So you know how it is when the “old git” gets an idea into his head! Sometimes – did I hear the “old gal” say ‘often’ there! – they seem a bit madcap … but more often than not it would need to be admitted that they turn out to be great days out. Yes sometimes they can go spectacularly awry and today’s plan certainly had that potential – but fortunately it fell into the spectacularly good category.
You see my dynamic crew were invited to a birthday party for the Dad of a friend of the “old gal’s” on the Saturday night in our home town of Auchterarder. And it wasn’t just any birthday party – it was a 60th party with an Elvis theme … with compulsory dressing up in Elvis-era gear as the birthday boy was a huge fan of the King of Rock and Roll. And so bedecked in their teddy boy outfit and rockabilly dress my crew had great fun as they partied the night away till 11.30pm.
Which is all fine and dandy except the “old git” had decided that the next day Team Matilda would head off to one of our favourite wilderness spots of Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire! And that’s why at 7am the morning after the night before the alarm wakened my crew. A couple of hours later and we were driving up the A9 turning off just after Pitlochry for Tummel Bridge. Amazingly, 75 miles away from base, we were parked up and ready to ride by 11.30am.
What a difference twelve hours can make!
Now sunglasses were required as we set off – but not for reasons of sore heads, but because the sun was shining brightly! Now despite giving the appearance of being bright eyed and bushy tailed it was evident that my crew – or at least the “old git” – did still feel a bit ‘All Shook Up’ as there was an ‘operator error’ with Strava at the first photo stop! Read on for more details!
The “old gal” had suggested we go anti-clockwise round the loch for the first time. Every previous visit had seen us stick to a clockwise rotation of the loch – but the “old gal” is a bit of a rebel and likes a change to freshen things up now and then, so the decision was made. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! Oh and apologies in advance for the “operator error” which results in us appearing to tandem on water up the loch! Read on to discover whose fault that was!
The anti-clockwise circuit started with a nice descent from our parking spot, turning right before crossing the bridge over the River Gaur followed by a steady steep uphill climb for about half a mile. It certainly raised the body temperatures of my dynamic crew! But the climb is worth it with views across the whole length and breadth of the loch. A point of interest is Eilean Nam Faoileag – a small island which was occupied from the middle of the 15th century until the middle of the 17th century and now is home to a tower which is a 19th-century folly. You can’t miss the impressive Rannoch Power Station – part of the Tummel Valley hydro scheme – which has been in operation since 1930 and is currently being renovated to extend its lifespan.
The route on the quieter south side of the lock is amazingly scenic – possibly more so than the (slightly) busier north shore road. The B-class single track road never seems to be more than a couple of yards from the loch itself and there is always lots to catch the eye of Team Matilda.
The wilderness factor is underlined as the narrow road 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 little wonder that it is designated a Special Area of Conservation and was looking magnificent in the sunshine. It was truly a wonderful spot to be out tandeming in and both the “old gal” and the “old git” felt privileged to be there.
The route is gently undulating – and despite their excesses from partying last night (or should that be because of!) – my dynamic crew were really in the zone today and we were pedalling along at an average of over 15-16 mph for long stretches – a good bit faster than our normal.
We soon reached a stony beach area at the top of the loch – which my dynamic crew decided would be a perfect spot for their prosecco picnic. But as he dismounted the “old git” let out a loud “Aaagh” as he made the discovery that Strava had not been recording the ride for 8 miles from the first photo stop! Seems he had stopped the timer so as not to waste valuable seconds when taking some pictures – and then promptly forgot to start it again as we tandemed off! And his pain was made even worse by the fact that we had been fair rattling along! Oh how me and the “old gal” laughed!
However his pain – or was that embarrassment because the “old gal” is always telling him to just let it auto-pause – was soon forgotten about when the “old git” spied a perfect picnic table for two right at the edge of the loch. He quickly unhooked the bottle of prosecco I had been safely carrying in my la bouclee bottle carrier and plonked it in nature’s fridge that is Loch Rannoch to chill.
As the “old git” popped open the prosecco cork with a loud pop, a Mum was walking on the beach with her young daughter and says to the girl that there was a couple celebrating! The Mum asked the “old gal” what my crew were celebrating. My stoker replied that we were just celebrating it being Sunday lunchtime! To which she replied as she walked off enviously: “Oh I remember these days, I think!”
My dynamic crew toasted another sensational picnic spot with a nicely chilled glass of fizz before enjoying some smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese croissants and some fresh fruit for lunch.
The “old git” did manage to redeem himself a bit in the “old gal’s” critical eye when he brought out his portable tripod extension and set it up, linked to a bluetooth clicker, to be able to take pictures of both of us together. Whisper it but in the photo below, the “old gal” put on her best smile when he said “ready” – even tho it was being taken from behind and only showed her back view!
After enjoying the prosecco picnic – and some amazing views right down the loch in bright sunshine – it was time for my crew to get back on my saddles and pedal across the bridge over the River Tummel and thru Kinloch Rannoch before heading down the north side of the loch.
The “old gal” decided a quick stop was required at the wild camping area about a third of the way back down the loch – which offers a perfect viewpoint for pictures with the majesty of the perfectly conical shape of Schiehallion – one of Scotland’s most recognisable mountains – in the background. This area provides easy access to rocky beach and the loch which was looking beautiful despite the clouds darkening and the imminent prospect of rain. Unfortunately those clouds had “stolen” the top of Schiehallion which wasn’t visible in the photos!
My crew didn’t stop for long as it appeared the forecast rain was due to arrive soon. And just short of three miles from the end it started – fortunately just light rain as we climbed a steep hill towards the end of the loch before a rapid downhill to Bridge of Gaur and the mile or so back to our parking spot.
After a quick hi five to celebrate completing the circuit, and with the rain getting heavier, I was quickly packed away in Matilda Transport and my crew drove the 5 miles to the end of the road and the wonderfully remote Rannoch railway station where there is a favourite coffee and cake spot for the “old git” and the “old gal” – the amazing Rannoch Station Tearoom.
It really is a truly fabulous hidden gem – and must get the vote for being not only the most remote tearoom in Scotland – but the most welcoming and friendly. Run by the uber-hospitable Bill and Jenny Anderson it offers cyclists, walkers and railway passengers an amazing oasis of home made tasty coffees, cakes and light meals. You can even have a wine or a beer while sitting on the station platform watching the live theatre that is the natural wilderness of Rannoch Moor.
The duo’s customer service ethic has no bounds – and even runs to delivering phone orders of bacon butties to train passengers travelling up and down the Glasgow to Fort William route. In my crew’s case it extends to happily reserving a couple of scones (via Facebook) to ensure they didn’t run out! What service! So it was delicious home made fruit scones with clotted cream and jam followed by gigantic slices of seriously yummy carrot cake and lemon mascarpone cake, washed down with a cafetiere of wonderfully strong freshly brewed coffee.
According to my dynamic crew the tearoom more than lived up to its five star Trip Advisor certificate of excellence award. And if the look of satisfaction on the “old gal’s” face as she sampled the goodies was anything to go by, I think if she could have awarded six stars, it would have been more than earned!
Bill and Jenny were excitedly getting ready for a visit from a tv crew filming for the new series of the Channel 4 show Village of the Year with actress Penelope Keith. Over this summer the programme has been visiting villages across the UK to determine the winner of this brand new competition, with a £10,000 prize to be spent on a worthwhile community project. Kinloch Rannoch has been one of the villages nominated for filming for the 2017 series which aims to celebrate all that is great about our rural communities. Certainly if breathtaking wilderness scenery is anything to go by, the village should be an outright winner! My crew will be watching progress.
As my dynamic crew were leaving a nice gentleman introduced himself – after recognising them by their hi-viz yellow t-shirts emblazoned with my blog – as being Steve from Dial a Bike Rannoch who said he was an avid reader of my blog posts! Steve runs a cycle rental service in the Rannoch Moor, Kinloch Rannoch and Tummel Bridge area. So if you happen to be staying in the area and need some bikes to get around then Steve is your man! He even has a couple of those electric bikes – for those that want to cheat! But he has yet to introduce a tandem to his stable of bikes – although my crew did their best to persuade him that he should!
Replete and refreshed after their afternoon tea, it was time to head back out of the Tummel Valley and back to base. The weather had deteriorated to heavy rain, leaving Team Matilda feeling lucky that we had such an enjoyable – and mainly dry – ride round the loch. Back at Matildas Rest – and with internet connection restored – a check of Strava revealed that we didn’t record any gongs on our route … but this was because it was the first time that we had done the Loch Rannoch loop anti-clockwise!
Now due to that unfortunate incident – which the “old git” refers to as “operator error” when it was really his own silly fault! – Strava officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of only 15.8 miles at an average speed of 12.2 mph, and a top speed of 31.1 mph. However the old-fashioned speedometer thingy on my handlebars, which is not prone to “operator error”! – recorded me and my dynamic crew covering 24.7 miles and an average speed of 13.6 mph and a maximum of 32.1 mph. The traveling time was 1 hour 49 minutes and we managed to burn up 1,441 calories.
As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. Oh and I will apologies again for the Strava “operator error” which results in us appearing to tandem on water up loch on the video! (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 has certainly been an action packed 24 hours for my dynamic crew – from arriving at the Elvis party to arriving back at Matildas Rest after another memorable tandeming trip full of laughs and fun.
Next up the “old git” tells me we are doing another loch trip on Sunday when we return to Loch Katrine in the heart of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and Rob Roy Country – the scene of some previous “interesting” trips which have included some fairly serious mechanical problems of my rear gear cog disintegrating and then the pedal arm sheared clean off my rear pedal crank axle. My spokes are crossed there is no repeat this time – and also for some much needed summer sunshine!