There’s nothing like tempting fate! In his infinite wisdom (ie questionable!) the “old git” decided that we needed to beat our demons and do a tour of Loch Katrine – which nestles in some of Scotland’s most atmospheric, picturesque and historic scenery.
The “old gal’s” reaction to this news was somewhat unenthusiastic – which went along the lines of “You cannot be serious!”. To be fair, this “old lady” did think she had a point. That’s because our previous Team Matilda Loch Katrine trips have ended in fairly disastrous mechanical issues – resulting in a long walk (or run) to jump on boats offering an escape route out of the remote area in the heart of the Trossachs within Scotland’s first National Park.
For those of you unfamiliar with the – how shall we call them – breakdowns (which seemed to be put down to my ageing frame) – a quick reminder. Two years ago, in July 2014, my rear gear cog disintegrated resulting in a long push to the pier.
Then in August last year, just three weekends before leaving for our Tour de Bordeaux the pedal arm sheared clean off my rear pedal crank axle. Now as you know a tandem without pedals is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard – and this resulted in a four mile route march back to the pier.
So it was with more than a little trepidation that we set off from Matildas Rest – with confidence levels not helped by the fact that the “old git” decided lightning couldn’t possibly strike three times and had already named today’s ride a “Beating the demons” tour!
But to try and placate any mutiny in the ranks, the “old git” had done his research and discovered there was a Blues Cruise on the historic steamship Sir Walter Scott later in the afternoon – and booked a couple of tickets so my dynamic duo could relax after their exertions!
And that’s why at ten o’clock on Sunday morning – after the “old git” managed to persuade the “old gal” that getting up early was preferable to sleeping – we were parked at the head of the beautiful Loch Katrine at Trossachs Pier. The itinerary – planned (as usual) with military precision – was for us to tandem the 13 miles down to the bottom of the lock at Stronachlachar, before having a spot of lunch, then cycle the return leg, before the Blues Cruise.
The distance would be a manageable 26 miles – but the terrain is fairly undulating! (“That’s HILLY – not undulating” shouts the “old gal”!) So it was going to be a good test for my dynamic crew’s new found fitness! You can check out the route of our tour of Loch Katrine on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!
In lovely dry conditions we set off tandeming down the loch – with the synchronicity soon kicking in and we picked up a fair pace. The route down the side of the loch is a well maintained private road owned by Scottish Water who use the loch as a reservoir to supply Glasgow. The dynamic duo were really enjoying the cycle – managing to nail all the hills that previously required them to get off and push.
And of course the amazing scenery was real brain food. One of the highlights, about half way along the route, is a scenic viewpoint at Portnellan which overlooks the burial ground of the Clan MacGregor – which dates back to the 17th century – and has historic links to the legendary Rob Roy MacGregor.
In what seemed like no time at all we reached the bottom of the loch and cycled round to Stronachlachar for a welcome break. There is a fantastic spot for lunch there – the Pier Cafe – right on the pier which the boats dock at when taking passengers up and down the loch.
It really is a treasure of a find, in a very remote corner of Scotland. All food is home-made on the premises and after a much-needed chilled drink, extremely tasty paninis were ordered and demolished! Coffee and caramel shortcake followed – to ensure energy levels were topped up for the return journey. Five stars for the food and service at the Pier Cafe, and it is remarkably good value too.
Unfortunately during the lunch break, the cloud had thickened and as we set off on the return 13 mile leg the first spots of rain started to fall. This quickly got heavier and by the time the first hill the rain was falling heavily resulting in my dynamic crew donning their rain jackets. As they hit the first hill the rain did bring back happy memories for the “old gal” and the “old git” – as they reminisced about this day exactly four years go when the pair visited Loch Katrine on their first proper date together!
You see, this spot has a very special place in the hearts of my dynamic duo as without Loch Katrine they may never have teamed up together! You see it is the very reason they got into tandeming in the first place and it was totally by accident! They had planned a walk along the loch but as they arrived, they noticed tandems for hire from Katrine Wheelz at Trossachs Pier.
Thinking this would be a fun way to break the ice on the date they set off in an unsteady fashion – but the result was they got hooked on tandeming immediately – despite the constant heavy rain and falling off into an unglamorous muddy heap on at least two occasions.
And the rest, as they say, is history – with my crew romantically falling in love with a new hobby and each other as a result! And despite my crews unconventional way of starting out, they have gelled as an unbreakable team – having become synchronised with each others foibles both on and off the saddle. You can read a humorous account of that day here.
Those fourth anniversary memories of their first tandem ride warmed their hearts, and kept them going as the rain hosed down on them – with rain drops pouring down off their helmets, down inside their sunglasses and down their noses! The scenery was still gorgeous, but surrounded by a heavy mist! As we passed numerous walkers on the route, the “old gal” greeted everyone with a cheery “Welcome to summer in Scotland!”
The weather was actually cruel as at least three times it looked to be clearing up, giving us all hope that the sun would return, before it started pouring again!
We arrived back at Trossachs Pier soaked through, with the “old git” not winning too many brownie points for his comment of “well at least it was warm rain!” In fact the response was one of those stares that the “old gal” is an expert in!
Back at Matilda Transport I was quickly packed back inside before my dynamic duo took refuge from the rain to catch their breath. Despite the rain we were all delighted that we had in fact beaten our demons and completed Team Matilda’s first tour of Loch Katrine without a major mechanical incident!
As we all dried out, there was time for a look at Strava to see it officially recorded the ride as covering an elevation of 1,766 feet – by far the biggest up and down hill ride that my dynamic duo have done since Team Matilda started using the Strava app. The last highest elevation was 954 feet back in May – so this was more than 700 feet above that! And as this ride was taking place on the last day of the Tour de France I think my crew (almost!) deserve the chance to wear one of those coveted polka dot cycling jerseys with white and red dots – known as ‘malliot a pois rouges’ in French – which denotes the King of the Mountains winner!
We tandemed a distance of 27 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 16 minutes, with an average speed of 8.3 mph – which is pretty impressive given the hilly terrain and the heavy rain on the return journey! Top speed was 27.3 mph – and we even managed to burn up 2,714 calories and produce an estimated average power output of 207 W.
The only slight disappointment is that we didn’t earn any gongs on the Strava app – as this was the first time we had used it on this ride and therefore there was no previous ride of ours to compare today’s ride against.
As I rested my dynamic duo got changed out of their (very) wet cycling gear and into some dry clothes before joining the two hour Blues Cruise on Loch Katrine. It was a wonderful event, sailing on an iconic 115 year old steam ship, listening to blues and rock and roll music from a group called The Rosy Blue Band against a backdrop of the stunning mountains and lochs – even if the rain kept falling. But we were under cover – and it was made all the better by one of the “old gal’s” special prosecco picnics to eat while listening to the music. And obviously there was a toast to that fateful day four years ago – and that first ever tandem ride together!
The band were fabulous – really showing why they have earned a reputation as one of Scotland’s most popular and exciting blues bands. Led by Rosie Nimmo’s smouldering vocals the five piece put their unique spin on early blues through to rock, soul and modern classics – keeping the audience highly entertained.
The music was so addictive that the “old git” even decided to do a spot of “dad dancing” as the boat sailed along – much to the embarrassment of the “old gal” – who had to video this for posterity! Have a laugh 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.)
While the “old git” was showing off his dancing steps(!!!) the “old gal” decided to keep warm by huddling under a travel blanket as the temperature had dropped a bit and the wind had strengthened as we returned to the pier to disembark.
All in all another fabulous tandem ride – with no mechanical mishaps – and another day full of fun, laughs, iconic scenery, sunshine, rain, and a fantastic picnic!
And that is truly the definition of a great tandem day out for Team Matilda!