Yummy cake at new Braco Coffee shop but rain stopped play on Dunblane tandem ☔

The “old gal” drookit on arrival at the new bike-friendly Braco Coffee shop!

Carrot cake and tandeming goes together like … well like Team Matilda’s Captain and Stoker really!

And my dynamic crew’s love for a stop at a coffee shop for carrot cake has become a signature event of our rides. In fact I understand the unbeatable combination is now de rigueur for most tandemers!

The “old git” and the “old gal” had been told about a great new tandem and cycle-friendly coffee shop in Braco and the plan for the day involved a pedal to build an appetite to sample the goodies on offer.

But the plan came a bit unstuck in some heavy rain which stopped the planned route in its tracks, forcing us to quickly retreat to the coffee shop to dry out.

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

Now as regular readers of my blog will know the “old git” is a bit of a zealot for checking the weather forecast with the localised BBC Weather service being his (usually) reliable first port of call. Dry and cloudy it said! But it was wrong!

When we set out it was accurate and soon we were tandeming away from Matildas Rest out on the open rural Perthshire roads past Gleneagles Hotel and on to Braco. To be honest, the cloud was building at this point – as the “old gal” pointed out. But the “old git” in his role as Captain decided to press on with the planned route to Dunblane.

But halfway to Dunblane – just before Kinbuck – rain stopped play with some ninja showers rolling in off the hills forcing the decision to abandon and take shelter before hastily retracing our route back to Braco.

It would need to be said my dynamic crew were looking somewhat less than dynamic as they arrived outside the Braco Coffee shop – drookit being the appropriate Scots word!

But they were guaranteed a warm and friendly welcome as the previous attempt at sampling the coffee shop ended in inglorious failure as my crew arrived just 8 minutes after the owners had decided to close early at 3 pm for staff training … on a busy Bank Holiday Monday!

Braco Coffee was sadly closed on our last visit – but my crew got a friendly welcome this time!

It was most definitely a case of “You’ll have had your tea” … as they say in some parts of Scotland as my crew disappointingly arrived that day to find the blinds down and not even the option of buying a carry out coffee, despite having checked the opening hours online before setting out.

After getting in touch with the owners they admitted it perhaps wasn’t the best day to close early – and tempted my dynamic crew to pay another visit – with some vouchers to help ease the disappointment!

Great coffee, scones, brownie and carrot cake! (Scones so good already eaten!)

Fair play to them, so my Captain and Stoker were happy to re-visit … and well worthwhile it turned out to be. Braco Coffee shop opened its doors back in March and since then has been providing an oasis for cyclists and walkers in the area – well situated on the busy tourist route to Crieff.

My dynamic crew can report that the fruit scones, chocolate brownie, and of course the carrot cake were all yummy as was the very welcome freshly brewed strong coffee.

The scones were so good that my dynamic crew forgot to take the pictures until after they had been scoffed! The “old git” nearly got his hand bitten off when he remembered and stopped the “old gal” just at the moment of launching in to sample the cakes!

The “old gal” still looking a tad wet! But ready to pounce on the cakes!

A real plus point for Braco Coffee Shop is that it doesn’t just keep to the coffee and cakes offering – the menu includes interesting freshly made lunch options including the likes of quiche and an interestingly named naanwich … obviously made from naan bread! And you can wash it all down with a glass of wine … or indeed prosecco … as it has a table licence.

And it stays open past its usual 5pm closing – till 9pm on a Friday and Saturday, to offer the local area a bistro dining option.

Great friendly customer service with a smile from the Braco Coffee team!

The food was tasty, fresh and well presented – with the scones warm on serving – which along with great friendly service from the Braco Coffee team, and sparkling toilets, meant the venue got top marks from Team Matilda! Well worth pointing your wheels in the direction of Braco for a pit stop on your next cycle ride! The carrot cake is worth it alone!

Now fortunately, while my dynamic crew refuelled, the rain disappeared – allowing for a fairly pleasant return tandem ride. Indeed weather conditions had improved dramatically so the “old git” decided not to simply repeat the outward journey but to add on a few extra miles with a longer loop back via Blackford, Badrill and then past Duchally Country Estate.

This involved some euphoria after nailing the steep 7% – 10% gradient uphill section known as the Duchally Ramp – which previously had seen my dynamic crew grind to a halt. But in my new low gear they managed to grind it out – which gave all three of us a great sense of achievement.

The last three miles flew past and returning to Matildas Rest the “old gal” quickly put the Team Matilda cycling anoraks – which had performed admirably in the downpour – on the washing line to dry.

The Team Matilda anoraks that did their job keeping my dynamic crew dry hanging on the line.

While the anoraks were blowing dry in the wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 16 gongs – which given the weather conditions and the hilly terrain was pretty unbelievable! The total was made up of 7 personal bests;  and 9 second bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 24.2 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 09 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.3 mph (given the monsoon rain!) while the elevation was 1401 feet. The maximum speed was 33.6 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1569 calories and produce an average power output of 182 W.

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

So not quite the 35 miles that were planned – but still a good bit of exercise! And it is always good to find a another tandem and bike-friendly coffee shop serving carrot cake! We’ll be back!

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When in Arbroath do as locals do and have an Arbroath Smokie with your picnic!

The new Sustrans Scotland ArtRoots funded wooden sculpture depicts East haven’s fishing heritage.

My dynamic crew like to feature local food & drink and tourism experiences as we tandem along on our adventures on a bicycle made for two! Well today was going to be one of those “must do” experiences – a mission to sample an Arboath Smokie while in Arbroath!

Yes I know its very exciting!! … but you’ll have to read on for the taste test!

Firstly I need to set the scene as the “old gal” and the “old git” had invited good solo cycling friends Gillian and Craig to Matildas Rest for an overnight stop for a good catch-up, and to join us for a Sunday cycle with their “short bikes”!

Now the bike crews may have been hoping for a long lie after a home-made curry and a few drinkies but the “old git” had everyone up sharpish – while the “old gal” offered a hearty breakfast for fuel. Fortunately the weather forecast had come up trump with the promised dry sunny day – although diplomatically no one mentioned the wind which was forecast as a “moderate breeze”!

Given that my dynamic crew decided on a repeat of our recent enjoyable and fun route, which hugs the coast from the Tay Road Bridge to Arbroath on Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt1, this was to prove significant! Brutally significant to be honest – but more of that later!

Ready to Roll – with solo cyclist friends Gillian and Craig about to tackle the Tay Road Bridge.

As the crews unpacked and set up the bikes in the car park opposite Dundee the view across the Tay offered an ideal backdrop for the inevitable series of selfie photos – before we were ready to roll! Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The first part of today’s ride was a quick “downhill” pedal across the Tay Road Bridge, before heading through the port area and on up the coast. The “old git” spotted the recently installed Sustrans Scotland “high-visiblity” cycle counter as we arrived at Broughty Ferry which provides a visual counter of the number of cyclists using the route.

Sustrans says the idea behind cycle counters is to promote sustainable transport such as walking and cycling instead of driving. In general, cycle counters have been shown to be motivational for cyclists and provide data that assists planning for cycling infrastructure.

What a great idea … and Team Matilda was happy to be recorded as the 78th cyclist to be recorded that day – and number 29,256 since the counter was installed at the start of June this year. And yes we only increased the counter by one unit – not two – as it counts the bikes not the riders!

Counting bikes! – the Sustrans Scotland cyclists counter shows how busy NCN Rt1 is.

We tandemed on noting how the miles seem to pass more quickly when cycling with friends. Maybe a useful tail wind also helped … although no one was talking about that … as it was inevitable that clearly was going to provide a tough obstacle on the return journey! We soon arrived at Carnoustie which hosted the 147th The Open 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.

Onwards we pedalled on NCN Rt 1 and it was great to see the path being so well used by bicycles on such a sunny day. Next stop was the beautiful former fishing village of East Haven which clearly has a highly active community trust called East Haven Together to protect and promote the area’s heritage and environment. And cyclists are made most welcome – with a bike friendly drinks dispensing station and route map at the entrance to the village.

Cyclists very welcome! East Haven’s bike friendly drinks dispenser and route map.

East Haven has been fortunate enough to be allocated some money from the ArtRoots fund – a community fund for artistic and aesthetic improvements to the Sustrans Scotland National Cycle Network. The result is a recently installed giant wooden sculpture depicting the area’s history as one of the oldest fishing communities in Scotland, which dates back to 1214.

The eye-catching landmark – which depicts two fishermen carved out of redwood by a chainsaw artist – has been installed on a  site overlooking the bay near the old fisherman’s shelter. Naturally my dynamic crew had to have a photo taken trying (and failing!) to subtly blend in with the sculpture!

The “old git” and “old gal” trying (and failing!) to blend in with the fishermen sculpture!

Onwards to Arbroath on the highly recommended cycle path. The harbour town was looking a its best as the sun peeked thru the clouds, giving it an almost Mediterranean feel. The area has a proud maritime and fishing history and the storm wall at Fish Quay has an RNLI memorial to the area’s “darkest day” when six lifeboatmen lost their lives when the lifeboat Robert Lindsay was overwhelmed by the sea just a quarter of a mile from the harbour back in October 1953.

The “old gal” at the RNLI memorial which stands proudly over Arbroath Harbour.

Now when in Arbroath there was clearly a requirement to do as locals do and have an Arbroath Smokie with our prosecco picnic!

The “old gal” and “old git” duly disappeared into one of several fish shops open for business and touting the authentic local delicacy of smoked haddock! And they were not disappointed. The taste test verdict was that it was remarkably fresh and just smoky enough to make it a truly mouth-watering experience. Just perfect when washed down with a glass of prosecco – with the bottle duly carried on my frame in my trendy la bouclee French-wine carrier!

Cheers! Gillian and Craig toasting the signature prosecco picnic at Arbroath …

… while the “old git” had to add the ubiquitous Arbroath Smokie to my dynamic crew’s picnic!

The Arbroath Smoke was the perfect appetizer for my dynamic crew’s picnic – lovingly prepared by the “old gal” of smoked salmon, chilli cream cheese and spinach wraps and some seasonal fresh fruit – all enjoyed overlooking the area’s impressive marina.

Me and my dynamic crew with the impressive Arbroath marina as a backdrop!

Re-fuelled and re-hydrated Gillian and Craig and my dynamic crew set off on the return journey – and all became immediately aware of the “moderate breeze”!

We stopped to admire the community garden at East Haven – complete with a decommissioned fishing boat. It is one of just five locations in Scotland to have been entered into the Britain in Bloom finals 2018 – and it is easy to see why when admiring the colourful site. Last year the area won a Beautiful Scotland Gold Award 2017 and Best Coastal Village Award.

Time for a breather! All four at the award-winning picturesque community garden at East Haven.

It would need to be said here that the pedal on the section most exposed to the sea around Carnoustie was not fun as the bikes were battered by brutal 20 mph head winds – which made for fairly slow progress. So there was a unanimous vote for another signature event of one of Team Matilda’s rides – a re-fuelling stop for carrot cake and coffee!

Except there was a devastating snag! The venue, the Glass Pavilion situated just behind Broughty Ferry beach, had run out of cakes! Never heard that one before – but it seems there had been a wedding the day before and the cafe’s supply of cakes had all been sold! What a disappointment! So the crews had to make do with a coffee without an infusion of cake!

Time for the final run back through Broughty Ferry to Dundee – where we enjoyed the protected run through the docks area. To finish it was the “uphill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge. Now keen readers of my blog will be aware that my dynamic crew had recently broken their own record for this crossing – appropriately named as ‘The Killer Tay Bridge’ sector on Strava – getting their time down to just 6 minutes and 12 seconds.

But today the “old git” conceded that today was not a day to be breaking records – much to the relief of the “old gal”! – as Team Matilda was buffeted by strong crosswinds from the start of our pedal across the river. But kudos to my dynamic crew as we still recorded our 3rd best ever time crossing the bridge of 7 minutes 29 seconds.

Gillian and Craig had beetled off with their “short bikes” not as badly affected by the crosswinds – and they were back in the car park filming our arrival at Matilda Transport, which you can watch here.

After getting our breath back from the battle against the wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of an incredible 33 gongs – which is almost worthy of a PB award on its own! I will say that again for effect in case you missed it – 33 gongs! There were no less than 19 personal bests; 10 second bests; and 4 third bests. Given the brutal head winds on the return journey my dynamic crew were more than happy with that outcome!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 38.5 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 20 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.6 mph (given the wind!) while the elevation was 641 feet. The maximum speed was 23.9 mph – due to no steep downhill stretches – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1563 calories and produce an average power output of 117 W.

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

So a great sunny – if a tad windy – day for a tandem ride, which was made all the better by cycling with good friends … and sampling the Arbroath Smokie! Another grand day out really for Matildas Musings!