Monster spotting at sunny Loch Lubnaig in BLiSSful Rob Roy Country

Monster spotting! – The “old gal” on the lookout for Lubbie at Loch Lubnaig.

“Do you fancy looking for a monster this weekend?” the “old git” casually asked the “old gal”. Never short of a quip she wittily replied: “It’s ok I don’t need to go looking for another one – I’ve got a perfectly good one here!” Oh how the “old git” laughed! Ouch! … but I presume she was joking! Right?!

And that’s why Team Matilda found themselves monster spotting at Loch Lubnaig as they tandemed from Callander to Strathyre on Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt7 in blissful sunshine. The weather people promised some bright sunshine for Sunday but the “old gal” was just a tad cautious given the last time warmer weather was forecast two weeks ago, we all froze our spokes off on a ride to Carnoustie.

But Saturday had been a stunning day and Sunday was to be more of the same so we all kitted up and headed from our home base of Auchterarder to Callander in Matilda Transport ready to ride. And fortunately as we arrived at the car park, so did the sun! This was much to the relief of the “old git” as the “old gal” decided he was personally responsible for the Baltic temperatures on our last outing!

My Callander Girl! – The “old gal” checks out the directions on NCN Rt7

Now as all tandem teams know, one of the first duties of the stoker is to find a signpost to ensure the captain heads off in the correct direction! Sometimes this is easier said than done – but not today! Callander seemed to be a busy crossroads for NCN Rt7 with clear signposts pointing in one direction to Strathyre, and on to Killin and Loch Lomond – and to Aberfoyle in the other.

So after a picture of Team Matildas Callander girl – see what I did there?! – we headed off. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The cycle path heads out of town on the old Oban railway line alongside the picturesque river Leny. Now this is one of those railway lines that is most definitely not flat and has a slow gradual uphill section for the first two miles, which was a bit of a shock to my dynamic crew. But the synchronicity soon kicked in and we picked up speed.

The views when passing the white water Falls of Leny were mesmerising and got us ready for the spectacular outlook when we first encountered Loch Lubnaig, which is situated within the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. The route hugs high above the western shore of the freshwater loch. A look at the Strava map above reveals how it came by its name, for Lùbnaig means crooked in Gaelic.

Enjoying the warmth of the sun on their faces my dynamic crew decided there was time for monster spotting to see if we could see Lubbie – the mysterious monster said by locals to live deep in Loch Lubnaig! Despite some serious viewing – and even some calls of “Lubbie, Lubbie, Lubbie” from the “old gal” – it was nowhere to be seen! Obviously Lubbie is equally publicity shy as its cousin at Loch Ness!

It seems Lubbie was as evasive as its more famous cousin at Loch Ness!

Devastated at not being able to get a photo of Lubbie we tandemed on thru the forested Pass of Leny – with some impressively tall oaks. On we pedalled over an undulating path at the end of the loch when all of a suddenly we found ourselves unexpectedly forced to try our handlebars at mountain biking tandeming! The smooth path abruptly finished and we were faced with a very steep zig zag boulder strewn section! It was exciting for this “old lady” who as you know likes to try new things – but the “old gal” on the back was less convinced by the sharp bends and bumpy ride!

We won! Kim Proven with husband Fraser and the Innovation trophy! Credit Chris Watt

Cycling into Strathyre the “old git” decided we had to do a few more miles before our coffee and cake break so we headed off on a wonderfully smooth section of NCN 7 towards Kingshouse. Before we built up the pace for the two-mile high speed dash(!!), there was a quick photo stop at Drover’s Bho – part of the award-winning innovative cultural outside art #BLiSStrail which is  the brainchild of LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group.

And many congratulations from Team Matilda are in order for my friend (and occasional substitute stoker … very occasional!) Kim Proven, chair of LETi and her community team after recently being crowned winner of the “Innovation In Tourism” category in the National grand final of the VisitScotland Scottish Thistle Awards – regarded as Scotland’s tourism ‘Oscars’.

The “old git” seeing if Drovers Bho wanted a drink from his water bottle!

The metal scultpture of  a Highland Coo was made by Kev Paxton’s ArtFe to mark the old cattle drovers route. The artwork has been beautifully landscaped to give the impression of the coo standing on a hilloch and really makes it feel at home! The intricacy of the metal artwork has to be admired – and the “old git” couldn’t resist the tempatation of seeing if the coo wanted a drink from his water bottle!

Turning round at Kingshouse we headed back towards Strathyre – with the motivation of some nosh spurring my dynamic crew on as we blasted along clicking up thru the gears. The view ahead of the snow covered peaks was also inspirational for my dynamic crew.

The snow covered peaks were inspirational as my dynamic crew headed back towards Strathyre.

Soon we were at the fabulous Broch Cafe in Strathyre – which offers a real oasis for cyclists and walkers in the area. There we met up with the ultra-friendly owners – and friends – Lesley and Bill, and it was great to see them again.

Being lunchtime the cafe had a great buzz about it with orders flying out of the kitchen. My dynamic crew resisted ordering some very appetising paninis and instead restricted themselves to a well deserved coffee, scone and caramel shortcake! But the “old gal” was so keen to eat she forgot to take a photo until there were literally just crumbs left!

Oh crumbs! The “old gal” was so hungry for her scone and cake she forgot to take a photo!

There was a bit of rain during the break so not the weather for a leisurely game of petanque on the cafe’s own petanque court – or to give it it’s correct technical name, petanque piste! – but Bill promised that long awaited doubles match soon! Happily the sun burst thru clouds again just as it was time to leave so we managed to get a nice sunny shot of Lesley and Bill on board my frame with my dynamic crew at the Ride Out seats just outside the cafe.

All aboard! Lesley and Bill, hosts at Broch Cafe in Strathyre, try my frame for size!

Before we tandemed off there was time to check out the fascinating and historical Dun Lubnaig Broch Project – which is now completed. Brochs are mysterious circular dry-stone hollow structures – like forts – which date back to the iron age and are only found in Scotland.

One artifact meets another! The “old git” at the Dun Lubnaig Broch which dates back to the Iron Age.

Refuelled, we set off back towards Strathyre – retracing our pedals back thru the forest – drinking in both the magnificent scenery and the fresh air. The tight zig zags of the short section more suited for well sprung mountain bikes looked unmanageable so we walked down that bit!

The path at the Pass of Leny gave great views along Loch Lubnaig.

Selfie time! My dynamic crew on the forest path.

As we approached the end of Loch Lubnaig we cycled thru the Forest Holidays site – which features a group of fabulous looking log cabins with hot tubs overlooking the loch. The “old gal” called time for a stop and my crew discovered the centre’s cafe had a bar – and naturally a small libation was required! It was very relaxing and actually warmish sitting outside on a picnic bench in the sun!

Cheers! A little libation in the sunshine at the cafe at Strathyre Forest Holidays site.

Refreshed we tandemed off on the final few miles back past the Falls of Leny before a welcome gentle downhill back into Callander which was busy with people enjoying the sunshine.

The end of the ride – the “old git” back at Callander after a great day tandeming!

After I was safely packed back into Matilda Transport the “old gal” had one of her brilliant ideas – fish and chips! Ten minutes later my dynamic crew were tucking into a hearty fish supper in the car with a wonderful view of the river! Bliss!

Replete, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of just 2 gongs – both 3rd best times – which is a tad unfair given it was mainly a new route!

The figures show my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 22.7 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 51 minutes. As always it is the smiles not the miles that count, but our average speed was 8.0 mph – not too bad given the mountain bike terrain stretch! – and the elevation was a not insubstantial 1,320 feet. The maximum speed was 25.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,320 calories and produce an average power output of 146 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. I think you’ll agree the fish and chips was earned by the effort expended!

It truly was an inspirational day out for all three of us on Team Matilda – and from my perspective it was nice to get some sunshine on my ageing frame! Let’s hope the weather has turned for the better and Spring has indeed sprung!

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No pedalling but new business cards and blog gongs!

I am very chuffed with the trendy new logo for Matildas Musings – which has been cleverly designed to look like a tandem!

New business cards and blog gongs are the focus for this blog as there has unfortunately been no tandeming due to yet more snow and freezing temperatures courtesy of the ‘Beast Fae The East Part Deux’. Gosh it’s been a long winter and I have to say that all three of us on Team Matilda have been getting a bit of cabin fever (or garage fever in my case!) of late with not being able to get out for a ride.

That however meant by dynamic crew could turn their attention to administrative matters on my behalf! And I am very excited and chuffed to say I now have a new business card promoting my Matildas Musings blog. The “old gal” decided the previous one was well past its sell by date you see – in particular because it showed the “old git” as somewhat younger looking than he currently looks!

The card has been drawn up by a Andrew, a graphic designer and ex-work colleague and friend of the “old git.” And what a brilliant  job he has made of the artwork – with the back of the card including a trendy new logo for Matildas Musings which has been cleverly designed to look like a tandem! Kudos to Andrew!

The front side of the glossy promotional card features three photos of Team Matilda on tour plus a short description of Matildas Musings as the UK’s only blogging tandem!

The front side of my shiny new promotional card – complete with a short description and pics of Team Matilda.

The “old git” sent the new design away to a printers and the glossy new cards arrived back at Matildas Rest. And I am chuffed to say they look fabulous and will be great for my dynamic crew to give out to people who stop and ask questions about this “old lady”! And an added benefit is that the new cards features my Matildas Musings Musings FacebookTwitter or Youtube feeds.

My new promotional business cards are now all printed up and ready to give out to interested onlookers!

If that wasn’t enough to have me blushing as red as my ageing Jack Taylor frame, then the next development had me positively agog with surprise … and pride!

I am delighted to report that my Matildas Musings blog has received not one, but two prestigious gongs – with the honour of having been named in two different lists of top cycling blogs.

The first listing is the “50 Best Pro Cycling Blogs Beginners Should Follow” by ApexBikes.com who said: “It’s really an informational and valuable blog for beginners.”

The blog gong from ApexBikes

The second gong is being listed in the “Top 100 Cycling Blogs Every Bike Fan Must Read” compiled by Feedspot. It really feels good to see my blog receiving such recognition – and it is great for raising the profile of the joys of riding a tandem. I am now proudly sporting badges for both awards on the sidebar of my blog!

and another from Feedspot.

Now all this administrative stuff and gongs are an interesting divert – but what I really need to do is find some half decent weather to get my dynamic crew of the “old git” and the “old gal” back out on the open road, so I have some real tandeming to blog about!

Life’s a beach (but not sunbathing temperature!) on ride to Carnoustie

“Where’s the sun” asks the freezing “old gal” in a somewhat forlorn manner!

So after our first ride of 2018 the “Beast Fae the East” – as it was called around these parts – meant heavy snow abandoned any hopes of another outing anytime soon. Finally the weather forecasters promised some milder air and my dynamic crew decided it would be safe to venture out – if they kept to the coast. The lure of a balmy 10C and even a few rays of sun was just too tempting. After all the weather folk are never wrong … are they?!

The “old git” had selected one of my favourite routes – a 13 mile ride across the Tay Road Bridge and onto Sustrans Scotland NCR1 to Carnoustie. And the “old gal” likes it too, as it is relatively flat.

The first doubts about the weather forecast surfaced however as we pulled into the Tay Bridge car park opposite Dundee. As I was unpacked from Matilda Transport it was quite difficult to even see the bridge – despite it being so close – due to mist and low cloud.

The Tay Road Bridge is there somewhere – if you look closely thru the mist!

The omens were not looking good and the “old gal” who doesn’t do cold was already full of a feeling of foreboding. But the “old git’s” natural exuberance told her the cloud would lift and there would be sunshine by the time we got to Carnoustie! Let’s just say he was wrong!

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The first part of the trip was crossing the Tay Bridge – which carries the A92 across the Firth of Tay, and is one of the longest road bridges in Europe. On this bridge the cycle path intriguingly sits in in the middle of the two carriageways for cars, unlike most bridges where the path runs at the side of the bridge. It can be quite alarming watching lorries speeding in what seems straight for you – but you are safely boxed in behind crash barriers. Just the joggers and dog walkers to look out for!

The mist shrouded the far side before somewhat eerily the huge new V&A Museum of Design Dundee emerged from the low cloud. It is in the final stages of construction – with the building designed to look like ships. Opening later this year, it will be an international centre of design for Scotland – the first ever design museum to be built in the UK outside London.

Off the bridge and we followed the well signposted NCR1 through the Dundee port area. Emerging from the electronic gates the “old gal” was already shivering so the “old git” chivalrously offered her his cycling jacket so she had double the protection against the elements.

We pedalled on trying to work up some internal steam to fight off the bitter cold. As we tandemed round the bay the charming old fishing town of Broughty Ferry came in to view – albeit it was looking a bit damp and grey today. Passing the quaint castle we continued along a stretch of the cycle path which hugged the Blue Flag beach – which was completely deserted! Wonder why?!

The route continues to Monifieth where a new stretch of path heads over Barry Links, past a very large Ministry of Defence area on the right known as the Barry Buddon Training Centre. This has high security fencing along its perimeter and rather ominously every 100 yards or so there are warnings signs telling you to keep out as this is a live military firing area! Not surprisingly the “old gal” ordered the “old git” to pay heed to the signs and not to veer off course!

Brrr! The “old gal” trying to escape the chill for a quick picnic and welcome coffee at Carnoustie.

Another couple of miles and we reached our half way point on the ride – and our picnic destination – at Carnoustie sea front. Certainly no sunbathing for the “old gal” today as she huddled in a shelter under two jackets and warm gloves nursing a very welcome flask of coffee! The good thing was that we didn’t have to queue for a picnic bench as they were all deserted! Strange that!

Where is everyone! The picnic benches were (not surprisingly) deserted!

Despite the chilly conditions my dynamic crew bravely ate their picnic of smoked salmon and spinach wraps with and some fresh fruit. Just a shame it wasn’t a bit warmer as the view from our picnic shelter was amazing. But that sea looked icy cold!

Erm what do we do now? Here I am at the top of the bmx and skateboard track!

Our picnic spot was close to a bmx bike and skateboard track and naturally the “old git” thought this was an ideal spot for a couple of fun photos! I seriously thought he was going to take me for a ride down some of the steep slopes! As an “old lady” classic tandem I would have found that quite exhilarating! Mind you I think the “old git” was the one who was scared and decided not to risk life and limb … and my brakes! Secretly everyone was quite glad!

Personally, me thinks the “old git” was more scared than me looking at the steep slopes!

The steps at a slipway which providing another interesting photo opportunity with big waves crashing in leaving the beach almost non existent. The “old git” helpfully promised the “old gal” that they would return on a day when the sun was splitting the skies so she could soak up some rays on the sand!

It was fair to say it was bracing with the waves pounding in to Carnoustie beach!

As we tandemed back thru the car park there was a brief stop to check out the preparations for the 147th The Open which is to be played over the Carnoustie links golf course in July. It has a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s most challenging links course, and at 7,421 yards it is the longest of any of the Open venues. The last time The Open was played at Carnoustie was in 1999 when Scots golfer Paul Lawrie lifted the famous claret jug.

The “old git” checking preparations for the 147th The Open being played over Carnoustie Links in July.

As we headed off on our 13 mile return trip it was clear lots of work is going on all over the course – and at a huge extension to the hotel overlooking the 18th green. It wll be jam packed come the week of the tournament in July.

My dynamic crew quickly got into their synchronicity factor and soon we were speeding back along the NCR1. Half way back the “old gal” made a good call for a coffee and carrot cake stop at the Glass Pavilion in Broughty Ferry.

Refuelled – and with the “old gal” having regained feeling in her feet – we tandemed back thru the dockyard before facing the final challenge of our ride – the return uphill crossing of the Tay Bridge. Into a head wind, and being cold and a bit tired from our adventure, this was a bit of a grind!

But we made it back to Matilda Transport in one piece! Back in the warmth of Matildas Rest the “old gal” immediately had a bath to defrost while the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 20 gongs! Amazingly we recorded a personal best for the initial crossing of the bridge covering the 1.3 miles in a time of 5 minutes and 06 seconds – it seems at an average speed of 15.7 mph. We also collected 8 2nd bests and a further 11 3rd bests! Not at all bad considering the temperature and that it was only our second outing of the year.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 25.3 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 54 minutes. As always it is the smiles not the miles that count, but our average speed was 8.7 mph and the elevation was 512 feet. The maximum speed was 18.6 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,050 calories and produce an average power output of 90 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So the second outing of 2018 ticked off! Both the “old gal” and the “old git” are getting a bit fed up with the cold weather. Winter can go away now – as all three of us on Team Matilda are hoping some warmer temperatures are on the way soon for sunny tandem rides!