Squeezing in a windy pedal to ancient Pictish capital of Alba – Forteviot – with Anne and Alan debuting new bikes

My dynamic crew with Team AA – Alan and Anne – ready to roll from Matildas Rest.

A short blog post which recounts my dynamic crew managing to squeeze in a windy #tandem to the ancient Pictish capital of Alba – Forteviot – on a ride with solo cyclist friends Alan Ince and Anne Connell – Team AA!

While not an official National Cycle Network route, the ride from Auchterarder to Forteviot in southern Perthshire is all on quiet back roads and is a joy to pedal.

You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The “old gal” was delighted to see a bright object rising in the sky – otherwise known as the sun! – as my dynamic crew fuelled up with a healthy breakfast. But it was going to be chilly so the next task was kitting up in multiple layers of winter cycling gear.

Next the “old gal” – in her role as “chief mechanic” – lovingly gave me the once over to check all my bits were in working order, and that my tyres were rock hard.

The reason time was of the essence was that my dynamic crew were making an essential drive to see the “old git’s” Mum in Ayrshire later in the day.

Team AA arrived bang on schedule, and after the compulsory photo we all headed off from Matildas Rest on the planned pedal around Pictish Perthshire – heading towards the historic nearby village of Forteviot – pedalling thru Dunning – covering a distance of just under 16 miles.

There was a lovely tailwind on the outward journey which saw my dynamic crew clock up four personal bests on the stretch to Dunning as the synchronicity factor of the “old git” and the “old gal” kicked in and they quickly picked up speed, with all three of us perfectly in tune! But Team Matilda paid for it on the return … as they always seem to do!

The crews were really enjoying the conditions in the glorious Perthshire countryside – and the sunshine appeared right on cue for the ride to give everything and everyone a healthy glow!

It was great to see so many cyclists out – and in what seemed like no time we covered the 8 miles and pedalled into Forteviot – an ancient Pictish capital of Scotland, where King Kenneth MacAlpin died in the 9th Century.

There we saw the amazing Cradle of Scotland- A Stone for Forteviot which is a proud centrepiece to the small village – a large carved stone inspired by the strong Pictish culture and the historic Dupplin Cross.

My dynamic crew with Team AA at the Cradle of Scotland – A Stone for Forteviot.

The original rare 3m high cross, carved out of sandstone in around AD800, once stood in the palace of the Pictish Kings at Forteviot. It is now housed in the nearby St Serf’s Church in Dunning – which we passed – and is looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

The Heritage Lottery funded Pictish Stones project has provided the area with a key legacy monument marking the area’s important role in the birth of medieval Scotland.

Alan and Anne having purchased two new bikes – a Liv and a Giant – from our trusty bike doctors Richards Cycles in Perth – and this was their debut ride. And very pleased they were with their new steeds it seems!

Anne and Alan give the thumbs up to their shiny new Liv and Giant bikes!

The crews enjoyed a socially-distanced “DIY Costa Coffee” stop at the bus shelter at Forteviot – coffee from a flask with the first mince pie of the season!

DIY Costa Coffee-style stop at Forteviot bus shelter – with first mince pie of the season!

The new eco-friendly bus shelter was created as part of the Tay Landscape Partnership funding for the area by local forester Jim Thomson who runs his own Woodland Craft business. The shelter also houses a brilliant information board giving lots more detail about the deep history of the area.

The brilliant information board in the eco-friendly bus shelter details the history of Forteviot.

The Forteviot village “square” (or green to be exact!) provided an ideal sun-kissed stop – with its quaint houses which were rebuilt for workers of the Dupplin Estate in 1927 and create a beautiful focal point for the village.

The sun created some great long shadows at the picturesque Forteviot village green.

Re-freshed by the DIY coffee stop, it was time to pedal back into the now fierce headwind!  As the “old gal” said: “Why is there always a headwind on the way home?!” Let’s just say it just shows what a difference 180 degrees can make!

The crews had a stop for a breather as they cycled back thru Dunning – a village which is also rich in history having been burned to the ground during the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. But sadly, due to Covid, no opportunity for a reviving libation at the great friendly country pub called The Kirkstyle Inn – which my dynamic crew have been known to visit from time to time!

The last notable historic landmark the crews pedalled past – but didn’t stop at – was the monument to Maggie Wall. This is an eerie stone cross with a hand painted date of 1657 and it is said to be a memorial to the last witch to be burned at the stake.

Not surprisingly there were no personal bests on the return leg but my dynamic crew and Team AA battled on to arrive back at Matildas Rest.

After bidding farewell to Alan and Anne, with a Covid-friendly fist pump, and safely out of the wind the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of a healthy total of 5 gongs – made up of 4 personal bests and 1 second best times. Amazingly one of those was nearly a minute – 56 seconds to be exact! – quicker than our previous best! It couldn’t all have been the tailwind … could it?! Must be something to do with my dynamic crew’s fitness … surely!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 15.7 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 13 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.8 mph – which given the headwind on the return leg was perfectly acceptable! Elevation was 711 feet. The maximum speed was 31.1 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 923 calories and produce an average power output of 187 W.

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

All in all a super way to get some much needed rays of the sun and exercise while pedalling with friends – a great way to start a Sunday!

Foggy Remembrance Day (plus 1!) pedal along NCN Rt 764 on the old Clackmannan to Dunfermline railway line.

My dynamic crew’s cycling helmets had a Remembrance theme!

A short blog post which recounts my dynamic crew having a fun but raw and foggy Remembrance Day (plus 1!) pedal along Sustrans Scotland The National Cycle Network #NCN Rt 764 – on the old Clackmannan to Dunfermline railway line.

The original plan was to do this ride – also known as the West Fife Cycle Way – on Remembrance Sunday but it was delayed by a day due to heavy rain. But the “old git” and “old gal” still sported poppies on their cycling helmets.

You can check out the details of our route – which is part of the Inner Forth area network of NCN routes – by clicking on the Strava map below.

Today’s revised optimistic schedule was to do two return trips, to clock up some miles – but a thick fog ruled that one trip was sufficient in the raw murky conditions.

At some points the thick haar coming off the Forth estuary meant the “old git” could barely see more than a few feet in front of him! And in the sections thru the woods, it was actually quite spooky!

It was however good to see the route so busy with many cyclists and walkers. Although it could be described as a “hidden gem” it clearly is a very popular route amongst locals. And the network of paths is part of a wider project to encourage access to the outdoors called Discover Clackmannanshire.

Sadly we were not accompanied by our good solo cycling friends, Gillian and Craig, who introduced my dynamic crew to this route. They have left their beloved Scotland for a couple of years for a new lifestyle in Malaysia. But they were certainly in the thoughts of the “old gal” and “old git” – and read on for more flashbacks!

The “old gal” and “old git” ready to roll at the start of NCN Rt 764 at Clackmannan.

Starting from just off the B910 to the north-east of Clackmannan the route follows the old railway line over open and wooded countryside over just short of 11 miles to the west side of Dunfermline.

The route usually offers some great views over the Kingdom of Fife towards the impressive sight of the Forth Bridges – tho not today! Just a thick blanket of fog!

Coffee break at our self-supported socially distanced coffee stop at the Dunfermline end of NCN Rt 764

A welcome coffee break at the half way point at the Dunfermline end was my dynamic crew’s self-supported socially distanced coffee shop set up on an old railway sleeper.

Which was much different to our trip with Gillian and Craig back in 2017 when they sped off and set up an impromptu mini cocktail bar on that very same railway sleeper! And amazingly they had brought along a spirit measure and even more remarkably – ice cubes! An effort fully worthy of a gold star!

Great memories – which I had to relive in these flashback photos below:

Gillian and Craig were sadly missed – here they are with the “old gal” at their DIY cocktail stop!

The “old git” at the same railway sleeper – no cocktails … just coffee!

Fond memories of Gillian and Craig’s pop-up cocktail bar from 2017.

A quick turnaround saw Team Matilda heading back to the start at Clackmannan – but only after a quick stop at one of the many NCN Rt 764 signs along the way!

Lots of clear signs for NCN Rt 764 as it runs 11 miles along the old Clackmannan to Dunfermline railway.

Despite a picnic lunch being packed in my panniers the “old gal” called the wise choice of abandoning the planned second ride due to the cold dank conditions – and decided on a short detour for a reviving hot soup lunch at the bike friendly Café des Fleurs in Dollar on the drive home!

Over steaming bowls of Thai sweet potato soup the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of a healthy total of 14 gongs – made up of 8 personal bests, 4 second bests; and 2 third best times.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a weather curtailed distance of 21.5 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 37 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 13.2 mph – which given the thick fog and visibility issues was perfectly acceptable! Elevation was a relatively flat 445 feet given we were pedalling along the bed of an old railway line. The maximum speed was 23.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 904 calories and produce an average power output of 138 W.

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

Despite the inclement conditions, it was still good to be out and as always my dynamic crew managed to have fun – as it should be – on a bicycle made for two!

The “old gal” just wants a bit of Autumn sunshine for the next ride! Don’t think that’s too much to ask!