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.

Wild and beautiful

May 24th, 2014

A CHANGE of scene is as good for the dogs as it is for the Doyenne and me. Here at home we’re spoilt for choice for walks but new scenery and a different routine is a change that’s as good as a holiday.

Last weekend was spent with son Robert and his family at Ardverikie on Loch Laggan side, where he is the estate factor. Ardverikie gained fame as the setting for the Monarch of the Glen TV series where it was reinvented as the fictitious Glenbogle.

Ardverikie House is quintessentially Victorian and indeed the Queen and Prince Albert spent a month there in 1847 as a taster for Highland holidays before they bought Balmoral. She wrote in her diary that her surroundings were “very beautiful and extremely wild”. Once you get into the remote wilderness parts of the estate, looking south to Loch Rannoch and Glen Lyon, it’s clear nothing has changed.

Historically Badenoch and Strathspey districts were the clan lands of Clan Macpherson and the whole area reeks of history. Ardverikie was one-time home of clan chief, Cluny Macpherson.

Ben Alder, on Loch Ericht side, was the site of Cluny’s Cage where Bonnie Prince Charlie, on the run after his defeat at Culloden, was sheltered by Cluny Macpherson who also had a price on his head for his part in the ’45 Uprising. Robert Louis Stevenson adapted the story and included it in his novel Kidnapped.

The royal connections don’t end with Queen Victoria. A man-made mound behind the big hoose is known as King Fergus’s grave. Two islands in Loch Laggan perpetuate the tradition. Eilean-an-Righ, the King’s Island, is reputed to be the site of King Fergus’s hunting lodge. Eilean-nan-con, Island of Dogs, was the royal kennels for his Scottish deerhounds.

45000 acres is an awful lot of ground and the nearest we got to most of it was the views, which are memorable. We drove on estate tracks – there are no roads – to remote Lochan na h-Earbha for an afternoon’s fishing. A plateful of wild brown trout for breakfast was a special treat.

As it happens, tomorrow (Sunday) Ardverikie gardens are open under the Scotland’s Gardens Scheme (2-5.30pm). There is an intimate walled garden with a lovely collection of acers, shrubs and herbaceous plants. Afterwards walk round the house policies beneath ancient Douglas Firs, Grand firs and Noble firs. You’ll also see a Scots Pine and a larch planted by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

You get two for the price of one because your £5 ticket includes entry to Aberarder House, on the other side of the loch, where you’ll get tea. This garden has been laid out over the last 20 years to create a mixture of spring and autumn plants, including rhododendrons, azaleas and acers.

Both gardens were looking good last weekend. They’re well worth a visit and it’s not so far to go. Turn off the A9 at Dalwhinnie and it’s no more than 10 miles on the A86 to the unmistakeable pepperpot gatehouse.

It’s big skies and big hills country up there but I don’t have to travel so far from home to enjoy that sort of scenery. But you’re aware that Scotland is a country of mini climates and that’s where you see the differences. I wasn’t expecting so much snow still to be on the hills.

The wood anemones were in full bloom whilst here at home they have long died back and the later wood sorrel is flourishing.

Birdlife isn’t so prolific up there and the dawn chorus was quite muted. While there’s not the same range of small songbirds there’s a healthy population of larks which kept us company on our walks. I saw my first yellowhammer of the season – they seem to have deserted our bit of the Mearns. And each morning we were woken by the relentless calling of a cuckoo.

The blossom was just formed on the hawthorns and it was noticeable how the further east we drove coming home, the closer it was to flowering.

It’s a good year for bluebells in Perthshire. We took a detour from Dunkeld on the homeward journey, round by the Loch of Lowes. Banks of the pretty flowers brightened up the roadsides, spreading into the woodland fringes.

Written on Saturday, May 24th, 2014 at 10:43 am for Weekly.