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 historical view

September 6th, 2014

THERE IS consternation in the Whitson household. Macbeth has injured his cruciate ligament and been advised by the vet to take things easy. Without wishing to offend his sensitivities, we have noticed that he has been taking things easy for some time now. Doubtless when I reach his advanced age I’ll want to take things easier too.

We’ve been lucky – he’s given us one or two health frights over the years but always bounced back pretty quickly. Like most small terriers he’s been as tough as old boots. It’s been the bigger dogs, our Labradors, which have developed some rather unpleasant ailments.

He shares his injury with top athletes and high profile sportsmen like England striker Michael Owen. If Macbeth has to spend time on the sideline he’s not going to settle for any common or garden minor complaint!

Last week I wrote about our visit to the Black Isle on granny duty. In the past we joined the A9 at Dunkeld for the journey north. The long vistas to the hills of Tummel and Rannoch to the west, and the Grampian Mountains and the Cairngorms marching off to the east, lift the spirits. And the drive south coming home is just as breathtaking.

Pretty much wherever you go in Scotland you can expect memorable views and we’ve changed our itinerary for these trips. Our route now links in with some of the old cattle drove roads going back to the sixteenth century, originally used by raiding Highland caterans and the kerns and gallowglasses of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Through successive centuries they were travelled by chapmen or pedlars, peripatetic merchants and clerics, and by cattle drovers and shepherds driving their cattle and sheep for sale at the great Trysts at Crieff and Falkirk. Even into the twentieth century, seasonal workers going south to seek harvest work walked the drove roads.

ARB Haldane in The Drove Roads of Scotland illustrates how busy and vital to commerce the drove roads once were. But General Wade, John McAdam and the internal combustion engine have reduced them to a handful, incorporated into today’s highways authority network. Most now are lines on old maps, familiar only to hill walkers, the marks of the men and beasts that travelled them faded with the passage of time.

Now our journey north is over the Cairn o’ Mount Pass (B974), north of Fettercairn, which was the convergence of many of the Morayshire, Aberdeenshire and Angus drove roads.

The Cairn behind us, we head past Aboyne on the South Deeside road (B976). Glen Tanar was the route of an important drove road, crossing Mount Keen (easternmost of the Munros) and descending down Glen Mark into Glenesk and on to the Taranty (Trinity) Tryst, or cattle market, outside Brechin.

We cross the River Dee at Dinnet, heading for the former inn at Boultenstone (A97) where the drove road linking Donside and Deeside followed the course of the Deskry Burn westwards to reach major ford crossings at Aboyne and Ballater.

Corgarff Castle and Tomintoul (A939) are on the route of the old military road built after Culloden and favoured by the Speyside drovers to bring their cattle to market.

We bypass Grantown-on-Spey and at Carrbridge join the A9 which follows one of the great drove roads from the Highlands. There are tales of droves a mile long on the Drumochter Pass. History doesn’t relate whether it was a statute mile or a guid Scots mile, but there must have been several thousand cattle beasts on the move.

Just how much they were influenced is lost in history now but General Wade, and later road builders such as Thomas Telford, clearly used the natural course of those historic trails through the glens and across the hill passes to guide them in the construction of much of their road networks. What was easiest for cattle and sheep has proved to be most practicable for today’s motor cars.

We had a wonderfully peaceful journey home on Monday. There were long sections where we didn’t see another vehicle and we could enjoy the scenery to the full.

It’s such a quiet, seemingly underused, road for a major route between north and south. And there’s all that history to sup up.

Written on Saturday, September 6th, 2014 at 11:29 am for Weekly.