Yummy cake at new Braco Coffee shop but rain stopped play on Dunblane tandem ☔

The “old gal” drookit on arrival at the new bike-friendly Braco Coffee shop!

Carrot cake and tandeming goes together like … well like Team Matilda’s Captain and Stoker really!

And my dynamic crew’s love for a stop at a coffee shop for carrot cake has become a signature event of our rides. In fact I understand the unbeatable combination is now de rigueur for most tandemers!

The “old git” and the “old gal” had been told about a great new tandem and cycle-friendly coffee shop in Braco and the plan for the day involved a pedal to build an appetite to sample the goodies on offer.

But the plan came a bit unstuck in some heavy rain which stopped the planned route in its tracks, forcing us to quickly retreat to the coffee shop to dry out.

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

Now as regular readers of my blog will know the “old git” is a bit of a zealot for checking the weather forecast with the localised BBC Weather service being his (usually) reliable first port of call. Dry and cloudy it said! But it was wrong!

When we set out it was accurate and soon we were tandeming away from Matildas Rest out on the open rural Perthshire roads past Gleneagles Hotel and on to Braco. To be honest, the cloud was building at this point – as the “old gal” pointed out. But the “old git” in his role as Captain decided to press on with the planned route to Dunblane.

But halfway to Dunblane – just before Kinbuck – rain stopped play with some ninja showers rolling in off the hills forcing the decision to abandon and take shelter before hastily retracing our route back to Braco.

It would need to be said my dynamic crew were looking somewhat less than dynamic as they arrived outside the Braco Coffee shop – drookit being the appropriate Scots word!

But they were guaranteed a warm and friendly welcome as the previous attempt at sampling the coffee shop ended in inglorious failure as my crew arrived just 8 minutes after the owners had decided to close early at 3 pm for staff training … on a busy Bank Holiday Monday!

Braco Coffee was sadly closed on our last visit – but my crew got a friendly welcome this time!

It was most definitely a case of “You’ll have had your tea” … as they say in some parts of Scotland as my crew disappointingly arrived that day to find the blinds down and not even the option of buying a carry out coffee, despite having checked the opening hours online before setting out.

After getting in touch with the owners they admitted it perhaps wasn’t the best day to close early – and tempted my dynamic crew to pay another visit – with some vouchers to help ease the disappointment!

Great coffee, scones, brownie and carrot cake! (Scones so good already eaten!)

Fair play to them, so my Captain and Stoker were happy to re-visit … and well worthwhile it turned out to be. Braco Coffee shop opened its doors back in March and since then has been providing an oasis for cyclists and walkers in the area – well situated on the busy tourist route to Crieff.

My dynamic crew can report that the fruit scones, chocolate brownie, and of course the carrot cake were all yummy as was the very welcome freshly brewed strong coffee.

The scones were so good that my dynamic crew forgot to take the pictures until after they had been scoffed! The “old git” nearly got his hand bitten off when he remembered and stopped the “old gal” just at the moment of launching in to sample the cakes!

The “old gal” still looking a tad wet! But ready to pounce on the cakes!

A real plus point for Braco Coffee Shop is that it doesn’t just keep to the coffee and cakes offering – the menu includes interesting freshly made lunch options including the likes of quiche and an interestingly named naanwich … obviously made from naan bread! And you can wash it all down with a glass of wine … or indeed prosecco … as it has a table licence.

And it stays open past its usual 5pm closing – till 9pm on a Friday and Saturday, to offer the local area a bistro dining option.

Great friendly customer service with a smile from the Braco Coffee team!

The food was tasty, fresh and well presented – with the scones warm on serving – which along with great friendly service from the Braco Coffee team, and sparkling toilets, meant the venue got top marks from Team Matilda! Well worth pointing your wheels in the direction of Braco for a pit stop on your next cycle ride! The carrot cake is worth it alone!

Now fortunately, while my dynamic crew refuelled, the rain disappeared – allowing for a fairly pleasant return tandem ride. Indeed weather conditions had improved dramatically so the “old git” decided not to simply repeat the outward journey but to add on a few extra miles with a longer loop back via Blackford, Badrill and then past Duchally Country Estate.

This involved some euphoria after nailing the steep 7% – 10% gradient uphill section known as the Duchally Ramp – which previously had seen my dynamic crew grind to a halt. But in my new low gear they managed to grind it out – which gave all three of us a great sense of achievement.

The last three miles flew past and returning to Matildas Rest the “old gal” quickly put the Team Matilda cycling anoraks – which had performed admirably in the downpour – on the washing line to dry.

The Team Matilda anoraks that did their job keeping my dynamic crew dry hanging on the line.

While the anoraks were blowing dry in the wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 16 gongs – which given the weather conditions and the hilly terrain was pretty unbelievable! The total was made up of 7 personal bests;  and 9 second bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 24.2 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 09 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.3 mph (given the monsoon rain!) while the elevation was 1401 feet. The maximum speed was 33.6 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1569 calories and produce an average power output of 182 W.

As always the route and pictures are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So not quite the 35 miles that were planned – but still a good bit of exercise! And it is always good to find a another tandem and bike-friendly coffee shop serving carrot cake! We’ll be back!

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When in Arbroath do as locals do and have an Arbroath Smokie with your picnic!

The new Sustrans Scotland ArtRoots funded wooden sculpture depicts East haven’s fishing heritage.

My dynamic crew like to feature local food & drink and tourism experiences as we tandem along on our adventures on a bicycle made for two! Well today was going to be one of those “must do” experiences – a mission to sample an Arboath Smokie while in Arbroath!

Yes I know its very exciting!! … but you’ll have to read on for the taste test!

Firstly I need to set the scene as the “old gal” and the “old git” had invited good solo cycling friends Gillian and Craig to Matildas Rest for an overnight stop for a good catch-up, and to join us for a Sunday cycle with their “short bikes”!

Now the bike crews may have been hoping for a long lie after a home-made curry and a few drinkies but the “old git” had everyone up sharpish – while the “old gal” offered a hearty breakfast for fuel. Fortunately the weather forecast had come up trump with the promised dry sunny day – although diplomatically no one mentioned the wind which was forecast as a “moderate breeze”!

Given that my dynamic crew decided on a repeat of our recent enjoyable and fun route, which hugs the coast from the Tay Road Bridge to Arbroath on Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt1, this was to prove significant! Brutally significant to be honest – but more of that later!

Ready to Roll – with solo cyclist friends Gillian and Craig about to tackle the Tay Road Bridge.

As the crews unpacked and set up the bikes in the car park opposite Dundee the view across the Tay offered an ideal backdrop for the inevitable series of selfie photos – before we were ready to roll! Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The first part of today’s ride was a quick “downhill” pedal across the Tay Road Bridge, before heading through the port area and on up the coast. The “old git” spotted the recently installed Sustrans Scotland “high-visiblity” cycle counter as we arrived at Broughty Ferry which provides a visual counter of the number of cyclists using the route.

Sustrans says the idea behind cycle counters is to promote sustainable transport such as walking and cycling instead of driving. In general, cycle counters have been shown to be motivational for cyclists and provide data that assists planning for cycling infrastructure.

What a great idea … and Team Matilda was happy to be recorded as the 78th cyclist to be recorded that day – and number 29,256 since the counter was installed at the start of June this year. And yes we only increased the counter by one unit – not two – as it counts the bikes not the riders!

Counting bikes! – the Sustrans Scotland cyclists counter shows how busy NCN Rt1 is.

We tandemed on noting how the miles seem to pass more quickly when cycling with friends. Maybe a useful tail wind also helped … although no one was talking about that … as it was inevitable that clearly was going to provide a tough obstacle on the return journey! We soon arrived at Carnoustie which hosted the 147th The Open played over the Carnoustie links golf course in July. It has a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s most challenging links course, and at 7,421 yards it is the longest of any of the Open venues.

Onwards we pedalled on NCN Rt 1 and it was great to see the path being so well used by bicycles on such a sunny day. Next stop was the beautiful former fishing village of East Haven which clearly has a highly active community trust called East Haven Together to protect and promote the area’s heritage and environment. And cyclists are made most welcome – with a bike friendly drinks dispensing station and route map at the entrance to the village.

Cyclists very welcome! East Haven’s bike friendly drinks dispenser and route map.

East Haven has been fortunate enough to be allocated some money from the ArtRoots fund – a community fund for artistic and aesthetic improvements to the Sustrans Scotland National Cycle Network. The result is a recently installed giant wooden sculpture depicting the area’s history as one of the oldest fishing communities in Scotland, which dates back to 1214.

The eye-catching landmark – which depicts two fishermen carved out of redwood by a chainsaw artist – has been installed on a  site overlooking the bay near the old fisherman’s shelter. Naturally my dynamic crew had to have a photo taken trying (and failing!) to subtly blend in with the sculpture!

The “old git” and “old gal” trying (and failing!) to blend in with the fishermen sculpture!

Onwards to Arbroath on the highly recommended cycle path. The harbour town was looking a its best as the sun peeked thru the clouds, giving it an almost Mediterranean feel. The area has a proud maritime and fishing history and the storm wall at Fish Quay has an RNLI memorial to the area’s “darkest day” when six lifeboatmen lost their lives when the lifeboat Robert Lindsay was overwhelmed by the sea just a quarter of a mile from the harbour back in October 1953.

The “old gal” at the RNLI memorial which stands proudly over Arbroath Harbour.

Now when in Arbroath there was clearly a requirement to do as locals do and have an Arbroath Smokie with our prosecco picnic!

The “old gal” and “old git” duly disappeared into one of several fish shops open for business and touting the authentic local delicacy of smoked haddock! And they were not disappointed. The taste test verdict was that it was remarkably fresh and just smoky enough to make it a truly mouth-watering experience. Just perfect when washed down with a glass of prosecco – with the bottle duly carried on my frame in my trendy la bouclee French-wine carrier!

Cheers! Gillian and Craig toasting the signature prosecco picnic at Arbroath …

… while the “old git” had to add the ubiquitous Arbroath Smokie to my dynamic crew’s picnic!

The Arbroath Smoke was the perfect appetizer for my dynamic crew’s picnic – lovingly prepared by the “old gal” of smoked salmon, chilli cream cheese and spinach wraps and some seasonal fresh fruit – all enjoyed overlooking the area’s impressive marina.

Me and my dynamic crew with the impressive Arbroath marina as a backdrop!

Re-fuelled and re-hydrated Gillian and Craig and my dynamic crew set off on the return journey – and all became immediately aware of the “moderate breeze”!

We stopped to admire the community garden at East Haven – complete with a decommissioned fishing boat. It is one of just five locations in Scotland to have been entered into the Britain in Bloom finals 2018 – and it is easy to see why when admiring the colourful site. Last year the area won a Beautiful Scotland Gold Award 2017 and Best Coastal Village Award.

Time for a breather! All four at the award-winning picturesque community garden at East Haven.

It would need to be said here that the pedal on the section most exposed to the sea around Carnoustie was not fun as the bikes were battered by brutal 20 mph head winds – which made for fairly slow progress. So there was a unanimous vote for another signature event of one of Team Matilda’s rides – a re-fuelling stop for carrot cake and coffee!

Except there was a devastating snag! The venue, the Glass Pavilion situated just behind Broughty Ferry beach, had run out of cakes! Never heard that one before – but it seems there had been a wedding the day before and the cafe’s supply of cakes had all been sold! What a disappointment! So the crews had to make do with a coffee without an infusion of cake!

Time for the final run back through Broughty Ferry to Dundee – where we enjoyed the protected run through the docks area. To finish it was the “uphill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge. Now keen readers of my blog will be aware that my dynamic crew had recently broken their own record for this crossing – appropriately named as ‘The Killer Tay Bridge’ sector on Strava – getting their time down to just 6 minutes and 12 seconds.

But today the “old git” conceded that today was not a day to be breaking records – much to the relief of the “old gal”! – as Team Matilda was buffeted by strong crosswinds from the start of our pedal across the river. But kudos to my dynamic crew as we still recorded our 3rd best ever time crossing the bridge of 7 minutes 29 seconds.

Gillian and Craig had beetled off with their “short bikes” not as badly affected by the crosswinds – and they were back in the car park filming our arrival at Matilda Transport, which you can watch here.

After getting our breath back from the battle against the wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of an incredible 33 gongs – which is almost worthy of a PB award on its own! I will say that again for effect in case you missed it – 33 gongs! There were no less than 19 personal bests; 10 second bests; and 4 third bests. Given the brutal head winds on the return journey my dynamic crew were more than happy with that outcome!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 38.5 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 20 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.6 mph (given the wind!) while the elevation was 641 feet. The maximum speed was 23.9 mph – due to no steep downhill stretches – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1563 calories and produce an average power output of 117 W.

As always the route and pictures are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So a great sunny – if a tad windy – day for a tandem ride, which was made all the better by cycling with good friends … and sampling the Arbroath Smokie! Another grand day out really for Matildas Musings!

Team Matildas 3000th tandem mile clocked up during celebration ride on Millport 🍾🥂

Team Matilda chose one of their favourite spots – Millport – to record their 3000th tandem mile!

“But I would tandem 3000 miles

And I would tandem 3000 more!”

Well not quite the lyrics of the chorus of the famous “I’m Gonna be (500 miles) anthem by Scots band The Proclaimers! But you get the idea!

The reason behind the slightly unusual introduction to this blog is that it marks a celebration ride for my dynamic crew as they clock up their 3000th mile on my saddles.

It was an early start on Sunday morning as Team Matilda had decided to head “overseas” to one of their favourite tandeming spots to hit their major landmark – the island of Millport. As regular visitors to the island, and big fans of its charm, the “old git” and the “old gal” decided their beloved “Costa del Millport” would be the ideal destination for their celebrations. The island – officially known as The Isle of Cumbrae – is a cyclists paradise offering a gently undulating 10 mile loop on almost traffic free roads never more than a few yards from the sea.

After a fairly quick 77 mile drive in Matilda Transport to the west coast, I was unpacked in Largs and we tandemed to catch the CalMac ferry. The island is less than a 10 minute trip across the Firth of Clyde, but those few minutes make a huge difference as it feels like you are heading to a different world as you leave the mainland – and your worries – behind.

With the sun out the ferry was busy and it was good to see quite a few other bikes on the crossing – even if there were no other tandems. Despite the sun it was obvious from the choppy water that this was going to be a fairly blustery tandeming day by the seaside!

The “old gal” on the slipway after disembarking the Millport ferry.

As we disembarked the ferry the milometer was reading 2980 – so 20 miles to tandem till the big celebrations! We headed clockwise for a gentle 4 mile tandem into the town of Millport – and that is when we encountered our first blast of headwind. So much for the balmy conditions which had been forecast! Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

On reaching Millport town, the “old gal” decided a coffee stop was a must and my dynamic crew called in to the wonderfully named Crocodeli delicatessen – which combines the deli part with the famous Crocodile Rock landmark. The coffee was just as the “old gal” likes it – nice and strong and my crew couldn’t resist a small Italian pastry to accompany it!

Crocodeli had an interesting couple of posters in the window – one which was obviously designed for the “old gal’s” love of coffee … while the other seemed to suggest that the much maligned “old git” – aka real name Colin – had been providing the “live entertainment” in one of the local bars two nights before! Me and the “old gal” had a good laugh at that prospect!

The poster suggesting my Captain was providing the entertainment in a local bar!

Time for the first lap and we headed off clockwise quickly pedalling out from the town and enjoying magnificent views across to neighbouring islands of Arran and Bute. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, with numerous deserted beaches and abundant wildlife. In high spirits we identified our usual “private picnic table” and “made a booking” for an hour’s time when on our second lap! In what seemed like no time at all we had completed the first circuit by pedalling back into the town in less than 45 minutes. Not bad for a warm-up given the blustery conditions!

After a quick break it was time to start our second circuit – and this would be the one that would see my dynamic crew clock up tandem mile number 3000! Anti clockwise this time and as we pedalled out of town the beach at Kames Bay looked stunning in the sunshine with the island more than living up to its “Costa del Millport” nickname.

As we pedalled on up past the ferry slipway the “old git” started the countdown to the big moment. “Two thousand nine hundred and ninety nine point one … point two …” Then to much parping of my French horn and hooting from my dynamic crew the magic 3000 appeared on my milometer!

The landmark 3000th mile clocked up on my milometer! Quite a moment!

Who would have thunk it eh? I know it is a fairly small distance in the grand scheme of things but for my dynamic crew it is quite an achievement. And if someone had suggested when the “old git” and “old gal” first climbed on to my saddles that we would tandem 3000 miles together – they would have been laughed at. But they have achieved it – and for that this “old lady” classic Jack Taylor tandem is rightly proud! And they tell me there are many more miles – and of course the related smiles – to come!

Thumbs up from my dynamic crew to hitting the 3000 mile landmark.

The “old git” pulled in to a viewpoint at the memorial at Tomont End to take in the magnitude of the moment! Well actually it was to allow him to grab a passing cyclist – bemused by all the fuss – to take a photo of my dynamic crew’s big moment!

We tandemed on for another couple of miles till we arrived at our private picnic table – a perfect setting for a prosecco celebration toast to Team Matildas clocking up their 3000th #tandem mile together. Just as well I was faithfully carrying a bottle in my stylish la bouclee wine carrier!

Firstly there were the official “3000 mile” photos of the “old gal” and “the old git” grinning with euphoria as they looked at my milometer after reaching such a landmark achievement.

The “old gal” looking suitably pleased at clocking up 3000 tandem miles!

The “old git” seems just a tad pleased too at breaking the 3000 mile barrier!

Then to delay the toast even further the “old git” decided we needed a stylish shot of the picnic table – just to set the scene! I must say with all this faffing about I thought the “old gal” – who was by now in need of some prosecco re-hydration therapy – was going to hit him over the head with the bottle!

Prosecco picnic is served! Our special picnic bench provided the perfect celebration venue.

Finally the “old git” popped the cork – and the opportunity for my dynamic crew to enjoy a quick quaff (or three!) of the fizz! But naturally the “old git” wasn’t finished yet with the media tasks and decided we need a video to record the 3000 mile toast for posterity! Watch as my Captain waffles on about the achievement – only for the “old gal” taking great delight in pointing out that he doesn’t have the milometer switched on when showing it to the camera!

Our idyllic quiet picnic table had stunning views over the white sand and across to Rothesay. The food which emerged from the ‘bicycle rider’s luncheon box’ was delicious smoked salmon and spinach wraps followed by fruit salad. Oh, did I happen to mention the prosecco to wash it all down?! Oh I did, sorry! But quite simply picnics don’t come much better than this!

The “old gal” created an artistic treatment on a photo of the milometer against the prosecco bottle.

After a walk on the beach my dynamic crew got back on my saddles to complete the anti clockwise lap with the promise of a coffee and cake stop at another favourite stop – the ultra friendly Dancing Midge Cafe. There my crew enjoyed some freshly brewed coffee and yummy carrot cake – de rigueur for tandemers. The welcoming coffee shop has a wonderful view looking out on to the colourful promenade – looking quite tropical with its palm trees – and the sea beyond.

The “old gal on the colourful promenade at Millport which was looking quite tropical.

Before our planned final speed lap my dynamic crew decided to have a look at the pier area in the town which is currently subject to a high profile community fight to Save Millport Pier. Regular readers of my blog will remember that on a visit last September Team Matilda joined the campaign to save the facility. The campaign is drawing attention to the community’s fears over the deterioration of the wooden pier which dates from 1833, amid fears over its long term future – with concern it will be demolished if funds are not invested in protecting it.

While my crew checked out Millport Pier I met a new friend!

Neglected since 2014 the pier is now out of bounds for safety reasons. And that means there is currently nowhere in Millport to safely tie up a boat – with the ferry slipway only usable by by roll on/ roll off ferries. As an island community, campaigners are battling to show the economy and resilience of the island is being compromised – and persuade North Ayrshire Council to repair the pier. Let’s hope the campaign has some good news to report soon.

Meanwhile on the pier head the “old git” found evidence that the island was living up to one of its advertising slogans: “Millport – in a world of its own!” All the clock faces at the weigh bridge were showing different times! But then the good thing is that noone seemed remotely bothered!

No further comment needed!

Well I guess you don’t really need to know what time it is when in Millport!

So the carrot cake was to provide the fuel for the planned ‘finish with a flourish’ – where Team Matilda’s last complete lap would be an attempt on our own Tour de Millport record time for going round the island of 38 minutes dead. But although this was a record breaking day in achieving the 3000th tandem mile landmark, it would need to be said that Team Matilda were not hopeful of hitting another record given the wind conditions encountered on the two laps earlier in the day.

But my dynamic crew gamely decided to give it a go. With the changeable conditions there was much discussion about which way to go – using arguments and counter arguments and the scientific experiment of sticking a finger in the air to try and establish which way the wind was blowing! Finally the “old gal” decided on clockwise! And to emphasise the serious nature of this new personal best attempt – she even removed her cycling jacket!

We set off from the Royal George Hotel at the pier and I was uber-impressed as we fair whizzed along with the “old git” keeping me in high gears most of the time. The tail wind certainly helped progress for the first half of the island, and the record attempt was certainly on track.

But then approaching the top end of the island we hit the wind – quite literally! The second half was a bit of a struggle against firstly a fierce crosswind, then head on! My dynamic crew bravely battled on … but the clock was ticking down into the red as we pedalled back into the town.

Crossing the finishing line back at the Royal George the clock said 42 minutes 39 seconds – which meant an average speed of 14.1 mph. This was well over 4 minutes behind our previous best – but blame the wind as on the day we set the personal best, conditions were much calmer and the average achieved that day was 15.8 mph. Still, it was a respectable time so the “old git” and “old gal” were pleased despite not making it a double record breaking day.

After a much needed refreshment my dynamic crew headed to the Harbour Restaurant for a meal. Fans of Matildas Musings will know that this is the restaurant of choice for the “old git” and the “old gal” on Millport. The food was brilliant as always – very tasty and originally presented! Just what was needed to restore energy levels.

After the meal it was time for the final pedal – four miles back to the ferry slipway. And amazingly – and quite surprisingly – the wind which had been blowing all day had disappeared which resulted in Team Matilda recording their fastest times of the day on the ride to catch the ferry!

On the short crossing back to the mainland the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 12 gongs – 2 personal bests; 4 second bests; and 6 third bests. Given the changeable wind conditions my dynamic crew were pretty pleased with that outcome!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 38.9 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 03 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.7 mph (given the wind!) while the elevation was 1044 feet. The maximum speed was 20.8 mph – due to no steep downhill stretches – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1887 calories and produce an average power output of 153 W.

As always the route and pictures are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

Back in Largs a quick pedal of a few hundred yards from the ferry terminal saw us back at Matilda Transport and in just over an hour we were all back at Matildas Rest after another fabulous day out full of fun, laughs, sunshine (albeit with a bit of wind!) and great tandeming!

Which left my dynamic crew pondering that there can’t be many better ways and places to chalk up their 3000th tandem mile landmark.

Roll on the 4000th mile – and smile – celebrations is what I say!

City of Discovery penguins and discovering a winery on ride to Errol

Penguin spotting at Discovery Point in Dundee with RRS Discovery and the new V&A museum.

More penguin spotting … a fabulous picnic spot … and the key attraction of exploring a winery – it sounds like another perfect schedule for a Sunday #tandem ride for Team Matildas Musings!

Another day of warm sunshine and fabulous blue skies was forecast so my dynamic crew decided on a new route south from the Tay Road Bridge to Errol on  Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt1 and NCN Rt77.

“Did someone say we are visiting a winery” asked the “old gal” – trying hard not to sound too enthusiastic – as we drove to Dundee. “Yes, and you’ll get to sample their produce!” responded the “old git” before adding: “And on a day like today you will be able to close your eyes and think you are in the vineyards of France!” … Well almost!

But first there was the business of continuing our penguin hunt by p-p-p-p-icking up a penguin … or two … on the new Maggie’s Penguin Parade charity art trail of 80 giant individually designed penguins! The 5ft-tall penguins have been decorated by local artists with designs ranging from golfers to footballers and has been set up in aid of cancer charity Maggie’s.

This ride – and some of the recommended stops – recently featured in Scottish Cycling magazine – which is well worth a read. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

After parking up opposite the city of Dundee we had to battle a bit of a headwind on the “downhill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge, before taking the lift down to Discovery Point where we spotted our first penguin of the day – Fundeeland at Discovery point.

This is a real hub of the City of Discovery with the three masts of the wooden Royal Research Ship Discovery, which was captained by Robert Falcon Scott on his first journey to the Antarctic in 1902, creating an interesting old and new backdrop with the soon-to-be-opened V&A Dundee design museum which has been built to look like a giant ship.

We headed south out of Dundee along Riverside Drive at the start of the NCN Rt77 but quickly stopped at the eye-catching Yoda Pengiun – from the Star Wars movie franchise – which has been imaginatively sponsored by Specsavers!

Here I am with the eye-catching Yoda penguin – sponsored by Specsavers!

I Believe I can Fly penguin with me and the “old gal” at Dundee Airport!

We tandemed on towards Dundee Airport where the “old gal” couldn’t resist having her photo taken with I Believe I can Fly penguin – suitably painted in old-fashioned flying gear!

Into Invergowrie – passing the station – before the path comes out beside the Tay giving impressive views of the river which is some 4.5 kilometres wide at this point. Interestingly the NCN Rt77, which links Dundee with Pitlochry, is also known as the salmon run – and it was easy to see why at this point.

The spectacular Firth of Tay is 4.5 kilometres wide at this point near Invergowrie!

On out into the Carse of Gowrie – one of the country’s prime growing areas for strawberries and raspberries – where the “old git” and the “old gal” found themselves pedalling hard against that headwind. But it was a lovely relatively flat route though and the scenery is amazing. We passed the old Errol airfield before an uphill stretch into the village of Errol itself – which retains a feel from years gone past. We tandemed on for another mile to our planned picnic spot at Port Allen.

Little remains of what was once a principal local harbour in the Victorian times at Port Allen.

Although nothing but a picturesque bridge remains now, Port Allen was one of the principal local harbours in Victorian times. Given how quiet and tranquil it was on our visit, and its rural location, it is hard to imagine it as a bustling port area.

The beautiful old bridge is all that is left of any harbour area at Port Allen.

The area – known as the Tay reed beds – form the largest continuous area of reeds in the UK and are an internationally recognised habitat for breeding and overwintering birds. It certainly provided a tranquil spot for my dynamic crew to enjoy their picnic on a lovely hand crafted bench.

Ideal hand-crafted picnic bench – deep in the Carse of Gowrie by the Tay at Port Allen.

Re-fuelled by the picnic – and a bit of warm sunny relaxation – it was time to start the return journey … with the additional carrot of the visit to the winery! Tandeming back thru Errol we took a detour to the Cairn o’Mhor fruit winery. The cycle-conscious owners have even created their own cycle path off NCN Rt77 to their farm base to make it easier for visitors to get there.

That’s a big bottle! There is no doubt about the kind of operation going on at Cairn o’Mhor.

The operation has grown in recent years and now has huge vats to mature the fruit wine.

The winery has been producing its well-known brand of Scottish fruit wines since 1987 and is a key visitor attraction in the area – offering various tours and tastings. The AliBob Cafe offers a huge range of memorable treats – and of course the opportunity to sample the produce.

The “old git” and “old gal” treated themselves to sample the range of sparkling wines – including a very tasty strawberry fizz! Naturally there was also a sozzled fruit scone – with the raisins soaked in the wine before baking! And a far too tempting range of cakes – which my dynamic crew decided it would have been rude not to taste!

Fruit fizz, scones, cakes and coffee! What’s not to like?!

Having consumed far too may calories (but very enjoyably!) the “old git” upped the pace on the ride back to Dundee in a vain attempt to burn some of them off! It really was blissful tandeming in the warm sunshine, and with the wind behind us, as we pedalled across some fantastic countryside.

The scenery we tandemed past was stunning – like this impressive tree lined avenue.

We flashed thru Invergowrie and past the airport back into Dundee via Riverside Drive where we took a few minutes to stop at the impressive Tay Bridge Disaster Memorial. It is a moving tribute to the victims of the disaster back in 1879 when the central navigation spans of the Tay Bridge collapsed into the Firth of Tay, taking with them a train, 6 carriages and 75 souls to their fate.

A shot looking towards the Tay Rail Bridge – from just beside the memorial stones to the 1879 disaster.

Just time to tick off two more penguins on our pedal back to the lift onto the Tay Road Bridge. First up was Poppy the penguin and the last one of our ride was The Baltic Builder penguin – complete in Bob the Builder artwork clevery placed beside all the construction work which is being finished off near Discovery Point.

The “old gal” with Poppy the Penguin easily spotted from the cycle path.

The Baltic Builder penguin – aka Bob the Builder – with the “old git”.

The last part of our ride was the “uphill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge – a stretch which always seems to come at the end of a long ride and therefore not one to bring shouts of enthusiasm from my dynamic crew! In truth it always seems a bit of a grind. But today the wind was blowing in the correct direction and the “old git” set the “old gal” a challenge of trying to break Team Matilda’s record for the “Killer Tay Bridge” segment of 6 minutes 46 seconds set just the week before!

And my dynamic crew were euphoric when they reached the other side of the Tay – well they would have been if they weren’t so out of puff – to discover that they had smashed their own record by over half a minute to a new Team Matilda record of 6 minutes 12 seconds. I was most impressed and am now wondering if they can beat that the next time we do this route!

After calming down and getting his breath back at Matilda Transport the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 34.4 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 52 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12 miles an hour while the elevation was 983 feet. The maximum speed was 30.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1682 calories and produce an average power output of 146 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

Again a fantastic de-stressing memorable day out and escape for my dynamic crew in glorious sunshine. I guess with the weather and the winery we really could have been tandeming on one of Team Matilda’s fabulous Tours de France …

Well almost!

Life’s a beach Superheroes and p-p-p-p-ick up the penguin trail on ride to Arbroath

It’s not everyday I get to meet up with three Superheroes at Broughty Ferry!

Meeting superheroes and penguins – well I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me as I should be well used to such strange happenings on another typical Sunday #tandem ride for Team Matildas Musings!

Sunday morning dawned with fabulous blue skies so my dynamic crew decided on a route from the Tay Road Bridge to Arbroath on Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt1.

And as an added attraction the “old git” decided that we would do some penguin spotting by p-p-p-p-icking up a penguin … or two … on the new Maggie’s Penguin Parade charity art trail and spotting some of the 80 giant individually designed penguins! 

The 5ft-tall penguins have been decorated by local artists with designs ranging from golfers to footballers and has been set up in aid of cancer charity Maggie’s.

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

After parking up opposite the city of Dundee a quick “downhill” pedal took us across the Tay Road Bridge, before heading through the port area and on up the coast to Broughty Ferry. That’s where we ticked off our first penguin – appropriately called Crystal Azure given the weather conditions.

Matching outfits (nearly!) The “old gal” ticks off our first penguin – Crystal Azure at Broughty Ferry.

Just beside our first penguin photo stop, we spotted a Sustrans Scotland “high-visiblity” cycle counter which has been installed at the east end of Douglas Terrace path along the waterfront and will provide a visual counter of the number of cyclists using the route.

Sustrans says the idea behind cycle counters is to promote sustainable transport such as walking and cycling instead of driving. In general, cycle counters have been shown to be motivational for cyclists and provide data that assists planning for cycling infrastructure.

What a great idea … and Team Matilda was happy to be recorded as the 88th cyclist to be recorded that day – and number 10,721 since the counter was installed at the start of June this year. And yes we only increased the counter by one unit – not two – as it counts the bikes not the riders!

What a great idea! The Sustrans Scotland cyclists counter shows how busy NCN Rt1 is.

Tandeming past Broughty Ferry Castle my dynamic crew were somewhat surprised to be accosted by no less than three Superheroes – Hulk, Captain America and Robin – who were looking for transport to the town’s Gala Day in the adjacent park! This “old lady” was in my element as it’s not exactly an everyday occurrence to be the subject of such Superhero attention (and of course – whisper it – so was the “old gal” even tho she loyally claims the “old git” is her superhero!)

The “old gal” couldn’t fail to be impressed with her new pals – Hulk, Captain America and Robin.

Having safely delivered the Superheroes to the Gala Day – as you do! – we pedaled on to our next stop on the trail – a penguin called Sunrise who was enjoying the sunshine in Barnhill Rock Garden situated just behind the dunes of the beach.

My dynamic crew meet Sunrise penguin just behind Broughty ferry beach.

My dynamic crew tandemed on to Carnoustie where preparations were in the final stages for hosting the 147th The Open which was played over the Carnoustie links golf course in July. It has a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s most challenging links course, and at 7,421 yards it is the longest of any of the Open venues. The course was looking resplendent in the sun and I took the opportunity of a sneeky photo in front of the area for the world’s top golfers to practice their putting. Naturally the golf course is host to a penguin – Old Tom Morris named after the legendary Scots golfer who won The Open four times back in the 1860s.

At Carnoustie Golf Links – looking resplendent in the sun ready for the 147th The Open.

The “old git” meets Old Tom Morris penguin at Carnoustie Golf Links.

Now the “old gal” and the “old git” have never progressed further than Carnoustie – despite doing this ride a few times. But today, conditions couldn’t be better and my dynamic crew decided to pedal out on the extra seven miles along NCN Rt1 to Arbroath. And what a joy that section of the cycle path was to pedal on. The harbour town was looking a its best in the bright sunshine and was busy with families enjoying the beach giving it an almost Mediterranean feel.

It was the warmest part of the day when Team Matilda arrived at the harbour area at Arbroath.

The “old gal” spotted some picnic benches on the High Common which gave a great view over the beach and sea and the perfect spot for my dynamic crew to enjoy one of their signature prosecco picnics! And I am told the fizz went down particularly well given the high temperatures!

A park bench overlooking the sea – perfect spot for my dynamic crew’s prosecco picnic!

Refuelled after a most relaxing and tasty picnic, and catching the sun’s rays, my dynamic crew set off from Arbroath on the return journey along NCN Rt1. It was great to see the path being so well used by bicycles on such a sunny day. It was a fun ride and soon we were in the beautiful former fishing village of East Haven which clearly has a highly active community trust called East Haven Together to protect and promote the area’s heritage and environment. And cyclists are made most welcome!

The “old gal” seems temporarily confused as to which bike she should be riding at East Haven!

East Haven is one of five locations in Scotland to have been entered into the Britain in Bloom finals 2018 – and it was easy for the “old git” and “old gal” to see why as they stopped to admire the colourful community gardens – complete with a fishing boat. Last year the area won a Beautiful Scotland Gold Award 2017 and Best Coastal Village Award.

The “old git” enjoying the scene in the award-winning picturesque garden at East Haven.

Back into Carnoustie and time for a photo stop by the beach – where the sea was actually blue! Quite a contrast to my dynamic crew’s last visit in March when it was not exactly sunbathing weather! In fact the “old gal” was so cold she had to wear not only her own cycling jacket, but the “old git’s” as well in a bid to try and keep warm!

The “old gal” enjoying it being a tad warmer – and less windy – than on our last visit to Carnoustie!

No such weather problems today and a glorious sunny pedal took us along the coast for another signature event of Team Matilda’s rides – a re-fuelling stop for carrot cake! The venue was the Glass Pavilion situated just behind Broughty Ferry beach.

As we stopped the “old git” discovered that he had left his cycling wallet – complete with the required cash for said carrot cake – in Matilda Transport. Fortunately the ever-resourceful “old gal” had a small amount of cash with her and they just managed to fund a cold drink each and share a portion of carrot cake! I have a feeling that the “old git” will not be allowed to forget about that one for a while!

The “old git” meets Bonnie Dundee penguin.

Back into Broughty Ferry – and the “old gal” was disappointed not to see her new Superhero friends again! But there was more penguin spotting to be done including the Bonnie Dundee one in the park. We discovered this one had actually been painted by talented artist Gail Stirling Robertson – who lives not far from Team Matilda’s home base of Auchterarder in the next village of Dunning and who is also the daughter of friends of my dynamic crew. Gail focuses on what she calls “quirky bendy art” – taking well known places and literally adding her own slant to them, while still keeping them recognizable.

The “old gal” with Penguin’s Paradise at Broughty Ferry

Capguin Scott penguin getting to know the “old git” at Brought Ferry Harbour.

After ticking another two penguins off the list – Penguin’s Paradise at Broughty Ferry Castle and Capguin Scott at the harbour – we tandemed off on the final stretch to Dundee. In the shadows of the Tay Road Bridge, near the Apex Hotel, we found the last one of our ride – called Engulfed.

The last penguin meet – Engulfed at the Apex Hotel near the Tay Road Bridge.

The last part of our ride was the “uphill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge – which always seems a bit of a grind. Back at Matilda Transport there was time for the “old git” to check Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 19 gongs – a highly pleasing 12 personal bests; 5 second bests; and 2 third bests. My dynamic crew were delighted to discover that one of the PB’s was for the “Killer Tay Bridge” segment on the return crossing with a new Team Matilda record breaking time of 6 minutes 46 seconds!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 38.5 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 32 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 10.9 while the elevation was 642 feet. The maximum speed was 23.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1552 calories and produce an average power output of 109 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

All in all it was a much needed day out and escape for my dynamic crew – and was certainly action packed. I really don’t think Team Matilda could have packed any more in … unless I become a Superhero bike of course! Now there’s an idea! ……..

Hebridean Way challenge postponed

Very sadly the much anticipated Nutty Tandemers Club Hebridean Way challenge due to start early June has had to be postponed.

This is due to the devastating recent news of the diagnosis of a sudden terminal illness to an immediate family member of my crew.

We have been advised by the doctors in strong terms not to travel on our planned tour due to the immediacy of the situation.

Naturally our world has been turned upside down – and this is clearly an extremely difficult time for us.

We would hope to regroup and reschedule in the future.

Diane and Colin.

Tandeming the dens dells and delis of Dunkeld

Ready to roll in the warm sunshine – with Dunkeld Bridge in the background.

Now as you know this “old lady” likes to try something new every now and again – so when the “old git” came up with the idea of tandeming a new route around the ancient Cathedral “city” of Dunkeld in Highland Perthshire, it seemed like an exciting plan!

And when the “old git” mentioned that we passed a couple of coffee shops and finished at a new deli which we also did tapas early evening, the “old gal” was immediately on board too!

The addition of the deli word gave the “old git” the joy of coming up with some of his favoured alliteration in the title of the ride – adding to the dens and dells of Dunkeld! Simple pleasures!

Now for those who are not au fait with Scots dialect a “den” is a long and narrow valley while a “dell” is  a hollow and there are plenty of both in this area … but (whisper it) that also means it is lumpy!

The ride – and some of the recommended stops – recently featured in Scottish Cycling magazine – which is well worth a read. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The sun was already high in the sky creating a perfect day for our tandem ride as I was unloaded from Matilda Transport at the Tay Terrace Car Park handily placed beside the river just after crossing Dunkeld Bridge. After kitting up – and applying the necessary factor 30 – Team Matilda pedalled off along the A984 which runs east out of Dunkeld to Caputh.

This follows the route of an old military road built by Major William Caulfield in the 18th century. It is a lovely road to cycle with mild undulations and and some great views over the majestic River Tay.

Just after Caputh is the hamlet of Spittalfield which is home to the cyclist and walker-friendly Walkin’ Cafe. Opened a year ago the welcoming cafe specifically targets cyclists and walkers who frequent the area. For many years the building was the village store before being transformed into a cafe to keep it as a hub of the village.

The cafe has lots of cycling-related aftefacts to catch the eye – and don’t forget to look out for the French-designed poster showing all the different kinds of bikes which have been produced over the years … in the toilets! Glad to say that a tandem was featured among the drawings! The “old git” and “old gal” quickly polished off a coffee and scone from the appealing treats on offer.

The Walkin’ Cafe is a real oasis for cyclists and has lots of bike artefacts.

The Walkin’ Cafe is ideally situated on the A984 at Spittalfield to attract cyclists and walkers.

Refreshed we pedalled on for around four miles to a local landmark of the Meikleour Beech Hedge which is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest hedge in Britain and the highest of its kind in the world. It is is one third of a mile long (530 m) and 100 ft (30 m) high.

The “old gal” dwarfed by the Meikleour Beech Hedge – the longest hedge in the UK.

Our route took us left at Meikleour on to the A93 towards Blairgowrie – and although it was quite a busy road cars gave us plenty of space as we pedalled along. Just before Blairgowrie centre, we turned left again on to the scenic A923 which would take us back to Dunkeld – with the promise of enjoying the views over no less than six lochs along the way.

We quickly passed Rae Loch and Loch of Drumellie before the “old gal” decided it was time to stop for one of Team Matilda’s infamous prosecco picnics! She fortuitously called stop at beautiful Loch of Clunie. Although it was busy – due to the sunshine – with families enjoying the shallow calm water she found a spot on the beach to allow my dynamic crew to sunbathe and enjoy their picnic goodies. And the sit was made all the more comfortable by our fab new fold-up pads which our good cycling friends John and Jane had given my crew on the recent mini Tour de Perthshire.

Sun-kissed Loch of Clunie provided the perfect stop for a prosecco picnic.

Selfie time for my dynamic crew enjoying the warm sun on the loch’s beach.

Chillin – the “old gal” relaxing in the sun on our new picnic pads.

Back on the road and maybe it was just the effects of the relaxing picnic, but my dynamic crew noticed the gentle incline as we headed on past Loch of Butterstone. We took a short diversion to the entrance to the Scottish Wildlife Trust Loch of the Lowes wildlife reserve – a near 100 hectacre site where the star attraction is a pair of breeding ospreys which nest just 150 metres from the observation hide. We had actually spotted the huge wingspan of one of the magnificent birds doing a spot of fishing for food for their chicks in one of the lochs earlier.

The Loch of the Lowes reserve – famous for its ospreys – is run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

From the last of the six lochs – Loch of Craiglush – there is a steep climb and my dynamic crew had to work hard to keep my wheels turning. A long winding – but welcome – swooping downhill stretch returned us to Dunkeld with some time to explore the town. First stop was the eye-catching Atholl Memorial Fountain in the Market Cross area. The Fountain was funded by public subscription and built in 1866 ‘to the memory of George Augustus Frederick John 6th Duke of Atholl’ who had introduced a piped water supply to Dunkeld.

The “old git” at the Atholl Memorial Fountain in Dunkeld.

By now my dynamic crew were ready for a re-fuel and had some fabulous cake sitting outside on the sun drenched terrace at the Spill the Beans coffee shop.

Next we took in some of the Dunkeld Heritage Walk (or cycle!) which takes in many of the restored 18th century merchants houses in Cathedral Street – which are now looked after by The Little Houses Improvement Scheme – in partnership with the National Trust for Scotland. This includes The Old Rectory which is Dunkeld’s oldest surviving house. Scotland’s National Bard Robert Burns and Fiddler Neil Gow entertained here in 1787.

I feel like a young thing beside Dunkeld’s oldest surviving house!

Cathedral Street – not surprisingly – leads to Dunkeld Cathedral whose history can be traced to the ninth century when it emerged as an important religious centre for the early Celtic Church. No building of this period survives, the present Cathedral dates from 1318. Partly destroyed during the Reformation (1560), the choir is roofed and now serves as the parish church for regular Sunday worship. The rest of the cathedral is ruinous, but is preserved as an Ancient Monument in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, who are also responsible for the grounds.

Cooling in the shade in the grounds of the historic Dunkeld Cathedral.

The cathedral’s grounds give great views over the River Tay and Dunkeld Bridge.

The grounds of the cathedral give great views over the majestic River Tay and the historic Dunkeld Bridge which was built by Thomas Telford and opened in 1809.

After all the miles and the local history it was time for us all to return to Matilda Transport. I was safely loaded back inside while my dynamic crew got changed for a refreshment stop before dinner.

Over a nicely chilled glass of white wine, and enjoying the warm sunshine on the decking of the Atholl Arms overlooking the river, the “old git” checked Strava which showed no gongs as this was our first time on this route. But the detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 26 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 03 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.7 mph given a couple of sharp hills while the elevation was 1178 feet. The maximum speed was 29.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1528 calories and produce an average power output of 185 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

Suitably impressed by that data my dynamic crew ended their day out in style with a mouth watering tapas meal at the highly recommended The Scottish Deli on Dunkeld’s Atholl Street. I am told that the prawns in garlic and the manchego cheese and serrano ham platter were particularly impressive!

Replete it was time for the 30 minute return drive to Matildas Rest and soon time for some zzzs after a memorable sunny day out as we tandemed the dens, dells and delis of Dunkeld in glorious Perthshire!