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 sense of place

August 17th, 2013

EAST, WEST home’s best. You can say much the same about north and south. It’s grand to go visiting but it’s good to get back to the familiarity of your own kail yaird – Dancing in the moonlight / Singing in the rain / Oh, it’s good to be back home again.

Within the confines of a small country Scotland encompasses a glorious range of what one writer described as “ecstatic” scenery. The Highland Boundary Fault which runs, traditionally, from Dumbarton Rock to Stonehaven, supposedly defines what are the Highlands and the Lowlands. But cultural differences, language, geography, history and even wildlife still characterise the four corners of our land.

The demarcation throws up some unanticipated confusions. Campbeltown, generally accepted as a Highland town, lies south of Berwick upon Tweed. The Mull of Galloway, on the Highland side of the Highland Fault but in the Southern Uplands of Scotland, is south of Newcastle upon Tyne.

And there’s a problem with single malt whisky, supposedly a Highland phenomenon, but some of which – and fine labels too – are distilled in the Lowlands. Still, as my old father used to say, there’s good whisky and better whisky, never any bad whisky!

So what prompted this topographical whimsy? A fortnight ago we were in the Black Isle visiting son Robert and his family. Last weekend we were in the Borders visiting son James and his family who live near Peebles. Journeys of no more than two and half hours drive from either.

Perhaps the most celebrated Scottish journey was Dr Samuel Johnston and James Boswell’s Tour from Edinburgh to the Hebrides nearly 250 years ago. Even on horseback they would have been lucky to have travelled five miles in an hour.

You might think that the speed at which life is lived nowadays would threaten and blur the traditional distinctions created by the Highland Line.

The Romans tried to unite the Highlands and Lowlands – and failed. After Culloden in 1746 Butcher Cumberland took on the job of destroying the idea of the Highland Line. To a degree he succeeded – destroying a political order but not the sense of place.

When folk from the Borders meet others from the Black Isle they don’t say, vaguely, they come from Scotland. With their ingrained pride of identity they know exactly where they come from – they don’t need to be told.

Whether we’ve been north or south, or in the case of daughter Cait and her family somewhere in the middle at Auchterarder, there’s no denying, home’s best – Laughing in the sunlight / Running down the lane / Oh, it’s good to be back home again.

Ahead of me and descending the long brae into Hillside, outside Montrose, were two Clydesdale horses drawing a dray. I can’t think when I last saw such a sight. If I hadn’t been in a tearing hurry – the curse of modern travel – I’d have stopped and had a word with the driver, retired Montrose vet Alasdair Govan.

I put that right, spending a morning with him and two gentle giants – Robert, 19 hands, and Edward, 18.1 hands, (horses are measured in hands which is equivalent to 4 inches). And there’s Mac and Donald too.

Alasdair’s interest in horses started in the 1980s. Since retirement he has concentrated on competitive showing in Heavy Horse Turnout classes and In-hand and Harness classes. He’s a modest winner for I’d no idea he’s won championships at the Highland Show, Angus, Perth and Fife shows and major shows all over England.

It’s a rewarding, indeed important, hobby for someone with his background for he tells me that Clydesdales are on the At Risk Register of the Rare Breed Society.

He got me up on the seat beside him and took me off with Robert and Edward on an exercise run. It fair brought back memories. The last time I’d been on a cart behind a Clydesdale was on Stone of Morphie Farm when I was about eight years old.

And he’s a man with two dogs – always a plus point. Freda and Fred, his Boston Terriers, travel in a box behind him.

I’ve never felt drawn to keep horses. I wanted to keep ferrets but the Doyenne wouldn’t countenance it.

Written on Saturday, August 17th, 2013 at 10:00 am for Weekly.