I'll be honest with you. I was a bit alarmed when Gail suggested yesterday that we take our lovely young (but camera shy) visitor Helen, who is up from England for a few days holiday, for a walk around Ballochbuie Forest.
Why the alarm?
Let me explain.
Ballochbuie Forest is part of the Balmoral Estate, and it is well known that through August our Royal Family take up residence at their Scottish home. And although we understand that the Duke of Edinburgh, age 98, has finally agreed to turn in his driving licence, one suspects he might still have access to his Land Rover keys, and be tempted to go for the occasional wee spin around the forest tracks on his private territory.
But it was a pleasantly warm day, and the threatened rain never materialised, and so despite the danger of near-centenarian drivers, we three all headed up through the forest, past the waterfalls, aiming for Gail's favourite lunch spot on the front steps of a secluded wooden chalet, hidden in a hollow among ancient Scots pines and heather.
In retrospect we should have realised the game was up when we approached the usually deserted chalet and saw smoke rising from the chimney. And even more so when we passed by a 4WD vehicle in which was sat a hefty chap wearing a suit and tie and shades, and a stony faced young lady in 'country tweeds'.
But ignoring all this, Gail and Helen made for the chalet steps and started unpacking their picnic lunch (in which of course I took a close interest). But no soon as the squashed cheese sandwiches had seen the light of day than the tweedy lady approached and, awfully
politely but quite firmly (us pups recognise these nuances of human communication) said we all had to move away from the chalet, as "visitors" were about to arrive. Oh yes, and could we please eat our lunch somewhere out of sight?
As Gail, ever the obedient subject(!) made to move, the lady opened the chalet door, and I seized the opportunity to enter. What did I see inside? A table laid for four, logs glowing in the wood-burning stove, and on the sofa a cushion decorated with a picture of a corgi.
I was politely but firmly ejected before I had time to investigate further.
As we ate our lunch a discreet distance away up this hill - I was given a pig's ear to chew - we spotted another large black 4WD vehicle heading towards the chalet.
A few minutes later, we heard a dog barking.
I'll swear it was a corgi.
The walk ended with a refreshing sip from the River Dee, and relief that we had arrived back safely...