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.

Gonzalo’s last fling

October 25th, 2014

THE DOYENNE and I – and dogs too, of course – are back from a week in a self-catering cottage at Loch Melfort, sixteen miles below Oban. It wasn’t the brightest outlook for the holiday with forecasts of Hurricane Gonzalo’s last fling on course to batter the west coast – and anyway it was raining when we set off.

It was uneventful until we got to Loch Earn when the rain started in earnest. It fell steadily all the way to Loch Awe. Then the sky erupted and the rain came down in torrents – raindrops the size of ping pong balls stotting off the road.

It changed just as dramatically in the space of half a mile. A weak sun broke through sullen grey clouds to the west, the downpour stopped and a dazzling, full rainbow appeared behind us over Glen Orchy, promising a crock of gold and untold riches if we could only reach the end of it before it disappeared.

It was noticeable the further west we drove, how much further on the autumn colours are from those on the east coast. Scarlets and browns of sycamores and beeches and a kaleidoscope of fading greens and ochres of birches, hazels and other roadside trees and shrubs were cheerful splashes of colour brightening the grey journey.

Larches – winterbare conifers – lose their summer foliage over the winter. The bright green needles turn sere yellow before falling off. At this time of year they are a startling contrast to the austere green blocks of other Forestry Commission plantations.

The wet conditions emphasised the colours of dead and dying bracken on the brae faces. Shades of dark cinnamon ranged through to light rust. It’s something I’ve taken too much for granted for there’s a wonderful world of ferns out there that I haven’t paid enough attention to.

Son James and his family joined us with bicycles, swim suits and bags of energy. They packed a lot into their weekend. Between showers they managed two bike rides along the tow path of the Crinan Canal, made good use of the swimming pool on the site and ate outrageous amounts of food.

We had a family visit to nearby Arduaine (Ar-doo-annie) Garden, one of a number of long-established, west coast Victorian gardens now in National Trust care.

The garden is renowned for its collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias. The rhodies were mostly well in bud, benefiting from the temperate conditions provided by the Gulf Stream, which was an important consideration in establishing the garden in the first place.

I wasn’t too lucky finding breaks in the weather when I went walking with Inka. More often than not curtains of rain hustled in from a gun-metal Atlantic, obliterating the hillsides and bringing the countryside to a standstill.

Macbeth has a touching habit, going back to when Inka was a puppy, of licking his head and muzzle dry when we come in wet from walking. Inka, unusually, stands patiently until his small friend has finished.

Previous holidaymakers in the cottage had fed the birds. We had hardly unpacked the car when we had a visit from an enquiring hoodie crow, clearly expecting its tea.

Hoodies are west coast birds – we don’t see them on the east. They are handsome in a flash sort of way; mostly black plumage but with a grey waistcoat and shoulders. Opportunists like all members of the crow family – which is why they are such good survivors – they never completely lose their wariness of humans even if you feed them regularly.

East coasters are fond of saying that you don’t go to the west coast for good weather, and this week certainly proved the truth of it. We didn’t see a blink of the sun all week – Gonzalo’s last fling had been a dinger. There was nothing for it but to put on the fire – we had a supply of wonderfully dry logs – and settle down with the newspapers and a good book.

The Doyenne had one reservation. The water is so soft over there and she can’t do a thing with her hair when she’s washed it!

Written on Saturday, October 25th, 2014 at 9:25 pm for Weekly.