Team Matilda in action tandeming along the NCN Rt7 on the Glen Ogle climb.
This blog is the story of how my dynamic crew had epic fun on the Nutty Tandemers Club 2021 Mini Tour de Callander.
With Covid restrictions easing, Team Matilda welcomed ‘best pals’ Jane Termini Taylor and John Taylor as fellow founding members of the self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club to Callander Woods Holiday Park – along with two honorary (ex-officio!!) weekend members Bob Bending and Karon Bending – for a weekend of nutty tandeming fun!
Well, strictly speaking it was Jane and John who were on the site first with their caravan earlier in the week, as part of a two week staycation – before being joined by Bob and Karon.
Due to work commitments my dynamic crew couldn’t arrive till the Friday evening after driving all of 23 miles from Matilda Rest – but it could have been 2,300 miles such was the desire to get away from home for a post lockdown mini break!
And immediately the madcap action began in signature Nutty Tandemers style as the two other crews joined my dynamic crew on the decking at their stylish bijou glamping pod for a prosecco welcome toast!
Cheers! The three Nutty Tandemers crews enjoying a signature prosecco toast on arrival!
Team Matilda’s glamping pod at Callander Woods.
After unpacking and exploring the extremely well fitted out pod my dynamic crew enjoyed a tasty carry-in fish and chips before the Nutty Tandemers convened at Bob and Karon’s static caravan for a proper get to know you session – with drinks and snacks.
John and Jane had met Bob and Karon before – but the “old git” and “old gal” only knew them from social media and in their roles as joint editors of The Tandem Club Journal.
It was a fun relaxing evening – full of laughs as all the crews exchanged tandeming stories – which set the scene brilliantly for the next two days of seriously nutty tandeming!
Ride 1 – Fab pedal to Killin for champagne and smoked salmon lunch thru Glen Ogle.
The destination was Killin for a champagne lunch at the Falls of Dochart Smokehouse.
The Saturday ride had been a long planned epic adventure – a true world class tandem ride with the three crews pedalling from Callander to Killin thru the magnificent Glen Ogle and over the viaduct. The route is on Sustrans Scotland The National Cycle Network NCN Rt 7 – which runs through the stunning Rob Roy Country and Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.
Departure was early at 9am as there was a lot to pack in to the day and amazingly the “old git” and “old gal” were ready on time! The exuberant crews were kitted up in anoraks as there was a bit of low cloud about which was promised to burn off later. It was an easy pedal to get from the holiday park thru the town of Callander and onto the well signposted NCN RT7 starting in the Meadows car park.
The cycle path heads out of Callander on the old Oban railway line alongside the picturesque River Leny. Now this is one of those railway lines that is most definitely not flat and has a slow gradual uphill section for the first two miles, which was a bit of a shock to my dynamic crew! But soon the synchronicity kicked in and we picked up speed. The two other crews of John and Jane and Bob and Karon were both riding electric assist e-Pino tandems, so obviously had no such problems!
The Nutty Tandemers crews all kitted up in anoraks and taking in the view at Falls of Leny.
The first photo stop was at the Falls of Leny before climbing thru the forest at Pass of Leny, with some brilliant colours and impressively tall trees. This climb rewarded the tandem crews with spectacular views across Loch Lubnaig, where the route hugs high above the loch’s western shore.
The three crews – including two electric assist e-Pino tandems – in the forest at Pass of Leny.
A close up shot showing the two e-assist Pinos and me – fuelled solely by old fashioned leg power!
Enjoying the relatively wind free conditions the Nutty Tandemers decided to indulge in a bit of monster spotting to see if we could see Lubbie – the mysterious monster said by locals to live deep in Loch Lubnaig! Despite some serious looking – and even some wildlife-type calls of “Lubbie, Lubbie, Lubbie” from the “old gal” – it was nowhere to be seen! Obviously Lubbie is equally publicity shy as its elusive cousin at Loch Ness!
Devastated at not being able to get a photo of Lubbie we tandemed onwards on the undulating path heading for Strathyre. All of a sudden at the end of the loch the relatively smooth path abruptly finished and we were faced with a very steep zig zag stone strewn section in the shadow of Ben Ledi! It was exciting for this “old lady”, who as you know likes to try new things – but the “old gal” on the back was less convinced by the sharp bends and bumpy ride, so we took a little walk! Perhaps not surprisingly the e-Pinos managed the tight bends, and rough surface, with relative ease thanks to the additional battery power!
Bit of a push for Team Matilda at the rough and steep zig zag section just before Strathyre.
Tandem Club Journal co-editor Bob in action as John and Jane’s e-Pino manages the climb!
Pedalling on we were soon at the fabulous welcoming Broch Café in Strathyre – which offers a real oasis for cyclists situated right beside the NCN Rt7, and has won awards for being one of the best bike-friendly cafes in Scotland. It offered an ideal spot for a Nutty Tandemers morning coffee and home-made cakes and scones stop,
It was great to see the café so busy – with full social distancing measures in place and it felt very safe. It was good to catch up with mine host Lesley Johnston again too. And greatly encouraging that the business is having its best ever season, no doubt helped by people holidaying at home.
A Nutty Tandemers morning coffee scones and cake stop at the bike friendly Broch Cafe.
After the coffee stop NCN Rt7 route continues to Kingshouse and on to Lochearnhead – tho we took a short detour on to the wide main road at this point, rejoining at the entrance to St Angus Church, which dates back to1888. Signposting along the route is superby clear.
Great clear signposting on The National Cycle Network Rt7 above Lochearnhead.
Leaving Lochearnhead there is a demanding steep zig zag section – with interesting tight z-bends as the cycle path rises 330 feet in just a mile, with a peak gradient of 12%. Whisper it – but my dynamic crew decided that they would push me up a bit of this section, which I think was a wise choice as I am a long vehicle and don’t bend in the middle for some of these sharp turns!
There was also a bit of slow powerful pedalling involved – which allowed the “old git” and “old gal” to feel justified in being suitably kitted out in their red polka dot King of the Mountain jerseys (Maillot à pois rouges!) to mark the first day of Le Tour de France!
The reward at the top of this section – as my dynamic crew got their breath back – was a wonderful view right up the 7 mile length of Loch Earn.
A bit of pushing required at the steep zig zags out of Lochearnhead …
… and a bit of slow powerful pedalling got Team Matilda up the steep incline …
… but the view up the full length of Loch Earn was a stunning reward for the “old git” and “old gal”!
The next section of the route was a real highlight for the Nutty Tandemers as it follows the old Killin railway line up thru Glen Ogle. It is a steady, but manageable, 1 in 50 climb for just under four miles to the summit. But the tandem crews hardly noticed the climb as they were too busy taking in the magnificent beauty and raw nature views across the Glen to the moody mist covered mountains beyond.
There is a “must do” photo stop at the magnificent scenic and atmospheric Glen Ogle Viaduct – which dates back to 1870 and is a 12 arch, 139 feet long, 44 feet high single track masonry viaduct which runs along the steep eastern hillside of Meall Reamhar and Scorrach Nuadh.
The Nutty Tandemers at the spectacular Glen Ogle viaduct on the old steam railway line.
Pausing to take in the dramatic scenery, the tandem crews could (with a just a little bit of imagination) almost feel the impressive rich railway heritage of the Callander to Oban railway which had its heyday in the golden era of steam trains. What an impressive sight it must have been to see a train at full steam climbing up Glen Ogle.
A dramatic picture of a steam train heading up Glen Ogle in 1955
A British Railways poster from the golden age of steam in 1950.
In fact the whole of the Rob Roy Country area has a fascinating rail history which you can read more about here. Our tandem ride also took us past the point of the Glen Ogle rockfall – which led to the line’s early closure in 1965.
At the top of Glen Ogle, and crossing the A85, the dedicated cycle route drops down thru the Acharn Forest. But having previous experience of this cycle path – it is probably more suited to mountain bikes than road bikes.
So the Nutty Tandemers took to the main A85 road on a fantastic smooth downhill section – where Team Matilda clocked a speed of just over 40mph.
Our destination was the the tourist hot spot of Killin and the mesmerising Falls of Dochart. The “old git” had pre-booked lunch at the Falls of Dochart Smokehouse which turned out to be rather yummy smoked salmon tasting plates accompanied by a superb bottle of chilled Lanson champagne! Not a bad Nutty Tandemers lunch really!
Lanson champagne was the fizz for the Nutty Tandemers toast at Falls Of Dochart Smokehouse.
The fabulous tasting plate with freshly smoked salmon made a rather yummy lunch!
The “old gal” chilling and enjoying her cool glass of Lanson Champagne!
After lunch there was time for a quick walk around at the Falls of Dochart, which because the water was low allowed people to walk right out into what would be the middle of the river.
The “old gal” and Jane at the iconic tree in the middle of the Falls of Dochart in Killin.
All smiles from the “old gal” and the “old git” and Jane at the falls!
The least said about the return journey out of Killin to the head of Glen Ogle on the busy A85 the better. Lets just say it was really tough going for my dynamic crew – powered by legs and not by battery. It is a fairly hard climb at an average gradient of 8% as it rises nearly 600 feet in just 2 miles.
After a few stops to re-energise, my dynamic crew were glad to see the viewpoint carpark at the peak of the climb where Team Matilda rejoined the other Nutty Tandemers on NCN Rt7 for a most enjoyable downhill section.
There was even time for one of the Nutty Tandemers signature prosecco pit stops on the return journey just after crossing the Glen Ogle Viaduct – with a magnificent view over Loch Earn.
A traditional Nutty Tandemers prosecco pit stop overlooking Loch Earn.
The Nutty Tandemers continued their return journey re-tracing their steps to Lochearnhead then Kingshouse and Strathyre where my dynamic crew suddenly became somewhat less dynamic as they bonked – the cycling definition of hitting the wall thru a lack of energy!
Emergency supplies of an energy bar and a sugary drink were quickly sourced from the village shop in Strathyre – which took a few minutes to kick in but was enough to see Team Matilda revive and eventually catch up with the other tandem crews who had wisely moved on due to being bitten alive by midges.
Despite that minor setback it was a sensational day out in simply stunning scenery. Back in the comfort of our pod, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of an incredible 30 gongs – made up of no less than 12 personal bests; 17 2nd bests, and one 3rd best.
The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 47.1 miles with a moving time of 4 hours 36 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 10.2 mph despite the climbing! Elevation was 2,261 feet. The maximum speed was 40.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 3,184 calories and produce an average power output of 172 W.
As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D mapping video – so click here to view or on the image below.
After a welcome shower the Nutty Tandem crews headed to the Potting Shed Cafe Bistro at the nearby posh Roman Camp Hotel in Callander for a most convivial evening of drinks and dinner. The food was excellent – coming from the same kitchen team as the hotel but much more affordable – and was served in a suitably relaxed and informal setting. of a converted potting shed in the middle of the hotel’s gardens. Perfect for the occasion!
On return to base there was time for a quick nightcap at John and Jane’s caravan before yawns all round signaled it was time for sleep to recharge the batteries for the next day’s nutty adventure!
Ride 2 – BLiSSful Loch Earn loop with prosecco picnic and visit to see outside artworks at Briar Cottages
Team Matilda’s stylish pod at Callander Woods Holiday Park. Very bijou and comfy!
A slightly later start for the Sunday ride – to allow for additional recovery time from yesterday’s exertion, and last night’s indulgences! After Saturday’s epic ride thru Glen Ogle to Killin, Sunday’s scheduled tandem was set to be equally spectacular with the three #tandem crews doing a route from Callander to Strathyre then a leisurely anti clockwise loop round Loch Earn mainly on the Sustrans Scotland and The National Cycle Network NCN Rt7.
Apart from the fabulous scenery, this would allow the Nutty Tandemers to take in parts of the fabulous Robroycountry outside artwork #BLiSStrail in the heart of the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.
The initial section of the route followed the same start as yesterday, with the crews pedalling from Callander on NCN Rt7 towards Strathyre – again passing the Falls of Leny, going thru the forest at Pass of Leny and then above Loch Lubnaig before negotiating the rough zig zags before dropping down to Strathyre for the first of several re-fuelling stops planned for the day.
The first was a re-visit to the superb highly recommended bike friendly The Broch Cafe in Strathyre where owner Lesley Johnston served up some more great home made cakes and scones and welcome strong coffee to help wipe out any hangovers!
Nutty Tandemers morning coffee cake and scone stop at The Broch Cafe in Strathyre
The three tandem crews got back on their bikes to enjoy a wonderfully smooth section of NCN Rt7 towards Kingshouse. Before the “old git” built up the pace there was a quick photo at Drover’s Bho – part of the award-winning innovative cultural outside art #BLiSStrail which is the brainchild of LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group.
The “old gal” at the Drover’s Bho installation on the BLiSStrail on NCN Rt7 at Strathyre.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Kim Proven, chair of LETi, and her fellow community team volunteers, the trail had the honour a couple of years ago of being crowned winner of the ‘Innovation in Tourism’ category at the National Grand Final of the VisitScotland Scottish Thistle Awards – regarded as Scotland’s tourism ‘Oscars’.
There is a great new audio tour of the BLiSStrail where you simply download the Geotourist app on your smartphone, follow the trail and listen to the voices of locals and artists as they tell stories about the artworks around the trail.
Team Matilda in action pedalling along NCN Rt7 just after Strathyre in Robroycountry.
After heading towards Lochearn the Nutty Tandemers started their loop of picturesque Loch Earn by taking the signposted route along the quieter south side of the loch. This is a great gently undulating section with the single track road hugging the edge of the loch most of the way.
One of the viewpoints is overlooking Edinample Castle – a late 16th Century tower house which has a bit of a chequered past. It was originally built by ‘Black’ Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy and is built on land acquired by the Campbells after their campaign for proscription, and the subsequent demise of the MacGregors.
Team Matilda overlooking the impressive Edinample Castle on the south shore of Loch Earn.
Like all good castles it has its very own ghost! It is said that Black Duncan pushed the castle’s architect off the roof, in part to avoid paying him, but also because he omitted to construct the ramparts that had been requested. It is also said that the ghost of the builder has been seen walking on the roof near the aforesaid ramparts.
Edinample fell into a state of dereliction by the early 1970s – but it has now been refurbished for use as a private family home.
The tandem crews did have to pay attention and take care as the south side section was fairly busy in stretches – particularly around Ardvorlich – with cars using every conceivable parking space for hillwalkers doing the popular Ben Vorlich route. There were plenty of quiet areas for spectacular photo stops however, and Jane also managed to capture the “old git” and “old gal” in full pedal!
Great weather and fab views for the Nutty Tandemers on the quieter south side of Loch Earn.
All smiles from the “old gal” and “old git” in full pedal in this action shot captured by Jane!
The water was very calm today but the “old git” couldn’t resist recounting the interesting fact that Loch Earn is one of very few freshwater bodies of water that has its own seiche – a tidal system which is caused by the action of the prevailing wind blowing along the loch. This makes Loch Earn fairly unique and is in the illustrious company of a few other bodies of fresh water which experience this effect including the Great Lakes, Lake Garda, and Lake Geneva.
Lunch was designated as a self-catering posh prosecco picnic and the Nutty Tandemers didn’t disappoint with their individual menus – all of which was enjoyed in a lovely quiet setting just before St Fillans, at the end of Loch Earn. The fizz was perfectly air cooled after being transported in the La Bouclée bike wine carrier! As always the signature Nutty Tandemers prosecco picnic set up caused more than a bit of interest from passing cars!
Prosecco picnic cheers – John and Jane enjoying their posh picnic fizz, complete with napkins!
Bob and Karon enjoying the fizz with their shiny bronze coloured glasses!
The “old gal” and “old git” enjoying their posh picnic bubbles!
Jane’s remotely taken picnic image manages to capture 5 and a half of the Nutty Tandemers!
Fuelled by the fizz, the pretty village of St Fillans was the venue for a series of suitably nutty madcap photos for the crews including another of the BLiSStrail artworks, the Moodnight Meadows cowch – a bench which looks like a cow! – superbly situated looking over the full length of Loch Earn.
This included another classic The Three Wise Monkeys shot. Now the original Nutty Tandemers have been making a thing of taking an annual photo of that pose – for their nutty photo highlights calendar – since their first ever tandem tour back in 2016. So the cowch provided the perfect setting for a “See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” pose, complete with Tandem Club buffs!
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – Jane, the “old git” and John, complete with Tandem Club buffs.
Bob and Karon joined in the Three Wise Monkeys fun with the “old gal”!
The “old gal” and “old git” enjoying the view sitting on Moodnight Meadow at St Fillans.
The “old git” having fun on a jetty looking down the full length of Loch Earn!
After cycling down the busier north side of Loch Earn the Nutty Tandemers enjoyed a real highlight of the day with an invitation from Kim Proven – who heads the local tourist body as previously mentioned – and her husband Fraser, for a wonderfully hospitable refreshment stop at the magnificent garden of their Briar Cottages, Lochearnhead holiday accommodation business.
The garden and the views are just sublime and on the lawn are two magnificent metal artworks which are part of the BLiSStrail – Stan the Stag and Blawn Wi the Wind. It was a truly magical stop – hugely appreciated by the Nutty Tandemers.
The three Nutty Tandemers crews posing with Stan the Stag at Briar Cottages,
A triple tandem line-up with Blawn Wi The Wind – another artwork installation on the BLiSStrail
The three Nutty Tandemers crews in the garden of Briar Cottages with owner Kim Proven
The “old gal” enjoying the view up Loch Earn from the magical garden.
The “old git” with Kim and Fraser, owners of Briar Cottages holiday accommodation.
Two iconic metal structures together – this “old lady” tandem and Stan the Stag!
It was time to pedal on to Kingshouse where there was a final stop to re-energise at the popular Mhor 84 Motel. Bob and Karon did a few extra miles at this point to bag a British Cycle Quest clue at nearby Rob Roy’s Grave at Balquhidder, while the two other crews had a cool refreshment (of the soft drink variety!) and an energy bar.
As a result, when it was time for the final pedal back to base at Callander, I am delighted to report that the “old git” and “old gal” had learned their lesson from yesterday and did not suffer from bonking!
Time for one final photo stop to emphasise that my dynamic crew pedalled the routes over the two days using only their leg power – unlike the electric battery power assist on the e-pinos tandems! In fact the only battery used by Team Matilda was a solar powered one for phone charging!
Electric battery assist power on the e-pinos v solar power for Team Matilda! – for phone charging!
Back at Callander Woods the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of another 29 gongs – an amazing 16 personal bests; 12 2nd bests, and one 3rd best.
The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 46.6 miles with a moving time of 4 hours 03 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.5 mph. Elevation was 1,531 feet. The maximum speed was 28.4 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 2,653 calories and produce an average power output of 163 W.
As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D mapping video – so click here to view or on the image below.
The “old git” and “old gal” had an evening meal of delicious pizza before the Nutty Tandemers gathered on the decking of Team Matilda’s pod for some end of tour celebration drinks, and to recount the highlights of the weekend.
The “old git” perfecting the art of pouring the prosecco!
The total for the two Nutty Tandemers rides was over 90 miles – 93.7 miles to be exact, with a total elevation of a not insubstantial 3,892 feet.
And with even more smiles and laughs than the miles, the Nutty Tandemers all agreed that they had enjoyed a simply superb weekend of tandeming – underlining just how its “double the fun” on bicycles built for two!
As the sunset produced some magical colours through the trees at Callander Woods Holiday Park there was time for a final toast to “Nutty Tandeming!”
John and Jane and the magical colourful sunset at Callander Woods Holiday Park.
Huge thanks to John and Jane and Bob and Karon for their efforts and enthusiasm to share the Mini Tour de Callander. They all more than lived up to being fellow Nutty Tandemers and proved they are real kindred spirits to my dynamic crew!
Team Matilda certainly can’t wait for the next Nutty Tandemers tour!