Un peu de petanque a pedal and prosecco picnic in scenic Strathyre

Un peu de petanque – the “old gal” on the piste at Broch Cafe in Strathyre!

So a nice bright sunny Sunday morning and the “old git” was up with the lark and in his usual (annoying!) manner was pulling the duvet off the “old gal” at 7am with the promise of a great day’s tandeming ahead – with the added attraction of a game of petanque thrown in! “Haud me back!” she said – well at least that’s the polite translation of what she said!

The enticement to get out of bed was a return to Strathyre – where rural Perthshire meets rural Stirling – to do the scenic cycle we attempted during our visit back at the end of January. Regular blog readers will remember that the trip was abandoned by Team Matilda due to freezing conditions and snow!

The “old git” likes to do his homework, and after a final check of the weather to ensure there would be no snow, the “old gal” prepared one of my dynamic crew’s infamous prosecco picnics and we were off!

The route was to do a loop around Strathyre – with a detour to Loch Voil for a picnic. One of the ideas behind this trip was doing a recce for a weekend tandem tour of two great local festivals in the area on the same weekend at the end of May – and you can read more details of them throughout this blog.

My crew also planned to revisit the unique cultural outside art BLiSStrail, named after the four villages it links – Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St Fillans – deep in the heart of Rob Roy Country within the Loch Lomond and  The Trossachs National Park. The trail is a series of large metal and wood sculptures and art installations – mostly by Scottish artists. It is the brainchild of LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group, to encourage more visitors to the area – to boost tourism and the local economy.

#BLiSStrail has been so popular that it is now an “award winning trail” – with the hardworking LETi volunteers receiving the honour of a regional Scottish Thistle Award – recognised as the tourism Oscars – for “Working Together for Tourism” – which is a great accolade for a small group.

And as we drove into St Fillans – along the lovely road from Crieff – we immediately were reminded of the attraction of the BLiSStrail when we caught sight of the affectionately named “Mirror Man” glistening in the sun in the water at the top of Loch Earn opposite the The Four Seasons Hotel.

Selfie time with Mirror Man – who is officially known as STILL – on #BLiSStrail at St Fillans on Loch Earn.

The iconic mirrored sculpture is officially named “STILL” and has been created by Scottish artist Rob Mulholland. It is an eye-catching artwork and most people driving along the road can’t resist stopping for a selfie and a photo opportunity – and that obviously included my dynamic crew!

It was the first time in four recent visits that we had seen the sculpture as it is was removed from the water for winter hibernation after almost disappearing during storms in January 2016. The larger than life artwork was feared to have been destroyed in 90 mph winds which knocked him from his perch. But the half-tonne statue was recovered and underwent substantial repairs – including re-attaching his head (which sounds painful to me being another iconic metal structure!)

The “old gal” trying to hold Mirror Man who was clearly in reflective mood!

The start point for Team Matilda’s tandem tour was the Broch Cafe in Strathyre – where we had been invited to have a pre cycle coffee by the hospitable owners Lesley and Bill, who we met on a previous trip to the area. The cafe was closed back in January to allow the staff a break but when we arrived it was bustling with customers having breakfast and had a great vibe about it!

After a welcome Lucaffee coffee and home made scone there was time for a quick photo of the Broch team at the Ride Out seats which sit beside the cafe before we headed off – with Bill promising us a game of petanque on our return!

The “old gal” with the team at Broch Cafe relaxing at the Ride Out seats!

My crew got on my saddles and we started to tandem off on the sun-kissed Sustrans Scotland NCR7 which runs around the Strathyre area. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

Unfortunately there was to be no repeat of my substitute stoker adventures with Kim Proven –  the enthusiastic chair of LETi and owner of Briar Cottages at Lochearnhead  – who sadly had damaged her shoulder in a fall which meant she couldn’t cycle. Such a shame as I know Kim was so looking forward to her third trip on my saddle! She must have been devastated!

But Kim had informed my crew to look out for the site where a newly commissioned sculpture will be installed just as NCR 7 leaves the village. It will be a Highland Coo to mark the old cattle drovers route and is being added to the BLiSStrail to mark 2017 being the Year of History Heritage and Archaeology.

We quickly identified the area and it is going to be a great new addition to the BLiSStrail. And that section of NCR 7 leaving Strathyre has to be one of the best cycle paths that I have ever been on! It is like a motorway surface – super smooth – which, for an “old lady” like myself who doesn’t like too many bumps and potholes, was a delight to tandem on! There is even a section with reflective cats eyes near the village, to make it easier for locals to cycle home in the dark! Credit to Sustrans Scotland!

We picked up a fair speed on the cycle path, and in no time we were at Kingshouse where we took the turning for Balquidder – soon passing the grave of Rob Roy MacGregor. The loop heads back to Strathyre via the old road but my dynamic crew decided on a beautiful detour – tandeming 4 miles each way along the banks of Loch Voil to the grounds of the stylish boutique Monachyle Mhor hotel.

This is one of the best rides Team Matilda have had the pleasure of experiencing – gently undulating single track roads with the most wonderful views across Loch Voil. And with hardly a whisper of wind, the loch’s surface was like a mirror, reflecting the surrounding hills. Truly magnifique!

Here I am posing at Monachyle Mhor just at the end of Loch Voil – what a setting  for a hotel!

Apart from the scenery the reason for the detour was to check out how easy it would be to arrive by tandem at the Mhor Festival which is held at the hotel over three days from the 26th to 29th of May.

Billed as the best “off the beaten track” festival in Scotland it promotes itself as a festival of food, drink, music, theatre and dance! Thousands of visitors can vouch for last years rip roaring success. Dance, food, art, theatre, champagne and oyster bar and so much more for all age groups! And whisper it – but there is going to be a gin bar this year! The “old gal” will think she has died and gone to heaven! As the festival web site says: Come, play, sing, dance, cook, learn, chill! I mean what’s not to like?! And the organisers agree that arriving by tandem is ideal, as it saves having to use the bus on the traffic management system on the narrow roads! So recce successfully done – I would say that is a date in the diary for Team Matilda!

Always prepared! I carry a bottle of fizz for my dynamic crew in my la Bouclee!

So after our detour to suss out the route to the Mhor Festival 2017 – it was time to find a spot for my dynamic crew’s now infamous prosecco picnic – a key part of any tandeming trip for Team Matilda!

Time for a prosecco picnic on the banks of scenic Loch Voil? Oh ok, if you insist!

The “old git” is getting quite a dab hand at finding idyllic picnic spots – much to the delight of the “old gal” – and he certainly didn’t disappoint this time – pulling over at a spot on the road where the banking dropped down to a completely deserted and isolated pebble beach area on Loch Voil.

Surely this spot should get an award as one of best picnic spots in Scotland?

It certainly got an award from my crew as being one of the best picnic spots in Scotland! The food and drink goodies were quickly unpacked and set up against a perfect backdrop of the loch gently lapping at the water’s edge, with a vista looking across the loch to the hills on the opposite bank.

The “old git” doing the very important popping the cork job!

The “old git” quickly did the honours and popped the cork – without spilling a drop naturally, despite it being shaken up on my la Bouclee wine carrier. Then it was time for my crew to have a toast to one of those perfect tandeming picnics – and savour the first sip of French Cremant brought back from our trip to the Loire Valley last year! Blisss!

The “old gal” chilling and savouring the first sip of Cremant! Bliss!

Cheers! Fizz in the sun with a view! What’s not to like?

Refuelled following a most civilised picnic lunch – smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese croissants and some fresh fruit in case you wanted to know the menu – it was time for my crew to do some serious pedalling on the return trip. The first part was an easy tandem back along the Loch Voil road back to Balquhidder – before turning onto the old road back to Strathyre which goes thru the forest.

Enjoying the forest – but not the hills – on the old road back to Strathyre!

It was a lovely winding route which was again a joy to tandem – apart from one killer hill, which actually turned out out be two steep hills back to back! Maybe it was the fizz from the bubbly at lunchtime, but my dynamic crew manfully (and womanfully!) pedalled on to the top! Then there was a nice downhill stretch – which required a spot of testing my brakes at corners. And then a more dramatic stop as the “old git” remembered about one of the most intriguing installations on the BLiSStrail – the fabulous stone miniature Mill House and Bridge.

The “old gal” at the intricate stone miniature Mill House and bridge on the #BLiSStrail.

You have to look closely to find it – sitting on the edge of a garden on the right on the descent on the old Strathyre road before crossing the old stone bridge over the River Balvaig. It seems local children know it as the “The Fairy House” and it is well worth seeking out.

At the bottom of the hill we rejoined the off road cycle path NCR 7 and cycled back into the Broch recreation area where my crew couldn’t resist a photo at the impressive wooden Soaring Eagle.

The dramatic Soaring Eagle catches the eye near the Broch Cafe.

So now we were back in Strathyre my dynamic crew decided it would be easily possible to cycle back from a visit to the Mhor Festival to take in the evening entertainment at the second festival being held in the area on that last Bank Holiday weekend of May – the Strathyre Music Festival.

It was started from the success of local band Balvaig. Led by Kenny Higgins, who is also vice-chair of LETi, the band is a  group of highly talented local musicians and singer songwriters who regularly meet for bothy-style folk and blues music sessions. The festival has rapidly grown in stature and size and is now in its fifth year. And it must be one of Scotland’s best value music festivals with it costing only £5 entry fee per day. For the full schedule for the 2017 festival – running from Friday 26th thru till Sunday 29th May, check out the event’s website.

Our tandem ride ended up where we started back at the Broch Cafe. While Lesley busily worked away serving customers, Bill took some time out to proudly show my dynamic crew the cafe’s newly installed petanque court – or to give it it’s correct technical name, petanque piste!

Clearly Bill is going to become a bit of a petanque aficionado as he already has his own personal set of boules – made to measure to his hands! And I have to say that the “old gal” and the “old git” very quickly took to it – and of course I had to have  a bash at it too!

How do bikes play petanque? In tandem with their Stokers obviously!

It seems a doubles match has already been arranged for our next visit! Let’s just say that if the petanque is played in true French style with a glass (or two) of wine – and Broch Cafe is licensed – then my dynamic duo may end up a bit off piste!

Anyway, after the excitement of un peu de petanque it was time for my team to enjoy that traditional tandemers reviving snack of yummy coffee and cake – home made at the Broch Cafe – while checking Strava to find that they received three gongs on the ride.

Strava officially recorded the ride as a distance of  15.8 miles with a total moving time of 2hrs 57 minutes due to the issue over the “old git” having a senior moment and forgetting to pause Strava for the picnic. This resulted in a very slow average speed of just 5.3 mph being recorded –  about half my crew’s current average recently. But given that the picnic lasted over an hour in the sunshine, the “old git” reckons the average speed was nearer the norm of 10 mph.

Top speed recorded was 32.9 mph and the elevation covered was a not insubstantial 497 feet. We managed to burn up 1610 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 135 W.

All in all a fabulous day which underlines the Team Matilda philosophy – that it’s the Smiles and not the miles that count! Can’t wait to return for the double festival extravaganza!

Dash to Dunning in sun for tonic … with a splash of gin!

The “old gal” after the dash to Dunning sitting in the sun with tonic – and maybe a splash of gin!

Now Mothers Day presents my dynamic crew with a bit of a problem. There is the not insubstantial matter of a 140 mile round trip to see the “old git’s” Mum in Ayrshire – and this year the “old gal” was cooking to do a ‘meals on wheels’ treat.

So that ruled out any prospect of a ride out on the Sunday – but it didn’t stop the “old git” from scheduling in a quick tandem on the Saturday afternoon. You see he had been carefully watching the weather forecast in his anorak sort of way – and noticed that in no anoraks would be required this weekend!

In fact it was promising to be a tepid 15C with no wind! Too good an opportunity to be missed. But how to get the “old gal” to sign up for the trip – given that she doesn’t get back to Matildas Rest from working at her salon on a Saturday till nearer 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

Bingo – he had a cunning plan! So when the “old gal” returned from work, the “old gal” persuaded her to join him on a sunshine tandem ride – albeit only with the promise of an alfresco gin and tonic at a country pub at the nearby village of Dunning!

Bright sunshine as we left Matildas Rest on the warmest day of the year so far.

And it worked! So after a quick check of my gears, it was time for our Dash to Dunning along the scenic back roads from Matildas Rest in Auchterarder. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

It was a joy for Team Matilda to be out pedalling along breathing in the fresh air basking in the sun in the beautiful Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council area near Perth City Centre. A perfect day to celebrate being a Perth 2021 supporter!

And despite her initial reluctance, the “old gal” did have the good grace to admit that she was actually glad the three of us had headed out – since it was such glorious, idyllic conditions.

The synchronicity factor for Team Matilda was high and we were literally flying along the country roads and in no time we had covered the initial 5 miles and were pedalling in to Dunning. We pulled up outside The Kirkstyle Inn which has been taken over by new owner Jamie Dexter Harrison on his return from Australia to Scotland.

And one of the big attractions for future re hydration stops for my dynamic crew when travelling through Dunning on longer routes, is that the Inn has a new gin bar featuring many of the new small-batch artisan Scottish gins  – including the “old gal’s” favourite: Love Gin from Eden Mill in St Andrews.

A tray of drinks for outside re hydration purposes at The Kirkstyle Inn.

So in order to fit in with the title of this blog the “old git” ordered two tonics – Fever Tree naturally – with a splash of Love Gin in them! And since it was such a warm sunny afternoon he dutifully carried them outside to the newly renovated outside drinks garden.

While enjoying the (well earned!?) drinks the “old gal” perused the Inn’s exciting looking new menu and decided this was a place we would return to for a meal to “test” the culinary delights on offer!

Cheers! Did someone mention an alfresco tonic with gin at the Kirkstyle Inn drinks garden.

And in an amazing development, the “old git” found out that the Inn is hosting a gin tasting night in April (26th).  Jamie told us his plan is to have a gin expert come along to showcase a few Scottish gems, which will be matched with food – as well as a lesson on what to mix and how to drink gin properly! And an even bigger attraction is that tickets cost just £10 – for three gins plus nibbles! I wonder if the “old git” will be able to persuade the “old gal” that the best way to arrive at the gin night is by tandem?!

After a nice relaxing sit in the warm sunshine it was time for my crew to get back on my saddles and head off on the return journey. But there was time for a quick photo to capture the daffodils bursting into bloom to add some Spring colour to the village.

Dunning was certainly bursting into colourful bloom in the warm Spring sunshine!

The return journey was just as easy! I am not sure if it was because my dynamic crew didn’t feel the pain after their tonic (with a splash of gin!) – but they kept up a good pace on the way back.

Back at Matildas Rest – with the  “old gal” and the “old git” buzzing with the endorphin boost created from the exercise – there was even more elation when they checked Strava to find that received six medals, including no less than FIVE personal bests on the ride!

Yes FIVE! And three of those PBs were recorded on the homeward leg – which traditionally is a bit harder and more of an uphill grind for my crew! Which just goes to show that the “old gal” and the “old git” are a good bit stronger … and fitter … than they believe! The proof of the pudding is in Strava … as cyclists say … it seems! (or in the gin!)

So Strava officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of  9.9 miles with a total moving time of 52.24 minutes, at a healthy average speed of 11.3 mph.

The total elapsed time was 1 hour 42 minutes – allowing for the relaxing gin and tonic! Top speed recorded was 24.6 mph and the elevation covered was 290 feet. Together we managed to burn up 590 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 168 W.

All in all a good bit of exercise and loads more smiles squeezed into an all too brief time slot. But here’s to more sunny rides! And clearly #perthistheplace (for gin!)

Choo choo! Cocktails and chugging along Clackmannan to Dunfermline old railway line!

The impromptu cyclists’ mini cocktail bar … complete with ice cubes!

So a nice Sunday and our second attempt at a Spring ride out with good solo cyclist friends of the “old gal” and “old git” – Gillian and Craig. The previous attempt was abandoned in the full force of storm Doris hitting Scotland – and given the fact that I am not exactly aerodynamic when it comes to gusts of wind … I think that was a very wise decision.

But more benign weather greeted the lifting of the blinds and even the “old gal” couldn’t be despondent at the prospect of a fairly flat ride along an old railway line bed, followed by a nice relaxation in a hot tub, and an Indian meal. Gillian and Craig had even sent a cryptic message saying they would “fix the drinks” on the ride! I mean, what could there possibly be not to like?!

So my dynamic crew were full of the joys as I was packed into Matilda Transport and we headed for Gillian and Craig’s home in Alloa. They had identified a run along National Cycle Route 764 for the ride. The path – managed by my friends at Sustrans Scotland – starts just outside Clackmannan and follows the course of the old Alloa to Dunfermline railway line.

Ready for the off! The “old gal” with solo cyclists Gillian and Craig – bravely sporting shorts!

A short drive through the towns and we were soon parked near an old railway bridge. Fortunately the sun was out and there was also little in the way of wind – which meant that Gillian and Craig bravely decided to sport their cycling shorts. My crew (I think wisely) opted for the leggings!

The “old gal” at the start of our route which is part of the Clackmannanshire Cycle Network.

I was quickly unpacked and set up for the ride and soon we were ready for the off at the start of the NCR 764 route – which is also known as the West Fife Way and is a key part the Clackmannanshire Cycle NetworkYou can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

The route is classed in the easy category – on a 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 11mph for the whole trip!

The cycle path was encouragingly busy but there was till plenty of room to take a selfie with Gillian and Craig playing their role by photobombing the shot!

Time for a selfie as we tandemed along – photobombed by Gillian and Craig!

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!

With about two miles to the half way mark, Gillian and Craig sped off! My dynamic crew thought they must have been going too slow for them – but didn’t try to chase after them! But all was revealed when we came round a bend and saw the end of the path and discovered that our friends had set up an impromptu mini cocktail bar on a railway sleeper!

Gillian and Craig set up a mini cocktail bar at half way – and they even brought ice cubes!

What a fabulous idea for a way to re-hydrate! And amazingly they had brought along a spirit measure and even more remarkably – ice cubes! An effort fully worthy of a gold star!

The mix of Martin Millers gin, Vermouth and cranberry juice 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 to say that’s a good idea?!

Here I am at the mini cocktail bar which attracted interest from lots of other cyclists!

The cocktails nicely washed down the smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese croissants which the “old gal” had prepared for some fuel! This was followed by a fresh fruit salad and a small piece of chocolate – just for energy purposes of course.

Batteries recharged we headed on the return journey – soon reaping 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.

It was definitely one of those “its the Smiles not the miles that count” days and that was emphasised in this fun short video of part of our ride. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

One of the great things about the cycle path was how there were no 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. And the network of paths is part of a wider project to encourage access to the outdoors called Discover Clackmannanshire.

NCR764 is a hidden gem, which is also known as the West Fife Way

One of the attractions of the route are the views across the Forth for a good part of the trip – but the sections with a more restricted view are of interest as every so often my dynamic crew discovered 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.

NCR764 runs along the bed of an old railway so there are relics like signal boxes along the way.

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. After I was packed back into Matilda Transport it was time to head back to Gillian and Craig’s who just happen to have a hot tub in their garden! So the offer was made for another cocktail, a warm-down in the hot tub, and an Indian meal. I mean there are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Hot tub with prosecco cocktail back at Gillian and Craig’s? Oh if you insist!

Relaxing in the warm bubbles there was time for the “old git” to check on Strava which officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of  21.5 miles with a total moving time of  1 hour 53 minutes, at a healthy average speed of 11.3 mph.

The total elapsed time was 2 hours 23 minutes – meaning cocktails and lunch took just half an hour! Top speed was 23.5 mph and the elevation covered was 459 feet. Together we managed to burn up 1032 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 135 W.

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

I am reliably told it was a very therapeutic way to relax – with my crew enjoying the cold bubbles from a nicely chilled prosecco cocktail – while experiencing the warm bubbles of the hot tub! Absolute bliss! The last I heard was the “old gal” saying: “I want one!”

After a suitably long soak my crew emerged and joined Gillian and Craig in a hearty Indian takeaway to refuel, before it was time to head home after a great day!

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

What a difference 180 degrees makes on Forteviot flutter

The "old gal" basking in the Spring sunshine at the bus shelter at Forteviot.

The “old gal” basking in the Spring sunshine at the bus shelter at Forteviot.

You’ve heard the old cliche about a football match being “a game of two halves” – well our latest tandem adventure falls firmly into the camp of being “a ride of two halves”! And it truly underlines just what a difference 180 degrees can make when out tandeming!

Back to the start and Sunday was the day Spring was due to start in Perthshire and for once the weather matched the forecast and we awakened to bright sunshine at Matildas Rest. My crew were in happy mood as we had a hearty but healthy breakfast – within the guidelines of the Hay Eating Plan – before we all got kitted up and headed out into beautifully sunny Perthshire’s countryside.

The “old git” had chosen a run that would be a pedal around Pictish Perthshire – heading towards the historic nearby villages of Dunning and Forteviot, covering a distance of around 16 miles with a few hills thrown in to test our new found fitness! You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full data and statistics! 

wad-strava-mapWith the sun at our backs my dynamic crew pedalled off towards Dunning, before heading further out into the glorious Perthshire countryside – enjoying deep breaths of the fresh air. Everyone was feeling very healthy and – even tho I say so myself – this “old lady” was fairly flying along. the synchronicity factor of the “old git” and the “old gal” was really high and all three of us were perfectly in tune!

“This is the kind of tandeming I like” exclaimed the “old gal as we raced along feeling very pleased with ourselves. 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.

Bright sunshine and the first shoots of Spring with pretty snowdrops greeted us at Forteviot.

Bright sunshine and the first shoots of Spring with pretty snowdrops greeted us at Forteviot.

We had travelled the near 8 miles in an impressive 33 minutes, and the village was looking very pretty in the sunshine. The village “square” has some very quaint houses which were rebuilt for workers of the Dupplin Estate in 1927 and are create a lovely focal point for the village.

The village "square" in Forteviot is a real focal point - especially in the sunshine!

The village “square” in Forteviot is a real focal point – especially in the sunshine!

The sun was actually warm on the skin and was a welcome change to the near Arctic conditions we had faced on our recent tandem rides. The “old gal” basked in the sunshine in the quaint wooden bust shelter in the middle of the village, before checking out some snowdrops.

The sunshine had my crew in buoyant mood with plenty of laughs!

The sunshine had my crew in buoyant mood with plenty of laughs!

Another historical site worth visiting in the village is Forteviot Church of St Andrew where archaeological studies indicate that Christians were first buried in the graveyard in the 6th century.

My dynamic crew were in buoyant fun-filled mood and all was good with the world! At least it was till we headed back on the return journey. As soon as we left Forteviot Team Matilda realised that the wind had got up – and it was blasting directly into the “old git’s” face!

It was like cycling on sand as we pedalled into wind which was much stronger than a flutter! A check on the weather later confirmed that we were fighting against gust of around 30mph at one one stage!

On we battled back into Dunning stopping to get our breath back in the village which also has a history – being burned to the ground during the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. The oldest house remaining dates from 1730. It is well worth a stop at St Serf’s Church too, where the bell tower dates from around 1200. It is no longer used as a church and belongs to Historic Scotland as it houses the Dupplin Cross. This rare 3m high cross, carved out of sandstone in around AD800, once stood in the palace of the Pictish Kings at Forteviot.

There was time for a quick photo of me with my new natty new waterproof saddle covers that I was sent by my pals at Sustrans Scotland.

My natty waterproof saddle covers - a lovely gift from Sustrans Scotland.

My natty waterproof saddle covers – a lovely gift from Sustrans Scotland.

The last 5 miles seemed very long as the wind continued to blast. We didn’t stop at the last piece of local history on today’s trip – the monument to Maggie Wall. This is an eerie stone cross with a hand painted date of 1657 and it is said to be a memorial to the last witch to be burned at the stake.

After a gargantuan effort we finally made it back! Let’s just say that those 180 degrees made a massive difference to our performance. Battling against the wind it took us an incredible 59 minutes – almost double the outbound time – to grind out the 8 miles back to Matildas Rest.

Strava officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of  15.6 miles with a total moving time of  1 hour 32 minutes, at an average speed of 10.2 mph – which was not too bad considering the wind factor on the return journey!

The total elapsed time was just 1 hour 46 minutes – the difference accounted for by a quick photo stop! Top speed was 27.1 mph and the elevation covered was 425 feet. Together we managed to burn up 837 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 136 W.

So all in all a good outing – a fantastic first half of trip, with a more challenging second half! But – despite the wind – the great thing is that Spring looks like it has finally Sprung!

So here’s to more sunny rides! And clearly #perthistheplace!

Pedalling into social media, supporting Perth 2021, Sustrans Scotland goodies and more fame!

My new Twitter page heading with my @matildasmusings handle.

My new Twitter page heading with my @matildasmusings handle.

Well its been an exciting few days here at Matildas Rest – the result of which is that this “old lady” has again proved she is not too old to learn new tricks and has become a social media whizzkid!

Clearly I have always been good at computer technology – given that I write this blog – but until now I had resisted the temptation to enter the often confusing social media world of Facebook and Twitter. I had left that to my Captain to communicate with my followers on my behalf!

But as they say “every day is a school day” so I decided to take the plunge and go headfirst into a social media frenzy by creating both my very own Facebook page and a Twitter feed! And I am delighted with the results as both are “branded” to tie in with my blog!

I was delighted to find that the @matildasmusings handle was free for both services so I eagerly grabbed them. I started with Twitter – I had to add some pictures and write a little bit about myself. Where to start? So I got the “old git” to help as he considers himself to be a bit of wordsmith!

sm-new-twitter-smallHe came up with: Blogging classic tandem Matilda writes Musings about her adventures on the road focusing on tourism and food & drink experiences en route in Scotland + abroad!

I have to say he does have a way with words – just don’t tell him or he gets all big headed! – as it does what it says on the tin. Then I added where Matildas Rest is, and finally my blog website address and I was ready to send my first Tweet! It just announced that I was now live on Twitter – not that memorable! But Oooh the excitement that I am now  able to communicate directly with my fans! I am going to learn all the lingo – like using hashtags like #ScotSpirit which seems to perfectly encapsulate me!

So I would be delighted if you “followed” me and sent me a message by clicking the “follow” button after clicking on to my Twitter page here. I guess my only problem as an “old lady” will be keeping within the 140 characters allowed to get my message across! So I’ll have to tag lots of people, and develop a new form of MatildasMusings shorthand!

No such worries about restrictions on the number of words on Facebook however! It was equally easy to set up my own page –  again starting by adding in the same banner pictures to give it the same look as Twitter! It’s all got to look slick and  a seamless operation you know!

Then time for the words for the “About” page. This time I started with: The Facebook page of Matildas Musings which is a blog written by Matilda – the “old lady” classic tandem – and her Musings about her adventures, trials and tribulations with the “old git” and Captain, aka Colin, and the “old gal” and Chief Stoker (as well as Chief Engineer) aka Diane.

The header for my very own Facebook page with @matildasmusings handle.

The header for my very own Facebook page with my @matildasmusings handle.

I then added the same words as the Twitter biography – and my contact details and blog address. I thought I was finished, then Facebook asked for my mission! I thought of being witty with something like “to proudly go where no tandem has gone before” but in the end I settled for: “To promote all things tandem, tourism, and food & drink in Scotland and abroad.” Clever eh?!

So now I was live on Facebook and the very first message I posted was about how chuffed I was with my very own page – and the fact that it neatly ties in with my Twitter feed and my blog! I would be ecstatic if you “liked” my page and sent me a wee message by clicking the “like” button after clicking on to my Facebook page here.

I was on a roll, so next up was to change my profile pic – the one of my dynamic duo in their Saltire tandeming jerseys and me on the beach – in order to add my support to Perth 2021. This is the campaigning body promoting Perth’s bid to be named the first UK City of Culture in Scotland!

My Perth is the Place 2021 profile picture.

My Perth is the Place 2021 profile picture.

So as proud residents of Perthshire and to show Team Matildas support for the bid, I downloaded my very own Perth2021 Twibbon – which gave me a neat ribbon-style border for my profile photo which says “Perth is the Place 2021”. It is aimed at Twitter users but using my new found technology skills it was easy to make it my Facebook profile picture too. I just need to remember to use the hashtags #Perthistheplace and #Perth2021 now!

My message to pledge my support to Perth2021.

My message to pledge my support to Perth2021.

As the Perth2021 website states Perth is a unique city at the heart of Scotland’s story. Both the oldest city of Scotland – the ancient crowning place of Scottish kings – and the youngest, granted city status in 2012. The city wants City of Culture status in 2021 to:

  • create mass participation in culture and creative learning which enrich lives and remove barriers to access and enjoyment.
  • connect rural and urban communities through inspiring arts programmes which bring people and places together.
  • cultivate new cultural activity and talent, locally and across the UK.
  • collaborate on our creative economy, and be a place where artists, creative industries and business innovation can flourish.
  • challenge ideas about urban renewal – by being a great small city.

The 2021 team has been urging locals to become part of the bid by pledging support. So naturally I was more than happy to add my voice to the campaign with my own personal message!

So after my success in the social media world, I have had some presents recently from the very kind people at Sustrans Scotland who look after the National Cycle Network in Scotland.

The pile of goodies I received from Sustrans Scotland.

The goodies I received from Sustrans Scotland.

My new saddle covers!

My new saddle covers!

For the support of Team Matilda in promoting cycle paths around Scotland I received a pile of goodies including route maps, reflectors, lights and badges!

I was even sent a couple of Sustrans Scotland’s vivid green waterproof saddle covers which will make me look much more professional when I have the misfortune to get caught in the rain. I will certainly look better that the previous default position of having unglamorous supermarket carrier bags thrown over my seats by the “old gal”!

The Villagers article about me!

The Villagers article about me!

The last bit of news I have in this post is news of more fame – which may go to my handlebars! I am very proud as Team Matilda have been featured in a lovely full page article – “Fun in tandem with BLS community” – in The Villagers newspaper in Robroycountry reflecting on my recent fantastic visit to take in the cultural and foodie #BLiSStrail around Strathyre.

Regular readers of my blog will remember it was great fun for my dynamic crew to meet lots of local tourism business folk like people from Sula Furnishing, The Broch Cafe, Airlie House, Strathyre Outdoors and Strathyre Music Festival.

During a memorable Scottish music jam local band Balvaig and LETi chair Kim Proven of Briar Cottages, Lochearnhead performed a special version of my theme song which you can watch on Youtube here!

It was all wonderful, and if you haven’t already read it then you need to read my blog post on my BLiSSful Strathyre’s savoir-faire sojourn.

Guess who is on the front page of Roar's newsletter?!

Guess who is on the front page of Roar’s newsletter?!

I have also been featured on the front page of the newsletter of the charity Roar – Connections for Life  newsletter. Regular readers will remember that in January I paid a visit to their Paisley base and helped 91 year old John Chapman tick riding a tandem off his bucket list! John was a star!

Again, if you haven’t already read it then you meed to read my blog post Roaring to help 91 year old John tick riding a tandem off his bucket list! It really has a wow of a feelgood factor! What a #ScotSpirit

Now with all this social media stuff, pledges, presents and publicity, what I need to do is find some half decent weather to get my dynamic crew of the “old git” and the “old gal” back out on the open road, so I have some real tandeming to post about!

Mini Oor Wullie weather window workout

Which one is the Menace? The "old git" posing with Dennis!

Which one is the real Menace? The “old git” posing with Dennis!

After all the excitement of my BLiSSful Strathyre savoir-faire sojourn it was back to the more mundane matter of a local ride near Matildas Rest to try and clock up some miles and keep fit during the colder winter weather. So Sunday morning dawned but as the “old git” pulled open the blinds it looked as though plans would be thwarted as it was lashing with rain. But my Captain is a great believer in the local weather forecast – which said the wind would die down and the rain would stop by lunchtime.

It would need to be said that the “old gal” was somewhat less optimistic at this point but – like me – she was keen to get out and get some much needed exercise. And there was an added attraction of another art trail to be followed!

You’ll know by now that Team Matilda regard themselves as culture vultures (as well as foodie vultures it would need to be said!) All three of us thoroughly enjoyed the unique outside art BLiSS trail set up by LETi, the Loch Earn Tourism Information group,  deep in the heart of Rob Roy Country.

mow-auchterarder-community-schoolToday’s trail was not nearly on such a grand scale but the local Community School of Auchterarder had set up a mini Oor Wullie Trail – well the class of P1D to be exact. As part of a project to learn about the Scots language their teacher Mr Dowling used Oor Wullie as his inspiration.

You may remember how much my dynamic duo and me enjoyed our tandem tour in August of the lifesize Oor Wullie Bucket Trail which captured the imagination of people in Dundee so my crew were (almost) deliriously happy when the rain stopped and the wind died down and we were able to get out.

Posing outside The Community School of Auchterarder where Dennis was star attraction.

Posing outside The Community School of Auchterarder where Dennis was star attraction.

We started by heading to the school where (safely behind glass) was the star attraction for the kids – a full size replica of Oor Wullie’s pal Dennis the Menace! What happened was that the Scots language project took off and expanded into an initiative to involve the whole community.

With help from Oor Wullie publisher DC Thomson and the local Ruthven Gallery each child in the class was able to decorate a ceramic Oor Wullie figurine. These were then placed in shops throughout the town to make an Oor Wullie bucket trail – with the community dropping a few pennies into the buckets as they ticked off the different models.

The Brave Quine girl Oor Wullie with the "old gal" outside her salon.

The Brave Quine girl Oor Wullie with the “old gal” outside her salon.

The Brave Quine creator

The Brave Quine creator

The “old gal” had volunteered that her Number Fifty Seven Hair Salon take part in the trail and she was given a girl Oor Wullie called The Brave Quine – themed to Merida from the movie Brave – to put in the window. So naturally that was our next stop. Over the two weeks that the trail was running lots of people popped in to the salon to tick it off their list. And the creator of The Brave Quine, pupil Tamsin Tattersall, popped in to have her photo taken with her figurine. She and the school was delighted to learn that her model alone raised over £70 for the fund raising drive with the money being split between the school and the local ARCHIE Foundation.

The whole collection of mini Oor Wullies is on display in the Ruthven Gallery.

The whole collection of mini Oor Wullies is on display in the Ruthven Gallery.

On we tandemed up the street – Scotland’s longest high street – while spotting a fantastic variety of themed mini Oor Wullies. If you’re quick you can see them all gathered together in the Ruthven Gallery. The trail really caught the imagination and was a fabulous creative community idea from the school. We left the mini Oor Wullies in our wake and headed out of town past the landmark Gleneagles Hotel towards the roundabout with the giant golf club artwork to commemorate the Ryder Cup being held here in 2014.

My dynamic duo in selfie pose at the roundabout with the giant golf club artwork.

My dynamic duo in selfie pose at the roundabout with the giant golf club artwork.

It was bitterly cold so the selfie photo stop lasted barely a few seconds before we tandemed on down the Glendevon Road (A823) before turning sharp left and heading along narrow country roads with fabulous views across Perthshire’s rolling countryside. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full data and statistics! 

strava-map-oor-wullie

My dynamic duo were sharply reminded that their fitness levels had dropped when we hit a steep incline just after turning off the Glendevon road. Let’s just say it was a struggle until the road levelled off again! Mental note to my crew that more miles are required as a matter of urgency! The route took us along past the growing Duchally Country Estate resort before a welcome downhill stretch before climbing again – but less steeply to overlook Auchterarder.

The country roads around Auchterarder give great views over Perthshire's rolling countryside.

The country roads around Auchterarder give great views over Perthshire’s rolling countryside.

Time for another quick selfie before we pedalled on cycling across the flyover across the A9 for the final run back to Matildas Rest for a reviving hot coffee and shortbread while checking out Strava which officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of  7.7 miles with a total moving time of  54 minutes, at an average speed of 8.5 mph – which was not too bad considering the rustiness of all members of Team Matilda!

The total elapsed time was just 1 hour 02 minutes due to not hanging about during the photos! Top speed was a not too shabby 30 mph and the elevation covered was 441 feet. Together we managed to burn up 540 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 148 W.

But really energising to be out, and a bit of culture thrown in for good measure too! So all in all a great Mini Oor Wullie weather window workout!

What excitement! the first of my monthly cycling columns in the Lang Toon Times.

Wow! The first of my monthly cycling columns in the Lang Toon Times.

And even more excitement was to come for this “old lady” when the first edition of the Lang Toon Times – the new monthly community newspaper for Auchterarder and district – was delivered to Matildas Rest.

Why the excitement? Well I am writing a cycling column for the paper – describing local routes for the non-lycra clad leisure cyclists. It’s called Matildas Meanderings – as an extension of my Musings blog! Clever eh? How cool is that?

The “old git” has also promised to set up my own Facebook page and Twitter feed in the same Matildas Musings brand as this blog! I better watch all this fame doesn’t go to my head … but I may soon be signing autographs in the local Coop!

BLiSSful Strathyre’s savoir-faire sojourn!

Team Matilda contmeplating the #BLiSStrail at the Ride Out seats in Strathyre.

Contemplating the #BLiSStrail – Team Matilda at the Ride Out seats in Strathyre.

Life has been busy at Matildas Rest! But I am happy to say that Team Matilda was able to fit in a short weekend break after being invited back to the scenic Loch Earn area to do another of my photo blog specials on the fascinating cultural outside art #BLiSStrail. Yes – you heard me correctly – invited back!

It seems that LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group, have been so impressed with this “old lady’s” tandeming adventure blogs from my trip to see the sections of the art trail around the St Fillans and Lochearnhead loop in October, and then Balquhidder in December, that they asked Team Matilda to come back and do another blog on the third leg of the trail – this time around Strathyre.

leti-logosmaller

The unique BLiSS trail is named after the four villages it links – Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St Fillans – deep in the heart of Rob Roy Country within the Loch Lomond and  The Trossachs National Park – where Perthshire meets rural Stirling. The trail is made up of a series of large ornamental metal and wood sculptures and art installations, mostly by Scottish artists, and was set up to commemorate the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

The brainchild of LETi, the BLiSS trail aims to encourage more visitors to the area – to boost tourism and the local economy. The trail has subsequently become an “award winning trail” – receiving the honour of a regional Scottish Thistle Award – recognised as the tourism Oscars – for “Working Together for Tourism.” The LETi team are now competing against all other regional winners in the overall Scottish finals in March.

The “old git” and the “old gal” were delighted to accept the invitation on my behalf – and I was packed into Matilda Transport and we headed off through St Fillans and down the side of stunning Loch Earn, through Lochearnhead on the A84 to  Airlie House bed and breakfast – Team Matilda’s base for their mini-weekend tour.

The "old gal" and me being welcomed by Colin and Sheridan Adams at Airlie House.

The “old gal” and me being welcomed by Colin and Sheridan Adams at Airlie House.

A sherry welcome!

A sherry welcome!

There my dynamic duo were met by the extremely friendly owners Colin and Sheridan Adams – who described their concept of running boutique guest house accommodation. Their aim is to offer a true home from home in a beautiful location surrounded by rolling hills and right next to both the Rob Roy Way long distance walking route and the Sustrans Scotland National Cycle Route 7. And I am reliably told that the sherry from the decanter in the lounge was welcoming on a chilly afternoon!

The welcoming Lubnaig room at Airlie House bed and breakfast.

The welcoming Lubnaig room at Airlie House bed and breakfast.

Colin and Sheridan couldn’t have done more to make my dynamic duo comfortable – showing them to a lovely warm and beautifully decorated downstairs room –  called Lubnaig. The large en-suite room had a king size bed and had a picturesque view of Benn Sheann – with its summit rising above the trees on the hillside beyond the river.

The Ben Sheann Hotel offered a warm welcome in the heart of Strathyre.

The Ben Sheann Hotel offered a warm welcome in the heart of Strathyre.

Ben Sheann burger.

Ben Sheann burger.

After relaxing, the “old git” and the “old gal” ventured out for a bite to eat and had been recommended to try the Ben Sheann Hotel, almost next door to Airlie House. It’s a large elegant Victorian building which offered a warm welcome on a  cold night.

The menu is mainly home made pub grub staples – such as macaroni cheese and steak pie. To fuel up for the ride ahead the next day my dynamic duo stocked up on a meal of home made soup, followed by burgers – washed down with a local Stirling gin and tonic.

Next up my crew were invited to a Burns and Scottish Music Night by Kim Proven –  the enthusiastic chair of LETi  who regular blog readers will remember from her substitute stoker adventures during my adventures around Balquhidder – and joined a welcoming group of  her friends.

The fun bash was held in the White Stag Inn with local band Balvaig playing some well kent tunes. The band – which is led by Kenny Higgins, who is also vice-chair of LETi – is a  group of highly talented local musicians and singer songwriters who regularly meet for bothy-style folk and blues  music sessions.

The talented Balvaig Band in full flow at the Burns Night music jam.

The talented Balvaig Band in full flow at the Burns Night music jam.

strathyre-music-festival-logoThe band’s success led them to launch the Strathyre Music Festival – which has been a big success for the village and is now going into its fifth year. The festival is held on the Bank Holiday weekend in May – from Friday 26th to Sunday 28th. And if the music is as good as what my duo were treated to, then Team Matilda may need to return for this year’s festival!

Balvaig broke with their Scottish music roots to surprise the “old git” and “old gal” with a song dedicated to me as a classic tandem. Kim was handed the microphone to lead the Burns-style sing-a-long of “Daisy, Daisy – A Bicycle Built for Two.” Watch a video here. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

Greatly honoured, my crew chatted to lots of local tourism business folk learning more about the area from Catriona Macgeoch of SULA Furnishing, Bill and Leslie Lindsay of Broch Cafe, Angus Cameron, president of the local villages Highland Games, and of course Kenny – who apart from playing in the band and his role with LETi also runs Strathyre Outdoors.

The "old git" and "old gal" enjoying chatting with local tourism business folk.

The “old git” and “old gal” enjoying chatting with local tourism business folk.

Irn-Bru ice cream!

Irn-Bru ice cream!

There was even time for a taste test on the famous local delicacy of Irn-Bru flavoured ice cream made by Colin and Sheridan at Airlie House – and the verdict was yum! During the busy holiday season they run an ice cream parlour in the garden of their bed and breakfast which specialises in Scottish flavours – with one of the most popular being Buckfast! Perhaps was best it was currently out of stock however! A fabulous night was had by my crew – and whether it was the convivial atmosphere (or the free flowing #Scotspirit!), but the “old gal” even managed to inveigle Kim into agreeing to have a second shot as sub stoker … and to go hands free this time!

Airlie House breakfast.

Airlie House breakfast.

After some welcome zzzs in a most comfortable bed, Team Matilda had a fairly early alarm call to hit the BLiSStrail. Snow flurries were however falling ominously as my crew tucked into a hearty and tasty traditional Scottish breakfast, home cooked by Colin and Sheridan. My dynamic duo then donned their thermals and many layers on top before leaving Airlie House, full of praise for their stay. After I was set up for the day ahead, my crew discovered a kennel containing a vivid green soft toy model of Lubbie – the mysterious monster said by locals to live in nearby Loch Lubnaig (and a near relative of the equally publicity shy Loch Ness monster!) Colin tells the story that Lubbie has chased their pet dog Teddy indoors and has taken up residence in the kennel for the winter! The “old git” played his part and looked suitably frightened and scared!

Very very frightening for me and the "old git" - Lubbie the Loch Lubnaig monster!

Very very scary for me and the “old git” – Lubbie the Loch Lubnaig monster!

Before leaving the confines of the large garden at Airlie House Team Matilda checked off the first ornamental feature on the BLiSStrail Strathyre – a beautifully carved baby elephant, better known as the “Airliephant”!

Making friends with the "Airliephant" - a hand carved elephant in the garden at Airlie House.

Making friends with the “Airliephant” – a carved baby elephant in the garden at Airlie House.

We then headed out along the Sustrans Scotland NCR7 which runs around the Strathyre area – and quickly found the impressive Soaring Eagle installation created by Ian Chambers who runs his own  company called Chainsaw Creations. Its a great story of  someone earning a living doing what they love – and it all started out as a bet with a fellow forestry student as to who could carve the best mushroom which has now grown into a full time self-employed business. The intricate eagle  was commissioned by Stirling Council to mark the NCR7 entrance and exit to the Broch recreational area as part of 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

The "old git" and me beside the dramatic Soaring Eagle.

The “old git” and me beside the dramatic Soaring Eagle at the Broch recreational area.

Tandeming round the car park we found the next piece of art sitting outside the Broch Cafe – Thistle, the Heilan’ Coo. The Scottish timber coo was made by the Wee Coo Company based at nearby Loch Lomond. Unfortunately the cafe itself was closed for the month of January so the “old gal” – who is a true coffee aficionado – couldn’t personally vouch for the coffee which has earned an almost legendary reputation … much to her chagrin! A hot coffee would certainly have heated my crew up!

Thistle, the Heilan' Coo - and the "old gal" outside Broch cafe.

Thistle, the Heilan’ Coo, me and the “old gal” outside Broch cafe.

Just beside the coo wood carving we found the next installation – the Ride Out Seats. This metal sculpture is designed to look like three parked bikes, providing some simple seats. A nice story here – it  was commissioned to mark the big contribution Derek Mullins made to the volunteer programme at Sustrans over 25 years. It therefore seemed highly appropriate to base the design on a cluster of bicycles since much of his work entailed riding out and encouraging volunteers around Scotland.

As a classic tandem you can never have too many stokers - the "old gal" and Kim ready for action!

As a classic tandem you can never have too many stokers – the “old gal” and Kim ready for action!

Kim was good to her word and was waiting here for Team Matilda to do her substitute stoker ride. You know a classic “old lady” tandem can never have too many stokers! But firstly Kim put on her LETi hat and gave a friendly welcome to a family of cyclists who were staying at Strathyre Forest Cabins.

A family group staying at Strathyre Forest Cabins were persuaded to pose for a photo.

A family group staying at Strathyre Forest Cabins pose for a photo at the Ride Out Seats.

Kim confirmed that many of the cultural attractions on the BLiSStrail were going to be kept in place for the coming year – with the art trail generating increased interest, resulting in a knock-on effect of tourists spending more time and money in the area.

There’s also talk of a couple of new installations potentially being added to the trail for 2017 to mark the Year of History Heritage and Archaeology. A team of students from Perth College are looking at developing a conceptual art project based at a site at Lochearnhead. And LETi has applied to Sustrans Scotland for an ArtRoots grant to place a new sculpture installation on the cycle path at Strathyre.

Then it was time to see if Kim’s chat about going hands free was all bravado! It would need to be said she had taken a bit of ribbing for her very safe performance on her virgin ride on a tandem at Balquhidder back in December. I personally thought she did rather well for a newbie, but the “old git” was joking that she should have at least taken her hands off my handlebars to wave at the camera!

Kim was however put on the spot a bit when she read that sprightly 91 year old blind John Chapman had shown her how it was done when the “old git” paid a visit to talk to the Mens Group at Paisley charity Roar – Connections for Life. He rolled back the years to tandem like a youngster and confidently waved to the cameras as he ticked tandeming off his bucket list!

So having accepted the challenge to go hands free Kim bravely donned the “old gal’s” crash helmet and took up her stoker seat – knowing that she would have to hand over control and put her faith in the “old git” as Captain!

Ready for the off - Kim ready to put faith in my Captain! ...

Kim ready to put her faith in my captain! …

Thumbs up from Kim after going hands free!

… and thumbs up after going hands free!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “old gal” filmed the ride and I am delighted to report Kim performed as a natural sub  stoker as we tandemed back and forward between two bridges on the cycle path.  And she confidently took not just one, but both hands off the handlebars to show off! We even managed to shift up a few gears too! Watch the incriminating video of Kim riding hands free as stoker here. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

Kim thoroughly enjoyed completing her challenge and was delighted with her second ride … and is already talking about a third go. This “old lady” tandem thinks that Kim and her husband should add tandeming to their list of hobbies!

We bid farewell to Kim and tandeming away from the excitement of all the sub stoker shenanigans – with the “old gal” back in her regular space on my rear saddle – we set off to look for one of the most intriguing installations on the trail – the fabulous stone miniature Mill House and Bridge. You have to look closely to find it – sitting on the edge of a garden on the old Strathyre road just after crossing the old stone bridge over the River Balvaig. Local children know it as the “The Fairy House” and my dynamic crew were lucky enough to see the creator – Jimmy Gibson – in his garden and were able to compliment him on his labour of love.

The intricate stone miniature Mill House and bridge in a garden on the old Strathyre road.

The intricate stone miniature Mill House and bridge in a garden on the old Strathyre road.

The last tick on the BLiSStrail Strathyre for Team Matilda was the Lions Couchant which guard the entrance to the luxurious Creagan House – a country house restaurant with rooms. Now a lion couchant, I am reliably informed, is a heraldic reference which means that the lion is lying down, but with the head raised as opposed to the more traditional lion rampant. So to be honest, it didn’t actually scare me or the “old git” one bit!

The "old git" looking decidedly unscared by the lions couchant at Creagan House.

The “old git” looking decidedly unscared by the lion couchant at Creagan House.

After the photo shoot my dynamic crew decided to tandem out of Strathyre on the wonderfully smooth NCR7 to Mhor 84 for a much needed hot coffee and scone stop. As snow flakes continued to fall this became an extended second coffee and cake stop! The original (pre snow!) plan was a quick stop before embarking on a loop round the Sustrans Scotland Rt7 along the scenic old Strathyre road – an old drovers road – through a forrest back into Strathyre.

Mhor 84 was a welcome stop for a warming coffee and scone on a freezing day!

Mhor 84 was a welcome stop for a warming coffee and scone on a freezing day!

But emerging from the comfort of Mhor 84 the “old gal” declared that it was too cold to do the planned loop – which in retrospect was the correct decision given the flurries of snow and the zero degrees celcius temperature reading. We therefore abandoned the Strava recording of our ride – so no map! – and we quickly retraced our steps and tandemed back to Strathyre the direct way, pedalling at top speed to try to create some body heat!

We had time to check out a few local attractions in the town which should not be overlooked. The first is the Strathyre Village Shop and Post Office where I had the pleasure of meeting owner Janet and her very own black and white cat – which coincidentally is called Jess, just like Postman Pat! It was a bit disconcerting however to see among the myriad of goods on offer, that snow shovels were on special offer! Maybe Jess knew something we didn’t!

Janet with Jess the Postman Pat-style black and white cat at The Strathyre Village Shop.

Me and Janet with Jess the Postman Pat-style black and white cat at The Strathyre Village Shop.

A bit further along the street from the shop is a fairly nondescript statue – which looks a bit like a local War Memorial. But close inspection by the “old gal” revealed it is a memorial statue to one of the area’s famous sons – Dugald Buchanan who was a Gaelic poet who wrote religious verse. His biggest claim to fame is assisting the minister at nearby Killin with translating the New Testament into Gaelic in 1767.

The "old gal" pointing out the memorial to Dugald Buchanan.

The “old gal” pointing out the memorial to Dugald Buchanan.

Just behind the Broch Cafe we found the fascinating and historical Dun Lubnaig Broch Project. Brochs are mysterious circular dry-stone hollow structures – like forts – which date back to the iron age and are only found in Scotland.

Here I am at The Strathyre Broch Project just off NCR7

Here I am at the fascinating historical Strathyre Broch Project just off NCR7.

It was getting colder and more snow flakes were falling so we headed back to Airlie House and I was quickly packed back into Matilda Transport. But there was one last art installation to see. Team Matilda had been advised to do the last stop on the BLiSStrail Strathyre by car – given that the main A84 can be somewhat busy, and is somewhat narrow and windy as it passes along the beautiful Loch Lubnaig.

Turning into the car park at the end of the loch furthest from the village, it was initially difficult to spot Sloc-Nan-Sitheanach. It seems hidden away – but then that is perhaps the whole point as it is “a place of solace where you can find yourself in an embrace of the earth.”

The key is to look carefully for the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Scenic Routes signs – but it is worth the hunt when you see the art installation by architectural designer Ruairidh Moir. Sloc is Gaelic for a cavity in a landscape; and sìtheanach is Gaelic for “faerie” – the mystical creatures which roamed the landscape and are associated with peace and tranquility.

The "old gal" looking mystical at Sloc-Nan-Sitheanach at Loch Lubnaig.

The “old gal” looking mystical at Sloc-Nan-Sitheanach at Loch Lubnaig.

The poetry incorporated into the design is “Now Winters’ Wind Sweeps” by local bard Alexander Campbell which depicts mans place in natural cycles, and encourages the visitor to reflect on their fleeting presence in the landscape. It certainly was quite a mystical experience when Team Matilda were there with Loch Lubnaig reflecting the surrounding hills shrouded in mist

After visiting Loch Lubnaig – and taking note to tandem NCR7 on the far site of the Loch past Strathyre Forest Cabins in the future – Team Matilda jumped back in Matilda Transport and headed back to the warmth of a hot baths and showers at Matildas Rest.

But, despite the cold, it had undoubtedly been a BLiSSful savoir-faire soujorn around Strathyre!

One of Mhor's slogans!

One of Mhor’s slogans!

Indeed Team Matilda enjoyed the friendship and hospitality shown over the weekend in Robroycountry so much that my dynamic crew decided to return the next weekend – scrubbed up and in non tandeming gear! – for the prestigious Burns in the Barn event at Monachyle Mhor Hotel.

First up it was pre-event drinks hosted by Kim and her husband Fraser at their fabulous 17th century B listed thatched cottage at their luxury self-catering Briar Cottages base in Lochearnhead before boarding a bus to Monachyle.

Fraser living up to his larger than life reputation with the "old gal"!

Fraser living up to his larger than life reputation with the “old gal”!

Haggis Mhor style!

Haggis Mhor style!

The chefs at Mhor had put their flair to the traditional bill of fayre for a Burns event – producing a fantastic tasty meal. The starter was Mull scallops – a favourite of the “old gal’s” – with the haggis being incorporated into a main course of Scotch beef cheek. Mull cheddar on toast followed before a dessert of preserved Perthshire raspberries and clootie dumpling ice cream! This was all washed down with some lovely wines and a few Glengoyne whiskies – while enjoying an evening of great music, song, Scottish dancing and the traditional Burns Supper elements of The Address to the Haggis and the Toast to the Lassies – even if a few eyebrows were raised at the unnecessary f-words in the Reply from the Lassies!

Kim and the "old gal" enjoying the Burns in the Barn bash! Yes he did have his kilt on!

Kim and the “old git” enjoying the Burns in the Barn bash! Yes he did have his kilt on!

My crew had a fabulous night enjoying the #ScotSprit atmosphere and chatting to others who clearly enjoy #workingtogether for tourism in the area, while having a fantastic social life at the same time!

The "old gal" enjoying the night with Graham

The “old gal” enjoying the night with Graham …

... and getting into the spirit(s) with Martin!

… and getting into the spirit(s) with Martin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Among others my dynamic crew met LETi member Alison Inglis and her partner John who run the Enchanted Cottage Pop Up Shop at Balquhidder. They also shared a table with two other fun couples Graham and Sue, and Martin and Liz – who are all involved in organising the Balquhidder, Lochearnhead & Strathyre Highland Games. Known as “the best Highland Games in Scotland” it is being held this year on Saturday 22nd July 2017. And they also said hello to Jill  – who edits the local Villagers magazine and who told me there is a double page colour spread on my antics in Strathyre in the February edition. You know how I like this fame! 

Now Graham happened to mention an invitation to a full-scale fancy dress party early in the Summer – and Fraser definitely lived up to his reputation of having a wonderful enthusiasm for life by throwing the gauntlet down (after a few Glengoyne Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskys!) to tandem riding facing backwards! ….. It was that kind of amazing night really!

The original "cruck" ceiling at Briar Cottages.

The original “cruck” ceiling at Briar Cottages – now Kim and Fraser’s stunning lounge.

After a welcome post bash coffee and chat with Kim and Fraser – which involved a tour in the pitch darkness of the fabulous “Fraser’s Pav” summer house right on the edge of Loch Earn and being shown the original Scots pine “cruck” ceiling from the cattle byre in what is now their stunning lounge – sadly my crew had to force themselves away to return to Matildas Rest due to work commitments. It would be an understatement to say my crew could have stayed longer – but I have a feeling we will be back before long! Obviously I will have to look out some fancy dress gear  – but just what does a tandem dress up as?!

Will this be Fraser?

Will this be Fraser?

And of course I have the spectacle of Fraser riding me facing backwards to look forward to! The big question is however – if Fraser is on the front, then who is going to be stoker? The “old git” has honourably said that it should be the “old gal” but she whispered to me she is not so sure! So does that leave Kim?

Watch this space….!

Thanks to all at LETi for their help, bed and breakfast, sustenance and friendship offered to assist Team Matilda to complete their tour of the Strathyre leg of the BLiSS art trail.