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 favourite haunt

February 16th, 2013

WE DIDN’T go for the weather, and we didn’t get it, but the Doyenne and I are back from a short break in Northumberland which is a part of the country we’ve become increasingly fond of.

It’s a good time of year to rent a holiday cottage – not many other people are thinking of leaving the comfort of their own firesides, so it’s quiet.

We stayed at Newton-by-the-Sea, at High Newton to be precise, just a step from the sands of Beadnell Bay, not far down the coast from Holy Island, the Farne Islands and Bamburgh Castle. You’re never far from the sea, which is what makes a holiday for me.

Along the coastal trail from Seahouses to Alnmouth, driving through one fishing village to the next, there are views of the sea round almost every corner. It’s reminiscent of parts of our own north-east coastline but more compact and flat.

Hauled up on the shingle and in the small harbours you see some of the remaining examples of the Northumberland fishing cobles, flat bottomed and with a double keel at the raked stern to help maintain stability in heavy seas.

The glory days of the herring fishing, when these cobles formed the fishing fleet, are long gone. We popped into the shop beside the Craster smoke house to buy kippers. The herring all come from Norway now.

The coastline is a mix of clean yellow sands and rocky reefs lying off the shore making it treacherous in bad weather. It was from the Longstone Lighthouse in the Farne Islands, where her father was the lighthouse keeper, that Grace Darling saw the wreck of the SS Forfarshire breaking up on Big Harcar rock. She and her father rowed their heavy, wooden coble for nearly a mile through the treacherous seas to rescue the survivors.

On the first morning I walked out on Beadnell Bay in a perishing northerly wind that had started life in the Arctic, picked up speed over the tops of the Grampians and followed us down. They are a hardy breed of dog walkers down there and I met several owners and their pets leaning stoically into the gale. Back indoors I tucked into a fat boy’s breakfast – satisfying, if sinful!

More curlew than I’m used to seeing up here were feeding round flood waters and muddy pools left by snow melt. On the shoreline turnstones and dunlin followed the tide, probing for food amongst the rocks and seaweed.

You’re in Cheviot country and the comparison with our Angus glens is marked. The Cheviot Hills are rounded and softer, the views longer and less atmospheric. But I can never visit the Border country without thinking what a desperate, savage place it was in the days of the Border reivers.

Driving on the isolated side roads it’s easy to imagine the terror that a moonlit raid by Archie Fire the Braes Elliot, God’s Curse Scott or Nebless Clem Croser with a tail of ferocious, mounted brigands at their back must have struck in the hearts of defenceless shepherds on the lonely shielings. Mind you, the Robsons and Selbys and Grahams and all their ilk behaved no better when they went raiding into Scotland returning the compliment.

The local stone is sandstone and we passed numbers of substantial country houses and farmhouses, an indication of the county’s rich agricultural legacy. The Doyenne was very taken with the architecture which reminded her of the Yorkshire Dales where she grew up.

Not many places were open but we weren’t much in the mood for sightseeing anyway. We did stop to look round Saint Ebba’s Parish Church in Beadnell which is as attractive inside as it is outside. I like the idea they have of a stainless steel bowl beside the front door kept filled with water for passing dogs.

And if you should find yourself down that way make a point of dropping into Eleanor’s Byre at Embleton for coffee, cake and gorgeous things. Be prepared to be tempted and, if you’re like the Doyenne, yielding to temptation.

Not a time of year for a lot of colour in the countryside but the snowdrops down there are further on than up here – but I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you.

Written on Saturday, February 16th, 2013 at 11:10 pm for Weekly.