“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!
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!
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!
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!