7 am on the Sunday of the early May Bank Holiday weekend and the alarm beeps! The “old gal” has a quick look out the blinds and confirms it is lashing down with rain, and as we say in Scotland – it is blowing a hooley!
But there is no chance of a duvet day as the “old git” has booked us all on an “overseas” trip for some “warm weather” boot camp training on the “sunshine” island of Millport.
For those unfamiliar with the charms of “Costa del Millport”, the island (officially known as The Isle of Cumbrae) is just 10 minutes by Cal Mac ferry from the mainland at Largs on the firth of Clyde and it offers a virtually flat 10.25 mile loop round the island on almost traffic free roads.
It is a cyclists paradise really and is a favourite destination of those in need of some training practice. Well it is when the sun shines and the wind doesn’t blow! Which is exactly the opposite of the weather conditions when we wakened up.
Despite the “old gal’s” protestations in the parlance of John McEnroe that “You cannot be serious!” we were all soon packed up in Matilda Transport and heading down the A9 and across to the west coast in driving heavy rain to Largs for the ferry.
The “old git” – ever the optimist – was trying his best to convince the “old gal” that there was going to be a weather window later in the day when the sun would shine. It would need to be said that the “old gal” was giving him her best “I don’t believe you look” – but obviously delivered with a smile on her face!
Those annoying motorway signs which were flashing “Warning – surface water” and “Caution – high winds” didn’t really help the “old gal’s” mood. But she knew mutiny was pointless as the bed and breakfast was already booked and the “old git” was a man on a mission.
The “old git” was clearly banking on the fact that Millport – being an island – is well known for its typical “four seasons in a day” Scottish weather. And it can actually change conditions very quickly.
Almost miraculously as we drove down the alpine zig-zag bend-style Haylie Brae overlooking Largs, the rain stopped, the wind died down, and the sun broke through the thick cloud. There obviously is a God!
So we were able to keep to the original plan of leaving Matilda Transport at Largs and cycle round to the ferry – complete with my natty matching (and bulging) panniers!
A quick stop at a new Costa Coffee beside the ferry terminal and we were on board! I really enjoy a ferry trip you know, as you always meet some interesting new bikes – especially some of these sleek young racing bikes! Which is nice eye candy for this “old lady”!
Ten minutes later and we were in a different world – it is amazing the difference that short journey makes as you make the trip “overseas”!
So after disembarking and a quick photo stop, we headed the anti-clockwise “long way” round – the 6 miles down the quiet side of the island to the town in order to take in the stunning views of nearby islands of Rothesay and Arran and clock up the best part of the first loop.
Check out the location and route of my Tour de Millport du tandem on Strava below – don’t forget to click on the map to get the full data and statistics!
Believe it or not as we passed beautiful remote beaches, with abundant wildlife, the sun was shining and we managed to knock up a fair speed – even with the heavy panniers! In high spirits, we identified our lunch spot for the second loop and continued pedalling into the town.
Next job was to hand our panniers in at the Craigard Guest House – a wonderfully friendly bed and breakfast business – run by the really hospitable Janette and Crawford. We stayed here last year and were all welcomed back like old friends! I was most impressed when Crawford greeted us with “Good to see the three of you again!”
After a quick pit stop we were back on the road, with us all enjoying the tandem up the side of the island which looks out on the mainland. We were whizzing along now and soon completed the first lap as we passed the ferry terminal and on to our lunch stop.
It was now almost balmy round the more protected side of the island and my dynamic duo were feeling euphoric as they had to remove their cycling jackets due to overheating! Or as the “old gal” said: “I will say this only once probably this weekend – but I am too warm!”
The “old git” unpacked the prosecco picnic lunch as they took up seats on their idyllic “quiet table for two with a sea view”!
Now prosecco picnics by tandem at remote quiet sports are one of the great simple pleasures in life, and my dynamic duo take them very seriously with meticulous preparation! Today they had a very healthy Hay Plan menu of caesar salad wraps and fresh fruit – and yes the bubbly is on the approved list! They are obviously taking this eating healthy plan thing seriously (not a diet shouts the “old git” who doesn’t do diets!) as they have now lost 53 pounds between them in 11 weeks. And it has left them feeling so much fitter. And as for me I am equally grateful that I don’t have to carry all that extra weight around on my ageing frame!
A quick walk on the beach to take in the scenery in brilliant sunshine was a bonus – although the views to the snow-capped peak of Goat Fell on Arran was testament to the recent cool temperatures!
Back in the saddles and we were off for again with a couple of quick stops for some photos, including the poignant War Memorial which looks directly out to see and what has been – and still is – the Royal Navy’s training ground for warships.
We tandemed into Millport town again – and after a quick coffee refuelling stop we set out on the third and final loop of the day! The “old git” decided this would be a non-stop clockwise circuit against the clock! We were soon clocking up an average of over 15 mph on the calmer side of the island before we hit the wind on the ferry side! This slowed progress a bit, but we still managed the complete lap in just over 50 minutes.
Strava officially recorded the day’s cycling at a total distance of 26.5 miles, covering an elevation of 651 feet. The average speed was 9.0 mph and we reached a maximum speed of 19 mph!
Just on cue as we arrived back at Craigard Guest House the rain started, so I was quickly parked up safely in their garden with carrier bags over my saddles and bags as rain protection.
Craigard is now in its third season and Janette and Crawford have rightly established a reputation for a home-from-home stay. So my dynamic duo enjoyed a bit of rest and relaxation before a shower and change for their meal at The Harbour. Regular readers of my blog will know that this is one of the favourite restaurants of the “old git” and the “old gal”. And the offering now includes a cocktail menu – including gin concoctions – so the “old gal” was ecstatic!
The food was brilliant as always – very tasty and originally presented! The “old gal” for example enjoyed baked camembert followed by a build-your-own burger with blue cheese topping and bacon, finishing off with a chocolate toffee brownie and all washed down with Shiraz wine. Just what was needed to restore energy levels!
So after a great night – full of laughs – it was back to the bed and breakfast for some much needed zzzs ahead of three more tandem laps on the Monday!
Well that was the plan! But someone forgot to send the email to the weather department and we awoke to gale force winds and rain battering the windows. But again the BBC weather app gave hope for sunny spells mid morning – although it was still going to be windy!
A hearty cooked breakfast at Craigard set my dynamic duo up for the day. Over breakfast the rain did stop so we headed back out full of hope for more training!
As we set off anti-clockwise the sun broke through the clouds and all seemed good as we cantered along the ferry side of the island with a nice breeze behind us. There was even time for me to become acquainted with some of the local landmarks on the way round, including Lion Rock – a prehistoric rock formation which (up close) resembles a prowling lion.
It was significantly colder and more blustery than yesterday so the “old gal” decided to break out the pink ski (sorry stoker) gloves to keep the circulation in her hands.
We were actually enjoying being out on the road, but just after we passed the ferry terminal the first drops of rain started. And as we rounded the headland at the top of the island we were met with a combination of a heavy downpour of a squally shower and the full force of the wind.
With a wind speed of around 30 mph this really was like hitting a brick wall and more or less stopped us in our tracks. No matter how much my dynamic duo huffed and puffed they couldn’t make any significant impact against the wind and our speed slowed down below 5 mph.
They battled on in stony silence passed yesterday’s idyllic lunch spot. It appeared to be a totally different world today and one that they weren’t going to stop at. Nor did we risk stopping for a picture at another of the island’s landmarks for cyclists and walkers – Indian Rock – in case we couldn’t get going again.
Eventually we managed to get to the bottom end of the island and the wind resistance dropped – which gave a welcome chance to breathe and pedal into the town.
The “old git” wisely took the decision that we should abandon any further attempts at training laps and decided on a warming coffee and lunch at the welcoming Dancing Midge Cafe. Here the “old gal” thawed out and joined the “old git” in having a tasty bagel light lunch, followed by a spirit-reviving slice of that staple of cyclists – home made carrot cake.
As spirits revived the sun broke out again and my dynamic duo decided to venture outside again for a daft photo at the third of the island’s rock landmarks – and the most famous – Crocodile Rock. Over the years it has attracted many generations of children to have their photograph taken with the Millport Crocodile. So naturally that meant the “old git” – who can be a big kid sometimes – had to have his photo taken there! And the “old gal” got the angle just right!
With the weather dry the “old gal” wisely decided it was time to make a break for it and tandem the 4 miles back to the ferry slipway. Fortunately we made it to the shelter before the rain started again. Just a quick shower this time fortunately, and we were soon back on the mainland for the journey back to Matilda’s Rest after our mini break. We maybe didn’t clock up all the planned boot camp training miles – but an enjoyable time was had by all.
To finish this posting, news of the UK Blog Awards 2016. The glitzy awards ceremony was held in London last Friday night – albeit without me (or my dynamic duo) there in person! My Matildas Musings blog didn’t win a prize in the Most Innovative category in which I was shortlisted – but congratulations to all who did.
The judges clearly didn’t think a blog “written” by a classic Jack Taylor tandem was innovative enough to pedal away with the trophy! But it was great fun taking part in the event and I can always use the words “UK Blog Awards finalist” in my future posts!
In time honoured tradition of thank you speeches I would like to thank everyone for their votes and support which got me to the finals in the first place. And who would ever have thought that my blog would have been in the last 10 shortlist out of 2,000 entries – and been the only Scottish blog to reach the finals?
And there’s always 2017!