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.

Big tree country a joy to behold

November 23rd, 2013

THE DOYENNE and I had a sleepover last weekend with friends at Blair Atholl. It was good to be able to enjoy a glass of the Oh be Joyfulls with them and totter off to bed, our virtue – and driving licences – intact.

They live in a historic, and historical, part of Scotland – the southern boundary of Gaeldom and frontier of the old Highland culture and landscape.

We drove to the cathedral town of Dunkeld to join the A9. The Gateway to the Highlands some call Dunkeld. It’s one of Scotland’s earliest ecclesiastical centres and a fine example of an eighteenth century Scottish country town.

It was here the Scottish Horse Regiment was raised in 1900 for service in the South African Wars by the Marquis of Tullibardine who responded to Lord Kitchener’s bidding to ‘send out the fiery cross’. It must have been one of the last times the old Highland call to arms was exercised, symbolically at least.

Then it’s just a few country miles up the Great North Road to Blair Atholl, built on the old General Wade road which continues onwards through Old Bridge of Tilt. Crossing the River Tilt it skirts round Blair Castle, the last castle in Britain to be laid siege.

Jacobite troops besieged British Government troops inside the castle who were close to starvation and were only saved by the Highlanders’ withdrawal to fight at the Battle of Culloden. The Highlanders should have sought wiser counsels and stayed where they were.

The Grampian Mountains strike off to the north and east to meet up with the Cairngorms. It’s a wilderness place of high peaks, familiar mostly to deer stalkers and serious walkers.

The best we managed was a gentle Sunday stroll down the banks of the River Tilt. There’s a wishing well tucked into the riverbank. Tradition is that your wish will be granted if you toss a white pebble into its water. I couldn’t see a single white chuckie so it looks as though folk up there have had all their wishes granted.

Scotland’s great agricultural improvers of the eighteenth century introduced a scientific approach to farming and were also great planters of trees on their estates. Perthshire makes its claim to be the Big Tree Country but throughout the north-east, indeed throughout Scotland, there is a glorious legacy of long-established woodlands. We should be mindful of the heritage that we hold to pass on to following generations.

In our neck of the woods we’re spoilt for choice for woodland walks. So often with just my dogs for company, I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely. For me it’s a good feeling.

I love the sweet greenery of spring, the cool of the leaf canopy in summer and autumn’s dazzling colours.

Stripped bare in winter, there’s dignity in the old limbs twisted by age and the elements. There’s been enough north in the wind these last few days for the dogs and me to keep to their shelter when we are out.

We owe thanks to our forebears for their foresight and enterprise. They had the vision to see in their mind’s eye the mature trees occupying their place in the landscape.

I remember saying this to another dog walker in the woods at the Burn Estate, outside Edzell. Her reply was that ‘they knew what it meant to lift the soul just by looking at nature.’ It’s the sort of remark you wish you’d made yourself!

As the days draw in I sometimes don’t get out with the dogs until dusk. If we walk round the wood margins, as often as not we’ll disturb pheasants that have flown off the stubble fields to begin to digest their crop before moving into the wood to their roosts. Cock pheasants wait until we’re just below them and explode out of the high branches with outraged klokk, klokks at our intrusion.

Occasionally, late on, when I take the dogs out for their last walk I hear a cock pheasant’s alarm call deep in the wood. Several more chime in. What has alerted them – a hunting fox perhaps? It’s certainly not us for we are on the track by the side of the field.

Written on Saturday, November 23rd, 2013 at 11:18 pm for Weekly.