I have been uber excited over the past week or so as I have made a new friend! I am now ‘best pals’ with another tandem – called Bluebird – who kept me company on some rides and with whom I had lots of chats and fun!
You see Team Matilda – made up of the “old git” and the “old gal” – welcomed Team Bluebird to Perthshire – made up of two fellow tandemers, Jane and John Taylor who live near Southampton in Hampshire. They brought their unusual Pino semi-recumbent tandem, who has her own mini blog called ‘Travels with Bluebird’.
Now for background Jane and John certainly seemed to have much in common with my dynamic duo – such as not enjoying hills and definitely enjoying wine! In fact both Team Bluebird and Team Matilda seemed to have the same views on not taking tandeming too seriously. Therefore, prior to arrival, they all decided they would become self-proclaimed founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club! And that definitely set the tone for the week – and gave us all a crazy reputation to live up to! And I can say that over the week all four tandemers more than passed the test to be life long members of the Nutty Tandemers Club!
Given that so much happened during the action-packed week, this blog is a kind of photo special as I recount the best bits of Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem ….
Monday 15 August – The Big Meet up … and Loch Rannoch!
Monday morning and Matildas Rest was a hive of activity as the “old git” and the “old gal” were up early to prepare to welcome Team Bluebird! Given that my dynamic duo had only become friends with them electronically via the UK Tandem Club Facebook page – the “old gal” said it was a bit like preparing for a blind date! Obviously they had “seen” each other via Skype calls – but this was the first meet up! And I was keen with anticipation to meet Bluebird too, as I had heard so much about her!
John and Jane and Bluebird had arrived in Perthshire on Saturday following the UK Tandem Rally in Northumberland – and brought their car (aka Bertie!) and their caravan (aka Buzz!) to Crieff. My team were down in London for a wedding that weekend – but left a bag of Perthshire-themed food and drink items to make them feel welcome and get them into the mood (and training) for Le Tour! They also had team t-shirts created using the tour logo – complete with names of stokers and pilots on the sleeves – and made up some laminated posters and saltire flags for us tandems.
But all nervousness disappeared the moment the door bell went and John and Jane greeted my dynamic duo like long term friends. Over a quick coffee everyone quickly gelled and we all knew at that moment it was going to be a memorable week!
We headed up the A9 in convoy, with warm sunshine promised, to one of my favourite places for a ride – Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire. As we parked up at the western end of the loch at Bridge of Gaur, right on cue the sun broke through the clouds just as both us tandems were being unloaded. And as the two crews got their equipment sorted, I got the chance to make my acquaintance with Bluebird. And despite the fact that I am an “old lady” and she is just a newbie in comparison, we had lots in common and I felt great to have a new tandem pal!
Off we pedalled on the 25 mile loop to take in the scenic beauty of the wilderness area of Loch Rannoch. You can check out the route of our inaugural Tour de Perthshire adventure at Loch Rannoch on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!
Now although Team Bluebird’s crew do a bit more miles on average than we do, they also agree with my dynamic duo’s philosophy that it is the sMiles and not the miles that is crucial! We were all rolling along at a good pace and John and Jane were drinking in the amazing views across the loch to the mountains. The “old gal” decided a quick stop was required at a wild camping area about two-thirds of the way up the loch – which offers a perfect opportunity for pictures with the majesty of the perfectly conical shape of Schiehallion – one of Scotland’s most recognisable mountains – in the background.
Conditions were so perfect that the “old gal” decided to shoot a video of Team Bluebird and Team Matilda enjoying the delightful scenery of Loch Rannoch. (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.)
Tandeming on we soon arrived in the town of Kinloch Rannoch where the “old gal” had “booked” one of the most spectacular tables for lunch you could imagine – a picnic bench looking on to a waterfall. This was the venue for my dynamic due to introduce Team Bluebird into the benefits of their (in)famous prosecco picnics – the first of the tour!
After a most enjoyable picnic we set off down the quieter south side of the loch – which if anything is even more scenic than the north shore. 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 Team Bluebird agreed with Team Matilda 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.
We stopped a couple of times to bask in the warm sunshine before one of those moments when I am impressed with my dynamic duo. There is a fairly steep double hill towards the bottom of the loch – a section the “old git” and the “old gal” have had to walk in the past. But I am thrilled to report they managed to ride the whole way and enjoyed the feeling of satisfaction and achievement.
Back to the cars and both tandems were packed away before a short 6 mile drive to the end of the road and the wonderfully remote Rannoch railway station. Because we had enjoyed being out in the sunshine the amazing Rannoch Station tearoom was closed for the day and we had to make do with looking longingly through the windows of the beautifully converted station waiting room. But the tandem crews did explore the station itself with the display showing the story of its construction in such a remote location and got to play with an old set of signals!
The final stop for the day was to walk across the road from the station 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.
Which is exactly the view that the tandem crews enjoyed as they enjoyed a perfect end to the day with a celebratory gin and a superb meal – presenting Highland Perthshire’s larder at its very best! And right on cue, just as we were set to depart, the “stag party” arrived – with the friendly herd of deer coming down off the hill for their evening meal. As we set off for home, the moon was shining brightly over the mountains and we all enjoyed its sparkling reflection on the loch. A truly memorable day!
Tuesday 16 August – Buzz’s first entertaining!
Tuesday saw my dynamic duo have to go to work, so Team Bluebird ventured out for a short early afternoon 9 mile loop from their caravan site in Crieff which took in Drummond Castle and a trip on the first phase of the new Muthill to Crieff off road cycle path.
Tuesday evening saw a big event – with my dynamic duo being guinea pigs as they had the honour of being the first people entertained for a meal in Team Bluebird’s new caravan called Buzz! But to get in to the caravan my crew had to show their special membership cards for the Nutty Tandemers Club which John had cleverly created.
And before the meal there was the obligatory toast to the Nutty Tandemers! But it was a special toast as John and Jane had procured a special bottle of Veuve Amiot fizz – appropriately from the Loire Valley given our Tour de France destination of the Loire in September! And even more appropriately it was branded Tandem, as they had acquired it in May 2013 during the 25th International Tandem Rally in Saumur in France. My dynamic duo felt honoured – and it was delicious!
The meal that followed – cooked by Jane – of spinach pasta bake followed by fresh berries was very tasty and it was a great night of laughter and chat as the Nutty Tandemers cemented their friendship – with Buzz providing a very hospitable venue for entertaining! My crew were more than happy to be the guinea pigs!
Wednesday 17 August – Sun-kissed Loch Katrine!
Today’s destination for the Nutty Tandemers was a favourite of the “old git” and the “old gal” – Loch Katrine – which nestles in some of Scotland’s most atmospheric, picturesque and historic scenery.
The area – in the heart of the Trossachs within Scotland’s first National Park – is clearly not strictly in Perthshire but it has a 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 as they decided to hire a tandem on what was their first proper date together. And the rest as they say is history! You can read a humorous account of that day here.
Team Bluebird had heard all about the romantic story – and more importantly the wonderful scenery – so were keen to see the beauty of Loch Katrine for themselves. So we drove in convoy to Trossachs Pier and bought tickets for the historic steamship Sir Walter Scott.
It was very exciting as both Bluebird and I were lifted on board the boat and conditions could hardly have been better for a morning sail down the loch. Certainly no need for my sea sickness tablets! The “old git” even managed to persuade the boat’s staff to get the Captain to give Team Bluebird a special welcome over the ship’s tannoy!
An hour later we disembarked at Stronachlacher Pier and decided to firstly tandem west towards Loch Lomond and the famous Inversnaid Bunkhouse popular with walkers on the West Highland Way. You can check out the route of our the Nutty Tandemers Club sun-kissed sail and ride at Loch Katrine on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!
We decided to avoid the steep decent to – and therefore steep climb back from – Inversnaid itself and returned along what is called the Old Military Road to Stronachlachar – drinking in the scenery looking at its best in the glorious sunshine.
The “old gal” decided it would be an ideal time for a pit stop and Team Bluebird and Team Matilda enjoyed some welcome coffee and cake at the Pier Cafe – right on Stronachlacher pier which the boats dock at when taking passengers up and down the loch. As Jane remarked, the cafe’s picnic tables offer what has to be one of the best views in Scotland for a coffee stop. And with the sun beating down it was so warm that everyone had to apply some sun screen before getting back on the saddles!
So refuelled and refreshed we headed off on the 13 mile route back up the side of the loch. It is a joy to tandem on as it is a well maintained private road owned by Scottish Water who use the loch as a reservoir to supply Glasgow. But the terrain is fairly undulating! (“That’s HILLY – not undulating” shouts the “old gal”!) John and Jane – aka Team Bluebird – are more used to hills and that pushed my dynamic duo on – managing to nail most of the hills that previously required them to get off and push. Amazingly this included gaining a Strava personal best on a category 3 climb at Invergyle!
It was a fabulous day to be out tandeming – and Bluebird and I were in our element – even if our crews were suffering a little in the heat! 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.
We tandemed on before taking a little diversionary track – cutting out one of the steepest hills – which the “old git” happened to remember had a couple of picnic tables right on the edge of the loch with an idyllic view. Time for today’s prosecco picnic – with Team Bluebird and Team Matilda lapping up the ice cold fizz!
Only a couple of climbs more and a few miles and we were back at the top of the loch where Jane and the “old gal” took videos of one another as us tandems cycled along! This was actually more difficult that it seemed as there were a few “technical issues” (ie the cameras not being switched on properly by their operators!) which meant we were on the third take before it worked!
Well to a certain extent! The footage has been given the professional treatment by the video experts at the “old git’s” work and transformed into something that is actually worth watching!
Back in the car park the “old gal” decided it would be fun to spice things up a bit and swap the pilots and stokers around a bit! So Jane replaced the “old gal” in my stoker’s position for a ride around the car park with the “old git.” Unusually for him, he was very diplomatic in his answer when asked by the “old gal” if he felt the difference in power from the new stoker!
Then the “old git” replaced Jane in her role as stoker on the front of Bluebird! An experience which he tells me he found a little odd – given the fairly exposed seating position out front! And of course he wasn’t in control of the brakes, gears or steering – so he was a tad nervous! But the swapping certainly produced lots more laughs as you can see from the video!
After all the shenanigans Team Bluebird and Team Matilda made the mistake of going into the Brenachoile Cafe in the car park at Trossachs Pier for much needed refeshments. Big mistake! From the moment we entered the staff were off putting and it was an awful experience – the kind of damaging hospitality image which the “old git” thought had been removed from the Scottish tourism scene. It was so bad that the “old git” wrote a scathing review of their experience on TripAdvisor which you can read here – and couldn’t help but notice that other reviewers had the same message of “avoid at all costs.”
Tandems packed back in the vehicles, a quick change and a short drive saw us in the nearby tourist town of Callander. Team Bluebird liked the look of the Old Rectory Inn which had a big front garden and we bagged a picnic-style table. Celebration drinks were duly ordered before a gorgeous bar supper meal was enjoyed in the warm early evening sunshine.
Both Team Bluebird and Team Matilda headed home tired but agreeing that tandeming simply doesn’t get much better than today!
Thursday 18 August – Bluebird’s day at The Kelpies (getting lost!)
My dynamic duo had to work again today – and work late – so Team Bluebird were on their own. I am told they ventured to the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel. The plan was to do the circular signed cycle route but Team Bluebird found it virtually impossible to follow – just like we did a couple of weeks ago! For the full story and pictures read the Travels with Bluebird blog entry of the day here.
Friday 19 August – Rain stops ride but prosecco pizza prevails!
While Team Matilda were working, Team Bluebird ventured out on a highly impressive 42 mile jaunt from Crieff to Lochearnhead! Whisper it but I am actually quite glad my dynamic duo were working as it looked a tad on the hilly side for this “old lady”! You can read details of their trip – and see a couple of pictures here.
The “old git” and the “old gal” had planned to show Team Bluebird the route around Loch Leven tonight – with a prosecco picnic tea along the way. But heavy rain forced the cancellation of that idea.
So the “old gal” came up with the inspired suggestion that we have a prosecco pizza night instead! So they ordered pizzas and drove to Crieff to enjoy another great night of food and drink in the very comfortable surroundings of Buzz!
Saturday 20 August – Finale at Loch Leven and end of Tour de Perthshire du Tandem dinner!
The plans for the big finale of Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem was for the Nutty Tandemers do do a quick 12 mile lap of Loch Leven in late afternoon, before a celebratory end of tour dinner at Matildas Rest. The hope was to tandem in the same glorious sunshine as we had all experienced earlier in the week – but it was too good to last!
The weather gods decided to tease us and sent lots of cloud and rain – but it stopped the moment we pulled into the car park at Kinross pier. So, despite some unsettled conditions, Team Bluebird and Team Matilda decided to risk the elements for one last hurrah!
Early on in the ride Jane even managed to catch my dynamic duo in action on video – which just underlines their slogan of “it’s always better together” … even in heavy cloud with rain threatening.
The trail has opened around two years ago at a cost of £3 million and is known as the Loch Leven Heritage Trail – linking 30 natural and cultural heritage sites. You can check out the route of the finale of the Nutty Tandemers Club Tour de Perthshire ride at Loch Leven on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!
We set off on a clockwise loop just about getting a clear view of Loch Leven castle in the middle of the loch – 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. As we tandemed past the RSPB Loch Leven Nature Reserve – about 7.5 miles round the circuit at Vane Farm – the heavens opened again.
A brief stop for a couple of pictures at the viewpoint – where we had planned to have Friday night’s prosecco picnic tea – and we headed off to complete the loop. Both Bluebird and I remarked on how mucky the other was after the ride, and the fact that we would probably be getting a good wash as a result!
Despite the rain the ride was enjoyed by all – and feeling duly energised we headed back home to regroup at Matildas Rest for the end of tour dinner! The “old git” has a bit of a reputation for his mixology talents and the celebratory toast to the tour was a rather intoxicating cocktail of Cremant de Bordeaux mixed with some cherry brandy. It certainly made the evening go with a swing!
The “old gal” had prepared some seared tuna, washed down with some Entre-deux-Mers crisp white wine, which was followed by some of her legendary Strawberry Pimm’s Gateaux – with a chaser of Strawberry Pimms obviously!
A cheeseboard was accompanied by a Team Matilda gin cocktail (what else?!) – while the “old gal” got everyone into the spirit (literally) of the evening with some “Tandem Games”! I have to say that although I was safely tucked back in my nice cosy garage, I heard the loud laughs as Team Matilda and Team Bluebird took part in a somewhat chaotic game of “Pin the Pannier on the Tandem”! This was followed by a “quick draw” event where the tandem teams were mixed up and had to draw each other with hilarious results. The final game was story telling where each crew member had to take turns in adding a sentence which had to include the words Bluebird or Matilda – which predictably produced some suitably ludicrous scenarios!
With tears literally pouring down our cheeks the final part of the evening was the Nutty Tandemers Club prize giving and awarding of certificates for completing Le Tour de Perthshire!
So on behalf of Team Matilda, it was a real pleasure to welcome Team Bluebird to our neck of the woods and a real privilege to meet John and Jane and forge a lasting friendship with what are real kindred spirits to my dynamic duo! We enjoyed your company and are delighted to have shared some great memories – and the “Pin the Pannier on the Tandem” images will live on for ever!!! I am already pining as I am missing my pal Bluebird – and I for one can’t wait to do it all again! Cheers guys!
To end this bumper blog posting – a final comment from Team Bluebird’s crew John and Jane:
Perthshire has been just wonderful – the scenery beautiful and dramatic whatever the weather. But we were so fortunate to have the glorious sunshine especially at Lochs Katrine and Rannoch. So many of the villages we passed through had the most wonderful and decorative floral displays and the people have been so friendly and welcoming.
Thank you Perthshire but special thanks must go to Colin and Di, our fellow Nutty Tandemers, for all they did to make sure that we had a wonderful time on Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem.
Until next time guys! Cheers!