Sunny tandem to Bridge of Earn for carrot cake on HebWay warm-up ride

Carrot cake and coffee in warm sunshine – de rigueur for happy tandemers!

Sunday lunchtime and right on cue the weather offered idyllic conditions for tandeming – bright warm sunshine and little wind. Which was just as well as the “old git” had decreed today would be a ride on a lumpy hilly route as training for Team Matilda’s forthcoming  Hebridean Way adventure. And he had a special carrot to tempt the “old gal” with – the promise of some tasty carrot cake at the half way point. Oh the sweet talker – he certainly knows how to get the best out my Stoker you know!

More about the HebWay later – including a photo shoot of my dynamic crew in the tour t-shirts – but first a run to Bridge of Earn. We weren’t able to start from Matilda’s Rest as our usual route across the A9 was closed due to a major police incident – so we started from the next village at Aberuthven.

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

First stage was an easy canter towards the village of Dunning, then on to Forteviot. The synchronicity factor of the “old git” and the “old gal” was working well with all three of us on Team Matilda perfectly in tune! It was a great day to be out and feel the warm air between my spokes on the quiet country roads of Perthshire – which are great for tandeming and cycling, as shown by the number of bikes we saw while out on our ride.

“This is the kind of tandeming I like” exclaimed the “old gal” as my dynamic crew pedalled along feeling very pleased with themselves. In what seemed like no time at all we tandemed into Forteviot – an ancient Pictish capital of Scotland, where King Kenneth MacAlpin died in the 9th Century.

A quick stop at the fabulous new centrepiece to the village – a large carved stone inspired by the strong Pictish culture and the historic Dupplin Cross. The original rare 3m high cross, carved out of sandstone in around AD800, once stood in the palace of the Pictish Kings at Forteviot.

Lovely warm sunshine means t-shirts and shorts at the new Pictish stone in Forteviot …

… in contrast to our last visit in February when my dynamic crew needed coffee to keep warm!

What a difference in weather conditions since our last visit in February when it was barely above freezing the day before the Beast fae the East blew in. No warming coffee required today for my dynamic crew as they admired the ‘Set in Stone – the Birth of Alba’ artwork.

The eye-catching stone carving – which is sensitively floodlit at night – is part of the Heritage Lottery funded Pictish Stones project run by the Tay Landscape Partnership to provide the area with a key legacy monument marking the area’s important role in the birth of medieval Scotland.

The carved stone in Forteviot is inspired by its Pictish history as an ancient capital of Scotland.

Back on the road and my dynamic crew were enjoying their usual doze of fun and laughs on my saddles as the miles seemed to whizz past in idyllic conditions. Even a fairly tough twin-peaked climb out of Forteviot – didn’t phase them as they battled on to the top.

The reward for that climb is an enjoyable long downhill stretch in to Bridge of Earn, with the “old git” reveling in his role as Captain – revealing that we were hitting the 30 mph mark at times! As we turned into the Brig Farm Shop and cafe my dynamic crew were amazed and impressed to find they had arrived in record time of just 57 minutes. There’s obviously life in this “old lady” yet! I must admit I do like it when we are whizzing along as it makes me feel like a young thing! Mind you, I guess it probably also has something to do with my crew’s weight loss – now totalling 50lbs – and improved fitness!

The Brig Farm Shop & Cafe was Team Matilda’s half way point on the ride.

Talking of weight loss … it was clearly time for a well-earned coffee and cake! Given the sunshine my crew decided an alfresco refuelling was required on the colourful decking area overlooking the farmland and ordered some carrot cake – de rigueur for many tandemers and in particular the “old gal” and the “old git”! And very yummy it was, or so they tell me! In fact so scummy that the “old git” nearly had his hand bitten off trying to get a photo before the “old gal” demolished her portion!

The “old git” just managed to get this photo before the “old gal” demolished her carrot cake!

After a nice relaxing time it was time to head on the return journey. My dynamic crew were in buoyant mood after such a good first half of today’s route – but unbeknown to them, while they were indulging their taste buds, the wind got up. Now as all tandemers know to their cost – when there is wind it is always blowing in an unhelpful direction! It was still pretty warm, but the “old gal” and the “old git” had to battle against a fierce head wind.

The road out of Bridge of Earn is a bit of a tough one at the best of times – a long slow grind of a tandem – but the head wind rendered some of the comments coming from my Stoker’s position unrepeatable in what is after all a family blog! Let’s just say that the average speed we achieved on the way to the cafe was not being achieved on the way back – much to the chagrin of my Captain! But Team Matilda gamely battled on (well truthfully there was no alternative!) tandeming back thru Forteviot and on to Dunning before arriving back at the A9 and Aberuthven.

Back at Matildas Rest, and in a welcome break from the head wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 17 gongs – 12 personal bests; 3 second bests; and 2 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 24.0 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 56 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.4 mph given the hilly terrain and thanks to my new gears – while the elevation was 1091 feet. Actually I am quite chuffed to report that the average speed was 2.2 mph faster than the 10.2 mph when my dynamic crew last tandemed to Bridge of Earn in June last year. The maximum speed was 32.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1361 calories and produce an average power output of 175 W.

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

With the strong wind and the hilly terrain it was more good training for our Hebridean Way challenge in early June. Just 3 weeks to go now before me and my dynamic crew meet up with good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club tour and the not insubstantial task of covering 185 miles over five days tandeming!

In the protected garden the “old git” decided Team Matilda needed to take a couple of pictures in the bright sunshine to unveil the newly arrived HebWay t-shirts – complete with our snazzy tour logo.

The “old git” and “old gal” sporting the new Nutty Tandemers Club HebWay tour t-shirts.

As always our t-shirts are produced by Sprinterz – a local digital print and embroidery specialist firm run by a good friend of the “old gal” called Gill and her husband Kevin. The highly professional team at Sprinterz produced stunning eye-catching t-shirts made of lightweight Cooltex material.

My dynamic crew are hoping for some warm sunny days tandeming the Hebridean Way.

To personalise things the arms of the tour t-shirts have the team names printed on the sleeves – Team Matilda obviously, and Team JayJay named after the initials of John and Jane!

The sleeves of the t-shirts list the crews of Team Matilda and Team JayJay.

This will be the third tour of the two tandem teams following two memorable previous trips – the inaugural Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem in 2016 and Le Tour de New Forest du Tandem last year. Both produced some fabulous sun-kissed tandeming so my spokes are crossed the weather gods are on our side again for the third time pedalling!

Team JayJay – John and Jane – in action on board their tandem Siggy.

Jane and John certainly seemed to have lots in common with my dynamic duo – such as not enjoying hills and definitely enjoying prosecco! In fact both Team Matilda and Team JayJay seem to have the same views on not taking tandeming too seriously – which is nuttily summed up in the tour logo!

The tour logo in detail.

As for me, I am looking forward to teaming up with Siggy, the attractive gent of a tandem belonging to Team JayJay’s stable of no less than three tandems – which also includes the vintage Henry and their original Pino semi-recumbent Bluebird. Whisper it, but I hear Siggy is a bit of a charmer of a gentleman tandem … with an eye for the older ladies! So you never know he and I may just have a little bit of a HebWay holiday tandem romance!

Siggy is also very clever and he has couplings which allow him to be separated into three sections – making it much easier to transport to the Outer Hebrides. Mind you that shouldn’t be too much of a problem as John and Jane flew to India with Siggy for an amazing tandem adventure back in February!

The “old gal” smiling in the sunshine as she looks ahead to lots of laughs on the HebWay.

So in a nutshell the Nutty Tandemers HebWay tour involves two fun-loving couples on two tandem bikes cycling 185 miles “on the edge” on the Outer Hebrides from the start on Vatersay to the end at Isle of Lewis – covering 10 islands, 6 causeways and 2 ferries. I mean what could possibly go wrong?!

My dynamic crew just need some ideas for prosecco and carrot cake stops now before departure!

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Outlanderish cultural tandem experience on ride to historic Tibbermore

The evocative grave yard at Tibbermore Church – film set for an episode of Outlander.

Summer has finally arrived at Matildas Rest and after being on our travels for the last few weeks Team Matilda decided on a hilly ride on our own doorstep this week as my dynamic crew build up the miles and elevation for our Hebridean Way adventure in early June.

Interestingly this ride had the added advantage of turning into a cultural experience with my dynamic crew receiving an education into the cult hit tv show Outlander. They are always impressed at the rich history they find right in Team Matildas own backyard – and in this case both real and fictional.

Summer had finally arrived at Matildas Rest – thus the t-shirts and shorts for first time in 2018!

Now a little word of praise to the “old git” and the “old gal” here. In a bid to improve their fitness they have lost 3 stones between them over the last 11 weeks by sticking rigidly to the healthy eating Hay Plan regime. I am most impressed – and grateful at the same time that I don’t have to carry all that extra weight around on my ageing frame!

So with a combination of losing weight, and the forecast of warm sunshine – it was decided it was t-shirt weather. The “old git” even ventured into his shorts for the first time this year!

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

I am very proud to report that today’s ride started with a new Team Matilda speed record! On leaving Auchterarder we hit a nice long downhill stretch and soon picked up speed. the “old git” was really enjoying it – although I am not sure the same can be said for the “old gal” on the back! They both got into the spirit of things and bent low to reduce drag and do what is termed “a froomie” after Chris Froome’s unorthodox aerodynamic descending style at last summer’s Tour de France.

And amazingly the data showed we hit a new all time record speed of 34.7 mph! Which is really all rather exciting for an “old lady” tandem like me! Kudos to Team Matilda! The big question now of course is can we break thru the 35 mph barrier?! I am certainly up for it!

After all that dizzy excitement it was back to earth with a sudden jolt as we crossed Kinkell Bridge and started the climb away from the River Earn. Up we went past Trinity Gask Parish Church which traces its history back to 1770. That was the first of several sharp hills around Gask and it certainly felt as if my crew were busting a Gask…et (see what I did there!) on those climbs!

As we reached the plateau my crew realised why it is so hilly as the area is known as Gask Ridge Frontier  which the “old git” discovered was the earliest Roman land frontier in Britain – built in the 70’s or 80’s AD, 40 years before Hadrian’s Wall and 60 years before the Antonine Wall. After the climbs there was some relief as Team Matilda turned right and fair zoomed along a nice flat stretch of just over 5 miles to our half way spot at Tibbermore.

Me and the “old gal” at the archway marking the entrance to the Tibbermore Church yard.

My dynamic crew decided to visit the fascinating historic Tibbermore Church which is now in the care of the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust. Dating back to 1632 the characterful building ceased being a parish church in 1986 before being transferred to the trust in 2001.

Apart from being worthy of a visit in its own right due to its unusual layout, and its history, the church has another more recent claim to fame – which sees it visited by people from all over the world. It is now a recognised stop in the VisitScotland tour of Outlander filming locations.

Now it needs to be said that the “old git” and the “old gal” must be one of the few people on the planet who have never watched an episode of the popular hit show Outlander – as clearly the mystical and spellbinding series has caught the imagination and attention of viewers and is a ratings winner in around 40 different countries. The series, filmed in Scotland, is particularly popular in America and Europe and is now seen as a goldmine for attracting tourists by Scotland’s tourism agency.

The historic church was a perfect setting for filming of an episode of cult hit tv show Outlander.

The church was used as a film set for the infamous witches trial – series 1 episode 11 called ‘The Devil’s Mark’. Over 10 days in June 2014 Tibbermore Church was the focal point for 120 crew and 200 extras involved in the production – transformed into the fictional Cranesmuir Church.

Inside the church there is a display of information and photos from the tv production and it seemed only natural that my dynamic crew would try to recreate a couple of them – albeit not in period costume but in their hi-vis cycling gear! Whisper it, but I’m not sure they would be a ratings winner!

Claire and Jamie are reunited in an emotional embrace in the churchyard after the trial.

My dynamic crew recreate the passionate embrace – albeit not in period costume!

For the many people whose specialist subject is Outlander episodes, the witches trial is one of the most memorable. The plot line sees Claire and Geillis Duncan accused of being witches – for which the punishment is being burned at the stake.

The plot line for ‘The Devil’s Mark’ episode of Outlander filmed at Tibbermore.

The design of the building particularly lent itself to the key trial scene with the pulpit serving as the dock. Despite a spirited defence things don’t go well for Claire and Geillis – and in an attempt to save Claire, Geillis confesses to witchcraft. The “old gal” bravely shunned any superstitions and stood in the pulpit – which doubled as the dock – to recreate that scene.

Geillis confesses to witchcraft from the church pulpit at the trial to save Claire.

The “old gal” recreating the role of Geillis in the Tibbermore church pulpit used as the dock.

In one of the final scenes of the episode Geillis is carried from the church to her fate at the stake. Perhaps wisely the “old git” decided against trying to recreate that image!

Geillis is carried from the church to her fate – a scene my dynamic crew wisely didn’t try to recreate!

It was all very interesting and the “old git” and “old gal” certainly created a bit of a diversion for the international visitors ticking off another venue on their Outlander tour! It was good to see tourists from France and Spain visiting that day which just underlines the global appeal of the hit show. Which left me wondering if there was a potential role in a future Outlander episode for an “old lady” classic tandem! I am sure it wouldn’t present too many problems for a creative scriptwriter.

After the cultural overload of the Outlander venue, my dynamic crew felt it was more than time to overload on some goodies at Gloagburn Farm Shop just a few hundred yards away. No carrot cake today – just a tasty scone with some nice strong coffee. But guess what? The “old gal” was so engrossed in eating she forgot to take a photo!

The farm shop is extremely interesting for foodies like my dynamic crew as it sells lots of local produce from Perthshire’s larder. A few purchases were made – including supplies for the evening meal – and safely packed away in my panniers. I knew I was sporting them for a reason!

After the cultural overload time for a scone and coffee overload at Gloagburn.

Refuelled Team Matilda set off on the return trip and immediately started to pedal into a ferocious head wind! This was somewhat unexpected and made for hard going on the journey home. But we soon built up a reasonable momentum again and the “old gal” decided we would take a different loop home to add a bit of variety. So we pedaled past the road end that would have taken us back to Trinity Gask, heading towards Madderty and turning left to the picturesque village of St Davids. Another steep climb before we picked up speed on a nice descent back to Kinkell Bridge.

My dynamic crew again took a different loop back to base which saw us climb the steep incline from Machanay bridge before powering on up the slow steady energy sapping grind of Easthill, before a welcome fast downhill finish through Auchterarder.

Back at Matildas Rest, and a welcome break from the head wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 17 gongs – 8 personal bests; 7 second bests; 1 3rd best; and encouragingly 1 Queen of the Mountain award!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 32.04 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 46 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.6 mph given the hilly terrain and thanks to my new gears – while the elevation was 1358 feet. The maximum speed was that new record of 34.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1825 calories and produce an average power output of 164 W.

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

With the strong wind and the hilly terrain it was more good training for the Hebridean Way in early June. Just 4 weeks to go now before me and my dynamic crew meet up with good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club tour and the not insubstantial task of covering 185 miles over 5 days tandeming!

Nutty Tandemers Club logo for Hebridean Way challenge.

One thing is for certain – days full of fun and laughs are guaranteed on the Hebridean Way challenge! What is less certain is the weather conditions – but the order has been placed with the weather people for some nice warm sunshine and a helpful tailwind!

Sun-kissed training ride on Millport for Hebridean Way challenge

Picnic reflections! The “old git” and “old gal” had a great picnic on sun-kissed Millport.

6.30 bright and early on Sunday morning and my dynamic crew awakened from their slumbers for a busy schedule heading “overseas” for some “warm weather” training to the island of Millport. And the good news was that – as forecast – the sun was already streaming in the window from behind the blind filling my crew with enthusiasm for the day ahead!

As regular visitors to the island and big fans of its charm the “old git” and the “old gal” decided to go to their beloved “Costa del Millport” for one of their training rides before tackling the Hebridean Way in early June. Read on for more about that challenge – but the plan was to do some serious training laps round the island – officially known as The Isle of Cumbrae – as it is a cyclists paradise offering a gently undulating 10 mile loop on almost traffic free roads never more than a few yards from the coast.

After a 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.

Great views and blue sky from the deck of the ferry from Largs to Cumbrae.

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. It was even warm enough for the “old git” and “old gal” to spend time out on the deck for a selfie as they looked ahead expectantly to what was clearly going to be a glorious day by the seaside! As we disembarked the roll on-roll off ferry we headed clockwise for a gentle 4 mile warm-up tandem into the town of Millport.

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 pistachio Italian pastry to accompany it!

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 then 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 around 45 minutes. Not bad for a warm-up!

The battle to Save Millport Pier is continuing with a campaign to have the facility repaired.

Back in Millport town my dynamic crew decided to get some new photos to show the fight to Save Millport Pier. Regular readers of my blog will remember that on our last visit back in 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.

The pier head gives a great vantage point looking across the bay and Millport town.

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.

Warning – unprotected edge! I hoped the “old git” wouldn’t get too close to the edge!

After checking out the pier, it was time for our second circuit and this time my crew decided to go anti clockwise – with the beach at Kames Bay looking stunning in the sunshine as the island more than lived up to its “Costa del Millport” nickname.

We pedalled on up past the ferry slipway and round the top of the island soon arriving at our idyllic quiet picnic table with stunning views over the white sand and across to Rothesay. The balmy weather provided a perfect environment for one of my dynamic crew’s cheeky prosecco picnics!

Our private picnic table overlooking the beach was bathed in warm sunshine.

Lunch table with a view! The “old gal” at our idyllic picnic bench overlooking the Isle of Bute.

Now, as you know, prosecco picnics at remote spots are one of the great pleasures of tandeming and my dynamic crew are true exponents of the art! It was so perfect the “old git” decided to film one of his videos – with the “old gal” giving a masterclass on the art of a picnic with fizz! Hope it makes you laugh!

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 mention the prosecco to wash it all down?! Oh I did, sorry! But quite simply picnics don’t come much better than this!

Selfie time on a walk on the rocks at the beach for my dynamic crew after the picnic!

Setting off again we passed the public loos at Fintry Bay where we saw a star of the island my crew had been keen to meet – the self styled Cumbrae Cludgie Cleaner! Fun-loving Suki McGregor signed up for  the role following a community take-over of the public loos and is instantly recogniseable thanks to her trademark bright pink overalls and colourful dreadlocks. She even has her own Cumbrae Cludgie Cleaner Facebook page and has been posting video blogs which have gone viral!

Suki does a great job for the community – especially with Cumbrae attracting so many visitors who walk or cycle round the island. The loos are unrecognisable as public toilets – spotlessly clean with nice touches like flowers and chairs. She has a great sense of humour and told my dynamic crew that she used to run a theatre project – so it was a switch “from luvvies to lavvies”!

Suki – the self styled Cumbrae Cludge Cleaner – with the “old gal” outside one of the community loos!

After the fun chat with Suki my crew got back on my saddles to complete the anti clockwise lap with the promise of a coffee and cake stop at the Dancing Midge Cafe. There my crew enjoyed some freshly brewed coffee and yummy carrot cake – de rigueur for tandemers.

Stop at Dancing Midge Cafe for coffee and carrot cake – de rigueur for tandemers!

There was method in their madness as the carrot cake was 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 41.2 minutes. After 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! – 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 harbour and it would need to be said that I was uber-impressed as we fair whizzed along with the “old git” keeping me in high gears most of the time. I was really enjoying myself as this “old lady” doesn’t normally get to experience such speeds!

And I am very proud to report that my dynamic crew excelled themselves with a non-stop circuit of the island in what Strava declared was a new personal best time of just 38.0 minutes which means we were tandeming at an average speed of 15.8 miles an hour! Just proves what a big difference my new gears make – and what’s more the “old git” and the “old gal” really enjoyed it.

Amazingly Strava also gave my dynamic crew a 5th best gong – meaning that their time is now down in history as the fifth fastest time ever recorded on the route called “Millport TT clockwise – out and back from Royal George hotel.” Well to be totally honest, it was the 5th fastest time ever recorded by a female as I am officially registered as a female by Strava – but a gong is a gong!

Time for a breather and a rest for my dynamic crew after the last record-smashing lap!

After the exertions of the record breaking lap my crew needed a bit of a rest and had a nice breather sitting on the rocks until the sun disappeared behind the clouds. So they called in to say hi to Sean who owns bike hire shop On Your Bike Millport in the town, and who is a regular reader of my blog.

Sean was very complimentary about my appearance describing me as “a very well kept classic tandem who looks in fine fettle!” He had a good look over my new gear bits – saying it looked “the business” and he also was full of praise for the “old gal” in her role as chief engineer for keeping me in shape!

I even got to shelter in his shop in case it rained. Sean told us he started his business 10 years ago and tandems are now an important part of his hire trade on the island – with no less than 8 in his stable, although he admitted that none of them had a name like me! Apart from the tandems he runs a fleet of over 200 bikes – and is hoping for warm sunny days to boost demand from day trippers.

The “old git” with On Your Bike owner Sean with one of his hire tandems.

The sun soon re-appeared and it was time for my Captain to implement the dinner plan – alfresco fish and chips. And very yummy it was too – sitting out on the promenade at Millport – and washed down with a glass of fizz left over from the picnic! I mean no one can ever say the “old git” doesn’t know how to treat the “old gal” and show her a good time!

Posh nosh! Alfresco fish suppers – the “old git” certainly knows how to treat the “old gal”!

Unfortunately after dodging the showers all day some ominous clouds gathered as we prepared to pedal the final 4 miles back to the ferry slipway. And as we tandemed out of town those clouds started to deposit a heavy shower. The wind whipped up from nowhere with the full force of a squall blasting into the faces of my dynamic crew, making for rather unpleasant conditions. Naturally, as we arrived at the ferry, the rain stopped – just as quickly as it started – leaving my crew a bit weather beaten!

On the short ferry crossing back to the mainland the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 26 gongs – 12 personal bests; 8 second bests; and 6 3rd bests. Looking at the data it shows Team Matilda clearly breaking our own records on each successive lap!

So the Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 39.3 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 53 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 13.7 mph – which was up 1.4 mph from our previous identical ride last September thanks to my new gears – while the elevation was 1030 feet. The maximum speed was 21.3 mph – due to no steep downhill stretches – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1876 calories and produce an average power output of 162 W.

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

It was all good training then for the Hebridean Way in early June. I am looking forward to teaming up with Siggy, the attractive gent of a tandem belonging to the “old git” and “old gal’s” good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club tour. The “old git” got a designer pal to come up with a suitably “nutty” logo for the tour! There’s now just the small matter of covering 185 miles over 5 days tandeming!

Nutty Tandemers Club logo for Hebridean Way challenge.

Back in Largs a quick pedal of a few hundred yards 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 (with one heavy shower!) and great tandeming! Which left my dynamic crew wondering if there was a better way to spend a Sunday? As one of the island’s sign’s says: “Millport – in a world of its own!”

No further comment needed!

Cycle and cruise in tandem with Loch Tay Safaris

Team Matilda were invited to boat-test the new cycle and cruise offering at Loch Tay Safaris.

Sunday dawned and although there were menacing dark clouds about, my dynamic crew were up early and energised as Team Matilda had been invited to road test – or that should really be boat-test! – another of Scotland’s top tourist attractions for my blog!

This time the invitation was to try out Loch Tay Safaris new cycle and cruise offering – which allows people the ultimate fun way to explore Perthshire’s largest loch on an exciting adrenalin-fuelled combination of two wheels and a fast RIB boat.

So we headed off to the pretty estate village of Kenmore – parking in the Loch Tay Safaris car park right on the edge of the loch beside their private jetty and pontoon – to get ready for our adventure.

Ready for the off! At the Loch Tay Safaris car park in Kenmore right on the edge of the loch.

Adding to the excitement was that this ‘old lady’ had been under repair and had a whole new gear mechanism fitted – including chain set, crank, mech and gear selector. So all three of us on Team Matilda were keen to get out on the open roads of Highland Perthshire to see how my ‘new bits’ performed! There are some pics and some technical stuff at the end of this blog post which details the work I had done to my ageing frame!

We decided to follow one of the suggested routes for the cycle and cruise itinerary – a near 14 mile loop from Kenmore to Aberfeldy and back on scenic roads which straddle both sides of the River Tay.

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

We left Kenmore on Sustrans Scotland NCN Route 7 crossing the bridge and turning right onto the quiet B846. The route immediately takes you up a hill on the edge of the Tay Forest Park, but my crew found this much easier than normal due to my new gearing!

A great long flat stretch soon had us building up speed before crossing the River Lyon just before it joins the Tay. Turning right and less than 2 miles later we found ourselves in the wonderfully named Highland Perthshire hamlet of Dull – where it would need to be said the weather wasn’t very bright! See what I did there?!

The weather wasn’t very bright when we reached the wonderfully named hamlet of Dull.

But locals – clearly with a sense of humour – are keen to make the most of the unusual name and promote the road sign as a tourist attraction in its own right. It helps that Dull has been twinned with Boring – a small town in Oregon USA which also has an etymologically-similar name.

Naturally my dynamic crew had to stop for the must-do selfie with the sign and discovered that Dull and Boring created the League of Extraordinary Communities in 2013 and made Bland in New South Wales Australia its first member – giving them a Dull, Boring and Bland tie-up!

Dull is twinned with Boring in Oregon, USA. Can’t describe my dynamic crew as dull and boring!

Dull’s other claim to fame is that it is the base of Highland Safaris – the parent business of Loch Tay Safaris. It is quite an operation and as winner of the Best Visitor Experience in Scotland offers exhilarating Land Rover Safaris, a red deer centre, inspiring walking and mountain biking activities, Perthshire’s only gold panning centre, and a cafe.

We were soon in Aberfeldy – marking the half way point – and headed west on the A827 to complete the loop back to Kenmore. This is more undulating but even the long climb near the end didn’t present my crew – and my new gears – with too many problems.

The welcome freewheel downhill saw us return to our lochside base and there was plenty of time for a fun photoshoot with me and the Loch Tay Safaris boat called Iolaire. Even though I wasn’t actually going on the cruise, the ever-cautious “old gal” did kit me out with a lifebelt … just in case I fell in!

Got my lifebelt on my handlebars at Loch Tay Safaris! Can’t be too careful around boats!

You can’t miss the signs for Loch Tay Safaris at Kenmore – the ultimate way to experience the loch.

After the photos there was time for a picnic lunch of smoked salmon and spinach wraps and fresh fruit salad which the “old gal” had prepared for some fuel before they took to the water!

Then I was safely locked up at the lochside before my dynamic crew donned their life jackets and had a full safety briefing before boarding for their 90 minute cruise!

Loch Tay Safaris is a new venture only launched last summer. As the blurb says: “Our modern, custom built cabin RIB is safe, comfortable, fast, dry and guaranteed to raise a smile!”

Although Iolaire can seat up to 12 people my dynamic crew were fortunate enough to be the only people on board so effectively had a fantastic private charter!

Ahoy there! The “old git” and “old gal” up front on the fast Loch Tay Safari RIB.

Not long into the cruise the “old git” and “old gal” were given the chance of sitting up front by expert skipper Alex while the superbly informative tour guide Norman took us on a journey through local history, nature and folklore. Points of interest included the old piers where steamboats plied their trade in years past taking day-trippers on the water until 1939; and the so-called Loch Tay Fault Line.

The interesting route taken by the comfortable Iolaire RIB on the Loch Tay Safari ride.

The RIB’s versatility makes it perfect for getting in close to the inaccessible banks of the loch and exploring the unique landscape from the water. About half way, at the deepest point of the loch, just off Ben Lawyers, our tour guide Norman regaled us with stories about Loch Tay’s very own Kelpie lair describing the supernatural mythical white horse which lured people to its lair deep in the waters.

My dynamic crew know a think or two about Kelpies, having visited the magnificent metal horse sculptures near Falkirk, including filming one of my Matildas Musings video clips – featuring three iconic steel structures – for my Youtube channel. The “old gal” was offered the chance to feed the Kelpies – with some appropriately named ‘Kelpie Food’ masquerading as oats!

The “old gal” was invited to feed the Kelpies – with Kelpie food, obviously!

One of the highlights of the cruise comes near the end when its stops just beside the Scottish Crannog Centre – a unique reconstruction of an ancient loch dwelling which recreates what life was like on Loch Tay some 2,500 years ago in the early Iron Age. Here in Highland Perthshire the prehistoric crannogs were originally timber-built roundhouses supported on piles or stilts driven into the loch bed.

The Loch Tay Safari boat cabin has comfy seating for 12 passengers – all with their own binoculars.

All too soon the cruise was at an end and we returned to the pontoon at Kenmore – thanking Alex and Norman for a brilliant sail. Loch Tay Safaris is certainly a highly recommended way to explore the loch if you are in the area – not just by the “old git” and “old gal” but by the great reviews on Tripadvisor.

Returning to terra firma – buoyed by the exuberance of the cruise – my dynamic crew quickly found their land legs and we set off on our second tandem circuit to complete our cycle-cruise-cycle agenda. And I am delighted to report it was even quicker than the first – with the miles literally flying past.

Soon we were thru Dull again (still not much brighter!) and passed Menzies Castle – the seat of the Clan Menzies. It dates back to the 16th century and Charles Edward Stuart stayed here for two nights before the fateful Battle of Culloden in 1746.

A quick dash thru the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village of Weem took us to our second crossing of the impressive Wade’s Bridge which spans the Tay. It was built in 1733 by the architect William Adam – son of the better known Robert Adam.

A blistering downhill finish into Kenmore saw a first for Team Matilda – as we set off a “slow down” warning as we flashed past one of these new digital speed signs which registered us at 33 mph! Shame it wasn’t a speed camera!

The “old gal” made a shout for a drinkie stop after we dismounted so we headed to the Kenmore Hotel – which claims to be Scotland’s oldest inn. Certainly our national bard Robert Burns was a visitor back in 1787 and wrote one of his famous poems on the plaster on one of the walls.

The historic Kenmore Hotel made a great spot for a celebratory refreshment for Team Matilda!

Over a most welcome refreshment – and me back in Matilda Transport – the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 14 gongs – with 7 personal bests and 7 second bests. Certainly worth of a celebratory libation!

So the Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 27.6 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 16 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.1 mph – thanks to the changes to the gears – while the elevation was 1185 feet. The maximum speed was a dizzy 33.6 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1676 calories and produce an average power output of 184 W.

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

Team Matilda had a scenic drive home taking the single track route out of Kenmore high over the moor and through Glen Quaich. Coming over one of the many blind summits a brightly coloured rainbow appeared filling the glen with light. It seemed a fitting mark to end a spectacular day out in Perthshire and naturally the “old gal” had to take a photo!

The impressive rainbow and the view across Glen Quaich.

So lastly, as promised, the techno bit – and some photos – of my repairs which were expertly carried out with tender loving care by my personal surgeon John at JM Richards Cycles in Perth – who went above and beyond the call of duty to find a solution! I have no hesitation in recommending them if your set of two wheels needs a repair.

Now this “old lady” makes no secret of my age – and the fact that I am older than either of my dynamic crew! So it was perhaps no surprise that my gears had been suffering from a bit of wear and tear.

Proud to show off my shiny new Shimano chain set and crank and front gear mech.

I am delighted to report that I am now proudly sporting a shiny new Shimano chain set and crank and front gear mech. And to make life a bit easier – and to ensure my gears engaged every time the “old gal” shouted at the “old git” to throw a gear at it – I now have a new gear shifter on my handlebars to ease my gears into the front gears!

My Captain now has a new gear shifter to ease my gears into the front gear wheels!

And the good thing that replacing my old bits – which were more than a bit worn – was totally painless! And the result of the repairs just goes to prove that there’s still plenty of life in this “old lady”!

The old and the new! Replacing my old bits, which were a bit worn, was painless!

The “old gal” has re-named John as ‘Saint John’ due to the fact that life going uphill is now significantly more bearable – and amazingly our average speed went up by nearly 2 mph over the day. At times we were flying along so easily that the “old git” was heard to say that we could do with an extra gear!

But he was joking – right?!

So many, many thanks to John and I know my dynamic crew are now convinced they had been battling old gears for some time without realising. The outcome is that all three of us on Team Matilda are now looking forward to the Hebridean Way attempt in early June with renewed vigour!

Just need some sunshine now and everything will be perfect!

Roadtest glamping eco lodges at Loch Katrine and 6th anniversary KoM ride!

The snazzy new wooden eco lodges camp at Loch Katrine – we were staying in Loch Venachar

Awwh! Who said romance was dead?! Six years on to the very date of  a tandem ride on a blind first date at Loch Katrine my dynamic crew were back to where it all began to celebrate their sixth anniversary! And to make it even more exciting Team Matilda had been invited to road test the new glamping eco lodges with an overnight stay followed by a sail down the loch and a King of the Mountains tandem ride back to the start.

Relaxation and some tandeming – is there a better way to spend an anniversary mini-break?!

There are 8 lochside lodges in the new eco camp – each with decking area.

So firstly a bit about the new eco camp where the basic idea is to provide an opportunity for people to get away from it all and re-connect with nature. The lodges are ideally based to attract cyclists and walkers as Loch Katrine nestles in some of Scotland’s most atmospheric, picturesque and historic scenery in the heart of Rob Roy Country and the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

There are just eight of the wooden lodges – four of the more basic Ben pods named after nearby hills; and four more luxurious cabins named after local lochs. We were in Loch Venachar and despite looking bijou from the outside it is like a tardis inside – complete with everything you could need if tents aren’t your scene (so ideally suited then for the “old git” and “old gal”!)

The Loch eco lodges have double bed, kitchenette and en-suite facilities.

Loch Venachar can sleep four people; two in a fixed double bed and two in a fold-down bed. The Loch lodges come with bed linen and towels; en-suite facilities with walk-in electric shower; kitchenette with combo microwave, fridge and sink; freeview HDTV; free wi-fi; lighting and underfloor heating.

My dynamic crew met up with Stuart Brain, Operations Manager, and it wasn’t a surprise to learn that with facilities like that, the lodges have been almost fully booked since opening at the start of the year.

The cosy eco lodges all have great views from the decking over Loch Katrine.

The cosy lodges are set in a semi circle, all overlooking Loch Katrine. As Stuart said: “Sleeping under the stars in this lochside setting, in the heart of Scotland’s first National Park, is a truly magical experience. Sir Walter Scott rightly described Loch Katrine as ‘the scenery of a fairy dream’ in his famous poem Lady of the Lake.”

Not quite big enough for me – but super cute matching eco kennel for any dogs!

The eco camp facility – as it’s name suggests – has been sensitively designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible. And that goes all the way from the big items to the basics like the loo paper and shower gel! There’s even a cute dog kennel – in matching shape to the wooden lodge beside each pod! However it wasn’t big enough for me, so I was secured to the railings of the decking for the night!

The eco lodge camp looking enchanting at dusk in this Loch Katrine photo.

After the photoshoot and a walk to explore the site the rain started so my dynamic crew decided to settle in for the night! They lovingly exchanged anniversary cards – tandem themed obviously! – and uncorked a bottle of fizz brought home from their Champagne vineyards tour last summer.

The ‘Happy Anniversary’ toast brought back happy memories for the “old gal” and the “old git” – and over dinner, cleverly cooked in the microwave, they reminisced about that fateful day six years go when they visited Loch Katrine on a first blind date! You see, this spot has a very special place in the hearts of my dynamic crew as without it, they may never have teamed up together! It is the very reason they got into tandeming in the first place and it was totally by accident! The story goes that they had planned a walk along the banks of the loch but as they arrived, they noticed tandems for hire!

My dynamic crew exchanged cards and champers to mark their 6th anniversary!

Thinking this would be a fun way to break the ice on the date they set off in an unsteady fashion – but the result was they got hooked on tandeming immediately – despite the constant heavy rain that day and the “old gal” falling off into an unglamorous muddy heap on at least two occasions!

And the rest, as they say, is history – with my crew romantically falling in love with a new hobby, and each other, as a result! And despite the unconventional way of starting out, they have gelled as an unbreakable team – having become synchronised with each others foibles, on and off the saddle!

On that fateful first blind date on a tandem at Loch Katrine six years ago! And not aged a day!

Morning came and the verdict was that the eco lodges were very cosy and comfortable – with my crew awakening from their slumbers super relaxed! The only thing that wasn’t perfect was the weather with heavy rain spoiling the outlook over breakfast! The “old git” did his usual checking the forecast and promising it would dry up soon, while the “old gal” did her usual disbelieving “aye right” response!

But we were booked on the on the historic steamship SS Sir Walter Scott for a sail down the loch to Stronachlachar – with the only way back being a 14 mile tandem ride up the hilly lochside. So despite some half-hearted protestations there was nothing for it but for the “old gal” to don her waterproofs – including her new fetching hi-vis waterproof helmet cover – and get ready to board.

Two old artefacts together! Here I am getting ready to board the SS Sir Walter Scott at Trossachs Pier.

As it turned out there really wasn’t much of a queue! Being a non holiday wet Monday there were less than 20 passengers on board – and it was almost like a private charter just for Team Matilda!

It was almost like a private charter for my dynamic crew as it was fairly quiet on board.

My dynamic crew were treated like royalty and the “old gal” was delighted when a friendly crew member not only offered her a blanket to snuggle under but also a warming coffee. It would need to be said it was a tad breezy with the wind off the water! Even the “old git” – who is never cold – agreed!

The “old gal” nursing her coffee while snuggled under a rug to keep warm!

Next came a real highlight for Team Matilda as my dynamic crew were invited on to the bridge of the steam ship. Now as you know the “old gal” performs the role of stoker while tandeming and never gets to do the steering – as that is clearly the domain of my Captain, aka the “old git”!

But the Captain of the ship soon turned that view on its head when he offered the “old gal” the amazing opportunity to have a go at steering the near 120 year old steamship down the loch.

Concentration! The “old gal” is allowed a shot at steering the historic SS Sir Walter Scott!

The “old git” was relegated to videoing the “old gal” at the wheel enjoying her memorable experience. Click on the video below to see how she got on – and includes a short history lesson about the vessel.

As we arrived at Stronachlachar the sun appeared as if on cue – much to the delight of the “old gal” who wasn’t relishing a tandem ride in the rain … and the relief of the “old git” who hadn’t exactly been coming up trumps with his weather reports recently!

So buoyed by the sunshine we immediately pedaled off from the pier towards Inversnaid for a short four mile each way warm up ride beside Loch Arklet before lunch.

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

Back at Stronachlachar we enjoyed a very hospitable welcome from the owners of The Pier Cafe. Despite being tempted by the wide variety of specials on offer, my dynamic crew decided on some very tasty ciabattas to energise themselves for the hills ahead. This was followed by a shared portion of carrot cake. The excuse here was that the code for the wi-fi was ‘carrotcake’ and it would have been rude not to sample it. The “old gal” officially rated it as “one of the best” in her carrot cake league table!

Ready for the King of Mountain ride from Stronachlachar pier back to top of the loch.

Suitably refuelled it was time to hit the first hill for the King of the Mountain rated ride back to Trossachs Pier. And amazingly – with some clever use of the gears – I am proud to report that we sailed up the first steep Invergyle climb with some energy to spare!

It was tough going but the “old git” and the “old gal” are clearly somewhat fitter than they tell themselves! And that – combined with some welcome sunshine – allowed my dynamic crew to to enjoy the fantastic awe inspiring scenery as they tandemed along.

One of the highlights, about half way back along the route, is a scenic viewpoint at Portnellan which overlooks the burial ground of the Clan MacGregor – which dates back to the 17th century – and has historic links to the legendary Rob Roy MacGregor.

To get a breather after a tough set of hills in succession, we stopped at a picnic area and fondly remembered an amazing prosecco fuelled picnic with good tandeming friends John and Jane on a fabulous warm sunny August day from 2016 during our memorable Nutty Tandemers Club tour.

A stop at the picnic spot – but not warm enough for t-shirts or prosecco! …

… unlike the blue skies and warm sunshine at the same spot two years ago!

Here’s hoping for some fun-filled sunny days like that when we team up again with John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our joint attempt at the Hebridean Way in early June. Just a small matter of 185 miles over 5 days tandeming!

Despite now being well into April there was still evidence of the harsh Scottish winter with significant snow still languishing on the slopes of the hills known locally as the Scottish Alps.

The “old git” pointing out lots snow still on the ‘Scottish Alps’!

Getting energised for the last four miles of the KoM ride to Trossachs Pier!

Maybe a glass of prosecco would have helped – but after getting our breath back and some refreshing water, it was time to face the last couple of hills and complete the 14 mile King of the Mountains ride back to the eco lodge camp at Trossachs Pier.

With me safely packed back in Matilda Transport the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 8 gongs – 3 personal bests; 3 second bests; and 2 thirds! Which was pretty impressive given the somewhat hilly nature of the ride!

So the Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 21.05 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 05 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 10.1 mph, while the elevation was 1083 feet. The maximum speed was 30.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1327 calories and produce an average power output of 158 W.

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

All in all a fabulous 6th anniversary mini break – back where it all started for Team Matilda! And with the stay in the new eco lodges, it was great to leave the daily grind far behind on a date to re-connect with nature at an area which has very special memories for my dynamic crew.

Thanks to all at Loch Katrine for their help, overnight accommodation, sail and friendship offered to Team Matilda on their mini-break. All opinions are that of Team Matilda!

Pop-up gin bar on Easter Sunday ride (with Strava operator error!😥)

Cheers! A pop-up gin bar set up by the “old git” at the half way point was enjoyed by all!

As you know my dynamic crew are partial to invitations – and especially to invitations which involve overnight stays and a tandem ride! Throw in a bit of culture, a pop-up gin bar and a hot tub into the mix – and you have shorthand for heaven on earth!

Team Matilda were asked by good solo cyclist friends Gillian and Craig – who just happen to have a hot tub in the garden of their home in Alloa – to spend Saturday night with them.

Gillian as Ruth

A ride was planned for Easter Sunday – but before then there was some real drama! Among her many talents, Gillian is a member of the Alman Dramatic Club and has been starring as the female lead – playing Ruth – in the club’s production of Blithe Spirit, a famous comic play written by Noel Coward. My dynamic crew were invited to join the audience for the last night of the run at the dramatic club’s own beautiful Coach House Theatre in Alloa. And what a great ensemble performance it was – with the whole cast receiving a well deserved ovation from the enthusiastic audience. And special mention goes to Senga Awlson for her solo directional debut.

The cast of Blithe Spirit – with Gillian starring as Ruth second from left.

The “old git” and the “old gal” joined the after show party marking the last performance before we headed home for a midnight dip under the stars in their relaxing hot tub! Oh and there might have been a cheeky wee glass of prosecco to help Gillian celebrate the end of the run!

Now there is still a cycle run to come in the morning! I mean the “old git” promised me! ….

Ready for the off! The “old gal” and “old git” with solo cyclist pals Gillian and Craig.

The promised weather window of bright sunshine greeted the lifting of the blinds on Easter Sunday and even the “old gal” couldn’t be despondent at the prospect of a fairly flat tandem ride along an old railway line! A few members of the foursome were a tad fragile on waking up after the celebrations but after breakfast we were off with Gillian and Craig having identified a ride to blow away the cobwebs! The path along National Cycle Network 764 – managed by my friends at Sustrans Scotland – follows the course of the old Alloa to Dunfermline railway.

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

The NCN 764 route is also known as the West Fife Way and is a key part the Clackmannanshire Cycle Network. The network of paths is part of a wider project to encourage access to the outdoors by local tourism initiative Discover Clackmannanshire.

The route is classed in the easy category – on a mainly tarmac path. And it certainly was a joy to tandem on as we headed off on the run to Dunfermline. And I must say I was impressed at the pace set by the “old git”! And the fact that the “old gal” didn’t complain shows that they are both much fitter and stronger than they believe!

I actually think that Team Matilda pedals along faster when we are in the company of other cyclists as my dynamic crew tend to get caught up in the chat – and don’t realise what speed they are actually achieving! In fact we averaged over 12 mph for the whole trip!

Now railway lines are recognised as being flat – that means no sudden hills – as trains (like this “old lady”) don’t do hills! But that doesn’t mean you don’t get inclines – and in this case – a long slow incline rising some 300 feet over the first half of the route.  But the views over the Kingdom of Fife towards the Forth bridges made it all worthwhile!

The “old git set up a pop-up gin bar at half way – complete with garnishes and ice cubes!

As we stopped at the end of the first leg the “old git” let out a huge groan – having discovered that he had forgotten to push “go” on the Strava app back at the start to record our journey! Oh how the “old gal” laughed – at least she couldn’t be blamed for the ‘operator error’ this time!

However my captain quickly redeemed himself by setting up a pop-up gin bar on a railway sleeper – complete with artisan gins, tonics, lime and grapefruit garnishes and even ice cubes!

My dynamic crew toasting the pop-up gin bar – purely for re-hydration purposes of course!

What a fabulous idea for a way to re-hydrate! The mix of gin cocktails really hit the spot! And what made it all the more enjoyable was the priceless looks on the faces of the many other cyclists who passed by! How many different ways is there to to say that’s a good idea or I wish I was with you lot?!

The eyes have it! Gillian enjoying the half way drinks stop!

The gin cocktails nicely washed down the smoked salmon and spinach wraps which the “old gal” had prepared for some fuel! This was followed by a fresh fruit salad before – appropriately enough – a taste of chocolate in the shape of small Easter eggs, just for energy purposes of course!

The “old git” with his soon-to-be-devoured Easter egg!

Batteries recharged we headed off on the return journey – after triple checking that Strava was indeed working! We soon reaped the benefits of that uphill climb, by picking up speed on the decline. It really was fantastic tandeming – lots of laughs with good friends in dry fairly mild conditions. The sun even made fleeting appearances!

Just as everything was going like clockwork Craig had to pull up with a flat tyre. However being the good boy scout that he is he quickly produced a replacement inner tube and had it changed within minutes! Whisper it … but he did have to borrow my pump as he forgot to pack that! But good effort!

One of the great things about the cycle path was how there were relatively few obstructive gates which meant my crew weren’t forced to get on and off repeatedly – and the NCR 764 is certainly a credit to Sustrans Scotland who maintain it. Although it could be described as a “hidden gem” it clearly is a very popular route amongst locals.

One of the attractions of the route is some old railway relics – like sleepers made into seating, or railway signals. There is even an old signal box along the path – abandoned from the days when it controlled the trains on the line.

After a bit of a sprint along the last mile or two we soon reached the end of the path – exhilarated after the wonderful ride, if a bit chilly by that point. But after I was packed back into Matilda Transport it was time to head back to Gillian and Craig’s for another hot tub!

Happy faces marking the end of our fun pedal along NCN Rt 764 near Alloa.

I am reliably told it was a very therapeutic way to relax. I mean there are worse ways for my dynamic crew to spend a Sunday afternoon than having a tandem ride followed by a warm-down in a hot tub! The last I heard was the “old gal” saying: “I want one!”

It was so good that the “old gal” forgot to take a photo so I will have to use one from a previous visit instead! But it was very similar!

The hot tub offered the perfect warm down therapy for the “old git” and the “old gal”!

Relaxing in the bubbles the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 9 gongs – 7 personal bests and 2 2nd bests! Which was pretty impressive given the operator error which saw only the inbound leg recorded! Naturally there would have been lots more personal bests if the app had been switched on for both legs!

So the Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 10.7 miles with a moving time of 47 minutes. The average speed was a good bit quicker than of recent at 13.6 mph, while the elevation was 128 feet. The maximum speed was 20.4 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 363 calories and produce an average power output of 114 W.

Fortunately the old steam-powered milometer on my handlebars did not require any fancy GPS signal to work – and did in fact record a distance of 22.1 miles with a travelling time of 1 hour 45 minutes.

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

Back at Matildas Rest, an excellent Easter Sunday was made all the better by checking out the brilliant launch edition of The Perthshire Magazine – with my dynamic crew were really chuffed to see a four-page colour feature about Team Matilda and tandeming – written by the “old git”!

Click here (or on the picture below) to read the amusing article – including the story of how my dynamic crew got together on a blind first date on a tandem at Loch Katrine!

Click on the image to read the article in The Perthshire Magazine

The new digital magazine for our home base of Perthshire looks great and is a very classy – and much needed – addition to our local media scene.

A great end to a great day. So here’s to more sunny tandeming days with good friends, lots of laughs, pop-up cocktail bars, and fairly flat cycling paths! I’ll say cheers to that!

Monster spotting at sunny Loch Lubnaig in BLiSSful Rob Roy Country

Monster spotting! – The “old gal” on the lookout for Lubbie at Loch Lubnaig.

“Do you fancy looking for a monster this weekend?” the “old git” casually asked the “old gal”. Never short of a quip she wittily replied: “It’s ok I don’t need to go looking for another one – I’ve got a perfectly good one here!” Oh how the “old git” laughed! Ouch! … but I presume she was joking! Right?!

And that’s why Team Matilda found themselves monster spotting at Loch Lubnaig as they tandemed from Callander to Strathyre on Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt7 in blissful sunshine. The weather people promised some bright sunshine for Sunday but the “old gal” was just a tad cautious given the last time warmer weather was forecast two weeks ago, we all froze our spokes off on a ride to Carnoustie.

But Saturday had been a stunning day and Sunday was to be more of the same so we all kitted up and headed from our home base of Auchterarder to Callander in Matilda Transport ready to ride. And fortunately as we arrived at the car park, so did the sun! This was much to the relief of the “old git” as the “old gal” decided he was personally responsible for the Baltic temperatures on our last outing!

My Callander Girl! – The “old gal” checks out the directions on NCN Rt7

Now as all tandem teams know, one of the first duties of the stoker is to find a signpost to ensure the captain heads off in the correct direction! Sometimes this is easier said than done – but not today! Callander seemed to be a busy crossroads for NCN Rt7 with clear signposts pointing in one direction to Strathyre, and on to Killin and Loch Lomond – and to Aberfoyle in the other.

So after a picture of Team Matildas Callander girl – see what I did there?! – we headed off. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The cycle path heads out of town 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 the synchronicity soon kicked in and we picked up speed.

The views when passing the white water Falls of Leny were mesmerising and got us ready for the spectacular outlook when we first encountered Loch Lubnaig, which is situated within the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. The route hugs high above the western shore of the freshwater loch. A look at the Strava map above reveals how it came by its name, for Lùbnaig means crooked in Gaelic.

Enjoying the warmth of the sun on their faces my dynamic crew decided there was time for monster spotting to see if we could see Lubbie – the mysterious monster said by locals to live deep in Loch Lubnaig! Despite some serious viewing – and even some calls of “Lubbie, Lubbie, Lubbie” from the “old gal” – it was nowhere to be seen! Obviously Lubbie is equally publicity shy as its cousin at Loch Ness!

It seems Lubbie was as evasive as its more famous cousin at Loch Ness!

Devastated at not being able to get a photo of Lubbie we tandemed on thru the forested Pass of Leny – with some impressively tall oaks. On we pedalled over an undulating path at the end of the loch when all of a suddenly we found ourselves unexpectedly forced to try our handlebars at mountain biking tandeming! The smooth path abruptly finished and we were faced with a very steep zig zag boulder strewn section! 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!

We won! Kim Proven with husband Fraser and the Innovation trophy! Credit Chris Watt

Cycling into Strathyre the “old git” decided we had to do a few more miles before our coffee and cake break so we headed off on a wonderfully smooth section of NCN 7 towards Kingshouse. Before we built up the pace for the two-mile high speed dash(!!), there was a quick photo stop 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.

And many congratulations from Team Matilda are in order for my friend (and occasional substitute stoker … very occasional!) Kim Proven, chair of LETi and her community team after recently being crowned winner of the “Innovation In Tourism” category in the National grand final of the VisitScotland Scottish Thistle Awards – regarded as Scotland’s tourism ‘Oscars’.

The “old git” seeing if Drovers Bho wanted a drink from his water bottle!

The metal scultpture of  a Highland Coo was made by Kev Paxton’s ArtFe to mark the old cattle drovers route. The artwork has been beautifully landscaped to give the impression of the coo standing on a hilloch and really makes it feel at home! The intricacy of the metal artwork has to be admired – and the “old git” couldn’t resist the tempatation of seeing if the coo wanted a drink from his water bottle!

Turning round at Kingshouse we headed back towards Strathyre – with the motivation of some nosh spurring my dynamic crew on as we blasted along clicking up thru the gears. The view ahead of the snow covered peaks was also inspirational for my dynamic crew.

The snow covered peaks were inspirational as my dynamic crew headed back towards Strathyre.

Soon we were at the fabulous Broch Cafe in Strathyre – which offers a real oasis for cyclists and walkers in the area. There we met up with the ultra-friendly owners – and friends – Lesley and Bill, and it was great to see them again.

Being lunchtime the cafe had a great buzz about it with orders flying out of the kitchen. My dynamic crew resisted ordering some very appetising paninis and instead restricted themselves to a well deserved coffee, scone and caramel shortcake! But the “old gal” was so keen to eat she forgot to take a photo until there were literally just crumbs left!

Oh crumbs! The “old gal” was so hungry for her scone and cake she forgot to take a photo!

There was a bit of rain during the break so not the weather for a leisurely game of petanque on the cafe’s own petanque court – or to give it it’s correct technical name, petanque piste! – but Bill promised that long awaited doubles match soon! Happily the sun burst thru clouds again just as it was time to leave so we managed to get a nice sunny shot of Lesley and Bill on board my frame with my dynamic crew at the Ride Out seats just outside the cafe.

All aboard! Lesley and Bill, hosts at Broch Cafe in Strathyre, try my frame for size!

Before we tandemed off there was time to check out the fascinating and historical Dun Lubnaig Broch Project – which is now completed. Brochs are mysterious circular dry-stone hollow structures – like forts – which date back to the iron age and are only found in Scotland.

One artifact meets another! The “old git” at the Dun Lubnaig Broch which dates back to the Iron Age.

Refuelled, we set off back towards Strathyre – retracing our pedals back thru the forest – drinking in both the magnificent scenery and the fresh air. The tight zig zags of the short section more suited for well sprung mountain bikes looked unmanageable so we walked down that bit!

The path at the Pass of Leny gave great views along Loch Lubnaig.

Selfie time! My dynamic crew on the forest path.

As we approached the end of Loch Lubnaig we cycled thru the Forest Holidays site – which features a group of fabulous looking log cabins with hot tubs overlooking the loch. The “old gal” called time for a stop and my crew discovered the centre’s cafe had a bar – and naturally a small libation was required! It was very relaxing and actually warmish sitting outside on a picnic bench in the sun!

Cheers! A little libation in the sunshine at the cafe at Strathyre Forest Holidays site.

Refreshed we tandemed off on the final few miles back past the Falls of Leny before a welcome gentle downhill back into Callander which was busy with people enjoying the sunshine.

The end of the ride – the “old git” back at Callander after a great day tandeming!

After I was safely packed back into Matilda Transport the “old gal” had one of her brilliant ideas – fish and chips! Ten minutes later my dynamic crew were tucking into a hearty fish supper in the car with a wonderful view of the river! Bliss!

Replete, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of just 2 gongs – both 3rd best times – which is a tad unfair given it was mainly a new route!

The figures show my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 22.7 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 51 minutes. As always it is the smiles not the miles that count, but our average speed was 8.0 mph – not too bad given the mountain bike terrain stretch! – and the elevation was a not insubstantial 1,320 feet. The maximum speed was 25.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,320 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. I think you’ll agree the fish and chips was earned by the effort expended!

It truly was an inspirational day out for all three of us on Team Matilda – and from my perspective it was nice to get some sunshine on my ageing frame! Let’s hope the weather has turned for the better and Spring has indeed sprung!