Matilda’s maiden trip on new Muthill cycle path

At the start of the new Muthill cycle path in brilliant Perthshire sunshine.

At the start of the new Muthill cycle path in brilliant Perthshire sunshine.

Much excitement at Matildas Rest on Sunday! Not only was the sun shining, and a ride out beckoned, but I had been invited to be the first tandem to ride the newly opened cycle path at the nearby village of Muthill. And the local volunteers who raised all the money for the project wanted me to blog about my experience! The “old gal” is even talking about a video! Fame indeed!

I mean it’s going to be quite a week – what with my maiden trip on the cycle path and then at the end of the week the awards ceremony for the UK Blog Awards. And you’ll remember that I am the only Scottish blog to reach the finals – listed in the Most Innovative category! It’s soooo exciting!

My dynamic duo promised to take a picture of me with my invitation on our return from the trip, so more about the blog awards later.

But firstly there was the big weigh in with the “old git” and the “old gal” in the middle of their Hay Plan weight loss regime that they have been embracing. And I am so impressed as they have now lost a combined total of 49 pounds in 10 weeks!

So I am expecting big things on the ride out today – hoping for an improvement in our average speed – as they tell me that they are feeling much healthier and fitter. I mean my ageing frame is now carrying almost 50 pounds less that it was! What a relief!

After a healthy breakfast we headed off from Auchterarder in brilliant sunshine on the quiet back roads heading to Muthill. And we were all in good spirits being out in the fresh air, and my four pedals were soon spinning along at a fair rate!

Check out the route of my maiden trip on the new Muthill cycle path on Strava below – don’t forget to click on the map to get the full data and statistics!

MCP - strava map

In what seemed like no time we tandemed into Muthill and turned down past the primary school towards Strageath to the banner sign which marks the start of the new path about half a mile from the village on a nice quiet road.

The start of the path is next to the sewage works, but fortunately it is nicely hidden by large trees! And there is no smell – honest!

Selfie time for the "old git" and the "old gal" at the sign at the start of the new Muthill cycle path.

Selfie time for the “old git” and the “old gal” at the sign at the start of the new Muthill cycle path.

The path was officially opened on Friday and marks the first stage of a bigger project to have a user-friendly Muthill to Crieff cycle path running the 4 miles to the Strath capital.

The ambitious project has been driven forward by community development group Muthill Village Trust. Phase 1 is now open and stretches about a mile from Muthill to Templehill.

The cyclepath is funded from a variety of sources including The Gannochy Trust, Sustrans, Big Lottery Fund Scotland and the Perth and Kinross Community Environment Challenge Fund.

The "old gal" at the start of the smooth new path surrounded by Perthshire countryside.

The “old gal” at the start of the smooth new path surrounded by Perthshire countryside.

So after a few pictures it was time for my maiden trip on the new path. And what a joy it is to ride on. They really have done a fantastic job. We were soon whizzing along on a wonderfully smooth tarmacadam path which takes you right across wonderful Perthshire farming countryside with stunning views in all directions.

There are a couple of 90 degree bends, and because I am a “long vehicle” the “old git” needed to pay a bit of attention to steer round, but as the “old gal” commented, they are perfectly tandem friendly!

To make up for the tight bends there are a couple of long straight stretches, with only gentle undulations – which were a delight to tandem on.

The new path has several long straight stretches where you can admire the views.

The new path has several long straight stretches where you can admire the views.

There is a slightly steeper downhill stretch where we picked up speed, leading to another 90 degree bend before a bridge across a stream. The “old git” applied my brakes just before the turn (and just before the “old gal” screamed!) and it was perfectly manageable.

Up a slight incline and we were soon at the end of the first stage at Templemill – which is marked with a cycle path and walkers bollard.

The end of phase 1 - with cyclists and walkers bollard - looking towards Crieff.

The end of phase 1 – with cyclists and walkers bollard – looking towards Crieff.

Eventually the path will go all the way to Crieff, incorporating quiet country roads, off-road paths and a new bridge over the River Earn.

In all there are four phases to the project with phase 1 just opened. Phase 2 will upgrade the track beyond Templemill down to the River Earn. There will then be a bridge built across the river, before the final stage of a path leading to the Strathearn Community Campus.

The use of the land is under the agreement of the local Drummond Foundation, who actively support the project.

You can see the overall route on the map below (Click on map if you need to see it larger.)

The plan showing the route of the remaining stages of the Muthill to Crieff cycle path.

The plan showing the route of the remaining stages of the Muthill to Crieff cycle path.

Time for the return journey and although it is slightly more of a climb going from Templemill to Muthill was equally enjoyable for my dynamic duo. And as an “old lady” classic tandem, the smooth surface is a real treat to my tyres and my suspension!

It really is a great project and good to see the local community coming together to get it off the ground.

Lindsay Lennie of the Muthill Village Trust says the path was identified as a key project the local community wanted in the Muthill Community Action Plan 2011-16. Not surprisingly, it has been many years in the making – with community consultations, local fundraising, grant applications and landowner negotiations.

The main focus of the path is to allow purposeful journeys between the village and Crieff – particularly focusing on children cycling to school.

But there is also a leisure side to it – with the track  attracting local cyclists, as well as forming part of the proposed Three Saints Way walking route from Killin to St Andrews.

So after completing the return journey in just a few minutes, it was time for a quick coffee stop at the Muthill end before setting off in the original direction again – with the “old gal” in charge of the video camera!

You can get a good impression of the path – and the scenic views – by clicking on the video below – complete with commentary from the “old gal” and the “old git” who clearly have missed out on their vocations as tour guides! (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click onto the actual blog first via the link at the bottom of the email to view the video.)

So after being honoured to be the first tandem to try out the new path I have to offer my hearty congratulations to all those involved in the project. It is well worth a visit to Muthill to try the path out – and you can easily combine it with any other routes through the area. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

MCP - sportive logoYou may also want to sign up for the third annual Muthill Sportive which is being held on Saturday June 11th to raise funds for the next stage of the cycle path. There are three routes appealing to all grades of cyclists. And you better to be quick to sign up (via Entry Central) as already a third of the available places are now taken with less than two months to go. Every penny raised goes to making the cycle path project a reality.

As for our Sunday ride out, we left the new cycle path – promising to return soon – and took a circular route back from Templemill back to Muthill, before heading to Tullibardine and then homeward.

And I was amazed, no make that I was flabbergasted, at the new found fitness of my dynamic duo when we managed to tandem up a very steep hill just after Machanay Bridge for the first time ever! This has always been a hill too far and ended up with me being “taken for a walk” and pushed up that stretch. But I was mega impressed!

And so was the “old gal” who – as regular readers of my Musings know only too well – doesn’t do hills. The “old git” was a happy chappy and of course claimed it was all down to his clever use of my gears! Aye right!

Buoyed by that success we easily managed to nail the long – but gentler – climb at Easthill before the nice fast downhill stretch back to Matildas Rest. Time for a well deserved coffee for my crew, while sitting out on the decking enjoying the Spring sunshine while checking out the details of the ride.

A welcome coffee as a treat on the decking back at Matildas Rest!

A welcome coffee as a treat on the decking back at Matildas Rest!

Strava officially recorded the ride at a distance of 20.8 miles, covering an elevation of 872 feet, with a moving time of 2 hours 17 minutes. The average speed was 9.1 mph and we reached a thrilling (well for this “old lady” anyway) maximum speed of 30.2 mph!

The most pleasing thing was that Team Matilda managed to clock up no less than 8 personal records on the route!  See I told you the weight loss of my dynamic duo would boost our stamina and speed!

Before I was returned to my comfortable garage there was the important job of the “old gal” taking my picture with my official invite for the glitzy UK Blog Awards 2016 awards ceremony which takes place at the Park Plaza Hotel at Westminster in London this Friday, April 29.

Happily posing with my invite to the UK Blog Awards 2016 awards ceremony.

Happily posing with my invite to the UK Blog Awards 2016 awards ceremony.

I was one very happy tandem posing with my invite! After all as the author of this blog, who did the “old git” think it would be sent to?! Just a reminder that my Matildas Musings blog is not only a finalist in the Most Innovative category but it is the only Scottish blog to reach the finals.

Given that it was me who got the invite, the question is does that make my dynamic duo my “plus one” – or should that be my “plus two”?!

If I am being honest, I don’t think I will win – especially when you see the other blogs who are finalists in the Most Innovative category.

But if the judges are looking for something really original – what can be more original than a witty blog written by a classic Jack Taylor tandem?

My spokes are firmly crossed and I know you will cross your fingers and toes and anything else you can for me.

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Historic Pedal around Pictish Perthshire

The entrance to St Serf's Church which houses the Dupplin Cross.

The entrance to historic St Serf’s Church in Duning which houses the Dupplin Cross.

Sunday dawned again – and after a week off after our epic Easter Tour de Loch Rannoch du Tandem the “old git” was keen to get us all back on the road again. The only snag was that my dynamic duo had to visit the “old git’s” mum in Kilmarnock in the afternoon – which involves a 140 mile round trip by car – so the alarm was set ridiculously early so my ride out could be completed by lunchtime.

“What time have you set the alarm for – that’s the middle of the night” moaned the “old gal” in mock dismay – well at least the “old git” thought it was mocking! (Whisper it, but she told me it wasn’t!) However I have to say she was keen to get some exercise to help the Hay Plan weight loss regime that my dynamic duo have been embracing. And it is obviously working as yesterday’s weigh in saw them having lost a combined total of 3 stones 2 lbs in just 8 weeks.

I am most impressed, and it certainly reduces the strain on my ageing frame! I mean that is the equivalent of 22 bags of sugar that I don’t need to be carting about! So obviously  I am expecting us to be moving faster as we don’t have as much weight to carry! I mean my crew will soon be back in their slimline – matching obviously – lycra cycling shirts too at this rate! Watch this space! And don’t say I didn’t warn you!

So after a hearty breakfast – within the guidelines of the Hay Plan – we were heading away from Matildas Rest in beautiful Spring sunshine. The “old git” had decided that today’s run 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!

The “old gal” was so keen to get underway that she unfortunately forgot to start the Strava app on her iPhone – which automatically records our routes and provides all sorts of statistics about average speeds and elevation over the journey.

In fact it was some five miles into the ride – as we entered the village of Dunning – that the “old git” asked the “old gal” if she had started Strava. “Oops” was the cry from the back saddle and with the “old git” muttering under his breath something about it being frustrating to lose miles, we pulled over and the technology was switched on!

So you can check out most of the route of our Pedal around Pitcish Perthshire on Strava here – although it actually started from Matildas Rest in Auchterarder and not Dunning as the map shows!  

Strava small Forteviot

Through Dunning we pedalled, heading further out into the glorious Perthshire countryside – enjoying taking deep breaths of the fresh air. Everyone was feeling very healthy and 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.

Here I am at the focal point - the village square" at Forteviot.

Here I am at the focal point – the village square” at Forteviot.

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.

During a quick walk around, my dynamic duo discovered Forteviot Church of St Andrew. The present church, the third on the site, dates from 1778 and adopts the form of a Georgian box chapel, but dates from the 13th century. A look at the history shows that recent archaeology indicates that Christians were first buried in Forteviot graveyard in the 6th century.

Forteviot Church of St Andrew blah blah blah which dates from xxC

Forteviot Church of St Andrew which dates from 1778 but has a history dating back long before then.

Back on board we set off back to Dunning but only after a quick pit stop to get a shot of this “old lady” looking at my best in the sunshine, showing one of the many picturesque rural cottages along the way.

A lovely example of one of the many picturesque country cottages in the Forteviot area.

A lovely example of one of the many picturesque country cottages in the Forteviot area.

The “old gal” was in her element as the lack of wind made the tandeming most pleasant and her good humour was helped by the “old git” flicking up and down my gears to maintain momentum going up any steep stretches. And there were a couple of long inclines on the way out of Forteviot which the “old gal” wasn’t looking forward to, but with their new found fitness, I can report my dynamic duo managed them without a problem! And yes we were moving faster! Result!

The "old gal" smiling with a backdrop of the wonderful Perthshire countryside.

The “old gal” smiling with a backdrop of the wonderful Perthshire countryside.

At the top of the hilly section, the “old gal” was even happy to stop and pose for a picture, smiling as she took in the wonderful rural Perthshire landscape – an almost idyllic scene.

Within a short time we tandemed back into the lovely historic village of Dunning. It was originally established around the 12-13th century but the village was burned during the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. The oldest house dates from the 1730s.

In the very centre of the village is St Serf’s Church, and we parked up at the entrance to the church which has a distinctive and largely intact bell tower dating from around 1200.

The St Serf's Church and bell tower, dating back to 1200.

The St Serf’s Church and bell tower, dating back to 1200.

It is no longer used as a church as it now belongs to Historic Scotland and is the home of the famous Dupplin Cross.  This rare and impressive 3metre-high Cross was carved out of sandstone around AD 800, and once stood in the palace of the Pictish kings at Forteviot where we just pedalled from.

It was made for King Constantine, son of Fergus, who reigned from 789 to 820 – a fact revealed when a panel on the cross was discovered to have some Latin wording.

The impressive and something Dupplin Cross - history on our doorstep!

The famous Dupplin Cross – history on our doorstep!

My dynamic duo had a quick tour from a wonderfully enthusiastic Historic Scotland guide – who wouldn’t take no for an answer – and gave them a rapid history lesson which included the facts that the Dupplin Cross is the only complete example to survive in Pictish territory and that it was during King Constantine’s reign that the kingdoms of the Picts and the Scots began to merge, before finally uniting under King Kenneth around 843.

This “old lady” was actually quite glad there are some ancient artifacts that actually pre-date me! I was actually feeling quite a young thing while steeped in all this history! What was amazing was that the “old gal” who has lived in the area for more years than she cares to remember has never visited it before! As the “old git” said it is amazing what you find on your doorstep!

My dynamic duo decided that a reviving cup of coffee was necessary – with no edibles (or alcohol) as they were being good! They even actually managed to get the self-timer to work so got a shot of both of them together!

Time for a coffee before heading home - and the self timer worked!

Time for coffee before heading home – and the self timer worked!

Suitably fortified by their stop, we set off on the five miles back to Matildas Rest with one last stop for a final piece of local history at the site of a monument to Maggie Wall. This is a kind of eerie stone cross with a hand-painted date of 1657 as the story is that this is a memorial to the last witch to be burned at the stake back then.

The Maggie Wall monument just outside Dunning.

The eerie Maggie Wall witch’s monument just outside Dunning.

A quick spurt for home and everyone happy with the outing. This tandeming really is a great way to get some exercise you know … for all three of us! It actually made the “old git” and the “old gal” feel very virtuous on their long drive to Kilmarnock later!

If you haven’t already checked the route of this blog on Strava, you can do so here. Remember there was the issue of the “missing miles” – just as well my low-tech “unofficial”milometer still records the journey without any fancy wifi apps – and recorded the distance as 16.1 miles, with a moving time of 1 hr 42 minutes. The average speed was 9.4 mph and we reached a heady 23.2 mph as our maximum speed. See I told you that weight loss of my dynamic duo would increase our speed!

And finally, not long to go now so remember 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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