and the Moray Firth to the south.

The Doyenne and I are back from a tour of Granny duty at Culbokie,
looking after grandchildren Cecily and Fergus. The views from their house are spectacular. Across the Cromarty Firth the massif of Ben Wyvis – one of the most easterly Munros – dominates the skyline. Look west across Strathconon to the peaks of the Torridon hills and eastwards is Invergordon, the deep water harbour and anchorage which was an important wartime base for the Royal Navy.

Inka and Macbeth went to kennels as we had their dogs, Porridge (after all I taught him, and my son calls his dog Porridge!) and Tiggy to look after as well, and having our two in addition could have strained my patience. So it was walks every day as usual.

For forty years I’d wanted to visit the great garrison fortress of Fort George, built at the tip of the Ardersier promontory, north-east of Inverness, part of the strategy to pacify the Highlands in the bloody aftermath of Culloden, and to deter the Stuarts from any further attempts to recover the British crown. Luckily the kids shared my enthusiasm and we spent an instructive afternoon there. Fergus could tell me that what I thought were carronades were actually mortars – corrected even by the grandchildren now!

The British Army is still there and Fort George is still a military barracks, currently the depot for our own Black Watch, 3rd Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland – the Gallant Fortytwa. They, of course, are deployed to Helmand Province on their second tour of Afghanistan, so it’s a quiet place right now and many peoples’ thoughts are with them in these distant parts.

Pathfinding is a great Whitson tradition and when we left Fort George we spied the finger post to the Cheese Pantry, outside Ardersier, and followed the finger. The Clark family at Milton of Connage have diversified their dairy business, making organic cheese using milk from their own dairy herd.

They have a range of their own Connage cheeses (www.connage.co.uk) and were gold and silver medallists at this year’s British Cheese Awards for their Connage Crowdie. They’ll be featuring in the BBC2’s Hairy Bikers’ new Best of British food series which starts tomorrow.

Cuddy’s Cave cheese commemorates 7th century St Cuthbert’s pilgrimage from Melrose to Lindisfarne. I couldn’t resist coming home with a piece of the mild Northumberland cheese which the Cheese Pantry sells as one of its guest cheeses and which I first wrote about eight years ago almost to the day.

Written on Saturday, November 12th, 2011 at 9:56 pm for Weekly.