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.

On familiar ground

June 14th, 2014

THE DOYENNE and I – and dogs too, of course – are coming to the end of a fortnight’s holiday in the same self-catering cottage near Kinlochbervie we took last year.

We know the area well. My father’s cousin was the GP at nearby Scourie for many years. This was before the old Kylesku ferry was replaced by the dramatic sweep of the road bridge. I stayed with his family for several fishing holidays when I was a youngster.

I loved the area and we brought our own family here for holidays. It’s not very adventurous but we both like going back to places we know and don’t have to spend half the holiday finding out what we want to do.

Last year we saw black throated divers almost every day and heard their wild, yelping calls . We’ve seen one this year which looked as though it had just flown in, rolling and splashing about in a small loch, freshening up at the end of its long journey.

Cuckoos were calling almost everywhere we went last year but we never actually saw any. This year we’re seeing and hearing them. A pair fly over the cottage most mornings and we’ve seen single birds on trees and telephone lines.

I knew to look out for the ravens that have their nest on a cliff face behind the cottage. For all their ponderous bulk they are wonderful aerial acrobats. I heard their guttural calls before I saw them slipstreaming and tumbling in the wind thermals.

Five more sat on fence posts behind the Kinlochbervie fish pier when I drove there at half past six in the morning hoping to see a fishing boat landing its catch. There was no fishing boat but I watched an irate oystercatcher noisily seeing off a black backed gull which was probably threatening its chicks.

It’s ideal for dogs. Oldshoremore and Sheigra beaches are just up the coast. Inka can stretch out and race all over the place. Like most Labradors he loves the water and is in and out of the sea.

Macbeth is more fastidious. In the thirteen years we’ve had him I’ve never seen him swim, and he’s happiest these days walking on the firm, flat sand.

We chose a dazzling, sunny day to drive the sixty-odd miles to Ullapool. The spectacular, isolated and dramatic peaks of Quinag, Canisp, Suilven and Stac Polly dominate the landscape from the road.

Ullapool takes me back to caravan holidays there between 1949 and 1956. Today’s town is much changed from the village I remember. It was an important herring port then. I was just a laddie in short pants and my father would get me to shout down to a boat that was landing its catch and ask for a fry of herring. Six or seven whopping big fish would be thrown up onto the pier which I had to clean when we got back to the caravan.

Back to the present – on the drive back to the cottage we were held up at Inchnadamph by a herd of stags ambling across the road. Their antlers were in velvet – still at the growing stage. The so-called velvet supplies blood and nutrients essential to antler growth and is shed when they are fully grown.

It’s a good time to be up here for the wild flowers. Yellow irises or flags, which I associate almost more than any other flower with the north-west, grow in a marshy spot near the front door.

There’s insect eating bog violet or butterwort, pink marsh orchids and purple orchids, intense blue milkwort and bugle, patches of yellow tormentil and birdsfoot trefoil, cotton grass shivering in the breeze, sphagnum and all the other mosses, sedges, grasses and ferns. The white water lilies are just starting to flower.

On the brae at the back of the cottage we see grey wagtails, wheatears, pipits, stonechats and sandpipers. Down at Tarbet where you get the ferry to Handa Island Wildlife Reserve there’s a pair of greylag geese with eleven goslings. They’ll be targeted by the marauding skuas, always on the lookout for an easy meal.

The soft water up here has been doing wonders for my complexion. The Doyenne is looking pretty good too!

Written on Saturday, June 14th, 2014 at 10:36 am for Weekly.