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.

Into the west

October 26th, 2013

MOST YEARS about this time the Doyenne and I escape to the west coast. Summer is past, it’s getting a bit back-endish and it’s good to get a break before winter sets in.

A favourite part has been Melfort, some sixteen miles below Oban. You’re in the west Highlands, but draw a line eastwards from Melfort and you’ll near enough hit St Andrews – sixty miles south of where our journey starts. It’s a bit of a conundrum having to drive south as well as west to get to a Highland destination.

It can be explained, of course, by taking your bearings from the Highland Fault which runs from Dumbarton Rock to Stonehaven. Everything west of the fault line is defined as Highland.

You won’t find Torridon’s rampart peaks or Sutherland’s towering massifs but the Ice Age glaciers have left their distinct imprint on the ancient coastal strip of Lorn and Knapdale. It’s an area of absorbing variation and natural and historic interest.

The grandchildren were still on holiday last week and son Robert and his family joined us for half the week and James and his family for the other. Looking back to their own schooldays this was tattie holiday time and they, and daughter Cait, worked on local farms picking potatoes and learning what it was to earn their first money.

The Doyenne and I have been going to Melfort Village at Kilmelford for thirty years, and holidays now are mostly spent revisiting favourite places. Dunollie Castle overlooking Oban Bay was a new expedition.

Built on the site of a Bronze Age fortification, the castle is the seat of Clan MacDougall. For 700 years it has guarded the seaway of the Sound of Kerrera, and its ivy-covered walls are a prominent landmark which we’ve seen when sailing with friends.

The clan association is undertaking a major restoration of the castle. Meantime an interesting collection of clan artefacts has been brought together in the clan museum in Dunollie House, otherwise known as the 1745 House, a traditional Highland laird’s house.

Ardmaddy Castle, once the principal house of the MacDougalls of Raera, a cadet branch of the clan, has a magical atmosphere about it. The house sits at the head of a bay in a horseshoe of protective hills and woodlands, looking down the Sound of Seil to Torsa Island and Luing.

Known for its azaleas and rhododendrons, the best of the flowers are usually past when we visit, but we spent a sunny afternoon enjoying the formal walled gardens and woodland walks which are open to the public.

Their autumn is a bit ahead of us here on the east. One of the predominant colours on the hillsides was the crotal brown of the dead bracken.

I hadn’t managed to pick brambles before we went away and we caught the tail end of a tremendous crop of fruit over there. I wasn’t going to miss them a second time and we came home with about five pounds. Some are in the deep freeze to be used in the Doyenne’s Christmas apple and bramble pies and the rest are bramble jelly – scrumptious.

As jams and jellies follow each other through the season I have to try them all to decide which is my favourite. It doubtless explains why my shadow shows little sign of diminishing. They are there to be eaten, after all, and they do go best with butter on your piece!

A change is as good as a holiday for the dogs too. A favourite place for walking is the Taynish peninsula which has shoreline, grassland, bog, heath and ancient woodland. There’s a feeling that the outside world has given way to history. It’s criss-crossed by good, level trails which suits Macbeth – his scrambling days are past, I’m afraid.

There’s a dog cemetery under the trees in the grounds of the big hoose, Melfort House, which neighbours Melfort Village. Little gravestones remember Tarka and Robbie. There was Rona, ‘faithful companion and friend’, and Jolly and Sable.

Although none of the dogs had been theirs, Matthew and Yvonne Anderson, who run a B&B business at the house, maintain the little garden of remembrance. It’s a touching reminder of the sentiment and affection that the dogs and their owners shared.

Written on Saturday, October 26th, 2013 at 10:17 am for Weekly.