Easter Sunday challenge (and egg hunt) at natural wilderness of Loch Rannoch

A brilliantly coloured rainbow encapsulates the beauty of Loch Rannoch.

A brilliantly coloured rainbow encapsulates the beauty of Loch Rannoch.

Check out our route round Loch Rannoch on Strava here  – don’t forget to click on the map to get the full data and statistics!

STRAVA Easter SundayNow you know how the “old git” likes a challenge! Well the eagle-eyed among you may have spotted a comment from Martin, a good friend of my dynamic duo, at the end of my last Musing. He got to hear of our plans for our Easter weekend trip to the wilderness spot of Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire and threw down the gauntlet: “Good luck this Sunday – I ran the Loch Rannoch Marathon 30 years ago and it took me 3 hours 50mins to cover the 26 miles. I reckon you can beat that time on Matilda … fancy a challenge?!”

Well I must admit it sounded appealing and the challenge was immediately accepted – after it was confirmed that Martin meant cycling time, as there was the vitally important lunch stop for the prosecco picnic to factor in! So once it was agreed that it was moving time – with the Strava app report being the official arbiter – we were all up for it! Even the “old gal” thought it was achievable!

So the challenge was to be part of what was now the annual Easter training camp trip to Loch Rannoch – to step up the training for this summer’s Tour de Loire Valley in September.

The area is described as one of the last true wildernesses in Europe – with truly majestic scenery. And the “old git” made sure the “old gal” was happy by throwing in the carrot of a repeat overnight stay in the amazingly remote small luxury Moor of Rannoch Hotel to recharge their batteries (and legs) after the cycling. When the “old git” mentioned  to the “old gal” that there were 12 Scottish gins in the speciality gin bar, she was sold! Even if it meant cycling 26 miles before gin o’clock!

The “old gal” didn’t  even complain as we all found ourselves bundled into Matilda Transport at the unearthly hour of 7.30 am on Easter Sunday – even earlier if you factor in the clocks going forward! – to head off up the A9. The “old git” kept going on about the forecast of bright sunshine, with the odd shower, but I have to say that me and the “old gal” were a bit sceptical after some torrential rain the day before.

But amazingly there was sunshine as we headed away from Matildas Rest and spirits were raised even further with a tasty cooked breakfast stop at the brilliant Ballinluig Motor Grill.

Fuelling up for the tandeming trip ahead!

Fuelling up for the tandeming trip ahead!

Back on the road we were soon turning off the A9 just after Pitlochry and heading along the narrow winding roads past Loch Tummel to the village of Kinloch Rannoch at the head of the loch, which would be our lunch stop.

We drove down the 12 miles to the bottom of the loch, and a smile came to the lips of the “old gal” as she remembered how flat – or very gently undulating – the route was!

So before 11 we had parked up just after Bridge of Gaur and we were all set for our own Easter Sunday Tour de Loch Rannoch du Tandem! Strava connected with GPS even though there was no internet access in the area – so our challenge was going to be officially recorded.

The sun was shining brightly on the waters as we set off and the miles clocked up quickly as we cycled along the north side of the loch. The route is a real magnet for cyclists – and the “old git” happily parped my horn at various people clad in tight lycra who appeared much fitter than my dynamic duo. But it would have to be said that they were not having nearly as much fun as we were – because remember being on  tandem really is double the fun!

As it was only March, there were a few clouds about but that only added to the mystery as the majesty of the perfectly conical shape of Schiehallion – one of Scotland’s most recognisable mountains – kept appearing and disappearing as we cycled along.

A quick stop at a wild camping area provided some great photo opportunities including me posing beside a proper camp fire – with Schiehallion providing a marvelous scenic backdrop!

Having a rest at a wild camping site on the lochside looking out to Schiehallion.

Having a rest at a wild camping site on the loch side looking out to Schiehallion.

Despite the romantic image – all three of us were in one voice that Team Matilda don’t do camping! We like our home comforts too much! And as the “old gal” said: “Where would I plug in my hair dryer?!”

As the sun broke through the clouds again the “old git” decided on a shot showing off my new Captain and Stoker water bottles basking in the wild and remote loch side setting. He really is getting quite artistic in his old age!

My new Captain and Stoker water bottles in an arty lochside shot!

My new Captain and Stoker water bottles in an arty lochside shot!

Then he decided he would have some fun with the “old gal” and got her to pose looking wistfully into the distance so he could shout “Where’s Schiehallion – Its behind you!” in pantomime voice!

The "old gal" looking for Schiehallion. "It's behind you!"

The “old gal” looking wistfully for Schiehallion. “It’s behind you!”

It was time to get back in the saddle, but only after another photo of me and the “old gal” – or the two old ladies as the “old git” describes us! – with a view down the loch with its rugged and remote mountain backdrop.

The two "old ladies" together on the natural habitat of Loch Rannoch.

The two “old ladies” together on the natural habitat of Loch Rannoch.

On we pedalled and in what seemed like no time we were tandeming into the village of Loch Rannoch feeling really pleased at ourselves at having reached the half way point. Time for lunch and the dynamic duo’s famous prosecco picnic!

Lunch break and time for one of my dynamic duo's famous prosecco picnics!

Lunch – time for one of my dynamic duo’s famous prosecco picnics!

The “old git” found a small bench right in front of a waterfall which was in full spate after the recent heavy rain. The sound of the water rushing down provided a fabulous wilderness backdrop as my dynamic duo ate their healthy goodies – prepared to Hay eating plan guidelines!

You know I am so impressed with my crew who have now clocked up an amazing weight loss of 32 pounds between them in just six weeks! My frame is certainly feeling the benefits! However, that didn’t stop them indulging in a small bottle of prosecco each to toast the Easter training trip and to wash down the tasty salad wraps and fruit salad.

And the lunch had been packed away in a nifty new “Bicycle Riders Luncheon Box” which good friends Ann and Jack gave us at Christmas.

A very nifty new lunch box to keep my dynamic duo's sandwiches fresh.

A very nifty new lunch box to keep the  sandwiches fresh.

After a great alfresco lunch, the dynamic duo decided a coffee would be a good idea and dropped into the Riverbank Cafe – a real favourite of all the cyclists who circle the loch. The staff are so helpful – immediately offering a jug of water to top up my water bottles. After feeling virtuous over their healthy lunch – and taking into account the calories being burned off – it seemed only right to accompany their wonderful coffee with a slice of their lovely thick caramel shortcake.

So refuelled we crossed the old bridge and headed off on the route back down the south side of the loch – which if anything is even quieter and even more scenic.

The B-class single track road never seems to be more than a couple of yards from the loch itself, and the wilderness factor is underlined as it winds its way through the magical Black Wood of Rannoch – one of the largest areas of ancient pine forest left in Scotland. It certainly lives up to its Forestry Commission billing as “a living growing monument with some trees thought to be about 400 years old, and is home to a wonderful variety of plants and wildlife, including deer, pine martens and red squirrel.”

It is so special that it feels like an honour to be able to cycle through it – truly getting as close as possible to nature. Little wonder then that it is designated a Special Area of Conservation.

At the edge of the wooded area it was time for another stop – and given it was Easter Sunday it was time for my dynamic duo to roll their Easter eggs! They had hand decorated some hard boiled eggs the day before and carefully wrapped them in bubble wrap to survive the trip!

Hand decorated eggs for rolling - or launching as it turned out!

Hand decorated eggs for rolling – or launching as it turned out!

They walked a few yards to a tranquil small stony area at the edge of the loch and with no steep banking the “old git” decided that they would have to make do with launching the eggs into the water instead of rolling them. The “old git” decided he would shoot a video to record the “old gal” launching her Easter egg into the now calm waters of Loch Rannoch, with hilarious results – especially the fact that he spectacularly missed capturing the egg entering the water!

You can see the fun for yourself – and admire the amazing scenery – by clicking on the video below. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click onto the actual blog via the link at the bottom of the email to view the video.)

As we walked back to the bike the “old git” noticed that I was somewhat incongruously parked up against a phone box – which must be one of the remotest in Scotland. It is even more amazing given there is no internet or mobile phone signal around. So the “old git” let his imagination go  into overdrive and suggested I was calling my friend Bluebird – the recumbent tandem based in Hampshire and crewed by John and Jane – to tell her what a beautiful area this was and how much she would like it!

Trying to call my friend Bluebird from one of the remotest call boxes in Scotland!

Trying to call my friend Bluebird from one of the remotest call boxes in Scotland!

You see Bluebird is famous too as she has her own Facebook page! And I can’t wait till August as she is coming to Perthshire to tour round some of the best routes in our wonderful area. Us two tandems are going to have such fun out on the roads together!

Back on the route, we even managed the bit of a climb which gives great views over the loch across. Just at that point there was the only rain shower of the day. But we couldn’t complain, and especially not as the sun and the shower revealed the most beautiful brightly coloured rainbow. The “old gal” leapt into action and quickly positioned me beneath its arc to get a great photo. So good in fact here it is again, in case you missed it at the start of my Musing!

here I am perfectly positioned beneath the arc of a spectacularly vivid rainbow.

Here I am perfectly positioned beneath the arc of a spectacularly vivid rainbow.

The rain stopped as suddenly as it started and with the sun shining again a descent on a windy stretch took us quickly back down to end the circle of the loch at Bridge of Gaur and a short cycle back to where Matilda Transport was parked.

The sun was bright enough for the "old gal" to take a Team Matilda shadow photo.

The sun was bright enough for the “old gal” to take a Team Matilda shadow photo.

But you will remember Martin’s challenge! The milometer was reading just 24 miles in just under 3 hours travelling time – and the challenge was to complete 26 miles in 3 hours 50 mins. No way the “old git” and the “old gal” were going to give up on breaking Martin’s record at this stage! So, despite being fairly tired, my dynamic duo pedalled past Matilda Transport and headed out into the open countryside before performing a u-turn  to complete an additional three miles. (That explains the extra bit at Bridge of Gaur after our circle of the loch on the Strava map!)

The “old gal” managed to video the “old git” recording a cheeky message for Martin as they crossed the 26 mile marker to hammer home the challenge had been won! Click on the video below. (Remember again that if you are reading this on email, you need to click onto the actual blog via the link at the bottom of the email to view the video.)

Although we couldn’t get official confirmation at that point from the Strava app – we knew we had smashed Martin’s time. When we did get internet access and downloaded our route it unequivocally showed that we covered 26.9 miles in a moving time of 3 hours 07 mins and 11 seconds! More than 40 minutes faster! Officially verified! I have to say all three of us had a good laugh about the challenge throughout the day – and I know Martin won’t mind his 30 year old (plus!) record getting broken one little bit! We await the next challenge with interest!

So buoyed by that success I was packed up into Matilda Transport and we drove the final five hilly miles towards Rannoch Station where our training camp hotel is situated. Before checking in we had been recommended to try the famous Rannoch Station tearoom. It is amazing and a little gem.

The appetising array of home made cakes at Rannoch Moor Tearoom.

The appetising array of home made cakes at Rannoch Moor Tearoom.

A really friendly couple have transformed the old station waiting room into a most welcoming tea room – providing hot drinks and home made treats! It is a real favourite with walkers when they come off the moor, and if my dynamic duo’s coffee and carrot cake was anything to go by it fully deserves its “must visit” reputation.

We then literally walked across the road from the tearoom to be met by Scott and Steph, mine hosts at the oasis which is Moor of Rannoch Hotel. It is hard to describe this hotel to fully justify what it offers but essentially it is probably best summed up in the four headline words they use on their website – Retreat, Relax, Unwind, Escape.

The hotel’s major selling point – apart from the gin bar (obviously!) is that there is no tv signal and no wifi. You are quite literally cut off from the modern world. But that is a huge benefit, and the scenery provides the stimulating brain food as it looks out over the wilderness of Rannoch Moor to the Glencoe mountains.

The Moor of Rannoch Hotel situated on RannochMoor with the Glencoe mountains as a backdrop.

Moor of Rannoch Hotel sits on Rannoch Moor with the Glencoe mountains as a backdrop.

Only minutes after we checked in to one of only five bedrooms, there was another magical moment when a herd of about 20 deer – came down off the hill to feed. As the “old git” rather obviously said: “Maybe there’s a stag party on!” As the “old gal” groaned and forced a laugh to humour him she grabbed her phone and managed to capture the image while hanging out the bedroom window.

The stag party coming down off the moor for feeding! Who needs the internet!

The stag party coming down off the moor for feeding! Who needs the internet!

After a much needed shower, and some rest and recuperation my dynamic duo had a pre-dinner selection from the gin bar featuring many small batch artisan Scottish gins. The “old git” had a Gordon Castle while the “old gal” had a Shetland Reel!

A wonderful dinner full of flavours to tempt the taste buds followed – sample menu here – all home cooked on the premises from mainly local produce by Steph. That was helped along with a lovely fruity dry Sauvignon, and all accompanied by the live theatre that is the moving vista of the wild countryside viewed through the massive picture windows.

As we sampled the cheeseboard in the lounge – along with a liqueur of Scotland’s first rum called Dark Matter – the “old git” reflected on the fact that it has to be one of the remotest and best locations for a hotel anywhere in Scotland.

And the “old gal” pointed out that the owners, Scott and Steph, have got it just right, offering wonderful friendly but not obsequious hospitality making it feel like a home from home in the middle of the wilderness.

After dinner the atmosphere in the lounge becomes like a small house party, with guests exchanging stories and playing games like Scrabble and Connect 4!

It offers a real all encompassing five-star stay – which cannot be faulted – and all without having to pay five-star prices. It is highly recommended, but make sure and book ahead as it is becoming increasingly popular. You won’t be disappointed!

After an amazing day tiredness hit and sleep beckoned – with my crew no doubt dreaming of breaking Martin’s challenge over and over again!

Remember, if you’ve got this far and haven’t checked out my route to around Loch Rannoch on Strava you can do so here.

And finally, don’t forget to keep all your fingers and toes crossed for my blog – which is a finalist in the Most Innovative category of the UK Blog Awards 2016. Not only is Matildas Musings the only blog ‘written’ by a classic Jack Taylor tandem, but it is the only Scottish finalist. The results will be announced at a glitzy awards presentation evening at the Park Plaza Hotel in London on Friday April 29. Here’s hoping …

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Meander to Muthill in brilliant Perthshire sunshine!

Basking in the sunshine at the medieval kirkyard at Muthill.

Basking in the sunshine at the medieval kirkyard at Muthill.

Check out our route on Strava here – and then make sure you click on the map to get the full data and statistics!

Strava MuthillSeems to be getting a habit, a ride out on a Sunday. But then the “old git” is a man on a mission – to get himself and the “old gal” fit again ahead of the big Tour de France later in the year.

And of course there is the little matter of helping the Hay Plan weight loss programme that my dynamic duo are currently embracing – and it is obviously working. Yesterday’s weigh in saw them having lost a combined total of 2 stones in just 5 weeks. I am most impressed, and it certainly reduces the strain on my ageing frame!

So with an encouraging weather forecast showing lots of sunshine and the temperature set to hit 11C – the plan was to hit the road mid morning. The”old git” had researched a 15 mile route from Matildas Rest around more of Perthshire’s quiet country roads to Muthill – which (whisper it) involved a bit of “uphill” training!

Now as you know neither me nor the “old gal” are fans of hills – but these were more of the steady slow inclines rather than the north face of Everest variety! At least that’s what the “old git” promised us!

But the plan for a morning departure hit a snag! The central heating system at Matildas Rest decided to fail late on Saturday and we were promised a visit form an engineer on Sunday morning. The engineer duly arrived, but an immediate fix wasn’t possible as the circuit board had burned itself out, and it looks like two or three days for the part to arrive. The “old gal” – who feels the cold more than the “old git” – is just grateful for the milder forecast!

So it was early afternoon before I was wheeled out of the garage – with water bottles filled and a flask of coffee in my bag – into brilliant sunshine. The hills beyond Matildas Rest – Craig Rossie and the Ochils looked resplendent in the rays. So much so that we had to have a photo before we set off!

Team Matilda about to depart in brilliant sunshine - and what a view from our front door!

Team Matilda about to depart in brilliant sunshine – and what a view from our front door!

And of course the “old gal” had her new responsibility of setting the Strava app on her mobile to record our ride. Everyone was in buoyant spirits as we headed off heading along Hunter Street and out into the countryside heading along an undulating route towards the Kinkell Bridge.

I am please to report there is still some life in this “old lady” yet as we whizzed along on a downhill stretch reaching the giddy heights of just under 30mph – 29.8 mph precisely according to Strava! – before the “old gal” was heard to shout “Slow down”. But for me it was quite a thrill to be going so fast!

Mind you the momentum was soon lost on the next incline! The “old git” had decided to use one gear higher than normal in order to give my dynamic duo a bit of a work out. But I have to say that the “old git’s” explanation to the “old gal” that “We will benefit from it in the future” wasn’t really cutting it!

In what seemed like no time we arrived at the historic Kinkell Bridge which is a grand four-arch bridge across the River Earn and dates back to 1793.

On the approach to the magnificent four-arch Kinkell Bridge.

On the approach to the magnificent four-arch Kinkell Bridge.

The area around the bridge is a renowned salmon and trout fishing spot making it highly popular with anglers.

Back on the saddles for my dynamic duo who had spotted a couple of small aircraft circling overhead and then groups of parachutists jumping. That was because we were near to Strathallan airfield which is the base for Skydive Strathallan – which is the oldest skydiving centre in Scotland, and also the largest.

Here I am at Skydive Strathallan - I thought they wanted tandems for their parachuting!

Here I am at Skydive Strathallan – I thought they wanted tandems for their parachuting!

I was getting quite excited as I had heard that one of the popular things they offer is tandem parachute jumps. Now I thought this would be an excellent activity for me as a classic tandem to get involved in! In fact I had to be restrained at the entrance to the site!

The “old gal” had to explain to me that in fact tandem parachute jumps are not actually for tandem bikes but it is a training method using a dual-harness system where humans jump attached to a highly experienced instructor who controls the free fall, parachute opening and the landing.

Watching the plane with the next load of intrepid parachutists taking off.

Watching the plane with the next load of intrepid parachutists taking off.

I have to say it still looked quite spectacular and we stood and watched for a bit as a few tandems – parachutists not bikes! –  sailed down descending from the clear blue sky. The “old gal” even had to watch out when one of the aircraft took off from the grass air strip just in front of her.

Both the “old git” and the “old gal” were able to tell me that they had both done a parachute jump in their past lives. The “old git’s” was a considerable time ago when he was a member of the Air Training Corps and completed two solo jumps. The scary part it seems was he had to pack his own parachute. Bet you he paid attention to that lesson!

As for the “old gal” she did her jump here at Strathallan – more than ten years ago. It was part of a tandem jump raising funds for charity. Well I never – the things you learn about my dynamic duo on a day out!

Pedaling on, a few tractors  with trailers loaded with potatoes and turnips passed us as this is prime Perthshire agricultural land. The “old git” was heard to say “It is a bit different to cycling in France where it was grapes being harvested!” The “old gal” could only agree as she reminisced about our trips through the world-famous vineyards in Burgundy and Bordeaux … and the wine tastings en route!

This year Team Tandem Ecosse – which is the name for Team Matilda on our French trips – are heading for the Loire Valley. And yes, you’ve guessed it, there are lots of famous vineyards there too! I must admit it will be nice to feel the warmth of the French sun on my frame again!

A couple more miles and we were in the ancient village of Muthill – which is another village steeped in history. For a start there are over a hundred listed buildings in the small village. In its time it was also an important religious centre.

The kirkyard at the centre of the small town contains the ruins of an important 15th-century parish church, which incorporates an 11th-century bell-tower. It is comparable – though on a smaller scale – to that incorporated into the famous cathedral in the nearby larger town of Dunblane.

The ruined medieval churchyard in the centre of Muthill with its impressive bell tower.

The ruined medieval churchyard in the centre of Muthill with its impressive bell tower.

The “old git” and the “old gal” had a wander through the old gravestones before the “old gal” admitted that she had never been in the churchyard, despite it being only a few miles from Auchterarder – where she had lived most of her life.

The "old gal" was paying her first ever visit to the ancient churchyard at Muthill.

The “old gal” was paying her first ever visit to the ancient churchyard at Muthill.

A welcome cup of coffee was enjoyed from the flask as they perused the information board which informed them that the church had also served for a time as a seat of the Bishops of Strathearn (later Dunblane) before the building of the cathedral at Dunblane in the 13th century.

One disappointing aspect of Muthill is that the revered Birdhouse Bakery cafe has unfortunately closed. They used to serve the best carrot cake for miles around. It was even deemed the best in Britain by a tv series called Britain’s Best Bakery.

But alas it is no more – and the “old git” will no longer be able to use the carrot (cake) as a persuasive stick technique on the “old gal” in the future! But the “old gal” did manage to get a copy of the recipe before the bakery closed – and is promising to make it – but obviously only after my dynamic duo have reached their target on the Hay Plan!

So back on the saddles for the return journey back to Auchterarder. And I have to say I was impressed with the fitness levels of the “old git” and the “old gal” as we fair cycled along – moving freely up and down the gears.

The only real obstacle was one very steep hill which required de-tandeming (good word there!) and me being pushed up the hill.

But we were soon underway again and one of the last stretches involved a long slow climb for over a mile. Neither of my dynamic duo thought we would make it to the top without stopping – but make it we did. And we all had a great triumphant feeling as a result.

The reward was a lovely downhill stretch back down the high street of Auchterarder, right back to my nice garage at Matildas Rest.

So 15 miles covered, with a cycling time of 1 hour 48 mins meaning we managed to clock up a respectable average speed of 8.4 mph.

All in all, a great ride out to get ahead of my dynamic duo taking me for an Easter Sunday trip around scenic Loch Rannoch – with them indulging themselves in a stay over at the amazing Moor of Rannoch hotel. The “old gal” says she can’t wait!

And if you’ve got this far and haven’t checked out my route to Muthill on Strava you can do so here.

Finally, don’t forget to keep all your fingers and toes crossed for my blog – which is a finalist in the Most Innovative category of the UK Blog Awards 2016. Not only is Matildas Musings the only blog ‘written’ by a classic Jack Taylor tandem, but it is the only Scottish finalist. The results will be announced at a glitzy awards presentation evening at the Park Plaza Hotel in London at the end of April. In the words of the song: “I’m so excited!”

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Jolly jaunt around Gleneagles on my first Strava recorded ride!

The artwork on a roundabout to mark the Ryder Cup being held at Gleneagles in 2014.

The artwork on a roundabout to mark the Ryder Cup being held at Gleneagles in 2014.

Sunday morning dawned with Matildas Rest bathed in bright sunshine. The forecast was for the thermometer to reach a balmy 10C, so the “old git” was in his element as the plans for a ride out – only our second of the year – fell into place. We were on for some much needed exercise and fresh air between my spokes!

The “old gal” was still a bit worried about rustiness – but the “old git” had thought out a new circular route on some of the quiet and scenic Perthshire back roads around the famous Gleneagles hotel estate. Anyway my dynamic duo’s combined weight loss on the Hay healthy eating plan has now reached 24 pounds so they were feeling much healthier.

And to add to the excitement of getting out on the roads again around Matildas Rest, the “old git” had persuaded the “old gal” that we should use Strava – the cycling GPS tracker which you can operate via an app on a mobile phone. So this classic tandem is moving into the digital age. Forget that rubbish that you are too old to learn new skills and tricks!

Essentially it tracks the journey from start to finish – including pausing when I am stopped – and then gives a highly detailed report on the ride. This incorporates a terrain map showing the journey and lots of statistics like distance covered, moving time, total time, elevation, average speed and top speed. You can compare segments of the ride against other cyclists – and also against our own time when we repeat a route. Which all sounds like fun, unless the “old git” becomes a Strava bore!

My dynamic duo were recommended to use it by Jane and John Taylor who live in Hampshire and are frequent tandemers on their  Pino semi-recumbent  called Bluebird. The “old git” and the “old gal” have become friends with Bluebird’s crew after starting to chat on social networks including The Tandem Club UK Facebook page. And, what’s more, I understand they are avid fans of my blog – so they must be good people!

In fact I am most excited as I am due to meet Bluebird when she brings her crew up to Perthshire in August for a holiday. The plan is that me and Bluebird will be going out for some of the most scenic rides around the area – so I am looking forward to having a tandem pal for some ride outs. I am sure Bluebird and I can get up to mischief while the two tandem crews are indulging in a few glasses of wine when having picnics or when we stop at local hostelries!

So back to the ride and we set off in calm conditions and were soon the “old git” and the “old gal” were in perfect synchronicity (well that’s what the old git likes to believe anyway!) as they pedalled up Auchterarder high street and headed out of the town, continuing up hill towards Gleneagles hotel – the playground of the rich and famous!

We headed up the road towards Blackford and Braco with my crew buoyant to be out in the mild Spring day – despite further long slow climbs past the back entrance to the hotel. In fact we were moving faster and smoother than both I and the “old gal” would have dared imagine at this stage in the season, soaking in the picturesque Perthshire countryside and wonderful fresh air.

Here I am on the edge of the famous King's Course at Gleneagles with the Ochil hills as a backdrop.

Here I am on the edge of the famous King’s Course at Gleneagles with the Ochil hills as a backdrop.

The first point of interest was cycling along the edge of the King’s  golf course – renowned as being one of the most beautiful and exhilarating places to play golf in the world. Opened in 1919, the King’s course is regarded as a masterpiece of golf course design, which has tested the aristocracy of golf, both professional and amateur. A quick photo stop allowed us to take in the views with the Ochil hills giving a dramatic backdrop to the perfectly manicured fairways.

Pedalling on we soon picked up speed on a nice downhill stretch and reaching the heady heights of 24.8 mph – albeit only for less than 100 yards – before abruptly slowing down again as we faced the next incline.

It was a wonderful day to be out tandeming – proving the old adage that “it’s always better tandeming together” – which was showing Perthshire off at its best. We soon turned sharply to the left taking the road to Blackford – passing the ghost-like golf course of the gWest complex belonging to Ochil Developments. On its website it is described as being “Scotland’s best kept secret” – and it truly is.

The golf course has been there for a few years – but the first steps towards a luxury new  resort to rival its neighbour Gleneagles have now been launched. The first 26 residential plots are now available, providing potential buyers the chance to design their very own bespoke, multi million pound home on an average of 1.25 acres of land with extraordinary views across one of Scotland’s finest landscapes.

The level crossing at Blackford - on the main rail route north to Aberdeen and Inverness.

The level crossing at Blackford – on the main rail route north to Aberdeen and Inverness.

On down towards the village of Blackford, crossing the main Glasgow to Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness railway line. It is the line the “old git” commutes each weekday on to get to Glasgow, so it was interesting to see the level crossing from a  different perspective. We headed past the sprawling Highland Spring water factory – home of one of Perthshire’s most iconic brands – before cycling through the village and past the Tullibardine Highland single malt whisky distillery which is expanding its visitor centre.

The next stage was to cross the busy A9 dual carriageway – on foot rather than pedalling – and turning into the much quieter and remote road around Bardrill. Before departure the “old git” had one of his (few) bright ideas and packed a flask with some freshly brewed coffee in it, as he was aware there were no cafes on today’s route. So after the adrenalin-fuelled activity of dodging the fast moving cars and trucks on the main route north to Inverness the “old gal” was ready for a very welcome coffee.

Smile for the selfie - practicing using the self-timer!

Smile for the selfie – practicing at coffee stop using the self-timer!

As my dynamic duo enjoyed a quick pit stop, and practicing taking a few selfies on the self-timer camera on the mobile phone, the “old gal” was even heard to praise the “old git” for his forward thinking in organising the flask of coffee! And that doesn’t happen very often – the praise I mean!

With the sunshine having made a disappearing act behind some heavy cloud we were soon on the move again, with the three of us enjoying the flat cycling on the farm roads around Bardrill. This is a good road for practicing gear changes as there are straight stretches followed by downhills and inclines all in quick succession. All was going well until a cry of “stop pedalling” was heard from the “old gal.” In her position as stoker on the rear, she gets a good view of my chain and it had slipped off the gear mechanism following a rapid change down the gears.

Fortunately the “old git” immediately stopped moving my pedals so the chain didn’t get jammed, and the “old gal” used her skills in her other role as chief engineer to hook my chain back into position and we were soon moving again.

We turned out on to the Glendevon road and paused to admire the roundabout with some huge golf clubs as an art work commemorating the Ryder Cup golf match being held at Gleneagles in September 2014 – when Europe famously beat the US 16½ to 11½.

At the main entrance to Gleneagles - the playground for the rich and famous.

At the main entrance to Gleneagles – the playground for the rich and famous.

We headed back towards Matildas rest tandeming past the posh front entrance to Gleneagles – stopping for another photo opportunity – before a nice downhill stretch back into Auchterarder. My dynamic duo decided on a stop at at the cafe at Synergy Cycles.  They both enjoyed a slice of caramel shortcake – one of the best in the area according to the “old gal”, and who would argue with her! – washed down by a nice warming coffee.

Back to Matildas Rest and a wonderful day was made even more perfect by watching Scotland beat France at Murrayfield in the Six Nations Rugby International – the first such victory for a decade! There was even time for a celebratory gin and tonic!

You can check out our route on Strava here – and make sure you click on the map to get the full data and statistics!

Strava GleneaglesI am proud to say that we are even registered as Team Matilda – what else?! – on Strava and are now a member of the the Tandem Club on the site. You will see that we were ranked 52nd out of 54 tandems registered when judged on distance covered in the past week. But I have to say we have no ambitions to top the table. Now if there was a ranking for fun quotient we would definitely be near the top – as for the three of us that’s what tandeming is all about. And we wholeheartedly agree with the Tandem Club UK website that tandeming is really twice the fun!

Tandem club twice the fun logoAnd finally – don’t forget to keep all your fingers and toes crossed for my blog – which is a finalist in the Most Innovative category of the UK Blog Awards 2016. Not only is Matildas Musings the only blog ‘written’ by a classic Jack Taylor tandem, but it is the only Scottish finalist. The results will be announced at a glitzy awards presentation evening at the Park Plaza Hotel in London at the end of April.

I have my my brake cables crossed until then in the hope that I will win the award! Although I am a bit worried as to where the “old git” would attach the trophy to my delicate frame?!

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