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.

Awaiting a doggie telegram

May 30th, 2015

DSC02648MACBETH CELEBRATED his fourteenth birthday yesterday. If it’s true that dogs count seven years for every human one that makes him ninety eight, which elevates him to the distinction of being a grand old man. It can only be a couple of months until he hits the century when no doubt we can expect The Telegram, delivered by First Class Corgi.

Don’t just accept first impressions. Driving out of Edzell I saw two woodpigeons apparently lying dead in a puddle at the side of Edzell Muir. Pigeons have fast reactions and it would be unusual for two to be hit-and-run victims in the same incident.

I drove back to have a second look. I found that they were in rude health and having a good bath, and looked like they were enjoying every moment. Pigeons bathe in order to get rid of excess feather dust which is a white stour that helps keep their feathers in good condition and waterproof.

After a great deal of splashing and vigorous fluffing up of their feathers they waddled onto the grass and settled down to dry off.

You can’t miss the yellow marsh marigolds, also known as kingcups, brightening up the ditches and wee burns. Another damp-loving wild flower is lady’s smock, sometimes called the cuckoo flower because traditionally it flowers when the cuckoos start calling.

Lady’s smock seemed to be growing rampant along the banks of the stream across the road from the house. Luckily I took a closer look because, it turns out, it is bittercress. At a casual glance the flowers are similar – both plants have four petals but bittercress is white and lady’s smock silvery lilac. It confirms once more how important it is to check my facts before leaping into print.

The Doyenne and I are back from a family gathering spent in the Laird’s Wing at Brodie Castle, near Forres, in Morayshire. The castle is the clan seat of the Brodies. In the safekeeping of the National Trust for Scotland since 1980, Brodies owned the lands and lived in the castle for around 1000 years.

You can get quite proprietorial after a couple of days living in these historic surroundings – history oozing from every stone and recreating a bygone way of life.

Like so many NTS properties the castle is surrounded by established mature woodlands with specimen trees up to 200 years old. And the garden has a definitive collection of daffodils bred by Ian Brodie in the early twentieth century.

At The Pond I met a pair of mute swans with four cygnets which can have been only days old. I watched the parent birds paddling vigorously with their feet in the shallow water to stir up insects from the muddy bottom which the cygnets promptly hoovered up.

The name Mute is misleading, for the male, or cob, in particular has an explosive, belching call which is quite at odds with the elegant bird that makes it.

I enjoy visiting this part of the north-east. The last part of our journey, on the A940 from Grantown-on-Spey to our destination, crossed the high plateau of the moorland uplands and dropped down to the rich, arable farmland of the coastal plain. Because of the absence of high hills there’s an abundance of sky and light.

And it’s traditional Macbeth country. Indeed, you might wonder whether William Shakespeare himself didn’t spend a couple of weeks self-catering in the Laird’s Wing gathering background local colour for his Scottish play ‘whose name cannot be spoken’.

Not far from the castle is Macbeth’s Hillock, standing in the middle of a level field in open ground where, tradition says, Macbeth met the three witches – the “secret, black and midnight hags”.

Of course, agricultural improvements since 1611, when the play was first performed, have transformed the “blasted heath” described by the playwright. But to my mind the hillock looks nothing more than a motte, a fortified, man-made earthwork which would have been enclosed with a defensive wooden palisade.

And what about Macbeth’s Castle on the top of Dunsinane Hill, part of the Sidlaw Hills range which marches between Dundee and Perth.

Another tradition is that Malcolm Canmore, who chased Macbeth out of his hilltop fastness, ordered his men to cut down branches from the Forest of Birnam fifteen miles westward in the foothills of the Grampian Mountains, to camouflage the size of his army. Surely there might have been sufficient woodlands a lot nearer Dunsinane to supply the attackers’ needs?

It strikes me that Shakespeare and his play must take much of the responsibility for blurring the lines between fact and tradition. There seems an embarrassment of tradition and not much fact but then, like the Loch Ness Monster, traditionalists often want things to be something they never were.

The Doyenne has had a disturbing thought. If it’s true that Macbeth – the dog, that is – really is 98 and, if it’s true that owners get more and more like their dogs, how grumpy shall I be when I get to 98? I’ve told her she worries unnecessarily.

Written on Saturday, May 30th, 2015 at 10:10 pm for Weekly.