My pedals get to turn for the first time in 2016 at scenic Loch Leven!

Beautiful February Sunshine at the pier at Loch Leven.

Beautiful February Sunshine at the pier at Loch Leven.

At last all those storms with silly names seem to have passed and from midweek the excitement was mounting at Matildas Rest as the weather forecast was finally showing a lovely weather window for Sunday – an almost unheard of phenomenon recently … a sunny day with virtually no wind.

At last it seemed I was going to be able to get back out on the road and get some fresh air between my spokes after languishing in my garage. I mean the excitement of my blog being named as a finalist in the UK Blog Awards 2016 was a nice diversion – but as all tandemers know there is nothing like the real think of getting your pedals turning again!

The “old gal” and the “old git” have admittedly missed the regular exercise of outings on me. And whisper it, but they have put on a few extra pounds over the winter – especially the “old git”! – so I am a little worried about the extra weight!

However they tell me they are now on a healthy eating regime to lose weight and to give them energy – known as the Hay Plan – and it seems to be working as in the first two weeks they lost a combined 16 pounds!  Phew – just in time!

The “old gal” was also a bit worried about being a bit rusty on the bike and demanded that we start off somewhere flat for the first trip of the year. The “old git” did as he was told – unusually so! – and selected nearby Loch Leven as the destination. It really is a jewel in Perthshire’s crown and the scenery would be enchanting in the February sunshine.

So Sunday morning dawned and excitement reached fever as the blinds were opened to reveal glorious sunshine. The “old git” was deliriously happy and the ski thermals were donned – as it was still going to be cold – before we all found ourselves bundled into Matilda Transporter for the short half hour drive to Kinross pier.

Matilda Transport - this is the glamorous way I travel!

Matilda Transport – this is the glamorous way I travel!

As you can see from the picture, Matildas Transport may not be the most glamorous way to travel for this “old lady” – but it is highly effective. The “old git” an the “old gal” even have to sit in tandem – one driving and the other in the spare passenger seat in the rear – to ensure we all fit in. But fit in we do!

The challenge for the first ride out of 2016 was to complete cycle route round the whole of Loch Leven – an easy 13 miles.

The trail has opened two years ago at a cost of £3 million and is known as the Loch Leven Heritage Trail and it links 30 natural and cultural heritage sites. Take a look at the map of the whole of the Loch Leven route here.

The "old git" and the "old gal" ready for the off - first tandem trip of 2016!

The “old git” and the “old gal” ready for the off – first tandem trip of 2016!

So it was with a little trepidation that we set off – and admittedly we were a bit shaky at first … but my dynamic duo soon got the hang of it again and we got into our stride, settling into a nice easy pace given the first outing of the year.

The “old git” had given his word to the “old gal” that if there was any dangers ahead that he would slow down or come to a stop – so they could walk a bit before getting back on. And he kept to his word.

He even stopped at the couple of right angle bends that there are in the first few miles of the route – as he has now (thankfully) learned that an “old lady” like me doesn’t bend in the middle and tight bends are therefore an extreme hazard!

Another less dangerous hazard was the number of walkers with dogs who were out for the day! The sunshine had brought them out like ants! The “old gal” came up with the idea that as we approached each group from behind, that the “old git” would give a friendly ‘parp’ on my horn to warn them.

This was a success, and there was much friendly exchange of greetings as we cycled past. I have to say, though, the “old gal” was getting a little annoyed at the number of times walkers said to us: “She’s not pedalling on the back” as we cycled past them. A quick retort of “Oh that’s the tenth time I have heard that today” seemed to silence them however!

It was amazing to be out in such beautiful countryside – with hardly a breath of wind. Both the “old git” and the “old gal” had big smiles on their faces as they remembered just how good it was to be tandeming together.

I was in my element of course as everyone turned to look at me as I was the only tandem on the route – and caused quite a stir as I cycled past other groups.  A few kids where heard to say to their parents: “Is that a double bike?!”

One of the key attractions of the Loch Leven circular route is the RSPB Loch Leven Nature Reserve which is 7.5 miles round the circuit at Vane Farm so we headed for the RSPB visitor centre which has  a lovely appealing cafe overlooking the loch.

At the RSPB Loch Leven nature reserve

Blue skies at the RSPB Loch Leven nature reserve.

The “old git” had one of his (rare) good ideas and suggested some warming soup at the cafe – so the pair enjoyed a steaming bowl of homemade tomato and pepper soup with crusty bread. Very welcoming it was too! And good to see the cafe so busy.

My dynamic due were slightly less than dynamic on the restart – with their legs having seized up a bit over the lunch break. But they soon got into the rhythm again as we headed back to Kinross.

The "old gal" enjoying the (almost) warm sunshine at Loch Leven.

The “old gal” enjoying the (almost) warm sunshine at Loch Leven.

Hats off to all those involved, because the cycle path is very smooth surface. And apart from a few muddy stretches – which can be excused because of the extremely wet weather we have had – it really was a joy to cycle on. Highly recommended.

We were soon back at the start point of Kinross pier and time for a few photos as the loch was looking serenely calm with the sky a very unseasonable shade of blue.

In the middle of the loch is Loch Leven castle which was the setting for the most traumatic year in the life of Mary Queen of Scots. It was here in 1567 that she was imprisoned and forced to abdicate before her dramatic escape a year later.

You can see why it was easy to imprison her here as you clearly need a boat to get to the island from the pier. But as it was off-season none were running.

The departure point for the small boat ferry to Loch Leven Castle.

The departure point for the small boat ferry to Loch Leven Castle.

With temperatures beginning to drop I was quickly loaded back into Matilda Transport and we headed off to a nearby Costa to enjoy some welcome hot coffee and reflect on the trip.

The verdict was that my first ride out of 2016 was a resounding success and my dynamic duo had rosy cheeks as a result of their (much needed) exercise. And we all vowed that there would be lots more trips in the weeks ahead.

My first ride out of 2016 - in beautiful sunshine - got the thumbs up from the "old git."

My first ride out of 2016 – in beautiful sunshine – got the thumbs up from the “old git.”

Finally, an update on the UK Blog Awards 2016. As regular readers will be well aware, Matildas Musings became a finalist in the Most Innovative category of the awards – reaching the final 10 out of over 2000 entries. I am seriously chuffed as not only is my blog achieving UK recognition for being the only blog ‘written’ by a classic tandem, but it is also the only Scottish finalist.

And not just that, but my blog has caught the imagination of the local media – with several big articles appearing in newspapers – including this front page story in the Strathallan Times and also this feature in the Perthshire Advertiser.

Media coverage of reaching the finals of the UK Blog Awards 2016.

Media coverage of reaching the finals of the UK Blog Awards 2016.

The organisers say that judging has taken place – in top secret – and the results will be announced at a glitzy UK Blog Awards 2016 presentation evening at the Park Plaza Hotel in London at the end of April.

So I have my brake cables crossed until then in the hope that I my blog will win the overall award!

In the meantime I am basking in the glory of being able to say I am a UK Blog Awards 2016 finalist!

UKBA finalist_twitter

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6 thoughts on “My pedals get to turn for the first time in 2016 at scenic Loch Leven!

  1. Hi there Matty. Long time no chat. Sounds like a good time was had by all. Just hope there are no sore joints tomorrow ! ( Hope the old dears don’t have any either!). It has been a glorious day for everyone and hopefully the end of the rain and the start of things to come. Glad you have a few pounds less to carry . Wonder what they’ve done with them ?

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  2. What a lovely little first ride out and in such perfect weather, such a shame that you had to wait til nearly March, but obviously worth it. I think people must think they are very witty to come up with ” oi, she’s not pedalling on the back “!!! So very unoriginal and yes it does become tedious, however since we have ridden Bluebird it’s actually quite a rare comment. In fact it’s unheard of because it’s “oi, HE’S not etc “. get lots of positive alternative comments though. All these ride blogs are going to make choice of routes tricky for the Tour de Perthshire, too many places to explore in a week !

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  3. Learning at school about Mary Queen of Scots being banged up in prison in the middle of Loch Leven, my imagination started to run wild when I saw you had chosen to cycle Matilda (Queen of Scots Tandems!) around the loch. So glad to hear you made it round without any major aggro! We were on the Shetland Islands at the weekend. I can recommend the cycling there but the overnight ferry from Aberdeen can be challenging…and somewhat choppier than Loch Leven!

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    • Oh I do like the flattery of being called the Queen of Scots Tandems! I may adopt that as my new moniker! Yes heard Shetland Islands good for cycling – but I have worries about getting seasick … and I know the “old git” definitely would!

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