6.30 am on Sunday morning and the alarm awakes Team Matilda from their slumbers! A big day ahead as we are heading on an “overseas trip” for some “warm weather training” before Le Grand Depart for Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem in two weeks time!
Today’s destination is 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. It is a cyclists paradise as it offers a virtually flat 10.25 mile loop round the island on almost traffic free roads.
And as added excitement the day was billed as my Clan Gathering on Millport as the “old git” came up with the idea of having a family fun day on the island. So with a variety of complicated logistics the “old gal’s” daughter Kirsty and the “old git’s” son Niall joined us for the day. And to add to all of that, we were all celebrating Niall’s birthday too!
Now before we move on I have to record here that I have been pining for my new best friend Bluebird – the Pino semi-recumbent tandem – who I shared a memorable week during Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem, I really have been missing the company of my fellow tandem! And I know the “old gal” and the “old git” had a great time with Team Bluebird – John and Jane Taylor – and formed what hopefully will be a lasting friendship among the self-proclaimed founding members of The Nutty Tandemers Club.
Whisper it, but rumour has it that other tandemers are now keen to join after reading about the week’s fun and games on my blog and also on Bluebird’s mini blog Facebook site called ‘Travels with Bluebird’.
Hopefully our antics can be repeated before too long – perhaps on John and Jane’s home turf of the New Forest in Hampshire where we are reliably told (by Team Bluebird!) that there are some fabulous real English pubs!
So back to Millport – and when we arrived Kirsty and Niall jumped on the bus which meets the ferry for the four mile trip to the town of Millport while my dynamic duo enjoyed a brisk ride to join them.
After a much needed coffee pit stop at Crocodeli, Kirsty and Niall hired solo bikes from the famous Mapes, which has over 400 bicycles for hire! Now it would need to be said here that Kirsty hadn’t been on two wheels for quite a few years – but Niall cycles regularly and is rather fit!
So we hit the road and pedalled anti clockwise round the island – enjoying the views over to neighbouring islands of Arran and Rothesay. In less than an hour we all completed the first circuit. You can check out the details of our route on sun-drenched Millport on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!
It was now almost balmy as we had a breather back in the town and everyone was feeling euphoric as they had to remove their cycling jackets due to overheating!
Heading off in a clockwise direction, we cycled about half way round the island to our fantastic lunch spot – a picnic table right on the edge of the sea.
The “old gal” had excelled herself with a magnificent prosecco picnic spread – including croissant filled with smoked salmon and cream cheese, mini pork pies, cocktail sausages, and cheese. This was followed by fresh fruit and a special “birthday” carrot cake for Niall, complete with candles!
After lunch – with the sun now high in the sky and the temperature rising, there was time for a walk on the beach – enjoying the magnificent scenery in ideal conditions.
After the picnic we all enjoyed some tandem frolics – with first Niall then Kirsty having a shot as stoker, replacing the “old gal”!
Niall was very confident – and don’t tell the “old gal” but the “old git” really felt a difference when he was pedalling due to his youthful enthusiasm! The “old gal” meanwhile took up her role to shoot a couple of short videos, firstly of Niall. (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.)
Next to take to my rear saddle was Kirsty – who was perhaps a little more nervous to begin with. But she soon got into her stride – although admitted it did feel a bit odd not being able to steer!
As you can see from this short video, Kirsty did remember to pedal and didn’t try to sit with her feet up! (Remember to click onto the blog to view the video.)
After resuming our original positions we continued clockwise to complete the second full lap of the island. It was great to see it so busy – being such a beautiful day – and also good to see so many people out cycling.
I then had the pleasure of being greeted like a long lost friend – when I heard someone shout: “There’s Matilda!” It was Crawford and Janette who run the most hospitable Craigard Guest House on the island where Team Matilda have bedded down for the night when staying over on the island! It was good to see them again and we promised we would be back for an overnight stay soon!
After ice creams and much needed cold drinks on our return to the town, there was still plenty of time left so the “old git” and the “old gal” decided they had to get a photo at the island’s famous Crocodile Rock landmark – which has been given a fresh lick of paint for the summer!
Then, in their questionable wisdom my dynamic duo decided they would do one final “speed lap” – a non-stop round the island whizz. Kirsty retired at this point due to a sore rear end, but Niall decided he would power off and do a lap on his own. Impressively he returned back to Millport in a time of just 34.5 minutes – which means he clocked an average speed of nearly 18mph.
As for us, we started well and we were flying along for the first few miles – but then this turned out to be the hottest part of the day and in the warm sunshine it would need to be said that Team Matilda “hit the wall” at the top end of the island!
Our progress down the quieter side was somewhat slower than usual with stoney silence between my duo – who were decidedly less than dynamic at this point! The non-stop plan was abandoned as they were forced to stop for water – before a final push to get back to the town. And hats off to them (sunhats obviously!) they still completed the 10.25 mile circuit in under the hour – at 56 minutes!
So after my dynamic duo “ran out of juice” on the final lap it was time to replenish liquids at the Harbour restaurant where a table was booked for a birthday meal for Niall. First up were the celebratory Millport French kiss cocktails – an intoxicating mix of gin, prosecco and lime juice – which went down a treat after the exertions!
Regular readers of my blog will know this is one of the favourite restaurants of the “old git” and the “old gal” and once again it lived up to it’s previous reputations. The food was brilliant and tasty as always – and originally presented. The “old git” for example had chilli prawns followed by a build-your-own burger with blue cheese topping! Just what was need to restore energy levels!
One of the funniest parts of the trip – which encapsulated the enjoyment of the whole day – was on the ride back to the ferry. Niall and Kirsty jumped on the bus while the “old git” and the “old gal” had to pedal the four miles to the ferry slipway. But after a lovely relaxing meal progress was a little slower than usual.
Because the road hugs the coast the arrival of the ferry is clearly visible and given that they only operate every half hour they didn’t want to miss it. The final mile is an open stretch known as the “sprint to the ferry” and I now know why! With the minutes ticking away to the 7.30 departure – and all the vehicles loaded – we were still a good half mile or so away.
It looked like we were going to miss the sailing by seconds – until the “old git” demanded one final push from the “old gal”. “Give it some wellie!” he urged and we powered along the final straight in the evening sunlight. We could see all the passengers on deck and the crew ready to depart, and Niall and Kirsty dutifully waiting for us. As we turned on to the slipway the passengers and crew all applauded as we had made it by the skin of our teeth!
I have to say it was quite an arrival – I am not used to such applause so it was a bit embarrassing – but the very second I was pushed on deck the roll on-roll off door was lifted and the engines started and we were off.
Just over five minutes later we arrived back in Largs and a quick pedal back to Matildas Transport and time to reflect on a super day before the journey home with a backdrop of a magnificent sunset over Millport.
Strava officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of 38.7 miles with a total moving time of 4 hours 01 minutes, with an average speed of 9.6 mph. Top speed was 20.6 mph due to the island being so flat and a lack of downhill stretches and therefore the elevation covered was just 878 feet. We managed to burn up 2,745 calories and produce an estimated average power output of 170 W.
And astonishingly Strava awarded us no less than 21 records – I will repeat that … no less than 21 records! This included an amazing 10 personal bests – one of Team Matilda’s best ever performances on a ride! To be honest I guess that the fact that we were effectively doing laps – 4 in total – meant we kept breaking the time on the previous lap! And obviously one of them was in that final race to the ferry!But it’s still an impressive tally and one I am very proud of as an “old lady”!
The “old git” tells me to inform my readers to ignore the bit on the Strava map where it looks like we are tandeming across water! This I am reliably told was an “operator error” by the “old gal” who was so overcome with the sprint to the ferry that she forgot to switch the device off! So it looks as if we were actually pedalling over the sea back to the mainland!
All in all a five-star day of family fun filled tandem frolics on a beautiful corner of Scotland! Quite a place for a clan gathering!