After a busy festive period, the “old git” and the “old gal” decided on a tandem ride to blow away the cobwebs – and decided on a New Year trip to the wilderness beauty spot of Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire. This is one of Team Matilda’s favourite places to tandem and the idea was to get some “brain food” to kick off the New Year and set the standards for some spectacular rides.
And for my dynamic duo, there was the added attraction of the ride allowing them to complete their prized “boxed set” of tandeming the loop around Loch Rannoch in four different seasons in a calendar year. You see we had already completed a tour in Spring,, Summer and Autumn. So just the winter circumnavigation to go!
But what the “old git” had perhaps overlooked in his natural unbridled enthusiasm to complete the challenge was that while Loch Rannoch is a stunning area and can provide an amazing backdrop – it can be cold in Winter! “That’s bleeping cold” the “old gal” has just clarified!
To be honest it was still officially freezing on the thermometer reading on Matilda Transport as we headed up the A9, turning off just after Pitlochry for Tummel Bridge. Given that is was January 2 we knew nothing would be open and had to drive past our normal coffee stop at the Queen’s View visitor centre – run by Forestry Commission Scotland as it was closed.
But my crew were able to fuel up on some coffee and home made shortbread – which the “old gal” had wisely decided to bring with us – when we parked in Kinloch Rannoch where we decided to start our loop from today, rather than our normal start point of Bridge of Gaur at the bottom of the loch.
With the thermometer just moving into positive territory – that’s 1C! – my dynamic crew pulled on their multiple layers of clothing, including thermals, fleeces, cycling jackets, winter weather gloves and even insulating skull caps for under their crash helmets! Then we headed off on our usual clockwise direction, which saw us cross the bridge and tandem firstly down the quieter south side of the loch. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full data and statistics!
Lets just say that even with all that winter clothing – it was still extremely cold! In fact even the “old git conceded that it was pretty grim as we headed away from Kinloch Rannoch to be blasted by a fairly fierce wind blowing off the loch which never seems to be more than a couple of yards from the road.
With over 22 miles ahead, it did seem a tad adventurous, perhaps even a bit foolhardy – but a challenge is a challenge… and the “old git” reminded the “old gal” that they would soon reach the protection of the woodlands. It would need to be said that at this point relations between my dyanamic crew were somewhat frosty – a bit like the weather! And the “old git” didn’t really help things get any more convivial when he suggested to the “old gal” that she should be happy as she was getting the added treat of a free facial from the wind and the sleet as we tandemed along!
I felt mutiny in the air – or was it snow – but amazingly we all pedalled on and survived the bracing first mile or so before we got into our stride. The wilderness factor of the area is underlined as the narrow road – complete with passing places – winds its way into 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 little wonder that it is designated a Special Area of Conservation and was looking magnificent in all its moody Winter splendour. And today it had the added appeal of giving some protection from the elements.
After about 7 or 8 miles the forecast sun did make a fleeting appearance which lifted the spirits of my team somewhat. The “old gal” was so filled with enthusiasm that she even whipped her phone out to take “shadow” shots just to prove the sun did in fact decide to come out – albeit sporadically!
There was even time for a quick stop at a recognised viewpoint which gives a great vista all the way back up the loch – which combined with a much needed “wild” loo stop and the “old gal” singing the praises of her Shewee!
On we pedalled battling against the wind and that double hill towards the end of the south side stretch. Given the cold temperature it was perhaps no surprise my dynamic crew decided not to stop at the halfway point at the bottom of the loch for their planned alfresco cremant picnic at Bridge of Gaur – and instead we decided to head back up the north side back to Kinloch Rannoch.
The difference in tandeming conditions as we headed in the opposite direction was immediately noticeable – it was much calmer as any wind was now behind us … and the sun came out again, allowing more “shadow” fun with the camera!
We tandemed on – with my crew close to “hitting the wall” as they found themselves running on empty – after the decision to delay the picnic till our return to Matilda Transport. However a quick gorge on a couple of small “emergency” bars of chocolate was enough to refuel my crew to carry on!
The original plan was to have a quick halt at a regular stop off point on the north side – at a wild camping area about two-thirds of the way up the loch – which usually 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.
The only snag was that with the mist and snow which was falling on the mountains – as you will see from the photo below – Schiehallion had completely disappeared. Or as the “old gal” quipped: “Maybe it decided to go somewhere warm like the Canary Islands for a sunshine holiday … like we should have done!” And you know what … and yes I know you will find this difficult to believe … I don’t think she was joking! But I am sure they would take me along for some warm weather training!
It was the first time in the four different seasons of visits to Loch Rannoch that the mountain hadn’t dominated the skyline. So this “old lady” blogging tandem decided to look back at my previous Musings to remind my faithful readers what Schiehallion looked like in each of the other three seasons.
Apart from the cold weather conditions, another big difference for our Winter loop was the height of the water in the loch. Looking back at the photos you will see a pebble beach – but this was completely under water for our trip this time! And amazingly the “old gal” didn’t jump at the chance when the “old git” joked: “Ok first in the water gets an extra big gin!” She did however mutter something under her breath – but this is a family blog and it can’t be repeated here!
The “old git” – who clearly isn’t wired up properly – asked the “old gal” why the wild camping site was totally empty only to be told in no uncertain terms this was because it was freezing! However it did allow me the opportunity of a picture to show off my majestic lines since Schiehallion was hiding!
Then it was time for the “old git’s” well thought out plan to record an “on location” New Year message – offering a cremant toast to offer best wishes for 2017 to readers of my blog and fellow tandemers everywhere. He had come up with a script and great ideas to use his new fancy phone with his new tripod device and Bluetooth gizmo to film an epic which would then be edited together into an Oscar winning film! But the fact that my dynamic crew were feeling less than dynamic and distinctly chilled meant that it was a one-take (less than) wonder! (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.)
It certainly wasn’t a Steven Spielberg production – and it was so cold that the “old git” didn’t even have time to open the bottle of fizz! Job done my crew – fairly well chilled to the marrow by now – got back on the saddles and covered the last couple of miles to Kinloch Rannoch in double quick time.
To defrost the “old gal” and the “old git” jumped in to the comfort of Matilda Transport – immediately switching on the heating system and enjoying a reviving cup of warm coffee. After a few minutes they were able to enjoy their picnic lunch – indoors not outdoors obviously! – while having a look at Strava which officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of 22.7 miles with a total moving time of 2 hours 27 minutes, at an average speed of 9.3 mph. And my dynamic crew showed they still had good fitness levels by recording no less than 7 Strava gongs – which given the freezing temperature was really quite an impressive performance from my crew!
Total elapsed time was just 2 hours 50 minutes due to not hanging about during the photo and video shoot! Top speed was a not too shabby 27.5 mph and the elevation covered was 389 feet. Together we managed to burn up 1,211 calories to help wipe out some of the festive excesses, and produced an estimated average power output of 123 W.
Just one complaint to the local tourism people at Rannoch and Tummel – there were lots of people about as it was the day after New Year’s Day – but nowhere was open. Not exactly offering tourists a warm welcome ….. surely it wouldn’t have been too difficult for somewhere to open for a few hours?
As we headed home to Matildas Rest – the exercise endorphins had fortunately started to kick in – with all three of us agreeing that – even allowing for the somewhat cold temperatures – that it had still been a worthwhile ride in a spectacular area. There was even time for some self congratulation of achieving the four loops in four different seasons. Even if the “old gal” was saying that the next time she wanted to do it in t-shirt weather!
So as a reminder of much warmer wilderness tandeming – here’s a picture from our warm summer loop of the toast that we had planned …. Cheers! And all the best for 2017!