Quest for birthday carrot cake by tandem on early hilly HebWay training!

The rapidly ageing “old git” enjoying his birthday carrot cake even tho it had just gone 10am!

Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday dear “old git!”

Happy birthday to you!

This was the alarm call that greeted the “old git” early on Sunday morning as the “old gal” sweetly wakened him from his slumbers! Yes it was my (ageing!) Captain’s birthday! And with a busy schedule of family commitments later in the day, it was an early start for my dynamic crew to fit in another hilly training ride for the forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure.

And the quest today was to find some tasty carrot cake – which would double as birthday cake!

Which is why at the early hour of 9 am my dynamic crew were tandeming away from Matildas Rest on a repeat of a recent ride to Tibbermore. And as it was effectively the same journey that means this blog is somewhat briefer than normal! (Oh thank goodness did I hear you say?!)

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

On the long downhill stretch out of Auchterarder the “old git” was on a mission to try and break Team Matilda’s recent speed record of 34.7 mph. The “old gal” got into the spirit of things with my dynamic crew both adopting a position known as “a froomie” after Chris Froome’s unorthodox aerodynamic descending style at last summer’s Tour de France!

But for all our efforts the data showed that the fastest we hit was exactly 34.7 mph again! The “old git” couldn’t believe we hadn’t eeked at least another 0.1 of a mph out of the downhill – far less not broken the new elusive speed target of 35 mph!

After all that dizzy excitement it was back to earth with a grind as we crossed Kinkell Bridge and started the climb away from the River Earn. But – and whisper this – it was all fairly manageable, if not relatively easy! Perhaps it was something to do with the “old gal” having raised her seat a bit to give her legs a full extension on my pedals.

So Team Matilda ticked off the uphill stretch past historic Trinity Gask Parish Church before several cheeky sharp climbs in the area which was known as the Gask Ridge Frontier  – the earliest Roman land frontier in Britain – built in the 70’s or 80’s AD, 40 years before Hadrian’s Wall.

After the sharp climbs there was some relief for my dynamic crew as we sped along to Tibbermore on a gently undulating stretch to our half way stop of the oasis which is Gloagburn Farm Shop.

Fresh as a daisy at half-way point at Gloaburn – average speed 13.3mph!

My dynamic crew felt as fresh as a daisy as we arrived at Gloaburn and as Strava was paused they were happy to see that the average speed clocked was 13.3 mph! So slices of celebration carrot cake were ordered and birthday greeting exchanged! But no candles – well I mean there simply wouldn’t have been enough room for 57 candles! I mean that’s old – giving the true meaning to the “old git!”

The carrot for the fast ride was the yummy cake for the “old git’s” birthday!

No time today for any Outlanderish pranks at Tibbermore – which was the filming set for an episode of the popular hit show Outlander.  Time was ticking so refuelled we had to set off on the return trip – and yes you’ve guessed that head wind had suddenly appeared again!

But with a few smiles the miles seemed to slip by – despite the climbs – as we headed towards Madderty before taking a turning thru the picturesque village of St Davids and back down to sea level at Kinkell Bridge. Even the energy sapping long grind of Easthill didn’t phase my dynamic crew today – in fact I can proudly relate that they achieved a new personal best for that stretch with an average speed of 8.6mph! Kudos to Team Matilda!

Back at Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 16 gongs – 10 personal bests; 4 second bests; and 2 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 28.7 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 15 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.7 mph given the hilly terrain while the elevation was 1240 feet. And what with my new gears – and my dynamic crew’s weight loss – I am pleased to report that the average speed was 1.1 mph faster than the 11.6 mph when my dynamic crew last tandemed to Tibbermore just a few weeks ago. The maximum speed was 34.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1686 calories and produce an average power output of 186 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

A quick mention here of the “old gal’s” birthday present to my Captain – a bottle of small batch artisan Kinrara gin from a new distillery in the heart of the Cairngorms. The “old git” is hoping that the gin itself tastes as good as the highly attractive bottle looks! And I dare say the “old gal” will manage to help him with the sampling!

The attractive Kinrara gin from a smalll batch distillery in the Cairngorms.

Todays hilly terrain was more good training for our Hebridean Way challenge – with the countdown now underway! Just 2 weeks till Team Matilda meet up with good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club tour … and the not insubstantial task of covering 185 miles over five days tandeming!

John and Jane have dubbed themselves Team JayJay for the trip which will be the third annual tour of the two tandem teams following two memorable previous trips – the inaugural Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem in 2016 and Le Tour de New Forest du Tandem last year. Both produced some fabulous sun-kissed tandeming so my spokes are crossed the weather gods are on our side again.

To emphasise the nutty nature of both team’s sense of humour Team JayJay sent a highly appropriate birthday card to my Captain! They must have looked for ages for it –  but it was rather special! You certainly couldn’t doubt whose birthday card it was!

No explanation necessary with this birthday card!

In a nutshell the Nutty Tandemers HebWay tour involves two fun-loving couples on two tandem bikes cycling 185 miles “on the edge” on the Outer Hebrides from the start on Vatersay to the end at Isle of Lewis – covering 10 islands, 6 causeways and 2 ferries.

The tour logo.

And for those who are wondering what the names of the 10 islands the tour will be tandeming thru – and that included the “old git” – then here’s the official HebWay listing: Vatersay; Barra; Eriskay; South Uist; Benbecula; Grimsay; North Uist; Berneray; Harris and Lewis.

The “old gal” has just said: “That’s going to require a fair bit of re-fuelling with prosecco and carrot cake stops!” I think she might be correct!

I mean what could possibly go wrong?!

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Sunny tandem to Bridge of Earn for carrot cake on HebWay warm-up ride

Carrot cake and coffee in warm sunshine – de rigueur for happy tandemers!

Sunday lunchtime and right on cue the weather offered idyllic conditions for tandeming – bright warm sunshine and little wind. Which was just as well as the “old git” had decreed today would be a ride on a lumpy hilly route as training for Team Matilda’s forthcoming  Hebridean Way adventure. And he had a special carrot to tempt the “old gal” with – the promise of some tasty carrot cake at the half way point. Oh the sweet talker – he certainly knows how to get the best out my Stoker you know!

More about the HebWay later – including a photo shoot of my dynamic crew in the tour t-shirts – but first a run to Bridge of Earn. We weren’t able to start from Matilda’s Rest as our usual route across the A9 was closed due to a major police incident – so we started from the next village at Aberuthven.

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

First stage was an easy canter towards the village of Dunning, then on to Forteviot. The synchronicity factor of the “old git” and the “old gal” was working well with all three of us on Team Matilda perfectly in tune! It was a great day to be out and feel the warm air between my spokes on the quiet country roads of Perthshire – which are great for tandeming and cycling, as shown by the number of bikes we saw while out on our ride.

“This is the kind of tandeming I like” exclaimed the “old gal” as my dynamic crew pedalled along feeling very pleased with themselves. In what seemed like no time at all we tandemed into Forteviot – an ancient Pictish capital of Scotland, where King Kenneth MacAlpin died in the 9th Century.

A quick stop at the fabulous new centrepiece to the village – a large carved stone inspired by the strong Pictish culture and the historic Dupplin Cross. The original rare 3m high cross, carved out of sandstone in around AD800, once stood in the palace of the Pictish Kings at Forteviot.

Lovely warm sunshine means t-shirts and shorts at the new Pictish stone in Forteviot …

… in contrast to our last visit in February when my dynamic crew needed coffee to keep warm!

What a difference in weather conditions since our last visit in February when it was barely above freezing the day before the Beast fae the East blew in. No warming coffee required today for my dynamic crew as they admired the ‘Set in Stone – the Birth of Alba’ artwork.

The eye-catching stone carving – which is sensitively floodlit at night – is part of the Heritage Lottery funded Pictish Stones project run by the Tay Landscape Partnership to provide the area with a key legacy monument marking the area’s important role in the birth of medieval Scotland.

The carved stone in Forteviot is inspired by its Pictish history as an ancient capital of Scotland.

Back on the road and my dynamic crew were enjoying their usual doze of fun and laughs on my saddles as the miles seemed to whizz past in idyllic conditions. Even a fairly tough twin-peaked climb out of Forteviot – didn’t phase them as they battled on to the top.

The reward for that climb is an enjoyable long downhill stretch in to Bridge of Earn, with the “old git” reveling in his role as Captain – revealing that we were hitting the 30 mph mark at times! As we turned into the Brig Farm Shop and cafe my dynamic crew were amazed and impressed to find they had arrived in record time of just 57 minutes. There’s obviously life in this “old lady” yet! I must admit I do like it when we are whizzing along as it makes me feel like a young thing! Mind you, I guess it probably also has something to do with my crew’s weight loss – now totalling 50lbs – and improved fitness!

The Brig Farm Shop & Cafe was Team Matilda’s half way point on the ride.

Talking of weight loss … it was clearly time for a well-earned coffee and cake! Given the sunshine my crew decided an alfresco refuelling was required on the colourful decking area overlooking the farmland and ordered some carrot cake – de rigueur for many tandemers and in particular the “old gal” and the “old git”! And very yummy it was, or so they tell me! In fact so scummy that the “old git” nearly had his hand bitten off trying to get a photo before the “old gal” demolished her portion!

The “old git” just managed to get this photo before the “old gal” demolished her carrot cake!

After a nice relaxing time it was time to head on the return journey. My dynamic crew were in buoyant mood after such a good first half of today’s route – but unbeknown to them, while they were indulging their taste buds, the wind got up. Now as all tandemers know to their cost – when there is wind it is always blowing in an unhelpful direction! It was still pretty warm, but the “old gal” and the “old git” had to battle against a fierce head wind.

The road out of Bridge of Earn is a bit of a tough one at the best of times – a long slow grind of a tandem – but the head wind rendered some of the comments coming from my Stoker’s position unrepeatable in what is after all a family blog! Let’s just say that the average speed we achieved on the way to the cafe was not being achieved on the way back – much to the chagrin of my Captain! But Team Matilda gamely battled on (well truthfully there was no alternative!) tandeming back thru Forteviot and on to Dunning before arriving back at the A9 and Aberuthven.

Back at Matildas Rest, and in a welcome break from the head wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 17 gongs – 12 personal bests; 3 second bests; and 2 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 24.0 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 56 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.4 mph given the hilly terrain and thanks to my new gears – while the elevation was 1091 feet. Actually I am quite chuffed to report that the average speed was 2.2 mph faster than the 10.2 mph when my dynamic crew last tandemed to Bridge of Earn in June last year. The maximum speed was 32.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1361 calories and produce an average power output of 175 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

With the strong wind and the hilly terrain it was more good training for our Hebridean Way challenge in early June. Just 3 weeks to go now before me and my dynamic crew meet up with good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club tour and the not insubstantial task of covering 185 miles over five days tandeming!

In the protected garden the “old git” decided Team Matilda needed to take a couple of pictures in the bright sunshine to unveil the newly arrived HebWay t-shirts – complete with our snazzy tour logo.

The “old git” and “old gal” sporting the new Nutty Tandemers Club HebWay tour t-shirts.

As always our t-shirts are produced by Sprinterz – a local digital print and embroidery specialist firm run by a good friend of the “old gal” called Gill and her husband Kevin. The highly professional team at Sprinterz produced stunning eye-catching t-shirts made of lightweight Cooltex material.

My dynamic crew are hoping for some warm sunny days tandeming the Hebridean Way.

To personalise things the arms of the tour t-shirts have the team names printed on the sleeves – Team Matilda obviously, and Team JayJay named after the initials of John and Jane!

The sleeves of the t-shirts list the crews of Team Matilda and Team JayJay.

This will be the third tour of the two tandem teams following two memorable previous trips – the inaugural Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem in 2016 and Le Tour de New Forest du Tandem last year. Both produced some fabulous sun-kissed tandeming so my spokes are crossed the weather gods are on our side again for the third time pedalling!

Team JayJay – John and Jane – in action on board their tandem Siggy.

Jane and John certainly seemed to have lots in common with my dynamic duo – such as not enjoying hills and definitely enjoying prosecco! In fact both Team Matilda and Team JayJay seem to have the same views on not taking tandeming too seriously – which is nuttily summed up in the tour logo!

The tour logo in detail.

As for me, I am looking forward to teaming up with Siggy, the attractive gent of a tandem belonging to Team JayJay’s stable of no less than three tandems – which also includes the vintage Henry and their original Pino semi-recumbent Bluebird. Whisper it, but I hear Siggy is a bit of a charmer of a gentleman tandem … with an eye for the older ladies! So you never know he and I may just have a little bit of a HebWay holiday tandem romance!

Siggy is also very clever and he has couplings which allow him to be separated into three sections – making it much easier to transport to the Outer Hebrides. Mind you that shouldn’t be too much of a problem as John and Jane flew to India with Siggy for an amazing tandem adventure back in February!

The “old gal” smiling in the sunshine as she looks ahead to lots of laughs on the HebWay.

So in a nutshell the Nutty Tandemers HebWay tour involves two fun-loving couples on two tandem bikes cycling 185 miles “on the edge” on the Outer Hebrides from the start on Vatersay to the end at Isle of Lewis – covering 10 islands, 6 causeways and 2 ferries. I mean what could possibly go wrong?!

My dynamic crew just need some ideas for prosecco and carrot cake stops now before departure!

Outlanderish cultural tandem experience on ride to historic Tibbermore

The evocative grave yard at Tibbermore Church – film set for an episode of Outlander.

Summer has finally arrived at Matildas Rest and after being on our travels for the last few weeks Team Matilda decided on a hilly ride on our own doorstep this week as my dynamic crew build up the miles and elevation for our Hebridean Way adventure in early June.

Interestingly this ride had the added advantage of turning into a cultural experience with my dynamic crew receiving an education into the cult hit tv show Outlander. They are always impressed at the rich history they find right in Team Matildas own backyard – and in this case both real and fictional.

Summer had finally arrived at Matildas Rest – thus the t-shirts and shorts for first time in 2018!

Now a little word of praise to the “old git” and the “old gal” here. In a bid to improve their fitness they have lost 3 stones between them over the last 11 weeks by sticking rigidly to the healthy eating Hay Plan regime. I am most impressed – and grateful at the same time that I don’t have to carry all that extra weight around on my ageing frame!

So with a combination of losing weight, and the forecast of warm sunshine – it was decided it was t-shirt weather. The “old git” even ventured into his shorts for the first time this year!

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

I am very proud to report that today’s ride started with a new Team Matilda speed record! On leaving Auchterarder we hit a nice long downhill stretch and soon picked up speed. the “old git” was really enjoying it – although I am not sure the same can be said for the “old gal” on the back! They both got into the spirit of things and bent low to reduce drag and do what is termed “a froomie” after Chris Froome’s unorthodox aerodynamic descending style at last summer’s Tour de France.

And amazingly the data showed we hit a new all time record speed of 34.7 mph! Which is really all rather exciting for an “old lady” tandem like me! Kudos to Team Matilda! The big question now of course is can we break thru the 35 mph barrier?! I am certainly up for it!

After all that dizzy excitement it was back to earth with a sudden jolt as we crossed Kinkell Bridge and started the climb away from the River Earn. Up we went past Trinity Gask Parish Church which traces its history back to 1770. That was the first of several sharp hills around Gask and it certainly felt as if my crew were busting a Gask…et (see what I did there!) on those climbs!

As we reached the plateau my crew realised why it is so hilly as the area is known as Gask Ridge Frontier  which the “old git” discovered was the earliest Roman land frontier in Britain – built in the 70’s or 80’s AD, 40 years before Hadrian’s Wall and 60 years before the Antonine Wall. After the climbs there was some relief as Team Matilda turned right and fair zoomed along a nice flat stretch of just over 5 miles to our half way spot at Tibbermore.

Me and the “old gal” at the archway marking the entrance to the Tibbermore Church yard.

My dynamic crew decided to visit the fascinating historic Tibbermore Church which is now in the care of the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust. Dating back to 1632 the characterful building ceased being a parish church in 1986 before being transferred to the trust in 2001.

Apart from being worthy of a visit in its own right due to its unusual layout, and its history, the church has another more recent claim to fame – which sees it visited by people from all over the world. It is now a recognised stop in the VisitScotland tour of Outlander filming locations.

Now it needs to be said that the “old git” and the “old gal” must be one of the few people on the planet who have never watched an episode of the popular hit show Outlander – as clearly the mystical and spellbinding series has caught the imagination and attention of viewers and is a ratings winner in around 40 different countries. The series, filmed in Scotland, is particularly popular in America and Europe and is now seen as a goldmine for attracting tourists by Scotland’s tourism agency.

The historic church was a perfect setting for filming of an episode of cult hit tv show Outlander.

The church was used as a film set for the infamous witches trial – series 1 episode 11 called ‘The Devil’s Mark’. Over 10 days in June 2014 Tibbermore Church was the focal point for 120 crew and 200 extras involved in the production – transformed into the fictional Cranesmuir Church.

Inside the church there is a display of information and photos from the tv production and it seemed only natural that my dynamic crew would try to recreate a couple of them – albeit not in period costume but in their hi-vis cycling gear! Whisper it, but I’m not sure they would be a ratings winner!

Claire and Jamie are reunited in an emotional embrace in the churchyard after the trial.

My dynamic crew recreate the passionate embrace – albeit not in period costume!

For the many people whose specialist subject is Outlander episodes, the witches trial is one of the most memorable. The plot line sees Claire and Geillis Duncan accused of being witches – for which the punishment is being burned at the stake.

The plot line for ‘The Devil’s Mark’ episode of Outlander filmed at Tibbermore.

The design of the building particularly lent itself to the key trial scene with the pulpit serving as the dock. Despite a spirited defence things don’t go well for Claire and Geillis – and in an attempt to save Claire, Geillis confesses to witchcraft. The “old gal” bravely shunned any superstitions and stood in the pulpit – which doubled as the dock – to recreate that scene.

Geillis confesses to witchcraft from the church pulpit at the trial to save Claire.

The “old gal” recreating the role of Geillis in the Tibbermore church pulpit used as the dock.

In one of the final scenes of the episode Geillis is carried from the church to her fate at the stake. Perhaps wisely the “old git” decided against trying to recreate that image!

Geillis is carried from the church to her fate – a scene my dynamic crew wisely didn’t try to recreate!

It was all very interesting and the “old git” and “old gal” certainly created a bit of a diversion for the international visitors ticking off another venue on their Outlander tour! It was good to see tourists from France and Spain visiting that day which just underlines the global appeal of the hit show. Which left me wondering if there was a potential role in a future Outlander episode for an “old lady” classic tandem! I am sure it wouldn’t present too many problems for a creative scriptwriter.

After the cultural overload of the Outlander venue, my dynamic crew felt it was more than time to overload on some goodies at Gloagburn Farm Shop just a few hundred yards away. No carrot cake today – just a tasty scone with some nice strong coffee. But guess what? The “old gal” was so engrossed in eating she forgot to take a photo!

The farm shop is extremely interesting for foodies like my dynamic crew as it sells lots of local produce from Perthshire’s larder. A few purchases were made – including supplies for the evening meal – and safely packed away in my panniers. I knew I was sporting them for a reason!

After the cultural overload time for a scone and coffee overload at Gloagburn.

Refuelled Team Matilda set off on the return trip and immediately started to pedal into a ferocious head wind! This was somewhat unexpected and made for hard going on the journey home. But we soon built up a reasonable momentum again and the “old gal” decided we would take a different loop home to add a bit of variety. So we pedaled past the road end that would have taken us back to Trinity Gask, heading towards Madderty and turning left to the picturesque village of St Davids. Another steep climb before we picked up speed on a nice descent back to Kinkell Bridge.

My dynamic crew again took a different loop back to base which saw us climb the steep incline from Machanay bridge before powering on up the slow steady energy sapping grind of Easthill, before a welcome fast downhill finish through Auchterarder.

Back at Matildas Rest, and a welcome break from the head wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 17 gongs – 8 personal bests; 7 second bests; 1 3rd best; and encouragingly 1 Queen of the Mountain award!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 32.04 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 46 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.6 mph given the hilly terrain and thanks to my new gears – while the elevation was 1358 feet. The maximum speed was that new record of 34.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1825 calories and produce an average power output of 164 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

With the strong wind and the hilly terrain it was more good training for the Hebridean Way in early June. Just 4 weeks to go now before me and my dynamic crew meet up with good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club tour and the not insubstantial task of covering 185 miles over 5 days tandeming!

Nutty Tandemers Club logo for Hebridean Way challenge.

One thing is for certain – days full of fun and laughs are guaranteed on the Hebridean Way challenge! What is less certain is the weather conditions – but the order has been placed with the weather people for some nice warm sunshine and a helpful tailwind!

Sun-kissed training ride on Millport for Hebridean Way challenge

Picnic reflections! The “old git” and “old gal” had a great picnic on sun-kissed Millport.

6.30 bright and early on Sunday morning and my dynamic crew awakened from their slumbers for a busy schedule heading “overseas” for some “warm weather” training to the island of Millport. And the good news was that – as forecast – the sun was already streaming in the window from behind the blind filling my crew with enthusiasm for the day ahead!

As regular visitors to the island and big fans of its charm the “old git” and the “old gal” decided to go to their beloved “Costa del Millport” for one of their training rides before tackling the Hebridean Way in early June. Read on for more about that challenge – but the plan was to do some serious training laps round the island – officially known as The Isle of Cumbrae – as it is a cyclists paradise offering a gently undulating 10 mile loop on almost traffic free roads never more than a few yards from the coast.

After a quick 77 mile drive in Matilda Transport to the west coast, I was unpacked in Largs and we tandemed to catch the CalMac ferry. The island is less than a 10 minute trip across the firth of Clyde, but those few minutes make a huge difference as it feels like you are heading to a different world as you leave the mainland – and your worries – behind.

Great views and blue sky from the deck of the ferry from Largs to Cumbrae.

With the sun out the ferry was busy and it was good to see quite a few other bikes on the crossing – even if there were no other tandems. It was even warm enough for the “old git” and “old gal” to spend time out on the deck for a selfie as they looked ahead expectantly to what was clearly going to be a glorious day by the seaside! As we disembarked the roll on-roll off ferry we headed clockwise for a gentle 4 mile warm-up tandem into the town of Millport.

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

On reaching Millport town, the “old gal” decided a coffee stop was a must and my dynamic crew called in to the wonderfully named  Crocodeli delicatessen – which combines the deli part with the famous Crocodile Rock landmark. The coffee was just as the “old gal” likes it – nice and strong and my crew couldn’t resist a small pistachio Italian pastry to accompany it!

Time for the first lap and we headed off clockwise quickly pedalling out from the town and enjoying magnificent views across to neighbouring islands of Arran and then Bute. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, with numerous deserted beaches and abundant wildlife. In high spirits we identified our usual “private picnic table” and “made a booking” for an hour’s time when on our second lap! In what seemed like no time at all we had completed the first circuit by pedalling back into the town in around 45 minutes. Not bad for a warm-up!

The battle to Save Millport Pier is continuing with a campaign to have the facility repaired.

Back in Millport town my dynamic crew decided to get some new photos to show the fight to Save Millport Pier. Regular readers of my blog will remember that on our last visit back in September Team Matilda joined the campaign to save the facility. The campaign is drawing attention to the community’s fears over the deterioration of the wooden pier which dates from 1833, amid fears over its long term future – with concern it will be demolished if funds are not invested in protecting it.

The pier head gives a great vantage point looking across the bay and Millport town.

Neglected since 2014 the pier is now out of bounds for safety reasons. And that means there is currently nowhere in Millport to safely tie up a boat – with the ferry slipway only usable by by roll on/ roll off ferries. As an island community, campaigners are battling to show the economy and resilience of the island is being compromised – and persuade North Ayrshire Council to repair the pier.

Warning – unprotected edge! I hoped the “old git” wouldn’t get too close to the edge!

After checking out the pier, it was time for our second circuit and this time my crew decided to go anti clockwise – with the beach at Kames Bay looking stunning in the sunshine as the island more than lived up to its “Costa del Millport” nickname.

We pedalled on up past the ferry slipway and round the top of the island soon arriving at our idyllic quiet picnic table with stunning views over the white sand and across to Rothesay. The balmy weather provided a perfect environment for one of my dynamic crew’s cheeky prosecco picnics!

Our private picnic table overlooking the beach was bathed in warm sunshine.

Lunch table with a view! The “old gal” at our idyllic picnic bench overlooking the Isle of Bute.

Now, as you know, prosecco picnics at remote spots are one of the great pleasures of tandeming and my dynamic crew are true exponents of the art! It was so perfect the “old git” decided to film one of his videos – with the “old gal” giving a masterclass on the art of a picnic with fizz! Hope it makes you laugh!

The food which emerged from the ‘bicycle rider’s luncheon box’ was  delicious smoked salmon and spinach wraps followed by fruit salad. Oh, did I mention the prosecco to wash it all down?! Oh I did, sorry! But quite simply picnics don’t come much better than this!

Selfie time on a walk on the rocks at the beach for my dynamic crew after the picnic!

Setting off again we passed the public loos at Fintry Bay where we saw a star of the island my crew had been keen to meet – the self styled Cumbrae Cludgie Cleaner! Fun-loving Suki McGregor signed up for  the role following a community take-over of the public loos and is instantly recogniseable thanks to her trademark bright pink overalls and colourful dreadlocks. She even has her own Cumbrae Cludgie Cleaner Facebook page and has been posting video blogs which have gone viral!

Suki does a great job for the community – especially with Cumbrae attracting so many visitors who walk or cycle round the island. The loos are unrecognisable as public toilets – spotlessly clean with nice touches like flowers and chairs. She has a great sense of humour and told my dynamic crew that she used to run a theatre project – so it was a switch “from luvvies to lavvies”!

Suki – the self styled Cumbrae Cludge Cleaner – with the “old gal” outside one of the community loos!

After the fun chat with Suki my crew got back on my saddles to complete the anti clockwise lap with the promise of a coffee and cake stop at the Dancing Midge Cafe. There my crew enjoyed some freshly brewed coffee and yummy carrot cake – de rigueur for tandemers.

Stop at Dancing Midge Cafe for coffee and carrot cake – de rigueur for tandemers!

There was method in their madness as the carrot cake was fuel for the planned ‘finish with a flourish’ – where Team Matilda’s last complete lap would be an attempt on our own Tour de Millport record time for going round the island of 41.2 minutes. After much discussion about which way to go – using arguments and counter arguments and the scientific experiment of sticking a finger in the air to try and establish which way the wind was blowing! – the “old gal” decided on clockwise! And to emphasise the serious nature of this new personal best attempt – she even removed her cycling jacket!

We set off from the Royal George Hotel at the harbour and it would need to be said that I was uber-impressed as we fair whizzed along with the “old git” keeping me in high gears most of the time. I was really enjoying myself as this “old lady” doesn’t normally get to experience such speeds!

And I am very proud to report that my dynamic crew excelled themselves with a non-stop circuit of the island in what Strava declared was a new personal best time of just 38.0 minutes which means we were tandeming at an average speed of 15.8 miles an hour! Just proves what a big difference my new gears make – and what’s more the “old git” and the “old gal” really enjoyed it.

Amazingly Strava also gave my dynamic crew a 5th best gong – meaning that their time is now down in history as the fifth fastest time ever recorded on the route called “Millport TT clockwise – out and back from Royal George hotel.” Well to be totally honest, it was the 5th fastest time ever recorded by a female as I am officially registered as a female by Strava – but a gong is a gong!

Time for a breather and a rest for my dynamic crew after the last record-smashing lap!

After the exertions of the record breaking lap my crew needed a bit of a rest and had a nice breather sitting on the rocks until the sun disappeared behind the clouds. So they called in to say hi to Sean who owns bike hire shop On Your Bike Millport in the town, and who is a regular reader of my blog.

Sean was very complimentary about my appearance describing me as “a very well kept classic tandem who looks in fine fettle!” He had a good look over my new gear bits – saying it looked “the business” and he also was full of praise for the “old gal” in her role as chief engineer for keeping me in shape!

I even got to shelter in his shop in case it rained. Sean told us he started his business 10 years ago and tandems are now an important part of his hire trade on the island – with no less than 8 in his stable, although he admitted that none of them had a name like me! Apart from the tandems he runs a fleet of over 200 bikes – and is hoping for warm sunny days to boost demand from day trippers.

The “old git” with On Your Bike owner Sean with one of his hire tandems.

The sun soon re-appeared and it was time for my Captain to implement the dinner plan – alfresco fish and chips. And very yummy it was too – sitting out on the promenade at Millport – and washed down with a glass of fizz left over from the picnic! I mean no one can ever say the “old git” doesn’t know how to treat the “old gal” and show her a good time!

Posh nosh! Alfresco fish suppers – the “old git” certainly knows how to treat the “old gal”!

Unfortunately after dodging the showers all day some ominous clouds gathered as we prepared to pedal the final 4 miles back to the ferry slipway. And as we tandemed out of town those clouds started to deposit a heavy shower. The wind whipped up from nowhere with the full force of a squall blasting into the faces of my dynamic crew, making for rather unpleasant conditions. Naturally, as we arrived at the ferry, the rain stopped – just as quickly as it started – leaving my crew a bit weather beaten!

On the short ferry crossing back to the mainland the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 26 gongs – 12 personal bests; 8 second bests; and 6 3rd bests. Looking at the data it shows Team Matilda clearly breaking our own records on each successive lap!

So the Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 39.3 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 53 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 13.7 mph – which was up 1.4 mph from our previous identical ride last September thanks to my new gears – while the elevation was 1030 feet. The maximum speed was 21.3 mph – due to no steep downhill stretches – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1876 calories and produce an average power output of 162 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

It was all good training then for the Hebridean Way in early June. I am looking forward to teaming up with Siggy, the attractive gent of a tandem belonging to the “old git” and “old gal’s” good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club tour. The “old git” got a designer pal to come up with a suitably “nutty” logo for the tour! There’s now just the small matter of covering 185 miles over 5 days tandeming!

Nutty Tandemers Club logo for Hebridean Way challenge.

Back in Largs a quick pedal of a few hundred yards saw us back at Matilda Transport and in just over an hour we were all back at Matildas Rest after another fabulous day out full of fun, laughs, sunshine (with one heavy shower!) and great tandeming! Which left my dynamic crew wondering if there was a better way to spend a Sunday? As one of the island’s sign’s says: “Millport – in a world of its own!”

No further comment needed!