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 grand day out

June 22nd, 2013

READERS OF a certain age will recognise the lyrics from Nat King Coles’ 1960s hit: “Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer / Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer”.

Slinging the dogs into the back of the car I took the chance to dust off the sun and headed for Fishtown of Usan, some five miles south of Montrose.

Peter Anson, in his seminal book Fishing Boats and Fishing Folk on the East Coast of Scotland wrote that “Usan has been a fishing station for many centuries.” The name is supposed to be a contraction of Ulysses Haven and tradition is that it was originally settled by Viking Danes.

The square tower rising from the middle of the row of low fishermen’s cottages was a landmark for shipping and a signal tower for the fishermen – in dirty weather a beacon was lit on the roof to guide them to safety.

Nowadays the Pullar family operate their commercial salmon netting enterprise from the Fishtown.

I sat at his kitchen window with David Pullar senior, looking out on the rocky shore and the sun bouncing off the sea. His cottage was built as the fishermen’s bothy, with a net store taking up the whole space below.

Dave leaves the day to day work to his sons and grandsons now but his lifetime’s experience – “a knowing pair of hands”, he calls it – is there when needed.

I commented on the stiff breeze – “a fishy breeze”, was Dave’s description – blowing off the sea.

He told me that salmon swim with the wind. A wind blowing off the sea blows the fish towards the land and the fishermen’s nets. The best shots of salmon are when the wind is almost too strong for the boats to go out. Too much wind, however, stirs up sediment in the shallow water where the nets are anchored and the salmon keep to the deeper water.

I said my farewells and drove round to the Mains of Usan. The first six months of my life were lived in what was the dower house for nearby Usan House. Usan Cottage it was called then, Inverusan now.

I spent happy hours as a youngster scrambling over the rocks there, fishing in the pools and walking round to the Fishtown to watch the blowhole spouting. It needs the incoming tide, probably with a fishy breeze to help it, to create a surge strong enough to force enough water up the natural funnel in the rocks to shoot a jet of water skywards like a landlocked whale.

I took the dogs along the sea shore, just revelling in the warmth of the sun. Inka never learns not to drink the seawater – by the time we get home he’s being sick! They got very hot but luckily they could take a good long pull at the mill stream which runs through the old ruined mill.

On, then, to Forfar where I had business.

Past the Kinnell Crossroads, where the Brechin/Friockheim and Montrose/Forfar roads intersect, I drew into a layby to read my paper. I fell asleep in the warm sun.

I was wakened by the ringing yaffle of a green woodpecker somewhere close by in the trees. Plue, plue, plue is how I’ve seen the yaffle interpreted in writing, which is a surprisingly realistic rendering of its strange call.

The B9134 back road from Forfar to Brechin is a favourite run home. There’s Flemington Farm and its castle, recalling my literary heroine Violet Jacob and her historical novel Flemington.

The standing stones at the roadside at Aberlemno are wonderful examples of the 7th and 8th century Pictish sculptors’ art.

Aberlemno Parish church, just before the village, is well signposted but I wonder how many people drive past without going to see the Pictish cross slab in the churchyard. Celtic interlacing flanked by entwined beasts on the front and a battle scene on the reverse, I think it’s the finest of the Aberlemno sculptured stones.

Time for home and a cup of tea. To paraphrase the late John Mearns, comedian and agricultural representative (in that order!) – Whit a grand day I’d had. It just affirmed the conviction – where better could a body live?

Written on Saturday, June 22nd, 2013 at 8:51 am for Weekly.