Le Tour de Deux Festivals du Tandem!

Scallops oysters and champagne?! No one told us festivals were like this!

“Do you fancy going to a festival?”, the “old git” had casually asked the “old gal” a few weeks ago? “In fact do you fancy going to two festivals in tandem, by tandem on the same day?” he asked. The response wasn’t immediately enthusiastic it would need to be said – from either of my dynamic crew!

Perhaps it was those traditional images of huge crowds of people standing soaked and caked in mud at somewhere like T in the Park that came to mind. And another off putting factor was that the “old gal” and the “old git” most definitely don’t do camping!

But they decided they would lose their festival virginity with a planned day trip to Strathyre to tandem between two festivals being hosted on the same Bank Holiday weekend within Rob Roy Country. So Sunday dawned and the weather was nice and sunny as we headed off early from Matildas Rest, with a little trepidation for what the day may bring.

The start point for Team Matilda’s Le Tour de Deux Festivals du Tandem was the fabulous Broch Cafe in Strathyre – where we had been invited to park Matilda Transport by the friendly owners Lesley and Bill. Even tho it was just around 10 o’clock the cafe had a great buzz about it with orders for hearty breakfasts flying out of the kitchen.

Team Matilda – all kitted up in their Saltire cycling tops ready for the off at Broch Cafe.

After a welcome Lucaffee coffee and delicious home made scone there was time for a quick photo of my dynamic crew all kitted up in their matching “Sunday best” Saltire cycling tops, before we headed off out of Strathyre on the super smooth surface of the Sustrans Scotland NCR7. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics!

Before we built up any speed however, our first task was to look out for the site of a newly commissioned installation on the award-winning unique cultural outside art #BLiSStrail, named after the four villages it links – Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St Fillans. The trail is the brainchild of LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group,  to encourage more visitors to the area – to boost tourism and the local economy.

We quickly found Drover’s Bho – a Highland Coo metal sculpture made by Kev Paxton’s ArtFe to mark the old cattle drovers route which has just been added to the BLiSStrail to mark 2017 being the Year of History Heritage and Archaeology.

Drovers Bho – the new BLiSStrail artwork. Spot the bramble eating mouse on his head!

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 gal” was quick to spot a bramble-eating mouse on his head!

Back on my saddles, my crew tandemed off picking up a fair speed on the off-road cycle path heading for our first destination of our two festival tour – the  Mhor Festival being held in the grounds of the stylish boutique Monachyle Mhor hotel. Billed as the best “off the beaten track” festival in Scotland it promotes itself as a festival of food, drink, music, theatre and dance! As the festival web site says: “Come, play, sing, dance, cook, learn, chill!” Well, ok,if you insist!

And the organisers agree that arriving by tandem is ideal, as it saves having to use the bus on the traffic management system on the narrow roads! The approach gave my crew the opportunity to ride again on one of the best routes Team Matilda have had the pleasure of experiencing – gently undulating single track roads with the most wonderful views across Loch Voil within the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. And with hardly a whisper of wind, the loch’s surface was like a mirror, reflecting the surrounding hills. Truly magnifique!

The camp site at Mhor Festival must be one of the most scenic festival camp sites ever.

As we rounded the final bend we were greeted with the first view of theMhor Festival site. The campsite, just on the edge of the loch, has to be one of the most scenic festival sites ever. With thousands of people already enjoying the party atmosphere it looked like my crew were going to have fun – especially as the “old git” spotted a sign promising “fun and funk”!

The “old git” and me looking for fun and funk after arriving at Mhor Festival.

The festival organisers at Mhor had arranged for VIP admission tickets for Team Matilda – which I am sure must have been a result of my recent appearance on on BBC Scotland’s Landward television programme promoting Loch Voil area as our favourite picnic spot!

I was safely parked up in the staff car park as the my dynamic crew entered the festival site – and were immediately taken by the friendly nature of the event. And there was so much going on – dance, music, comedy, art, theatre and of course some amazing food and drink including a champagne and seafood bar.

The “old gal” decided that festivals may not be that bad after all! She was quickly impressed with the funky nature of the festival and had to pose beside one of the many amusing eye-catching signs dotted around the site.

The “old gal” showing off her funkier side – one of the eye catching signs at Mhor Festival

My crew decided it was time to sample some of the culinary delights on offer in the street food area and started with some gin infused salmon served on a beetroot scone with some red cabbage. They then decided to indulge in some seafood and had some amazing freshly cooked scallops washed down with an obligatory glass of champagne!  As the “old gal” was heard to say while quaffing her fizz and enjoying the alfresco lunch – “no one told us festivals were like this!”

Cheers – some yummy seafood for alfresco lunch. What’s not to like about festivals?

After lunch my  crew bumped into Kim Proven –  the enthusiastic chair of LETi and owner of Briar Cottages at Lochearnhead  – along with her husband Fraser who were enjoying a cool jazz funk band playing in the main arena. The “old git” naturally took the opportunity to remind Fraser of his (whisky induced) promise to ride me backwards! He claimed he hadn’t forgotten but also said he needed to get some practice in – so was somewhat vague about agreeing a date to show off his circus skills!

One of the joys of the event for my crew was just chilling and relaxing in the warm sunshine. The festival site had a lovely relaxed feel about it which was great for people watching.

The festival site had a lovely relaxed feel about it – great for people watching!

The afternoon seemed to slip past and all too soon it was time for my crew to retrieve me from the car park and tandem back into Strathyre for the second part of our festival tour. It was an interesting ride back along the single track road as it was quite busy with cars leaving the site and we had to slow down and let cars pass at virtually every single passing place.

But free of the confines of the single track road the “old git” was able to go up the gears and we clocked a new Team Matilda speed record of 32.4 mph on a nice downhill stretch! I was almost giddy with excitement! I mean it is many years since this “old lady’s” wheels have turned that fast!

Our tandem back from Mhor ended up where we started, back at Broch Cafe – just yards from the venue for our second festival of the day, the Strathyre Music Festival. Time for one more picture of the “old git” in front of the large marquee which hosts the festival, before I was packed away in Matilda Transport so my crew could concentrate on enjoying the music!

The “old git” outside the large marquee for the Strathyre Music Festival.

Lesley and Bill kindly let us change out of our cycling gear at Broch Cafe into more relaxed clothes more suitable for the music festival. We could already hear the bands playing but there was an additional attraction for my dynamic crew – Bill had fired up a bbq outside the cafe – and it was busy with festival goers looking for some food. The “old git” and the “old gal” were hungry again after their tandem ride and naturally had to sample the nosh! I am reliably told that the steak burgers with cheese were delicious! So good in fact (and whisper this bit!) they had seconds!

The Strathyre Music Festival is the second festival to be held in the area over the Bank Holiday weekend. And it must be one of Scotland’s best value festivals with an entry fee of only £5 per day. The music festival started from the success of local band Balvaig. Led by Kenny Higgins, who is also vice-chair of LETi, the band is a  group of highly talented local musicians and singer songwriters who regularly meet for bothy-style folk and blues music sessions.

The festival has rapidly grown in stature and size and is now in its fifth year. It is recognised as the largest small community based music festival in Scotland – renowned for its fantastic family friendly atmosphere in a beautiful setting.

The early Sunday evening session was a bit quieter than the late Saturday session when the marquee was mobbed for a set by Mudslide, a 5-piece blues band. But my crew were able to relax and hear a set set by Hugh Kelly, an alternative blues/soul singer songwriter. This was followed by a performance from Martha L Healy which explored country, folk, bluesceltic and Americana.

Martha L Healy performing her set at the Strathyre Music Festival.

Dipping briefly into the festival my crew experienced the friendly nature of it all before tiredness started to kick in for my crew after a long day in the sunshine, and they decided to miss the headline act of Papa Shandy and the Drams. So after bidding farewell to Lesley and Bill – who were still busy serving up food – it was time to drive home. After returning to Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava to find that they received eight on the ride – four personal bests and four second best times!

Strava officially recorded the ride as a distance of 16.4 miles with a total moving time of 1 hour 49 minutes. Average speed was 9.1 mph, with a top speed being a giddy 32.4 mph.

The elevation covered was 540 feet, as we managed to burn up 1002 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 137 W.

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

What a fantastic day in the sunshine for Team Matilda at our first ever festivals! Let’s just say that my dynamic crew enjoyed it so much they are already planning to come back in 2018! You never know, we might be able to persuade some other tandems to join us!

Sunday showers on BLiSStrail in scenic Strathyre

Taking a photo of you taking a photo of me … reflective fun at The Look Out.

So a weekend of fun and frolics with good solo cyclist friends of the “old gal” and “old git” – Gillian and Craig who had come to Matildas Rest to stay for a mini-break. My dynamic crew promised them “gin and BLiSStrail.” However I think that our visitors had (perhaps understandably!) assumed that the BLiSStrail was a tour of local pubs sampling gin! But in fact the gin was a visit to a local gin bar – followed by a cycle the next day around the award-winning unique cultural outside art #BLiSStrail, named after the four villages it links – Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St Fillans – deep in the heart of Rob Roy Country within the Loch Lomond and  The Trossachs National Park.

The weekend started with some fab Mediterranean vegetable lasagne made by the “old gal” before some “pre cycle training” of a night out in Perth! I was left behind tucked up in the garage as the bike crews headed off on a different mode of transport – the bus! – for a trip into The Venue – a gin bar which boasts no less than 200 gins on offer.

Easy to follow signs to the Gin Bar at The Venue, Perth.

There is a gin menu – a thick pamphlet which describes all the varieties, and the best mix of tonics and garnishes to have with them! So naturally the four cyclists had to sample a few gins between them! And I am reliably told that an enjoyable night was had by all! No jokes about being well oiled please!

Pre tandem ride Saturday night training – two tonics (with splash of gin) … in tandem!

No room for sore heads however as the “old git” had everyone up early, ready to head off to Strathyre to cycle round the BLiSStrail – a series of large metal and wood sculptures and art installations. It is the brainchild of LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group,  to encourage more visitors to the area – to boost tourism and the local economy.

And as we drove into St Fillans – along the lovely road from Crieff – there was time for a quick photo stop at the affectionately named “Mirror Man” – which was glistening in the sun in the water at the top of Loch Earn opposite the The Four Seasons Hotel. This iconic mirrored sculpture is officially called “STILL” and has been created by Scottish artist Rob Mulholland.

The “old git” trying (and failing!) to mirror Mirror Man in  Loch Earn at St Fillans.

The start point for our tour was Broch Cafe in Strathyre – a great facility run by the hospitable owners Lesley and Bill, who we met on a previous trips to the area.  As always the cafe was bustling with customers and has a really friendly vibe about it. After a welcome coffee Gillian decided to try out an unusual way of sitting on Thistle the Heilan’ Coo, which sits just outside the cafe, before we headed off. Me thinks she really fancies a motorbike than a pedal bike!

Gillian finding an unusual way to sit on Thistle the Heilan’ coo at Broch Cafe!

You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics!

We headed out of Strathyre on the Sustrans Scotland NCR7 – which Gillian and Craig immediately agreed was one of the best cycle paths that they had every cycled on! It is like a motorway surface – super smooth – which, for an “old lady” like myself who doesn’t like too many bumps and potholes, was a delight to tandem on!

Ironically, as we passed the site which will host a newly commissioned #BLiSStrail sculpture of a Highland Coo to mark the old cattle drovers route, we came across a rather unusual obstruction on the cycle path … of … you’ve guessed … a real live young Highland Coo! This one had obviously been keen to investigate the merits of NCR7 and somehow had managed to escape from its field. Despite being a relative baby, it was still fairly substantial and was blocking the route. Fortunately it was fairly friendly, and after having a few inquisitive looks at my frame (I don’t think it had seen many tandem bikes!) he happily “moooved” over to let us past.

Unusual “rush hour” obstruction on NCR7 – I had to ask Hamish to mooove over!

After the cow “diversion” we picked up a fair speed on the cycle path, and soon we were at Kingshouse where we took the turning for Balquidder – soon passing the grave of Rob Roy MacGregor.  Pedalling on into Balquidder, the “old gal” was keen to show Gillian and Craig an interesting feature beside the village hall – an unusual iconic red phone box. Unusual in that this one has been transformed into a book exchange for the local community after the actual phone service was withdrawn as it was no longer used much. What a wonderful idea! Great #ScotSpirit!

Great alternative use for a phone box – Balquhidder Book Exchange.

Tandeming on from Balquhidder we headed along the 4 miles signposted towards the stylish boutique Monachyle Mhor hotel to take in the Look Out installation – one of the key pieces of the #BLiSStrail. It is essentially a mirrored cube which blends into the surrounding backdrop. In fact it is so well situated that you really have to look hard to find it in the middle of a field! Despite the fact that the weather had turned  a bit showery, the Look Out’s cleverly designed reflective lines provided both bike crews with endless opportunities for fun photographs.

Whose looking at who?! – Gillian, Craig and the “old gal” at the Look Out.

Look(ing) out, look(ing) in! So many options, so many combinations at the mirrored cabin.

Interesting half and half reflection of the “old gal” at the Look Out.

To escape the sudden downpour the “old gal” – who doesn’t like cycling in rain! – decided we should try and take refuge in the nearest shelter. This turned out to be a space under the road bridge, which had clearly been built over the ancient old bridge – giving a fascinating glimpse of the past.

A new(ish) bridge built over the ancient old bridge at the end of Loch Voil.

When the sun broke thru again my crew decided it was time to show Gillian and Craig our perfect prosecco picnic spot on the banks of Loch Voil. And as the rain clouds blew away, we were left with a perfect vista over the loch to the hills on the other side. First job, of course, was for the “old git” to chill the prosecco in the huge outdoor wine chiller! Then to open it, and pour it, without spilling a drop! – which he successfully achieved! As they say, practice makes perfect! Gillian and Craig were suitably impressed at the alfresco lunch venue and the prosecco was the perfect accompaniment to the healthy picnic of croissants filled with smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese, followed by fresh fruit.

Wine cooler with a view! Perfect way to chill the prosecco!

Cheers! Our perfect prosecco picnic spot on the banks of Loch Voil.

The “old gal” enjoying her fresh fruit and prosecco in the sunshine!

Fortified by another prosecco picnic, we pedalled off enjoying the fabulous countryside and gently undulating road along the side of Loch Voil. But unfortunately as we got to Balquhidder the rain started again and after a vote among my dynamic crew – with the “old gal” having the casting vote! – the decision was taken to abandon the planned route to return to Strathyre on the old hilly road up through the forest. So we headed back retracing our steps by rejoining NCR 7 back to Strathyre. This turned out to be a fairly sensible outcome as the rain showed no sign of easing off.

Perfect finish! A warming coffee and yummy home made carrot cake at Broch Cafe.

Our tandem ride ended up where we started back at Broch Cafe, where it was time for my team to enjoy that traditional tandemers reviving snack of yummy coffee and home made carrot cake – while checking Strava to find that they received five gongs on the ride.

Strava officially recorded the ride as a distance of 16.0 miles with a total moving time of 1 hour 47 minutes. Average speed was 9.0 mph, with a top speed being a giddy 30.9 mph.

The elevation covered was 261 feet, as we managed to burn up 914 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 128 W.

Standby for a clever bit now … the “old git” had been told about an amazing new app called Relive which creates a 3D video interpretation of a ride – effectively bringing Strava to life. It does what it says on the tin – reliving a ride by showing the landscape and contours of the route, as well as showing photos at the spot they were taken, before ending with all the stats. Very clever bit of tech! So  having signed up Team Matilda were delighted to received their first video. Click on the play button below and take a look! I am sure you will be impressed! The “old git” certainly was!

Don’t forget you can sign up to see my Twitter feed by clicking on the word MatildasMusings, or the “follow” button.

My dynamic crew got a bit chilled at the end of the ride, so unfortunately had to turn down the offer of a game of petanque on Broch Cafe’s own piste – but they will take up the offer from Bill and  Lesley for a doubles match soon!

In the meantime I for one can’t wait to return on the last Sunday in May for Team Matilda’s double festival extravaganza tour – visiting both the Mhor Festival and the Strathyre Music Festival by tandem! If you can’t wait, read my recent blog where we sussed out the route between the two festivals!

Un peu de petanque a pedal and prosecco picnic in scenic Strathyre

Un peu de petanque – the “old gal” on the piste at Broch Cafe in Strathyre!

So a nice bright sunny Sunday morning and the “old git” was up with the lark and in his usual (annoying!) manner was pulling the duvet off the “old gal” at 7am with the promise of a great day’s tandeming ahead – with the added attraction of a game of petanque thrown in! “Haud me back!” she said – well at least that’s the polite translation of what she said!

The enticement to get out of bed was a return to Strathyre – where rural Perthshire meets rural Stirling – to do the scenic cycle we attempted during our visit back at the end of January. Regular blog readers will remember that the trip was abandoned by Team Matilda due to freezing conditions and snow!

The “old git” likes to do his homework, and after a final check of the weather to ensure there would be no snow, the “old gal” prepared one of my dynamic crew’s infamous prosecco picnics and we were off!

The route was to do a loop around Strathyre – with a detour to Loch Voil for a picnic. One of the ideas behind this trip was doing a recce for a weekend tandem tour of two great local festivals in the area on the same weekend at the end of May – and you can read more details of them throughout this blog.

My crew also planned to revisit the unique cultural outside art BLiSStrail, named after the four villages it links – Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St Fillans – deep in the heart of Rob Roy Country within the Loch Lomond and  The Trossachs National Park. The trail is a series of large metal and wood sculptures and art installations – mostly by Scottish artists. It is the brainchild of LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group, to encourage more visitors to the area – to boost tourism and the local economy.

#BLiSStrail has been so popular that it is now an “award winning trail” – with the hardworking LETi volunteers receiving the honour of a regional Scottish Thistle Award – recognised as the tourism Oscars – for “Working Together for Tourism” – which is a great accolade for a small group.

And as we drove into St Fillans – along the lovely road from Crieff – we immediately were reminded of the attraction of the BLiSStrail when we caught sight of the affectionately named “Mirror Man” glistening in the sun in the water at the top of Loch Earn opposite the The Four Seasons Hotel.

Selfie time with Mirror Man – who is officially known as STILL – on #BLiSStrail at St Fillans on Loch Earn.

The iconic mirrored sculpture is officially named “STILL” and has been created by Scottish artist Rob Mulholland. It is an eye-catching artwork and most people driving along the road can’t resist stopping for a selfie and a photo opportunity – and that obviously included my dynamic crew!

It was the first time in four recent visits that we had seen the sculpture as it is was removed from the water for winter hibernation after almost disappearing during storms in January 2016. The larger than life artwork was feared to have been destroyed in 90 mph winds which knocked him from his perch. But the half-tonne statue was recovered and underwent substantial repairs – including re-attaching his head (which sounds painful to me being another iconic metal structure!)

The “old gal” trying to hold Mirror Man who was clearly in reflective mood!

The start point for Team Matilda’s tandem tour was the Broch Cafe in Strathyre – where we had been invited to have a pre cycle coffee by the hospitable owners Lesley and Bill, who we met on a previous trip to the area. The cafe was closed back in January to allow the staff a break but when we arrived it was bustling with customers having breakfast and had a great vibe about it!

After a welcome Lucaffee coffee and home made scone there was time for a quick photo of the Broch team at the Ride Out seats which sit beside the cafe before we headed off – with Bill promising us a game of petanque on our return!

The “old gal” with the team at Broch Cafe relaxing at the Ride Out seats!

My crew got on my saddles and we started to tandem off on the sun-kissed Sustrans Scotland NCR7 which runs around the Strathyre area. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

Unfortunately there was to be no repeat of my substitute stoker adventures with Kim Proven –  the enthusiastic chair of LETi and owner of Briar Cottages at Lochearnhead  – who sadly had damaged her shoulder in a fall which meant she couldn’t cycle. Such a shame as I know Kim was so looking forward to her third trip on my saddle! She must have been devastated!

But Kim had informed my crew to look out for the site where a newly commissioned sculpture will be installed just as NCR 7 leaves the village. It will be a Highland Coo to mark the old cattle drovers route and is being added to the BLiSStrail to mark 2017 being the Year of History Heritage and Archaeology.

We quickly identified the area and it is going to be a great new addition to the BLiSStrail. And that section of NCR 7 leaving Strathyre has to be one of the best cycle paths that I have ever been on! It is like a motorway surface – super smooth – which, for an “old lady” like myself who doesn’t like too many bumps and potholes, was a delight to tandem on! There is even a section with reflective cats eyes near the village, to make it easier for locals to cycle home in the dark! Credit to Sustrans Scotland!

We picked up a fair speed on the cycle path, and in no time we were at Kingshouse where we took the turning for Balquidder – soon passing the grave of Rob Roy MacGregor. The loop heads back to Strathyre via the old road but my dynamic crew decided on a beautiful detour – tandeming 4 miles each way along the banks of Loch Voil to the grounds of the stylish boutique Monachyle Mhor hotel.

This is one of the best rides Team Matilda have had the pleasure of experiencing – gently undulating single track roads with the most wonderful views across Loch Voil. And with hardly a whisper of wind, the loch’s surface was like a mirror, reflecting the surrounding hills. Truly magnifique!

Here I am posing at Monachyle Mhor just at the end of Loch Voil – what a setting  for a hotel!

Apart from the scenery the reason for the detour was to check out how easy it would be to arrive by tandem at the Mhor Festival which is held at the hotel over three days from the 26th to 29th of May.

Billed as the best “off the beaten track” festival in Scotland it promotes itself as a festival of food, drink, music, theatre and dance! Thousands of visitors can vouch for last years rip roaring success. Dance, food, art, theatre, champagne and oyster bar and so much more for all age groups! And whisper it – but there is going to be a gin bar this year! The “old gal” will think she has died and gone to heaven! As the festival web site says: Come, play, sing, dance, cook, learn, chill! I mean what’s not to like?! And the organisers agree that arriving by tandem is ideal, as it saves having to use the bus on the traffic management system on the narrow roads! So recce successfully done – I would say that is a date in the diary for Team Matilda!

Always prepared! I carry a bottle of fizz for my dynamic crew in my la Bouclee!

So after our detour to suss out the route to the Mhor Festival 2017 – it was time to find a spot for my dynamic crew’s now infamous prosecco picnic – a key part of any tandeming trip for Team Matilda!

Time for a prosecco picnic on the banks of scenic Loch Voil? Oh ok, if you insist!

The “old git” is getting quite a dab hand at finding idyllic picnic spots – much to the delight of the “old gal” – and he certainly didn’t disappoint this time – pulling over at a spot on the road where the banking dropped down to a completely deserted and isolated pebble beach area on Loch Voil.

Surely this spot should get an award as one of best picnic spots in Scotland?

It certainly got an award from my crew as being one of the best picnic spots in Scotland! The food and drink goodies were quickly unpacked and set up against a perfect backdrop of the loch gently lapping at the water’s edge, with a vista looking across the loch to the hills on the opposite bank.

The “old git” doing the very important popping the cork job!

The “old git” quickly did the honours and popped the cork – without spilling a drop naturally, despite it being shaken up on my la Bouclee wine carrier. Then it was time for my crew to have a toast to one of those perfect tandeming picnics – and savour the first sip of French Cremant brought back from our trip to the Loire Valley last year! Blisss!

The “old gal” chilling and savouring the first sip of Cremant! Bliss!

Cheers! Fizz in the sun with a view! What’s not to like?

Refuelled following a most civilised picnic lunch – smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese croissants and some fresh fruit in case you wanted to know the menu – it was time for my crew to do some serious pedalling on the return trip. The first part was an easy tandem back along the Loch Voil road back to Balquhidder – before turning onto the old road back to Strathyre which goes thru the forest.

Enjoying the forest – but not the hills – on the old road back to Strathyre!

It was a lovely winding route which was again a joy to tandem – apart from one killer hill, which actually turned out out be two steep hills back to back! Maybe it was the fizz from the bubbly at lunchtime, but my dynamic crew manfully (and womanfully!) pedalled on to the top! Then there was a nice downhill stretch – which required a spot of testing my brakes at corners. And then a more dramatic stop as the “old git” remembered about one of the most intriguing installations on the BLiSStrail – the fabulous stone miniature Mill House and Bridge.

The “old gal” at the intricate stone miniature Mill House and bridge on the #BLiSStrail.

You have to look closely to find it – sitting on the edge of a garden on the right on the descent on the old Strathyre road before crossing the old stone bridge over the River Balvaig. It seems local children know it as the “The Fairy House” and it is well worth seeking out.

At the bottom of the hill we rejoined the off road cycle path NCR 7 and cycled back into the Broch recreation area where my crew couldn’t resist a photo at the impressive wooden Soaring Eagle.

The dramatic Soaring Eagle catches the eye near the Broch Cafe.

So now we were back in Strathyre my dynamic crew decided it would be easily possible to cycle back from a visit to the Mhor Festival to take in the evening entertainment at the second festival being held in the area on that last Bank Holiday weekend of May – the Strathyre Music Festival.

It was started from the success of local band Balvaig. Led by Kenny Higgins, who is also vice-chair of LETi, the band is a  group of highly talented local musicians and singer songwriters who regularly meet for bothy-style folk and blues music sessions. The festival has rapidly grown in stature and size and is now in its fifth year. And it must be one of Scotland’s best value music festivals with it costing only £5 entry fee per day. For the full schedule for the 2017 festival – running from Friday 26th thru till Sunday 29th May, check out the event’s website.

Our tandem ride ended up where we started back at the Broch Cafe. While Lesley busily worked away serving customers, Bill took some time out to proudly show my dynamic crew the cafe’s newly installed petanque court – or to give it it’s correct technical name, petanque piste!

Clearly Bill is going to become a bit of a petanque aficionado as he already has his own personal set of boules – made to measure to his hands! And I have to say that the “old gal” and the “old git” very quickly took to it – and of course I had to have  a bash at it too!

How do bikes play petanque? In tandem with their Stokers obviously!

It seems a doubles match has already been arranged for our next visit! Let’s just say that if the petanque is played in true French style with a glass (or two) of wine – and Broch Cafe is licensed – then my dynamic duo may end up a bit off piste!

Anyway, after the excitement of un peu de petanque it was time for my team to enjoy that traditional tandemers reviving snack of yummy coffee and cake – home made at the Broch Cafe – while checking Strava to find that they received three gongs on the ride.

Strava officially recorded the ride as a distance of  15.8 miles with a total moving time of 2hrs 57 minutes due to the issue over the “old git” having a senior moment and forgetting to pause Strava for the picnic. This resulted in a very slow average speed of just 5.3 mph being recorded –  about half my crew’s current average recently. But given that the picnic lasted over an hour in the sunshine, the “old git” reckons the average speed was nearer the norm of 10 mph.

Top speed recorded was 32.9 mph and the elevation covered was a not insubstantial 497 feet. We managed to burn up 1610 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 135 W.

All in all a fabulous day which underlines the Team Matilda philosophy – that it’s the Smiles and not the miles that count! Can’t wait to return for the double festival extravaganza!

Pedalling into social media, supporting Perth 2021, Sustrans Scotland goodies and more fame!

My new Twitter page heading with my @matildasmusings handle.

My new Twitter page heading with my @matildasmusings handle.

Well its been an exciting few days here at Matildas Rest – the result of which is that this “old lady” has again proved she is not too old to learn new tricks and has become a social media whizzkid!

Clearly I have always been good at computer technology – given that I write this blog – but until now I had resisted the temptation to enter the often confusing social media world of Facebook and Twitter. I had left that to my Captain to communicate with my followers on my behalf!

But as they say “every day is a school day” so I decided to take the plunge and go headfirst into a social media frenzy by creating both my very own Facebook page and a Twitter feed! And I am delighted with the results as both are “branded” to tie in with my blog!

I was delighted to find that the @matildasmusings handle was free for both services so I eagerly grabbed them. I started with Twitter – I had to add some pictures and write a little bit about myself. Where to start? So I got the “old git” to help as he considers himself to be a bit of wordsmith!

sm-new-twitter-smallHe came up with: Blogging classic tandem Matilda writes Musings about her adventures on the road focusing on tourism and food & drink experiences en route in Scotland + abroad!

I have to say he does have a way with words – just don’t tell him or he gets all big headed! – as it does what it says on the tin. Then I added where Matildas Rest is, and finally my blog website address and I was ready to send my first Tweet! It just announced that I was now live on Twitter – not that memorable! But Oooh the excitement that I am now  able to communicate directly with my fans! I am going to learn all the lingo – like using hashtags like #ScotSpirit which seems to perfectly encapsulate me!

So I would be delighted if you “followed” me and sent me a message by clicking the “follow” button after clicking on to my Twitter page here. I guess my only problem as an “old lady” will be keeping within the 140 characters allowed to get my message across! So I’ll have to tag lots of people, and develop a new form of MatildasMusings shorthand!

No such worries about restrictions on the number of words on Facebook however! It was equally easy to set up my own page –  again starting by adding in the same banner pictures to give it the same look as Twitter! It’s all got to look slick and  a seamless operation you know!

Then time for the words for the “About” page. This time I started with: The Facebook page of Matildas Musings which is a blog written by Matilda – the “old lady” classic tandem – and her Musings about her adventures, trials and tribulations with the “old git” and Captain, aka Colin, and the “old gal” and Chief Stoker (as well as Chief Engineer) aka Diane.

The header for my very own Facebook page with @matildasmusings handle.

The header for my very own Facebook page with my @matildasmusings handle.

I then added the same words as the Twitter biography – and my contact details and blog address. I thought I was finished, then Facebook asked for my mission! I thought of being witty with something like “to proudly go where no tandem has gone before” but in the end I settled for: “To promote all things tandem, tourism, and food & drink in Scotland and abroad.” Clever eh?!

So now I was live on Facebook and the very first message I posted was about how chuffed I was with my very own page – and the fact that it neatly ties in with my Twitter feed and my blog! I would be ecstatic if you “liked” my page and sent me a wee message by clicking the “like” button after clicking on to my Facebook page here.

I was on a roll, so next up was to change my profile pic – the one of my dynamic duo in their Saltire tandeming jerseys and me on the beach – in order to add my support to Perth 2021. This is the campaigning body promoting Perth’s bid to be named the first UK City of Culture in Scotland!

My Perth is the Place 2021 profile picture.

My Perth is the Place 2021 profile picture.

So as proud residents of Perthshire and to show Team Matildas support for the bid, I downloaded my very own Perth2021 Twibbon – which gave me a neat ribbon-style border for my profile photo which says “Perth is the Place 2021”. It is aimed at Twitter users but using my new found technology skills it was easy to make it my Facebook profile picture too. I just need to remember to use the hashtags #Perthistheplace and #Perth2021 now!

My message to pledge my support to Perth2021.

My message to pledge my support to Perth2021.

As the Perth2021 website states Perth is a unique city at the heart of Scotland’s story. Both the oldest city of Scotland – the ancient crowning place of Scottish kings – and the youngest, granted city status in 2012. The city wants City of Culture status in 2021 to:

  • create mass participation in culture and creative learning which enrich lives and remove barriers to access and enjoyment.
  • connect rural and urban communities through inspiring arts programmes which bring people and places together.
  • cultivate new cultural activity and talent, locally and across the UK.
  • collaborate on our creative economy, and be a place where artists, creative industries and business innovation can flourish.
  • challenge ideas about urban renewal – by being a great small city.

The 2021 team has been urging locals to become part of the bid by pledging support. So naturally I was more than happy to add my voice to the campaign with my own personal message!

So after my success in the social media world, I have had some presents recently from the very kind people at Sustrans Scotland who look after the National Cycle Network in Scotland.

The pile of goodies I received from Sustrans Scotland.

The goodies I received from Sustrans Scotland.

My new saddle covers!

My new saddle covers!

For the support of Team Matilda in promoting cycle paths around Scotland I received a pile of goodies including route maps, reflectors, lights and badges!

I was even sent a couple of Sustrans Scotland’s vivid green waterproof saddle covers which will make me look much more professional when I have the misfortune to get caught in the rain. I will certainly look better that the previous default position of having unglamorous supermarket carrier bags thrown over my seats by the “old gal”!

The Villagers article about me!

The Villagers article about me!

The last bit of news I have in this post is news of more fame – which may go to my handlebars! I am very proud as Team Matilda have been featured in a lovely full page article – “Fun in tandem with BLS community” – in The Villagers newspaper in Robroycountry reflecting on my recent fantastic visit to take in the cultural and foodie #BLiSStrail around Strathyre.

Regular readers of my blog will remember it was great fun for my dynamic crew to meet lots of local tourism business folk like people from Sula Furnishing, The Broch Cafe, Airlie House, Strathyre Outdoors and Strathyre Music Festival.

During a memorable Scottish music jam local band Balvaig and LETi chair Kim Proven of Briar Cottages, Lochearnhead performed a special version of my theme song which you can watch on Youtube here!

It was all wonderful, and if you haven’t already read it then you need to read my blog post on my BLiSSful Strathyre’s savoir-faire sojourn.

Guess who is on the front page of Roar's newsletter?!

Guess who is on the front page of Roar’s newsletter?!

I have also been featured on the front page of the newsletter of the charity Roar – Connections for Life  newsletter. Regular readers will remember that in January I paid a visit to their Paisley base and helped 91 year old John Chapman tick riding a tandem off his bucket list! John was a star!

Again, if you haven’t already read it then you meed to read my blog post Roaring to help 91 year old John tick riding a tandem off his bucket list! It really has a wow of a feelgood factor! What a #ScotSpirit

Now with all this social media stuff, pledges, presents and publicity, what I 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 post about!

BLiSSful Strathyre’s savoir-faire sojourn!

Team Matilda contmeplating the #BLiSStrail at the Ride Out seats in Strathyre.

Contemplating the #BLiSStrail – Team Matilda at the Ride Out seats in Strathyre.

Life has been busy at Matildas Rest! But I am happy to say that Team Matilda was able to fit in a short weekend break after being invited back to the scenic Loch Earn area to do another of my photo blog specials on the fascinating cultural outside art #BLiSStrail. Yes – you heard me correctly – invited back!

It seems that LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group, have been so impressed with this “old lady’s” tandeming adventure blogs from my trip to see the sections of the art trail around the St Fillans and Lochearnhead loop in October, and then Balquhidder in December, that they asked Team Matilda to come back and do another blog on the third leg of the trail – this time around Strathyre.

leti-logosmaller

The unique BLiSS trail is named after the four villages it links – Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St Fillans – deep in the heart of Rob Roy Country within the Loch Lomond and  The Trossachs National Park – where Perthshire meets rural Stirling. The trail is made up of a series of large ornamental metal and wood sculptures and art installations, mostly by Scottish artists, and was set up to commemorate the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

The brainchild of LETi, the BLiSS trail aims to encourage more visitors to the area – to boost tourism and the local economy. The trail has subsequently become an “award winning trail” – receiving the honour of a regional Scottish Thistle Award – recognised as the tourism Oscars – for “Working Together for Tourism.” The LETi team are now competing against all other regional winners in the overall Scottish finals in March.

The “old git” and the “old gal” were delighted to accept the invitation on my behalf – and I was packed into Matilda Transport and we headed off through St Fillans and down the side of stunning Loch Earn, through Lochearnhead on the A84 to  Airlie House bed and breakfast – Team Matilda’s base for their mini-weekend tour.

The "old gal" and me being welcomed by Colin and Sheridan Adams at Airlie House.

The “old gal” and me being welcomed by Colin and Sheridan Adams at Airlie House.

A sherry welcome!

A sherry welcome!

There my dynamic duo were met by the extremely friendly owners Colin and Sheridan Adams – who described their concept of running boutique guest house accommodation. Their aim is to offer a true home from home in a beautiful location surrounded by rolling hills and right next to both the Rob Roy Way long distance walking route and the Sustrans Scotland National Cycle Route 7. And I am reliably told that the sherry from the decanter in the lounge was welcoming on a chilly afternoon!

The welcoming Lubnaig room at Airlie House bed and breakfast.

The welcoming Lubnaig room at Airlie House bed and breakfast.

Colin and Sheridan couldn’t have done more to make my dynamic duo comfortable – showing them to a lovely warm and beautifully decorated downstairs room –  called Lubnaig. The large en-suite room had a king size bed and had a picturesque view of Benn Sheann – with its summit rising above the trees on the hillside beyond the river.

The Ben Sheann Hotel offered a warm welcome in the heart of Strathyre.

The Ben Sheann Hotel offered a warm welcome in the heart of Strathyre.

Ben Sheann burger.

Ben Sheann burger.

After relaxing, the “old git” and the “old gal” ventured out for a bite to eat and had been recommended to try the Ben Sheann Hotel, almost next door to Airlie House. It’s a large elegant Victorian building which offered a warm welcome on a  cold night.

The menu is mainly home made pub grub staples – such as macaroni cheese and steak pie. To fuel up for the ride ahead the next day my dynamic duo stocked up on a meal of home made soup, followed by burgers – washed down with a local Stirling gin and tonic.

Next up my crew were invited to a Burns and Scottish Music Night by Kim Proven –  the enthusiastic chair of LETi  who regular blog readers will remember from her substitute stoker adventures during my adventures around Balquhidder – and joined a welcoming group of  her friends.

The fun bash was held in the White Stag Inn with local band Balvaig playing some well kent tunes. The band – which is led by Kenny Higgins, who is also vice-chair of LETi – is a  group of highly talented local musicians and singer songwriters who regularly meet for bothy-style folk and blues  music sessions.

The talented Balvaig Band in full flow at the Burns Night music jam.

The talented Balvaig Band in full flow at the Burns Night music jam.

strathyre-music-festival-logoThe band’s success led them to launch the Strathyre Music Festival – which has been a big success for the village and is now going into its fifth year. The festival is held on the Bank Holiday weekend in May – from Friday 26th to Sunday 28th. And if the music is as good as what my duo were treated to, then Team Matilda may need to return for this year’s festival!

Balvaig broke with their Scottish music roots to surprise the “old git” and “old gal” with a song dedicated to me as a classic tandem. Kim was handed the microphone to lead the Burns-style sing-a-long of “Daisy, Daisy – A Bicycle Built for Two.” Watch a video here. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

Greatly honoured, my crew chatted to lots of local tourism business folk learning more about the area from Catriona Macgeoch of SULA Furnishing, Bill and Leslie Lindsay of Broch Cafe, Angus Cameron, president of the local villages Highland Games, and of course Kenny – who apart from playing in the band and his role with LETi also runs Strathyre Outdoors.

The "old git" and "old gal" enjoying chatting with local tourism business folk.

The “old git” and “old gal” enjoying chatting with local tourism business folk.

Irn-Bru ice cream!

Irn-Bru ice cream!

There was even time for a taste test on the famous local delicacy of Irn-Bru flavoured ice cream made by Colin and Sheridan at Airlie House – and the verdict was yum! During the busy holiday season they run an ice cream parlour in the garden of their bed and breakfast which specialises in Scottish flavours – with one of the most popular being Buckfast! Perhaps was best it was currently out of stock however! A fabulous night was had by my crew – and whether it was the convivial atmosphere (or the free flowing #Scotspirit!), but the “old gal” even managed to inveigle Kim into agreeing to have a second shot as sub stoker … and to go hands free this time!

Airlie House breakfast.

Airlie House breakfast.

After some welcome zzzs in a most comfortable bed, Team Matilda had a fairly early alarm call to hit the BLiSStrail. Snow flurries were however falling ominously as my crew tucked into a hearty and tasty traditional Scottish breakfast, home cooked by Colin and Sheridan. My dynamic duo then donned their thermals and many layers on top before leaving Airlie House, full of praise for their stay. After I was set up for the day ahead, my crew discovered a kennel containing a vivid green soft toy model of Lubbie – the mysterious monster said by locals to live in nearby Loch Lubnaig (and a near relative of the equally publicity shy Loch Ness monster!) Colin tells the story that Lubbie has chased their pet dog Teddy indoors and has taken up residence in the kennel for the winter! The “old git” played his part and looked suitably frightened and scared!

Very very frightening for me and the "old git" - Lubbie the Loch Lubnaig monster!

Very very scary for me and the “old git” – Lubbie the Loch Lubnaig monster!

Before leaving the confines of the large garden at Airlie House Team Matilda checked off the first ornamental feature on the BLiSStrail Strathyre – a beautifully carved baby elephant, better known as the “Airliephant”!

Making friends with the "Airliephant" - a hand carved elephant in the garden at Airlie House.

Making friends with the “Airliephant” – a carved baby elephant in the garden at Airlie House.

We then headed out along the Sustrans Scotland NCR7 which runs around the Strathyre area – and quickly found the impressive Soaring Eagle installation created by Ian Chambers who runs his own  company called Chainsaw Creations. Its a great story of  someone earning a living doing what they love – and it all started out as a bet with a fellow forestry student as to who could carve the best mushroom which has now grown into a full time self-employed business. The intricate eagle  was commissioned by Stirling Council to mark the NCR7 entrance and exit to the Broch recreational area as part of 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

The "old git" and me beside the dramatic Soaring Eagle.

The “old git” and me beside the dramatic Soaring Eagle at the Broch recreational area.

Tandeming round the car park we found the next piece of art sitting outside the Broch Cafe – Thistle, the Heilan’ Coo. The Scottish timber coo was made by the Wee Coo Company based at nearby Loch Lomond. Unfortunately the cafe itself was closed for the month of January so the “old gal” – who is a true coffee aficionado – couldn’t personally vouch for the coffee which has earned an almost legendary reputation … much to her chagrin! A hot coffee would certainly have heated my crew up!

Thistle, the Heilan' Coo - and the "old gal" outside Broch cafe.

Thistle, the Heilan’ Coo, me and the “old gal” outside Broch cafe.

Just beside the coo wood carving we found the next installation – the Ride Out Seats. This metal sculpture is designed to look like three parked bikes, providing some simple seats. A nice story here – it  was commissioned to mark the big contribution Derek Mullins made to the volunteer programme at Sustrans over 25 years. It therefore seemed highly appropriate to base the design on a cluster of bicycles since much of his work entailed riding out and encouraging volunteers around Scotland.

As a classic tandem you can never have too many stokers - the "old gal" and Kim ready for action!

As a classic tandem you can never have too many stokers – the “old gal” and Kim ready for action!

Kim was good to her word and was waiting here for Team Matilda to do her substitute stoker ride. You know a classic “old lady” tandem can never have too many stokers! But firstly Kim put on her LETi hat and gave a friendly welcome to a family of cyclists who were staying at Strathyre Forest Cabins.

A family group staying at Strathyre Forest Cabins were persuaded to pose for a photo.

A family group staying at Strathyre Forest Cabins pose for a photo at the Ride Out Seats.

Kim confirmed that many of the cultural attractions on the BLiSStrail were going to be kept in place for the coming year – with the art trail generating increased interest, resulting in a knock-on effect of tourists spending more time and money in the area.

There’s also talk of a couple of new installations potentially being added to the trail for 2017 to mark the Year of History Heritage and Archaeology. A team of students from Perth College are looking at developing a conceptual art project based at a site at Lochearnhead. And LETi has applied to Sustrans Scotland for an ArtRoots grant to place a new sculpture installation on the cycle path at Strathyre.

Then it was time to see if Kim’s chat about going hands free was all bravado! It would need to be said she had taken a bit of ribbing for her very safe performance on her virgin ride on a tandem at Balquhidder back in December. I personally thought she did rather well for a newbie, but the “old git” was joking that she should have at least taken her hands off my handlebars to wave at the camera!

Kim was however put on the spot a bit when she read that sprightly 91 year old blind John Chapman had shown her how it was done when the “old git” paid a visit to talk to the Mens Group at Paisley charity Roar – Connections for Life. He rolled back the years to tandem like a youngster and confidently waved to the cameras as he ticked tandeming off his bucket list!

So having accepted the challenge to go hands free Kim bravely donned the “old gal’s” crash helmet and took up her stoker seat – knowing that she would have to hand over control and put her faith in the “old git” as Captain!

Ready for the off - Kim ready to put faith in my Captain! ...

Kim ready to put her faith in my captain! …

Thumbs up from Kim after going hands free!

… and thumbs up after going hands free!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “old gal” filmed the ride and I am delighted to report Kim performed as a natural sub  stoker as we tandemed back and forward between two bridges on the cycle path.  And she confidently took not just one, but both hands off the handlebars to show off! We even managed to shift up a few gears too! Watch the incriminating video of Kim riding hands free as stoker here. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

Kim thoroughly enjoyed completing her challenge and was delighted with her second ride … and is already talking about a third go. This “old lady” tandem thinks that Kim and her husband should add tandeming to their list of hobbies!

We bid farewell to Kim and tandeming away from the excitement of all the sub stoker shenanigans – with the “old gal” back in her regular space on my rear saddle – we set off to look for one of the most intriguing installations on the trail – the fabulous stone miniature Mill House and Bridge. You have to look closely to find it – sitting on the edge of a garden on the old Strathyre road just after crossing the old stone bridge over the River Balvaig. Local children know it as the “The Fairy House” and my dynamic crew were lucky enough to see the creator – Jimmy Gibson – in his garden and were able to compliment him on his labour of love.

The intricate stone miniature Mill House and bridge in a garden on the old Strathyre road.

The intricate stone miniature Mill House and bridge in a garden on the old Strathyre road.

The last tick on the BLiSStrail Strathyre for Team Matilda was the Lions Couchant which guard the entrance to the luxurious Creagan House – a country house restaurant with rooms. Now a lion couchant, I am reliably informed, is a heraldic reference which means that the lion is lying down, but with the head raised as opposed to the more traditional lion rampant. So to be honest, it didn’t actually scare me or the “old git” one bit!

The "old git" looking decidedly unscared by the lions couchant at Creagan House.

The “old git” looking decidedly unscared by the lion couchant at Creagan House.

After the photo shoot my dynamic crew decided to tandem out of Strathyre on the wonderfully smooth NCR7 to Mhor 84 for a much needed hot coffee and scone stop. As snow flakes continued to fall this became an extended second coffee and cake stop! The original (pre snow!) plan was a quick stop before embarking on a loop round the Sustrans Scotland Rt7 along the scenic old Strathyre road – an old drovers road – through a forrest back into Strathyre.

Mhor 84 was a welcome stop for a warming coffee and scone on a freezing day!

Mhor 84 was a welcome stop for a warming coffee and scone on a freezing day!

But emerging from the comfort of Mhor 84 the “old gal” declared that it was too cold to do the planned loop – which in retrospect was the correct decision given the flurries of snow and the zero degrees celcius temperature reading. We therefore abandoned the Strava recording of our ride – so no map! – and we quickly retraced our steps and tandemed back to Strathyre the direct way, pedalling at top speed to try to create some body heat!

We had time to check out a few local attractions in the town which should not be overlooked. The first is the Strathyre Village Shop and Post Office where I had the pleasure of meeting owner Janet and her very own black and white cat – which coincidentally is called Jess, just like Postman Pat! It was a bit disconcerting however to see among the myriad of goods on offer, that snow shovels were on special offer! Maybe Jess knew something we didn’t!

Janet with Jess the Postman Pat-style black and white cat at The Strathyre Village Shop.

Me and Janet with Jess the Postman Pat-style black and white cat at The Strathyre Village Shop.

A bit further along the street from the shop is a fairly nondescript statue – which looks a bit like a local War Memorial. But close inspection by the “old gal” revealed it is a memorial statue to one of the area’s famous sons – Dugald Buchanan who was a Gaelic poet who wrote religious verse. His biggest claim to fame is assisting the minister at nearby Killin with translating the New Testament into Gaelic in 1767.

The "old gal" pointing out the memorial to Dugald Buchanan.

The “old gal” pointing out the memorial to Dugald Buchanan.

Just behind the Broch Cafe we found the fascinating and historical Dun Lubnaig Broch Project. Brochs are mysterious circular dry-stone hollow structures – like forts – which date back to the iron age and are only found in Scotland.

Here I am at The Strathyre Broch Project just off NCR7

Here I am at the fascinating historical Strathyre Broch Project just off NCR7.

It was getting colder and more snow flakes were falling so we headed back to Airlie House and I was quickly packed back into Matilda Transport. But there was one last art installation to see. Team Matilda had been advised to do the last stop on the BLiSStrail Strathyre by car – given that the main A84 can be somewhat busy, and is somewhat narrow and windy as it passes along the beautiful Loch Lubnaig.

Turning into the car park at the end of the loch furthest from the village, it was initially difficult to spot Sloc-Nan-Sitheanach. It seems hidden away – but then that is perhaps the whole point as it is “a place of solace where you can find yourself in an embrace of the earth.”

The key is to look carefully for the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Scenic Routes signs – but it is worth the hunt when you see the art installation by architectural designer Ruairidh Moir. Sloc is Gaelic for a cavity in a landscape; and sìtheanach is Gaelic for “faerie” – the mystical creatures which roamed the landscape and are associated with peace and tranquility.

The "old gal" looking mystical at Sloc-Nan-Sitheanach at Loch Lubnaig.

The “old gal” looking mystical at Sloc-Nan-Sitheanach at Loch Lubnaig.

The poetry incorporated into the design is “Now Winters’ Wind Sweeps” by local bard Alexander Campbell which depicts mans place in natural cycles, and encourages the visitor to reflect on their fleeting presence in the landscape. It certainly was quite a mystical experience when Team Matilda were there with Loch Lubnaig reflecting the surrounding hills shrouded in mist

After visiting Loch Lubnaig – and taking note to tandem NCR7 on the far site of the Loch past Strathyre Forest Cabins in the future – Team Matilda jumped back in Matilda Transport and headed back to the warmth of a hot baths and showers at Matildas Rest.

But, despite the cold, it had undoubtedly been a BLiSSful savoir-faire soujorn around Strathyre!

One of Mhor's slogans!

One of Mhor’s slogans!

Indeed Team Matilda enjoyed the friendship and hospitality shown over the weekend in Robroycountry so much that my dynamic crew decided to return the next weekend – scrubbed up and in non tandeming gear! – for the prestigious Burns in the Barn event at Monachyle Mhor Hotel.

First up it was pre-event drinks hosted by Kim and her husband Fraser at their fabulous 17th century B listed thatched cottage at their luxury self-catering Briar Cottages base in Lochearnhead before boarding a bus to Monachyle.

Fraser living up to his larger than life reputation with the "old gal"!

Fraser living up to his larger than life reputation with the “old gal”!

Haggis Mhor style!

Haggis Mhor style!

The chefs at Mhor had put their flair to the traditional bill of fayre for a Burns event – producing a fantastic tasty meal. The starter was Mull scallops – a favourite of the “old gal’s” – with the haggis being incorporated into a main course of Scotch beef cheek. Mull cheddar on toast followed before a dessert of preserved Perthshire raspberries and clootie dumpling ice cream! This was all washed down with some lovely wines and a few Glengoyne whiskies – while enjoying an evening of great music, song, Scottish dancing and the traditional Burns Supper elements of The Address to the Haggis and the Toast to the Lassies – even if a few eyebrows were raised at the unnecessary f-words in the Reply from the Lassies!

Kim and the "old gal" enjoying the Burns in the Barn bash! Yes he did have his kilt on!

Kim and the “old git” enjoying the Burns in the Barn bash! Yes he did have his kilt on!

My crew had a fabulous night enjoying the #ScotSprit atmosphere and chatting to others who clearly enjoy #workingtogether for tourism in the area, while having a fantastic social life at the same time!

The "old gal" enjoying the night with Graham

The “old gal” enjoying the night with Graham …

... and getting into the spirit(s) with Martin!

… and getting into the spirit(s) with Martin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Among others my dynamic crew met LETi member Alison Inglis and her partner John who run the Enchanted Cottage Pop Up Shop at Balquhidder. They also shared a table with two other fun couples Graham and Sue, and Martin and Liz – who are all involved in organising the Balquhidder, Lochearnhead & Strathyre Highland Games. Known as “the best Highland Games in Scotland” it is being held this year on Saturday 22nd July 2017. And they also said hello to Jill  – who edits the local Villagers magazine and who told me there is a double page colour spread on my antics in Strathyre in the February edition. You know how I like this fame! 

Now Graham happened to mention an invitation to a full-scale fancy dress party early in the Summer – and Fraser definitely lived up to his reputation of having a wonderful enthusiasm for life by throwing the gauntlet down (after a few Glengoyne Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskys!) to tandem riding facing backwards! ….. It was that kind of amazing night really!

The original "cruck" ceiling at Briar Cottages.

The original “cruck” ceiling at Briar Cottages – now Kim and Fraser’s stunning lounge.

After a welcome post bash coffee and chat with Kim and Fraser – which involved a tour in the pitch darkness of the fabulous “Fraser’s Pav” summer house right on the edge of Loch Earn and being shown the original Scots pine “cruck” ceiling from the cattle byre in what is now their stunning lounge – sadly my crew had to force themselves away to return to Matildas Rest due to work commitments. It would be an understatement to say my crew could have stayed longer – but I have a feeling we will be back before long! Obviously I will have to look out some fancy dress gear  – but just what does a tandem dress up as?!

Will this be Fraser?

Will this be Fraser?

And of course I have the spectacle of Fraser riding me facing backwards to look forward to! The big question is however – if Fraser is on the front, then who is going to be stoker? The “old git” has honourably said that it should be the “old gal” but she whispered to me she is not so sure! So does that leave Kim?

Watch this space….!

Thanks to all at LETi for their help, bed and breakfast, sustenance and friendship offered to assist Team Matilda to complete their tour of the Strathyre leg of the BLiSS art trail.

A new book of my Musings and tandeming Christmas presents galore!

Is it tandem o'clock yet? Perfect present for "old git" from "old gal" - links with gin o'clock!

Is it tandem o’clock yet? Perfect present for the “old git” from the “old gal” – and it links with gin o’clock!

Excitement reached fever pitch at Matilda’s Rest on Sunday when Christmas Day finally arrived! The “old git” – who should really be re-named Santa over the festive period! – made sure everyone had their ‘ho! ho! ho!’ on, whether they wanted to or not!

On Christmas Eve the “old gal” even put on her Christmas jumper to signal she was in the mood for Santa’s arrival! She had whispered to me that I was getting a present all for myself so I could hardly contain myself!

And I knew the “old git” had been planning something with my blog as a present for the “old gal” so it was an exciting time! I could hardly sleep and I am sure I heard Santa’s jingle bells as he and Rudolph delivered his presents around rural Perthshire …. presumably in tandem!

The “old git” was up early on Christmas morning making sure that Santa had arrived – and he certainly delivered filling the “old gal’s” stockings to overflowing … and even dropped a few presents in the “old git’s” stockings too! (Yes he does have some …. weird or what!)

Then it was time for my dynamic duo to tear open their presents. The thing the “old git” had been secretly scheming away about was turning all my Musings about our French tandeming  tour adventures in the Loire Valley during September into a beautiful hard-back coffee table style book.

My daily Musings of our Loire Valley trip turned into a coffee table book!

My daily Musings of our Loire Valley trip turned into a coffee table book!

I must say even I was impressed at the what the “old git” had achieved – and you know I’m not easily impressed! – and as for the “old gal” well she thought it was brilliant! There was even a wee tear in her eye as she read the “old git’s” soppy dedication at the front of the book! Awh shucks!

Each page is in glossy colour and the book is essentially a full record of each day of my blog – including all the photos – as they appeared on my blog! A great permanent record of a fabulous trip! And great fun to flick through and bring back those memories of my dynamic duo’s days in my saddles in warm sunshine … oh and not forgetting those amazing picnics and wines!

And as a special Christmas treat for readers of my blog you can take a look at the complete book (in a pdf version) by clicking on the title of the book here: Le Tour de Vineyards et Chateaux de Loire Valley du Tandem. Hope you enjoy as much as I did re-reading it all again!

My new Matilda key ring and coasters to match my very French la bouclee wine bottle carrier.

My Matilda key ring and coasters to match my la bouclee wine carrier.

So then it was time to open my presents, and the “old git” and the “old gal” made sure Santa delivered a nice new leather key ring – complete with my name imprinted on it – in very fetching racy red to match my eye-catching and very French La Bouclée wine carrier, which of course matches my frame.

And because the very kind people at La Bouclée have made this “old lady” tandem an ambassador for their products in Scotland, they threw in a couple of leather coasters and some very clever matching accessories which are designed to carry my plastic mock cut crystal glasses on my frame to ensure my dynamic duo will always be able to quaff their prosecco in style!

The “old gal” lovingly fitted they keys for my padlock chain to my new keyring and I was suddenly overcome with festive cheer! I mean it is not every tandem that gets a special present all to themselves – and become an ambassador for a luxury French cycling brand at the same time! The “old git” said that it must have been because I was a “good girl” as only “good girls” get presents from Santa!

Perfect present from my friends Team Bluebird - fellow members of the Nutty Tandemers Club.

Perfect present from Team Bluebird – fellow Nutty Tandemers Club members.

There were lots of other presents to open with a special one from my good friend Bluebird and her tandem team. As fellow self-proclaimed members of the Nutty Tandemers Club we all enjoyed a fabulous Le Tour de Perthshire in August – with more than a few bottles prosecco enjoyed! So it was only natural for them to send my team a couple of personalised coasters! I think I can safely say there will be one or two prosecco picnics scheduled for our planned Le Tour de New Forest in July 2017.

Calendar time - Tour de Loire Valley and also Perthshire!

Calendar time – Tour de Loire Valley on left and also Tour de Perthshire on the right.

Naturally by dynamic duo had organised a present on my behalf for Team Bluebird and designed a personalised Nutty Tandemers Club 2017 calendar – with each month having a great memory from our wonderful week together touring Perthshire.

Now you know that my stoker, the “old gal”, has a bit of a quirky sense of humour … well she excelled herself with one of her presents for my captain – the “old git.”

Ever since watching Le Tour de France he has joked that my team should get the distinctive red spotted white cycling jerseys – a maillot a pois rouge – which designate the King of the Mountains rider on the race. This is somewhat ironic given that the spotted jersey obviously identifies the cyclists who is best at hill climbs – and as you know the only hills my dynamic duo really like are flat ones!

The "old gal's" hero! Le Captain in full (ironic) King of the Mountain gear!

The “old gal’s” hero! Le Captain in full (ironic) King of the Mountain gear!

But the “old gal” duly ordered one of the official Tour de France jerseys to call the “old git’s” bluff. But they were both as bad as each other as the “old git” had got a pair of skull caps in the King of the Mountains spotted pattern – for wearing under their crash helmets in summer as sun protectors. Oh how they laughed …. simple things and all that!

Apart from the questionable choice in tandem clothing, the “old gal” did excel with other presents – including the stylish tandem clock pictured at the top of this posting. It really looks quite the business and I am chuffed as it means it will always be tandem o’clock – albeit the “old gal” says it has a special secret link to tie it up with the gin o’clock on the kitchen wall! But I am sure she is joking? Right?

The "old git's" new appropriate mobile phone cover.

The “old git’s” new phone cover with rainbow at Loch Rannoch image.

A week before Christmas the “old git” finally came out of the mobile phone dark ages by having his trusty (and very old) Blackberry surgically removed from his grip and replaced with a trendy new Galaxy 7. The “old gal” is quite clever really as she was very persuasive in getting him to upgrade into today’s technology – which means that he can now use Strava to record my rides on his phone so there will be no further opportunities for him to blame “operator error” by my stoker!

The “old git” was duly impressed with a very apt cover for his new phone – with a Keep Calm and Tandem On slogan and a fab rainbow image at one of Team Matilda’s favourite spots, Loch Rannoch.

No excuses about weather now - waterproof helmet covers and winter gloves!

No excuses about weather now – fluerescent waterproof helmet covers and winter gloves!

As a game girl who doesn’t mind getting my spokes wet, I personally was pleased about another present which saw my dynamic crew get fluorescent waterproof helmet covers and also winter gloves. There wiill be no excuses about the weather now … or at least no valid excuses! The “old gal” was particularly pleased with the waterproof helmet covers, reminding anyone who would listen how they would have come in useful during the day of biblical rain during our French trip when my crew ended up wearing those fetching blue ponchos!

My dynamic duo also have some reading material to fuel their ideas for our grand tours – the Africa Solo book by local adventurer Mark Beaumont from nearby Crieff, and the man who broke the record for cycling round the world! Perhaps just a tad on the ambitious side …. but it will be a good read!

Perhaps slightly ambitious reading material for my crew - but a good read!

Perhaps slightly ambitious reading material for my crew – but a good read!

Christmas was spent in a blur of preparing, cooking and then eating and drinking! Just a normal day at Matildas Rest really! Pride of place on the festive table were two bottles of top-of-the-range red wines which my crew had lovingly brought back from our Team Tandem Ecosse Loire Valley trip.

The “old gal” was in seventh heaven when she uncorked them and tasted the contents! The magnificent flavours really did bring back fantastic memories of a fabulous time on Le Loire a Velo … and a toast was made to doing a similar wine-tasting tandeming trip in 2017 – with the Alsace region already earmarked as one potential destination!

With a busy schedule with family and friends, the “old git” and the “old gal” have scheduled a ride for January 2 to blow away the festive cobwebs – and get rid of some of the excesses – so fingers crossed! The scenic wilderness of a tandem ride around Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire has already been identified as a potential destination. So look out for a new Musing in the first few days of January.

Then in a few weeks I am going to be making a triumphant return to the Loch earn area after being invited back to blog about tandeming around the final part of the award winning and fascinating cultural outside art #BLiSStrail.

Yes, LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group, was so impressed with my photo and video blog when I was a guest to see the Balquhidder section of the trail that Team Matilda has been asked back to do another blog on the Strathyre leg of the unique BLiSS trail – this time based at Airlie House bed and breakfast.

LETi chair Kim Proven has had a an exclusive voucher from Santa for a second go as sub stoker.

LETi chair Kim found an exclusive voucher from Santa in her stocking for a second go as sub stoker.

And it seems that Santa left a highly exclusive voucher for a second tandem ride in the stocking of LETi chair Kim Proven, and owner of luxury self-catering Briar Cottages. Regular readers will remember that Kim had a go as substitute stoker when we visited Balquhidder … and was so overcome by the experience that she fancies having another go!

But will the “old git” be as gentle this time as she is no longer a tandem virgin? Or will we be doing tight bends, changing gears and picking up speed? And will Kim show she is a hero and take her hands off the handlebars to wave at the camera this time?! One thing is for certain, I will be Musing about it!

That is to come, but finally for the moment, I hope all readers of my Musings had a lovely Christmas and that Santa brought you and your tandems what you wanted! If not then the only explanation is that you were on the “naughty” list!

And if we don’t speak until after the bells – on behalf of Team Matilda let me be one of the first to wish you all the best for 2017 … and many happy tandeming miles together for you and your team!

Just remember it can always be tandem (or gin!) o’clock! Cheers!

May it always be tandem (or gin!) o'clock during 2017!

May it always be tandem (or gin!) o’clock for your team during 2017!

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BLiSSful Balquhidder’s brilliant bravura!

Reflections on the BLiSStrail - Team Matilda at the Look Out mirrored cabin at Loch Voil.

Reflections on the BLiSStrail – Team Matilda at the Look Out mirrored cabin at Loch Voil.

What excitement at Matilda’s Rest! I have been hardly been able to sleep since this “old lady” tandem was invited back to the Loch Earn area to do another blog on their fascinating cultural outside art #BLiSStrail. Yes I will say that again, invited back!

It seems that LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group, was so impressed with my photo and video blog from my trip to see the first section of the art trail at the end of October around the St Fillans and Lochearnhead loop that they asked Team Matilda to come back and do another blog on one of the other two legs of the trail – this time around Balquhidder.

The unique BLiSS trail is named after the four villages it links – Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St Fillans – deep in the heart of Rob Roy Country within the Loch Lomond and  The Trossachs National Park – where Perthshire meets rural Stirling. The trail is made up of a series of large ornamental metal and wood sculptures and art installations, mostly by various artists, to commemorate the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

The brainchild of LETi, the BLiSS trail is also designed to encourage more visitors to the area – to boost tourism and the local economy. And since our first visit it has become an “award winning trail” – receiving the honour of a regional Scottish Thistle Award – recognised as the tourism Oscars – for “Working Together for Tourism.”

The “old git” and the “old gal” were delighted to accept on my behalf.  So on Saturday afternoon I was packed into Matilda Transport and we headed off through St Fillans and down the side of stunning Loch Earn, through Lochearnhead on the A84 to The Golden Larches bed and breakfast – Team Matilda’s base for their mini-weekend adventure.

There my dynamic duo were met by the extremely hospitable owner Alistair Buchan – who showed them the first of the art installations along this section of the BLiSS trail – Sunflowers by Kev Paxton – situated in the car park of The Golden Larches, opposite the old Balquhidder Station.

The first iconic piece of art I got to see was the giant Sunflowers in the car park at The Golden Larches.

The first iconic piece of art I got to see was the giant Sunflowers..

You certainly can’t miss this sculpture as it is 4m high – somewhat larger than the common sunflower! It certainly towered above me, and I am sure the giant sunflowers turn heads and raise a few smiles on the A84. Given that this is a pre festive tour, the next person I was introduced to was “wee Santa” who was on hand to make me feel welcome at my new abode for the evening!

Making my acquaintance with "wee Santa" at the Golden Larches.

Ho! ho! ho! Here I am making my acquaintance with “wee Santa” at The Golden Larches.

Alistair couldn’t have done any more to make my dynamic duo comfortable on what was a somewhat chilly night. They were shown to their lovely, relaxed, warm and welcoming room. He even went the extra mile when the “old gal” suddenly proclaimed that she was in danger of missing her favourite tv show – Strictly Come Dancing – when they went out for dinner.

But Alistair showed his superhero qualities by setting up the large flat screen satellite tv to record the programme – so they could watch it later on catch-up. What a star! And the “old gal” was a happy girl again! I mean if she had missed it, in the words of judge Craig Revel Horwood it would have been “a disaster darling!”

mhor-84-signAfter a bit of relaxation the “old git” and the “old gal” ventured out to sample the dinner menu at the highly recommended MHOR 84  Motel which serves food to satisfy the many cyclists and walkers who pass by.

To fuel up for the ride ahead the next day, my dynamic duo stocked up on a meal which  tantalised their taste buds – scallops, burgers and cheesecake, washed down with the obligatory red wine!

The amazing burgers at MHOR 84!

The amazing burgers at MHOR 84!

The “old gal” was stunned into silence  by the burgers – and given that doesn’t happen very often, they must have been good! The additional toppings of black pudding and blue cheese left her literally lost for words … other than the odd “yum!”

The decor at Mhor 84 is  modern and stylishly shabby with mismatched metal chairs alongside thin, rustic tables that have been rescued from schools and science labs. There’s even three tartan ducks on the wall! Its far from twee, and it works – mhor than living up to its reputation as being “deliciously subversive!”

"Home from home" comforts at the Golden Larches.

“Home from home” comforts at the Golden Larches.

On return to The Golden Larches my crew reveled in what the “old git” described as “home from home” comforts – and give his exacting standards of what makes home comforts that is praise indeed. And after Alistair’s heroics with the tv set box, my dynamic duo were able to be very decadent and (whisper it) watch Strictly in bed! Then it was time for some zzzzs before an early alarm call to hit the BLiSS trail.

So Sunday dawned and my crew were up before dawn to have a very tasty breakfast, home cooked by Alistair, before I was set up for the day’s tandeming ahead.

Before we headed off I was very honoured to get to meet Kim Proven, the livewire chair of LETi  and owner of luxury self-catering Briar Cottages at nearby Lochearnhead. And she even brought along the Scottish Thistle Award the BLiSS trail won recently as a prop for photos.

Here I am posing along with Kim Proven and the Scottish Thistle tourism award.

Two livewire ladies – me posing with Kim and the BLiSS trail Scottish Thistle tourism award.

Kim uses every opportunity to publicise the area to get people to come and see the natural beauty of the area for themselves. And that’s probably one of the reasons the trail got noticed by the Thistle Award judges in the first place!

Kim scrubbed up well to receive the award from STV's Jennifer Reoch.

The “scrubbed up” version of Kim receiving the ScottishThistle award from STV’s Jennifer Reoch.

As Kim said at the glitzy awards dinner: “LETi has proved that a small group can carry out an effective tourism campaign on a shoestring through local people’s skills, energy and enthusiasm.”

The BLiSS trail is designed to encourage visitors to smile, stop and spend time in the villages – and all the installations are near cafes and restaurants.

Now for those of you who haven’t looked up the dictionary to find out what bravura in my headline for this post means – let me explain. It is used as in “a display of great bravura” which really means a display of great technical skill, brilliance and daring. And this “old lady” thought that it summed up the outdoor cultural BLiSS trail brilliantly!

And naturally Kim agreed! The “old gal” did some filming, so watch this video clip where Kim tells my Matildas Musings blog the background to the bravura BLiSS trail – and watch out for some exciting exclusive advance news of plans to revamp the trail for 2017. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

Because it was only three weeks till Christmas, the “old git” – who is a real Crimbo lover – decided that a few festive shots had to be taken – complete with fetching Santa hats! I must say I thought that Kim really suited the “old gal’s” animal print trimmed one!

The "old git" and Kim from LETi along with "wee Santa" and me!

The “old git” and Kim getting into the Christmas spirit along with “wee Santa” and me!

Kim from LETi, the "old git" and Alistair - mine host at The Golden Larches.

Here I am with Kim from LETi, the “old git” and Alistair – mine host at The Golden Larches.

The “old gal” was being kept busy in her role as my blog photographer and – despite the freezing temperature – there was time for a quick shot with the “old git”Kim and Alistair before we left The Golden Arches, full of praise for our stay.

Now Kim, who is a self-confessed tandem virgin, and who has actually had very little experience of riding a  bike at all – gamely accepted the “old git’s” challenge to take a shot as temporary substitute stoker – while the “old gal” gave up her back seat role (and crash helmet!) to film the attempt.

So can you guess what happens next ….. Did Kim manage to put her faith in the “old git” as Captain and hand over control – or did it end in disaster?!

Click on the video to find out! (And don’t forget that if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

So it was a success! Congratulations to Kim! This “old lady” says she was a natural – although the “old git” is telling anyone who will listen (and there are not many!) that he is a good teacher and was very gentle with Kim being a newbie and that he didn’t change my gears and avoided any tight corners! But he is asking why she didn’t take her hand off my handlebars to wave to the camera!

As for Kim, she was delighted with her first ride on a tandem and – believe it or not – wants to have a second go on me! Maybe she and her husband will become tandemers!

Team Matilda bid fond farewell to Kim armed with a detailed map of where to find each art installation and feature along the way. You can check out the details of our scenic route on the BLiSStrail around Balquhidder on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full data and statistics! 

balq-bliss-strava

The Cockerel.

Firstly we headed back about a mile on Sustrans Scotland Route 7 to see The Cockerel – a Sustrans Millennium Mile Marker. Four artists were commissioned by Sustrans to create distinctive mile markers for each part of the UK. Scottish sculptor Ian McColl created Scotland’s design – known as The Cockerel.

We tandemed back on ourselves on the well surfaced and safe off-road cycle path and found what must be one of the most scenic spots for a National Cycle Route identification sign in Scotland. As the “old git” somewhat confusingly said: “It’s so quiet you can almost hear the silence!”

The scenic Sustrans Scotland route marker on National Cycle Route 7.

The scenic Sustrans Scotland route marker on National Cycle Route 7.

We cycled on to the Balquhidder turn off from the A84 where there are two features almost side-by-side. The first is a recently restored cast iron Victorian signpost – with one arm pointing to Rob Roy’s Grave 2 miles away and the other to destinations including Oban.

They don't make them like they used to! The "old gal" and me at the Victorian sign.

They don’t make them like they used to! The “old gal” and me at the Victorian sign.

Opposite the signpost is the iconic red phone box – which still works! It has been used, and photographed, by many a cyclist, walker and visitor to the area.

Who you gonna call? The "old git" holding on the line at the iconic red phone box!

Who you gonna call? The “old git” holding on the line at the iconic red phone box!

On we tandemed towards Balquhidder, but you can’t visit here without stopping at Rob Roy’s Grave for a photo opportunity!  As you enter the village from the east, a spur leads to the village kirkyard. Here you find Balquhidder’s Parish Church, the ruins of the Old Church it replaced, and the grave of Rob Roy MacGregor. Alongside him lie his wife and two of their sons.

The "old git" and me at Rob Roy's Grave in Balquhidder for the obligatory photo.

The “old git” and me at Rob Roy’s Grave in Balquhidder for the obligatory photo.

A few hundred yards of pedalling saw Team Matilda stop by the village hall to take a look at the Grooming Stag made of willow by sculptor June McEwan from nearby Crieff. It is an eye-catching symbol of the hall – a real social hub being the venue for social gatherings and community activities

The "old gal" with the Grooming Stag - a feature at Balquhidder village hall.

The “old gal” with the Grooming Stag – a feature at Balquhidder village hall.

The “old gal” then noticed an additional interesting feature beside the village hall – another of the iconic red phone boxes … but this one has been turned into a book exchange for the local community. What a wonderful idea!

The "old gal" taking time out to flick thru the pages of a book at the book exchange - hope we don't need to put out an SOS!

The “old gal” flicking thru the pages of a book at the exchange – hope we don’t need to put out an SOS!

Our map then took us about half a mile off our main route, along the road to Strathyre, to find one of the most unusual artworks on the trail – the Half Way Totem Pole.

The Half Way Totem Pole serves a local traffic rule.

The Half Way Totem Pole serves as a market for a local traffic rule.

Now it would need to be said that my dynamic crew were looking for a high totem pole and almost missed this feature. But they are glad they didn’t! The mini totem pole has been created by Balquhidder local Edward Chadfield. The unconventional traffic sign serves a purpose on the single track road it sits beside. When meeting a vehicle coming towards you, the local rule is that whoever is furthest from the half way point does the reversing! Fortunately I didn’t have to reverse and my crew had plenty of time to get a good photo.

Selfie time for my dynamic duo looking towards the vista of Loch Voil.

Selfie time for my dynamic duo looking towards the vista of Loch Voil.

The “old git” and the “old gal” took a few moments here to take in the magnificent vista – as they were almost mesmerised by the beauty of the views. As the “old git” said: “This is real brain food!”

The remote beauty of Loch Voil through my handlebars.

The remote beauty of Loch Voil through my handlebars.

We retraced our steps back to the main route – with four miles to go till our lunch break at the end of the loch. This ride was one of the best Team Matilda have had the pleasure of experiencing – gently undulating single track roads with the most wonderful views across Loch Voil. And with hardly a whisper of wind, the loch’s surface was like a mirror, reflecting the surrounding hills. Just magnificent!

The "old gal" and me on the edge of the flat calm and reflective Loch Voil.

The “old gal” and me on the edge of the flat calm and reflective Loch Voil.

We pedalled on looking for more of the art installations. The Look Out, situated just at the end of Loch Voil before the neighbouring Loch Doine, was Team Matilda’s favourite on the BLiSS trail.

The Look Out was my dynamic duo's favourite piece of art on the cultural BLiSStrail.

The Look Out was my dynamic duo’s favourite on the cultural BLiSStrail.

It is essentially a mirrored cube which blends into the surrounding backdrop. In fact it is so well situated that my dynamic crew really had to look to find it in the middle of a field!

The "old gal" in reflective mood at the atmospheric Look Out installation.

The “old gal” in reflective mood at the atmospheric Look Out installation.

The Look Out was created by Daniel Tyler and Angus Richie as part of their final year thesis project while studying for their Masters of Architecture at the University of Strathclyde.

It provides “a place of contemplation framing views of Loch Doine and Loch Voil whilst disappearing into the backdrop of the surrounding glen.” It also provided my crew with the opportunity for a few fun photographs, and I even got in on the act with the mirrors making me even  longer than I actually am!

The "old git" on one of the seats which amplifies distant waterfalls and bird calls.

The “old git” on one of the seats which amplifies distant waterfalls and bird calls.

To infinity and beyond! Clones of the "old gal" and the "old git" in the mirrors!

To infinity and beyond! Clones of the “old gal” and the “old git” in the mirrors!

Here I am longer than ever thanks to the effects of the mirrors at the Look Out!

Here I am longer than ever thanks to the effects of the mirrors at the Look Out!

Team Matilda forced themselves away from the sanctuary of the Look Out and found the next two cultural features within the grounds of the stylish boutique Monachyle Mhor hotel.

The Cave is right at the entrance – made of Oriented Strand Board – a material often used in the construction industry but rarely shown off. A group of MHOR micro project students created a hand sculpted installation which just demands to be explored and photographed inside and out.

the-cave

The Sheiling is also based within the grounds of the hotel and part of the same project as The Cave. It is based on the concept of a traditional Scottish shepherd hut. Slatted wood enables a unique view of the landscape and the ever changing light creates interesting ladder shadows.

The Sheiling is based on a traditional Scottish shepherd hut.

The Sheiling is based on a traditional Scottish shepherd hut.

Perfect for an "old lady" like me - parked at the boutique Monachyle Mhor.

Perfect for an “old lady” like me – parked at the boutique Monachyle Mhor hotel.

After exploring these installations it was time for some much needed sustenance at Monachyle Mhor. As my dynamic crew walked in, one of the staff who had clearly been watching the unusual occurrence of a blogging tandem investigating their art installations, pointed to my fetching red la buclee wine carrier and said: “I like that – very classy!”

Oh I was so pleased, as I do like compliments you know! The “old gal” and the “old git” were welcomed in like old friends and immediately made to feel comfortable despite being kitted out in cycling gear!

They took a seat in the small and cosy snug bar – with its trendy new bar amazingly fitting in to the old fashioned surroundings including an old metal fireplace with a healthy fire glowing away!

Perfect tandemers lunch! Soup, sarnies and prosecco! What could be better?

Perfect tandemers lunch! Soup, sarnies and prosecco! What could be better?

My dynamic duo then enjoyed some most welcome hot soup and sandwiches – along with a reviving glass of prosecco! I mean it would have been rude of them not to!

The “old git” had a bit of a job persuading the “old gal” to done their jackets and go back out into the cold – me thinks she could have easily stayed there all afternoon! In fact she was dragged away saying: “Mhor, mhor mhor!”!

As the temperature started to drop my dynamic crew decided to pick up the pace in a bid to keep warm and tandemed back towards Balquhidder in double quick time. I was most impressed as they still have that fitness built up for our summer trip – and easily nailed some hilly terrain.

But Team Matilda still found time to admire the raw scenic beauty of a very calm Loch Voil as we tandemed along. Despite tandeming at a fair speed the “old gal” managed to film a short video as we pedalled along. Watch out for the bumps! (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

 We tandemed through Balquhidder and back up to the junction with the A84 where the “old gal” decided my crew needed to thaw out and have the traditional cyclists treat of coffee and cake at Mhor 84. And that allowed me to be introduced to the Mhor Coo, the last of our features on the BLiSS trail. It seems the popular local coo moooves around (get it?!) at the motel. But I easily found it beside the Christmas tree at the front door!

As the last feature of our BLiSStrail trip I got to meet the Mhor Coo!

As the last feature of our BLiSStrail trip I got to meet the Mhor Coo!

Over a warming coffee, the “old git” and the “old gal” reflected on what a marvellous idea the BLiSS trail is and how it offers the perfect opportunity for some culture and cycling!

No wonder it won the regional Scottish Thistle Award! And of course Team Matilda wishes the LETi team the best of luck in the national finals in March next year.

Before then I am delighted to say that I have already been invited back to complete the third and final leg of the BLiSStrail – this time around Strathyre. The plan is to do that in January or February. I for one can’t wait and I know my dynamic crew are looking forward to it too!

As dusk fell, and the temperature fell well below zero, the “old git” suggested one final photo – a festive shot with my Christmas lights lit up and my crew donning Santa hats! Then it was a rapid last mile back to the warmth of Matilda Transport and back to Matilda’s Rest.

All in all it certainly had been a BLiSSful and brilliant bravura in Balquhidder!

Ho! ho! ho! The "old git" and "old gal" decided to don Santa hats for the last photo of the trip.

The “old git” and “old gal” decided to don Santa hats for the last photo of the trip.

Thanks to all at LETi for their help, bed and breakfast and sustenance offered to allow Team Matilda to complete their tour of the Balquhidder leg of the BLiSS trail.

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