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.

Pleasurable journey home

August 15th, 2015

LAST WEEKEND I went to Glasgow by train. It’s a favourite means of travel. You can enjoy the countryside with none of the stress or worry about other drivers who should never have been allowed behind the wheel of a vehicle in the first place.

After the peace of the countryside, with only the throbbing rumble of combine harvesters standing higher than the height of a house and the roar of tractors with rear wheels several feet taller than myself to disturb it, what a noisy place Queen Street station is. And folk running in every direction with no apparent destination or objective in mind.

Dusty feral pigeons, urbanised descendants of wild rock doves, raked amongst the tables and chairs for scraps of food. They’ll never starve as long as we careless humans continue dropping food on the pavement.

But Glasgow is a wonderful and welcoming city. Despite redevelopment in the city centre and along Clyde riverside locations, there’s still much of its red sandstone architectural heritage to admire, reflecting the influence of the likes of Alexander “Greek” Thomson, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Arts and Crafts movement.

Son of the north-east
I enjoyed my overnight stay in the city but I’m a son of the north-east and always glad to board the train for the journey home. Once past Perth the railway keeps step with the River Tay and the countryside becomes more familiar.

Heading north out of Dundee the coastal landscape is little changed from when I travelled home from boarding school over sixty years ago.

Barry Buddon army training camp – Barry Butlins, I’m told they call it now – never looked smarter than it does today. Of course, it was spruced up last year to host the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games shooting competitions. Mind you, neighbouring Carnoustie golf links weren’t as pristine sixty years ago as they are today, either.

Next landmark was Kerr’s Miniature Railway, 80 years old this year. It runs alongside the main line on the approach to Arbroath station. My mother took me on it and, if you were lucky and a big train came along – steam ones in those days – everyone waved like mad to the driver.

It’s a generational attraction. Parents and grandparents bring their children and grandchildren to Arbroath ostensibly to give them a ride on the wee railway, but it’s really so they can relive their own childhoods.

Sold his soul to the devil
On past Lunan Bay with memories of picnics and barbecues on golden sands. Look out for ancient St Skae’s graveyard, perched precariously on the cliff above Elephant Rock where, the story goes, there is the grave of a man who sold his soul to the devil.

Entering the famous Usan cutting is the last lap before arrival in Montrose. I’ve always understood the cutting is the only section of single track main line between London and Inverness. During WWII the Germans tried to bomb it and disrupt east coast railway communications, but were always successfully chased off by our fighters.

The red brick Rossie Viaduct and iron Inchbraoch Viaduct deliver you to Montrose Station. Stepping off the train and catching the fresh wind blowing off Montrose Basin after a stuffy railway carriage always lifts my spirits and reminds me what a special experience it is.

What other station can rival Montrose’s backdrop? – the long view, light and colour carrying the eye away to the foothills of the Grampians, the skies, the memory of the constant horizon, the abundance of birdlife and their sharp cries and, at this time of year, fields of butter-yellow barley ready to be harvested.

The Doyenne was at the station to collect me. Hot breath and wagging tails welcomed me home.

Marvel of nature
We were delighted when a pair of house martins built their mud nest under our eaves. At one point it seemed the birds had deserted the nest, but we watched them continually swooping over our roof and it can’t have been so.

We saw little evidence of the first brood but guessed that the hen had hatched a second clutch. Both parent birds tirelessly flying into the nest with beaks full of insects confirmed it.

Earlier in the week we noticed unusual activity around the eaves, and investigated.

Imagine our disappointment at finding that the nest had fallen off the wall. The rounded nest – a marvel of nature, like all nests – was painstakingly built with small beakfuls of mud and thickly lined with feathers. A single, recently hatched chick lay in the grass. There was no apparent explanation why the nest had fallen but the chick couldn’t have survived long out of its warmth and security, and nature took its course.

The entrance to a martin’s nest is smaller than a swallow’s, supposedly to deter sparrows invading and taking over. I’ve read of martins walling up a hen sparrow sitting on eggs in revenge for hijacking a nest, but I suspect it’s just one of those inspired apocryphal stories.

Our distressed parent birds spent the rest of the day repeatedly returning to look for the nest and their chick. They’ve stopped now, of course.

Written on Saturday, August 15th, 2015 at 7:57 pm for Weekly.