New year blaw at freezing moody Loch Rannoch

The sun trying to break through as we headed for Kinloch Rannoch on the north side of the loch.

The sun made fleetingly rare appearances as we tandemed round the beautiful Loch Rannoch.

After a busy festive period, the “old git” and the “old gal” decided on a tandem ride to blow away the cobwebs – and decided on a New Year trip to the wilderness beauty spot of Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire. This is one of Team Matilda’s favourite places to tandem and the idea was to get some “brain food” to kick off the New Year and set the standards for some spectacular rides.

And for my dynamic duo, there was the added attraction of the ride allowing them to complete their prized “boxed set” of tandeming the loop around Loch Rannoch in four different seasons in a calendar year. You see we had already completed a tour in Spring,, Summer and Autumn. So just the winter circumnavigation to go!

But what the “old git” had perhaps overlooked in his natural unbridled enthusiasm to complete the challenge was that while Loch Rannoch is a stunning area and can provide an amazing backdrop – it can be cold in Winter! “That’s bleeping cold” the “old gal” has just clarified!

To be honest it was still officially freezing on the thermometer reading on Matilda Transport as we headed up the A9, turning off just after Pitlochry for Tummel Bridge. Given that is was January 2 we knew nothing would be open and had to drive past our normal coffee stop at the Queen’s View visitor centre – run by Forestry Commission Scotland as it was closed.

But my crew were able to fuel up on some coffee and home made shortbread – which the “old gal” had wisely decided to bring with us – when we parked in Kinloch Rannoch where we decided to start our loop from today, rather than our normal start point of Bridge of Gaur at the bottom of the loch.

With the thermometer just moving into positive territory – that’s 1C! – my dynamic crew pulled on their multiple layers of clothing, including thermals, fleeces, cycling jackets, winter weather gloves and even insulating skull caps for under their crash helmets!  Then we headed off on our usual clockwise direction, which saw us cross the bridge and tandem firstly down the quieter south side of the loch. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full data and statistics! 

any-strava-l-rannoch

Lets just say that even with all that winter clothing – it was still extremely cold! In fact even the “old git conceded that it was pretty grim as we headed away from Kinloch Rannoch to be blasted by a fairly fierce wind blowing off the loch which never seems to be more than a couple of yards from the road.

With over 22 miles ahead, it did seem a tad adventurous, perhaps even a bit foolhardy – but a challenge is a challenge… and the “old git” reminded the “old gal” that they would soon reach the protection of the woodlands. It would need to be said that at this point relations between my dyanamic crew were somewhat frosty – a bit like the weather! And the “old git” didn’t really help things get any more convivial when he suggested to the “old gal” that she should be happy as she was getting the added treat of a free facial from the wind and the sleet as we tandemed along!

I felt mutiny in the air – or was it snow – but amazingly we all pedalled on and survived the bracing first mile or so before we got into our stride. The wilderness factor of the area is underlined as the narrow road – complete with passing places – winds its way into the magical Black Wood of Rannoch – one of the largest areas of ancient pine forest left in Scotland.

It certainly lives up to its Forestry Commission billing as “a living growing monument with some trees thought to be about 400 years old, and is home to a wonderful variety of plants and wildlife, including deer, pine martens and red squirrel.” It is little wonder that it is designated a Special Area of Conservation and was looking magnificent in all its moody Winter splendour. And today it had the added appeal of giving some protection from the elements.

After about 7 or 8 miles the forecast sun did make a fleeting appearance which lifted the spirits of my team somewhat. The “old gal” was so filled with enthusiasm that she even whipped her phone out to take “shadow” shots just to prove the sun did in fact decide to come out – albeit sporadically!

A moody "shadow" shot of Team Matilda - just to prove the sun did actually come out to say hello!

A moody “shadow” shot of Team Matilda – just to prove the sun did actually come out to say hello!

There was even time for a quick stop at a recognised viewpoint which gives a great vista all the way back up the loch – which combined with a much needed “wild” loo stop and the “old gal” singing the praises of her Shewee!

The "old git|" and the "old gal" forcing a smile to show they were having fun despite the cold!

The “old git|” and the “old gal” forcing a smile to show they were having fun despite the cold!

On we pedalled battling against the wind and that double hill towards the end of the south side stretch. Given the cold temperature it was perhaps no surprise my dynamic crew decided not to stop at the halfway point at the bottom of the loch for their planned alfresco cremant picnic at Bridge of Gaur – and instead we decided to head back up the north side back to Kinloch Rannoch.

The difference in tandeming conditions as we headed in the opposite direction was immediately noticeable – it was much calmer as any wind was now behind us … and the sun came out again, allowing more “shadow” fun with the camera!

Another "shadow" shot on the way up the north side of the loch while we took in the scenic beauty of the area.

Another “shadow” shot on the north side of the loch while we took in the scenic beauty of the area.

The "old gal" basking in the sunshine - well freezing in the fleeting sunshine to be exact!

The “old gal” basking in the sunshine – well freezing in the fleeting sunshine to be exact!

We tandemed on – with my crew close to “hitting the wall” as they found themselves running on empty – after the decision to delay the picnic till our return to Matilda Transport. However a quick gorge on a couple of small “emergency” bars of chocolate was enough to refuel my crew to carry on!

The original plan was to have a quick halt at a regular stop off point on the north side – at a wild camping area about two-thirds of the way up the loch – which usually offers a perfect opportunity for pictures with the majesty of the perfectly conical shape of Schiehallion – one of Scotland’s most recognisable mountains – in the background.

The only snag was that with the mist and snow which was falling on the mountains – as you will see from the photo below – Schiehallion had completely disappeared. Or as the “old gal” quipped: “Maybe it decided to go somewhere warm like the Canary Islands for a sunshine holiday … like we should have done!” And you know what … and yes I know you will find this difficult to believe … I don’t think she was joking! But I am sure they would take me along for some warm weather training!

Where's Schiehallion gone? No sign of the conical mountain top this time!

Where’s Schiehallion gone? No sign of the conical mountain top this time in the Winter mist!

It was the first time in the four different seasons of visits to Loch Rannoch that the mountain hadn’t dominated the skyline. So this “old lady” blogging tandem decided to look back at my previous Musings to remind my faithful readers what Schiehallion looked like in each of the other three seasons.

It's behind you! Despite the light Spring snow, the "old gal" had no problem seeing Schiehallion.

It’s behind you! Despite the light Spring snow, the “old gal” had no problem seeing Schiehallion.

Schiehallion showing its majesty in Summer with Team Bluebird on Le Tour de Perthshire.

Schiehallion showing its majesty in Summer – with Team Bluebird on Le Tour de Perthshire.

Schiehallion in bright Autum sunshine with Gillian and Craig

Bright Autumn sunshine to see Schiehallion – with solo cyclist friends Gillian and Craig.

Apart from the cold weather conditions, another big difference for our Winter loop was the height of the water in the loch. Looking back at the photos you will see a pebble beach – but this was completely under water for our trip this time! And amazingly the “old gal” didn’t jump at the chance when the “old git” joked: “Ok first in the water gets an extra big gin!” She did however mutter something under her breath – but this is a family blog and it can’t be repeated here!

The majesty of me - at the empty wild camping site! Imagine Schiehallion in the backdrop!

The majesty of me – at the empty wild camping site! Imagine Schiehallion in the backdrop!

The “old git” – who clearly isn’t wired up properly – asked the “old gal” why the wild camping site was totally empty only to be told in no uncertain terms this was because it was freezing! However it did allow me the opportunity of a picture to show off my majestic lines since Schiehallion was hiding!

Then it was time for the “old git’s” well thought out plan to record an “on location” New Year message – offering a cremant toast to offer best wishes for 2017 to readers of my blog and fellow tandemers everywhere. He had come up with a script and great ideas to use his new fancy phone with his new tripod device and Bluetooth gizmo to film an epic which would then be edited together into an Oscar winning film! But the fact that my dynamic crew were feeling less than dynamic and distinctly chilled meant that it was a one-take (less than) wonder! (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.)

It certainly wasn’t a Steven Spielberg production  – and it was so cold that the “old git” didn’t even have time to open the bottle of fizz! Job done my crew – fairly well chilled to the marrow by now – got back on the saddles and covered the last couple of  miles to Kinloch Rannoch in double quick time.

To defrost the “old gal” and the “old git” jumped in to the comfort of Matilda Transport – immediately switching on the heating system and enjoying a reviving cup of warm coffee. After a few minutes they were able to enjoy their picnic lunch – indoors not outdoors obviously! – while having a look at Strava which officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of  22.7 miles with a total moving time of  2 hours 27 minutes, at an average speed of 9.3 mph. And my dynamic crew showed they still had good fitness levels by recording no less than 7 Strava gongs – which given the freezing temperature was really quite an impressive performance from my crew!

Total elapsed time was just 2 hours 50 minutes due to not hanging about during the photo and video shoot! Top speed was a not too shabby 27.5 mph and the elevation covered was 389 feet. Together we managed to burn up 1,211 calories to help wipe out some of the festive excesses, and produced an estimated average power output of 123 W.

Just one complaint to the local tourism people at Rannoch and Tummel – there were lots of people about as it was the day after New Year’s Day – but nowhere was open.  Not exactly offering tourists a warm welcome ….. surely it wouldn’t have been too difficult for somewhere to open for a few hours?

As we headed home to Matildas Rest – the exercise endorphins had fortunately started to kick in – with all three of us agreeing that – even allowing for the somewhat cold temperatures – that it had still been a worthwhile ride in a spectacular area. There was even time for some self congratulation of achieving the four loops in four different seasons. Even if the “old gal” was saying that the next time she wanted to do it in t-shirt weather!

So as a reminder of much warmer wilderness tandeming – here’s a picture from our warm summer loop of the toast that we had planned …. Cheers! And all the best for 2017!

Memories of Summer! Prosecco with an Irn-Bru chaser!

Warm memories – prosecco with an Irn-Bru chaser!

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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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Christmas wishes to fellow tandemers who know its always better together!

xmas-card-2016-front-preview

Jingle bells, jingle bells
jingle all the way!
Oh what fun
it is to ride
On a tandem made for two …. !!! 

With the big day fast approaching and thoughts turning to turkey and tinsel and mistletoe and (mulled) wine this “old lady” decided it was time to wish readers of my Matildas Musings, and fellow tandemers everywhere, (and even solo cyclists!) a very merry Christmas on behalf of Team Matilda.

The “old git” being a huge fan of the Christmas period is in a festive frenzy – while the “old gal” is enjoying the (mulled) wine while trying to exert a calming influence!

However my dynamic crew are hoping to squeeze in a couple of rides over the festive period – including a “blow away the cobwebs” tandem to welcome in the New Year in the first couple of days of 2017. So stay logged in for that!

In the meantime my dynamic duo – of the “old git” Captain and the “old gal” Stoker – would like to thank you all for reading my Matildas Musings this year and following our adventures!

xmas-card-2016-inside-previewAnd thanks for all your messages of support- whether that be a comment on the blog, a like or share or comment on Facebook or like or re-tweet on Twitter!

Team Matilda sincerely hope you continue to find it entertaining – and that it makes you smile – while finding something that you (as non-professional fun-loving fellow tandemers) can relate to!

With a bit of luck – and no major mechanicals concerning my ageing frame – there will be many more rides and Musings during 2017.

This hopefully will include the build-up to and the day-to-day reports of the annual Team Tandem Ecosse (Team Matilda’s name when in Europe!) Tour de France du Tandem. Whisper it but it may even include a trip in Holland first off – where I am told it is very flat … which is (festive)  music to the “old gal’s” ears!

For anyone wondering, the Christmas card front image is a snow-sprinkled image of me and my dynamic duo from our 2016 Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem – which included some memorable tandeming through the vineyards and chateaux surrounding the Loire a Velo in September.

As a Christmas treat here’s a chance to see Team Matilda’s musical montage of images from that great Loire Valley trip – in case you haven’t seen it yet.  (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.)

The astute among you will realise that the inside shot on the Christmas card is not in France! It was actually taken on a gorgeous sunny day at Lock Katrine on our fantastic Le Tour de Perthshire in August with fellow self-proclaimed founding members of The Nutty Tandemers Club – John and Jane of Team Bluebird! So special festive greetings to them and here’s to our planned Le Tour de New Forest in July 2017.

So here’s to a wonderful festive season to all. And on behalf of all captains and stokers everywhere – lets hope Santa fills your Christmas stockings with all the good things you have put on your present list!

Mind you, that does make an assumption that you are on the “good tandemers” list rather than the “naughty tandemers list!”

And remember: It truly is always better when you’re together on a tandem”!!

So have a “twice the fun” Merry Christmas from Colin, Diane … (and of course) Matilda!

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Tour de Perthshire du Tandem – Team Matilda welcomes Team Bluebird!

Here I am with my new "best pal" Bluebird - the semi-recumnent tandem!

Here I am with my new “best pal” Bluebird – a semi-recumbent tandem.

TDP wine 5 x 7I have been uber excited over the past week or so as I have made a new friend! I am now ‘best pals’ with another tandem – called Bluebird – who kept me company on some rides and with whom I had lots of chats and fun!

You see Team Matilda – made up of the “old git” and the “old gal” – welcomed Team Bluebird to Perthshire – made up of two fellow tandemers, Jane and John Taylor who live near Southampton in Hampshire. They brought their unusual Pino semi-recumbent tandem,  who has her own mini blog called ‘Travels with Bluebird’.

Now for background Jane and John certainly seemed to have much in common with my dynamic duo – such as not enjoying hills and definitely enjoying wine! In fact both Team Bluebird and Team Matilda seemed to have the same views on not taking tandeming too seriously. Therefore, prior to arrival,  they all decided they would become self-proclaimed founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club! And that definitely set the tone for the week – and gave us all a crazy reputation to live up to! And I can say that over the week all four tandemers more than passed the test to be life long members of the Nutty Tandemers Club!

Given that so much happened during the action-packed week, this blog is a kind of photo special as I recount the best bits of Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem ….

Monday 15 August – The Big Meet up … and Loch Rannoch!

Thumbs up from Team Matilda and Team Bluebird in Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem t-shirts!

Thumbs up from Team Matilda and Team Bluebird in Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem t-shirts!

Monday morning and Matildas Rest was a hive of activity as the “old git” and the “old gal” were up early to prepare to welcome Team Bluebird! Given that my dynamic duo had only become friends with them electronically via the UK Tandem Club Facebook page – the “old gal” said it was a bit like preparing for a blind date!  Obviously they had “seen” each other via Skype calls – but this was the first meet up! And I was keen with anticipation to meet Bluebird too, as I had heard so much about her!

John and Jane and Bluebird had arrived in Perthshire on Saturday following the UK Tandem Rally in Northumberland – and brought their car (aka Bertie!) and their caravan (aka Buzz!) to Crieff. My team were down in London for a wedding that weekend – but left a bag of Perthshire-themed food and drink items to make them feel welcome and get them into the mood (and training) for Le Tour! They also had team t-shirts created using the tour logo – complete with names of stokers and pilots on the sleeves – and made up some laminated posters and saltire flags for us tandems.

But all nervousness disappeared the moment the door bell went and John and Jane greeted my dynamic duo like long term friends. Over a quick coffee everyone quickly gelled and we all knew at that moment it was going to be a memorable week!

We headed up the A9 in convoy, with warm sunshine promised, to one of my favourite places for a ride – Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire. As we parked up at the western end of the loch at Bridge of Gaur, right on cue the sun broke through the clouds just as both us tandems were being unloaded. And as the two crews got their equipment sorted, I got the chance to make my acquaintance with Bluebird. And despite the fact that I am an “old lady” and she is just a newbie in comparison, we had lots in common and I felt great to have a new tandem pal!

Aren't Bluebird and I looking resplendent with our tour posters and saltires?

Aren’t Bluebird and I looking resplendent with our tour posters and saltires?

Team Bluebird - Pilot John and Stoker Jane ready to roll at Loch Rannoch.

Team Bluebird – Pilot John and Stoker Jane ready to roll at Loch Rannoch.

Off we pedalled on the 25 mile loop to take in the scenic beauty of the wilderness area of Loch Rannoch. You can check out the route of our inaugural Tour de Perthshire adventure at Loch Rannoch on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

TDP Strava Loch Rannoch

Now although Team Bluebird’s crew do a bit more miles on average than we do, they also agree with my dynamic duo’s philosophy that it is the sMiles and not the miles that is crucial! We were all rolling along at a good pace and  John and Jane were drinking in the amazing views across the loch to the mountains. The “old gal” decided a quick stop was required at a wild camping area about two-thirds of the way up the loch – which offers a perfect opportunity for pictures with the majesty of the perfectly conical shape of Schiehallion – one of Scotland’s most recognisable mountains – in the background.

All four self-proclaimed members of the Nutty Tandemers Club with Schiehallion

All four self-proclaimed members of the Nutty Tandemers Club with a backdrop of Schiehallion.

The two stokers - the "old gal" and Jane - together on the bans of an calm and sunny Loch Rannoch.

The two stokers – the “old gal” and Jane – together on the banks of a calm and sunny Loch Rannoch.

My dynamic duo in warm sunny day pose - spot the earpiece and headsets!

My dynamic duo in warm sunny day pose – spot the earpiece and headsets!

During the photo stop, us two tandems stayed in the shade and had a good chat!

During the photo stop, us two tandems stayed in the shade and had a good chat!

Conditions were so perfect that the “old gal” decided to shoot a video of Team Bluebird and Team Matilda enjoying the delightful scenery of Loch Rannoch. (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.)

Tandeming on we soon arrived in the town of Kinloch Rannoch where the “old gal” had “booked” one of the most spectacular tables for lunch you could imagine – a picnic bench looking on to a waterfall. This was the venue for my dynamic due to introduce Team Bluebird into the benefits of their (in)famous prosecco picnics – the first of the tour!

Cheers! The first of the famous prosecco picnics of Le Tour de Perthshire!

Cheers! The first of the famous prosecco picnics of Le Tour de Perthshire!

A perfect combination for a lunchtime picnic - prosecco with an Irn Bru chaser!

A perfect combination for a lunchtime picnic – prosecco with an Irn Bru chaser!

After a most enjoyable picnic we set off down the quieter south side of the loch – which if anything is even more scenic than the north shore. The B-class single track road never seems to be more than a couple of yards from the loch itself, and the wilderness factor is underlined as it winds its way through the magical Black Wood of Rannoch – one of the largest areas of ancient pine forest left in Scotland. It certainly lives up to its Forestry Commission billing as “a living growing monument with some trees thought to be about 400 years old, and is home to a wonderful variety of plants and wildlife, including deer, pine martens and red squirrel.” It is so special that Team Bluebird agreed with Team Matilda that it feels like an honour to be able to cycle through it – truly getting as close as possible to nature. Little wonder then that it is designated a Special Area of Conservation.

All smiles - taking in the sunshine on the south side of Loch Rannoch!

All smiles – taking in the warm sunshine on the south side of a very calm Loch Rannoch!

We stopped a couple of times to bask in the warm sunshine before one of those moments when I am impressed with my dynamic duo. There is a fairly steep double hill towards the bottom of the loch – a section the “old git” and the “old gal” have had to walk in the past. But I am thrilled to report they managed to ride the whole way and enjoyed the feeling of satisfaction and achievement.

Back to the cars and both tandems were packed away before a short 6 mile drive to the end of the road and the wonderfully remote Rannoch railway station. Because we had enjoyed being out in the sunshine the amazing Rannoch Station tearoom was closed for the day and we had to make do with looking longingly through the windows of the beautifully converted station waiting room. But the tandem crews did explore the station itself with the display showing the story of its construction in such a remote location and got to play with an old set of signals!

The tandem crews got to play with an old set of signals.

The tandem crews got to play with an old set of signals.

Trainspotting! Rannoch Station - surely one of the remotest stations in Scotland.

Trainspotting! Rannoch Station – surely one of the remotest stations in Scotland.

The final stop for the day was to walk across the road from the station to be met by Scott and Steph, mine hosts at the oasis which is Moor of Rannoch Hotel. It is hard to describe this hotel to fully justify what it offers but essentially it is probably best summed up in the four headline words they use on their website – Retreat, Relax, Unwind, Escape.

Moor of Rannoch hotel with its constantly changing natural vista of Rannoch Moor.

Moor of Rannoch hotel with its constantly changing natural vista of Rannoch Moor.

The hotel’s major selling point – apart from the gin bar (obviously!) is that there is no tv signal and no wifi. You are quite literally cut off from the modern world. But that is a huge benefit, and the scenery provides the stimulating brain food as it looks out over the wilderness of Rannoch Moor to the Glencoe mountains.

Which is exactly the view that the tandem crews enjoyed as they enjoyed a perfect end to the day with a celebratory gin and a superb meal – presenting Highland Perthshire’s larder at its very best! And right on cue,  just as we were set to depart, the “stag party” arrived – with the friendly herd of deer coming down off the hill for their evening meal. As we set off for home, the moon was shining brightly over the mountains and we all enjoyed its sparkling reflection on the loch. A truly memorable day!

Tuesday 16 August – Buzz’s first entertaining!

The artistically designed Nutty Tandemers club membership cards.

The artistically designed Nutty Tandemers club membership cards.

Tuesday saw my dynamic duo have to go to work, so Team Bluebird ventured out for a short early afternoon 9 mile loop from their caravan site in Crieff which took in Drummond Castle and a trip on the first phase of the new Muthill to Crieff off road cycle path.

Tuesday evening saw a big event – with my dynamic duo being guinea pigs as they had the honour of being the first people entertained for a meal in Team Bluebird’s new caravan called Buzz! But to get in to the caravan my crew had to show their special membership cards for the Nutty Tandemers Club which John had cleverly created.

And before the meal there was the obligatory toast to the Nutty Tandemers! But it was a special toast as John and Jane had procured a special bottle of Veuve Amiot fizz – appropriately from the Loire Valley given our Tour de France destination of the Loire in September! And even more appropriately it was branded Tandem, as they had acquired it in May 2013 during the 25th International Tandem Rally in Saumur in France. My dynamic duo felt honoured – and it was delicious!

The toast to the Nutty Tandemers with the special "Tandem" fizz!

The toast to the Nutty Tandemers with the special “Tandem” fizz!

The meal that followed – cooked by Jane – of spinach pasta bake followed by fresh berries was very tasty and it was a great night of laughter and chat as the Nutty Tandemers cemented their friendship – with Buzz providing a very hospitable venue for entertaining! My crew were more than happy to be the guinea pigs!

Wednesday 17 August – Sun-kissed Loch Katrine!

The Tour de Perthshire Nutty Tandemers team shirts had the names on the sleeves.

The Tour de Perthshire Nutty Tandemers team shirts complete with names on the sleeves.

Today’s destination for the Nutty Tandemers was a favourite of the “old git” and the “old gal” – Loch Katrine – which nestles in some of Scotland’s most atmospheric, picturesque and historic scenery.

The area – in the heart of the Trossachs within Scotland’s first National Park – is clearly not strictly in Perthshire but it has a special place in the hearts of my dynamic duo as without Loch Katrine they may never have teamed up together! You see it is the very reason they got into tandeming in the first place, and it was totally by accident as they decided to hire a tandem on what was their first proper date together. And the rest as they say is history! You can read a humorous account of that day here.

Team Bluebird had heard all about the romantic story – and more importantly the wonderful scenery  – so were keen to see the beauty of  Loch Katrine for themselves. So we drove in convoy to Trossachs Pier and bought tickets for the historic steamship Sir Walter Scott.

It was very exciting as both Bluebird and I were lifted on board the boat and conditions could hardly have been better for a morning sail down the loch. Certainly no need for my sea sickness tablets! The “old git” even managed to persuade the boat’s staff to get the Captain to give Team Bluebird a special welcome over the ship’s tannoy!

Two "old ladies" together - here I am on the Walter Scott steamship.

Two “old ladies” together – here I am on the Walter Scott steamship.

Ahoy there! Team Bluebird enjoying the scenic sail on Loch Katrine.

Ahoy there! Team Bluebird enjoying the scenic sail on Loch Katrine.

An hour later we disembarked at Stronachlacher Pier and decided to firstly tandem west towards Loch Lomond and the famous Inversnaid Bunkhouse popular with walkers on the West Highland Way. You can check out the route of our the Nutty Tandemers Club sun-kissed sail and ride at Loch Katrine on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

Tdp Strava Loch Katrine

We decided to avoid the steep decent to – and therefore steep climb back from – Inversnaid itself and returned along what is called the Old Military Road to Stronachlachar – drinking in the scenery looking at its best in the glorious sunshine.

The "old git" and a Highland coo - the coo is on the left!

The “old git” and a Highland coo – the coo is the one on the left of the picture!

The “old gal” decided it would be an ideal time for a pit stop and Team Bluebird and Team Matilda enjoyed some welcome coffee and cake at the Pier Cafe – right on Stronachlacher pier which the boats dock at when taking passengers up and down the loch. As Jane remarked, the cafe’s picnic tables offer what has to be one of the best views in Scotland for a coffee stop. And with the sun beating down it was so warm that everyone had to apply some sun screen before getting back on the saddles!

Ready for the hilly Loch Katrine challenge from Stonachlachar Pier back to Trossachs Pier.

Ready for the hilly Loch Katrine challenge from Stonachlachar Pier back to Trossachs Pier.

So refuelled and refreshed we headed off on the 13 mile route back up the side of the loch. It is a joy to tandem on as it is a well maintained private road owned by Scottish Water who use the loch as a reservoir to supply Glasgow. But the terrain is fairly undulating! (“That’s HILLY – not undulating” shouts the “old gal”!) John and Jane – aka Team Bluebird – are more used to hills and that pushed my dynamic duo on – managing to nail most of the hills that previously required them to get off and push. Amazingly this included gaining a Strava personal best on a category 3 climb at Invergyle!

The "old git" and the "old gal" smiling - despite having just climbed a steep hill!

The “old git” and the “old gal” smiling – despite having just climbed a category 3 hill!

And a rear view shot of my dynamic duo in action with scenic views of Loch Katrine.

And a rear view shot of my dynamic duo in action with amazing views of Loch Katrine.

It was a fabulous day to be out tandeming – and Bluebird and I were in our element – even if our crews were suffering a little in the heat! One of the highlights, about half way along the route, is a scenic viewpoint at Portnellan which overlooks the burial ground of the Clan MacGregor – which dates back to the 17th century – and has historic links to the legendary Rob Roy MacGregor.

The "old gal" posing at the picturesque archway at Portnellan.

The “old gal” posing at the picturesque archway at Portnellan.

John and Jane - aka Team Bluebird - enjoying the views and the sunshine!

John and Jane – aka Team Bluebird – in a romantic pose in the sunshine!

My dynamic duo having another memorable moment on the banks of Loch Katrine.

My dynamic duo having another memorable fun moment on the banks of Loch Katrine.

We tandemed on before taking a little diversionary track – cutting out one of the steepest hills – which the “old git” happened to remember had a couple of picnic tables right on the edge of the loch with an idyllic view. Time for today’s prosecco picnic – with Team Bluebird and Team Matilda lapping up the ice cold fizz!

Cheers! Team Bluebird and Team Matilda striking a celebratory pose during another prosecco picnic!

Cheers! Team Bluebird and Team Matilda striking a celebratory pose during another prosecco picnic!

Prosecco picnic carnage! A joke photo to show the remains of the picnic lunch!

Prosecco picnic carnage! A joke photo to show the remains of the picnic lunch!

See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil - the Three Stoogies!

See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil – the Three Wise Monkeys on the picnic bench!

And a "normal" photo of Jane, John and the "old gal" enjoying some post picnic shade.

And a “normal” photo of Jane, John and the “old gal” enjoying some post picnic shade.

Only a couple of climbs more and a few miles and we were back at the top of the loch where Jane and the “old gal” took videos of one another as us tandems cycled along!  This was actually more difficult that it seemed as there were a few “technical issues” (ie the cameras not being switched on properly by their operators!) which meant we were on the third take before it worked!

Well to a certain extent! The footage has been given the professional treatment by the video experts at the “old git’s” work and transformed into something that is actually worth watching!

Back in the car park the “old gal” decided it would be fun to spice things up a bit and swap the pilots and stokers around a bit! So Jane replaced the “old gal” in my stoker’s position for a ride around the car park with the “old git.” Unusually for him, he was very diplomatic in his answer when asked by the “old gal” if he felt the difference in power from the new stoker!

Then the “old git” replaced Jane in her role as stoker on the front of Bluebird! An experience which he tells me he found a little odd – given the fairly exposed seating position out front! And of course he wasn’t in control of the brakes, gears or steering – so he was a tad nervous! But the swapping certainly produced lots more laughs as you can see from the video!

The "old git" taking up the role of stoker on Bluebird - with John looking a tad worried!

The “old git” taking up the role of stoker on Bluebird – with John looking a tad worried!

After all the shenanigans Team Bluebird and Team Matilda made the mistake of  going into the Brenachoile Cafe in the car park at Trossachs Pier for much needed refeshments. Big mistake! From the moment we entered the staff were off putting and it was an awful experience – the kind of damaging hospitality image which the “old git” thought had been removed from the Scottish tourism scene. It was so bad that the “old git” wrote a scathing review of their experience on TripAdvisor which you can read here – and couldn’t help but notice that other reviewers had the same message of “avoid at all costs.”

Tandems packed back in the vehicles, a quick change and a short drive saw us in the nearby tourist town of Callander. Team Bluebird liked the look of the Old Rectory Inn which had a big front garden and we bagged a picnic-style table. Celebration drinks were duly ordered before a gorgeous bar supper meal was enjoyed in the warm early evening sunshine.

Both Team Bluebird and Team Matilda headed home tired but agreeing that tandeming simply doesn’t get much better than today!

Thursday 18 August – Bluebird’s day at The Kelpies (getting lost!)

My dynamic duo had to work again today – and work late – so Team Bluebird were on their own. I am told they ventured to the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel. The plan was to do the circular signed cycle route but Team Bluebird found it virtually impossible to follow – just like we did a couple of weeks ago! For the full story and pictures read the Travels with Bluebird blog entry of the day here.

Friday 19 August – Rain stops ride but prosecco pizza prevails!

While Team Matilda were working, Team Bluebird ventured out on a highly impressive 42 mile jaunt from Crieff to Lochearnhead! Whisper it but I am actually quite glad my dynamic duo were working as it looked a tad on the hilly side for this “old lady”! You can read details of their trip – and see a couple of pictures here.

The “old git” and the  “old gal” had planned to show Team Bluebird the route around Loch Leven tonight – with a prosecco picnic tea along the way. But heavy rain forced the cancellation of that idea.

Spot the rain! But it was nice and cozy for a prosecco pizza night in Buzz!

Spot the rain! But it was nice and cozy for a prosecco pizza night in Buzz!

So the “old gal” came up with the inspired suggestion that we have a prosecco pizza night instead! So they ordered pizzas and drove to Crieff to enjoy another great night of food and drink in the very comfortable surroundings of Buzz!

Saturday 20 August – Finale at Loch Leven and end of Tour de Perthshire du Tandem dinner!

The plans for the big finale of Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem was for the Nutty Tandemers do do a quick 12 mile lap of Loch Leven in late afternoon, before a celebratory end of tour dinner at Matildas Rest. The hope was to tandem in the same glorious sunshine as we had all experienced earlier in the week – but it was too good to last!

The weather gods decided to tease us and sent lots of cloud and rain – but it stopped the moment we pulled into the car park at Kinross pier. So,  despite some unsettled conditions, Team Bluebird and Team Matilda decided to risk the elements for one last hurrah!

Early on in the ride Jane even managed to catch my dynamic duo in action on video – which just underlines their slogan of “it’s always better together” … even in heavy cloud with rain threatening.

The trail has opened around two years ago at a cost of £3 million and is known as the Loch Leven Heritage Trail – linking 30 natural and cultural heritage sites. You can check out the route of the finale of the Nutty Tandemers Club Tour de Perthshire ride at Loch Leven on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

TDP Strava Loch Leven

We set off on a clockwise loop just about getting a clear view of Loch Leven castle  in the middle of the loch – which was the setting for the most traumatic year in the life of Mary Queen of Scots. It was here in 1567 that she was imprisoned and forced to abdicate before her dramatic escape a year later. As we tandemed past the RSPB Loch Leven Nature Reserve – about 7.5 miles round the circuit at Vane Farm – the heavens opened again.

At the rain drenched viewpoint at Loch Leven - some fetching outfits on display!

At the rain drenched viewpoint at Loch Leven – still trying to show Tour t-shirts!

Team Bluebird stoker Jane in her "fetching" cape to fight off the rain!

Team Bluebird stoker Jane in her “fetching” cape to fight off the rain!

A brief stop for a couple of pictures at the viewpoint – where we had planned to have Friday night’s prosecco picnic tea – and we headed off to complete the loop. Both Bluebird and I remarked on how mucky the other was after the ride, and the fact that we would probably be getting a good wash as a result!

Despite the rain the ride was enjoyed by all – and feeling duly energised we headed back home to regroup at Matildas Rest for the end of tour dinner! The “old git” has a bit of a reputation for his mixology talents and the celebratory toast to the tour was a rather intoxicating cocktail of Cremant de Bordeaux mixed with some cherry brandy. It certainly made the evening go with a swing!

The “old gal” had prepared some seared tuna, washed down with some Entre-deux-Mers crisp white wine, which was followed by some of her legendary Strawberry Pimm’s Gateaux – with a chaser of Strawberry Pimms obviously!

A cheeseboard was accompanied by a Team Matilda gin cocktail (what else?!) – while the “old gal” got everyone into the spirit (literally) of the evening with some “Tandem Games”! I have to say that although I was safely tucked back in my nice cosy garage, I heard the loud laughs as Team Matilda and Team Bluebird took part in a somewhat chaotic game of “Pin the Pannier on the Tandem”! This was followed by a “quick draw” event where the tandem teams were mixed up and had to draw each other with hilarious results. The final game was story telling where each crew member had to take turns in adding a sentence which had to include the words Bluebird or Matilda  – which predictably produced some suitably ludicrous scenarios!

With tears literally pouring down our cheeks the final part of the evening was the Nutty Tandemers Club prize giving and awarding of certificates for completing Le Tour de Perthshire!

Smiles and Tour certificates for all founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club.

Smiles and Tour certificates for all founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club.

TDP wine 5 x 7And the good news is that all members of the Nutty Tandemers Club agreed unanimously that we need to meet up for another tour in the future.

So on behalf of Team Matilda,  it was a real pleasure to welcome Team Bluebird to our neck of the woods and a real privilege to meet John and Jane and forge a lasting friendship with what are real kindred spirits to my dynamic duo! We enjoyed your company and are delighted to have shared some great memories – and the “Pin the Pannier on the Tandem” images will live on for ever!!! I am already pining as I am missing my pal Bluebird – and I for one can’t wait to do it all again! Cheers guys!

To end this bumper blog posting – a final comment from Team Bluebird’s crew John and Jane:

Perthshire has been just wonderful – the scenery beautiful and dramatic whatever the weather. But we were so fortunate to have the glorious sunshine especially at Lochs Katrine and Rannoch. So many of the villages we passed through had the most wonderful and decorative floral displays and the people have been so friendly and welcoming.

Thank you Perthshire but special thanks must go to Colin and Di, our fellow Nutty Tandemers, for all they did to make sure that we had a wonderful time on Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem.

 Until next time guys! Cheers!

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Jolly jaunt around Gleneagles on my first Strava recorded ride!

The artwork on a roundabout to mark the Ryder Cup being held at Gleneagles in 2014.

The artwork on a roundabout to mark the Ryder Cup being held at Gleneagles in 2014.

Sunday morning dawned with Matildas Rest bathed in bright sunshine. The forecast was for the thermometer to reach a balmy 10C, so the “old git” was in his element as the plans for a ride out – only our second of the year – fell into place. We were on for some much needed exercise and fresh air between my spokes!

The “old gal” was still a bit worried about rustiness – but the “old git” had thought out a new circular route on some of the quiet and scenic Perthshire back roads around the famous Gleneagles hotel estate. Anyway my dynamic duo’s combined weight loss on the Hay healthy eating plan has now reached 24 pounds so they were feeling much healthier.

And to add to the excitement of getting out on the roads again around Matildas Rest, the “old git” had persuaded the “old gal” that we should use Strava – the cycling GPS tracker which you can operate via an app on a mobile phone. So this classic tandem is moving into the digital age. Forget that rubbish that you are too old to learn new skills and tricks!

Essentially it tracks the journey from start to finish – including pausing when I am stopped – and then gives a highly detailed report on the ride. This incorporates a terrain map showing the journey and lots of statistics like distance covered, moving time, total time, elevation, average speed and top speed. You can compare segments of the ride against other cyclists – and also against our own time when we repeat a route. Which all sounds like fun, unless the “old git” becomes a Strava bore!

My dynamic duo were recommended to use it by Jane and John Taylor who live in Hampshire and are frequent tandemers on their  Pino semi-recumbent  called Bluebird. The “old git” and the “old gal” have become friends with Bluebird’s crew after starting to chat on social networks including The Tandem Club UK Facebook page. And, what’s more, I understand they are avid fans of my blog – so they must be good people!

In fact I am most excited as I am due to meet Bluebird when she brings her crew up to Perthshire in August for a holiday. The plan is that me and Bluebird will be going out for some of the most scenic rides around the area – so I am looking forward to having a tandem pal for some ride outs. I am sure Bluebird and I can get up to mischief while the two tandem crews are indulging in a few glasses of wine when having picnics or when we stop at local hostelries!

So back to the ride and we set off in calm conditions and were soon the “old git” and the “old gal” were in perfect synchronicity (well that’s what the old git likes to believe anyway!) as they pedalled up Auchterarder high street and headed out of the town, continuing up hill towards Gleneagles hotel – the playground of the rich and famous!

We headed up the road towards Blackford and Braco with my crew buoyant to be out in the mild Spring day – despite further long slow climbs past the back entrance to the hotel. In fact we were moving faster and smoother than both I and the “old gal” would have dared imagine at this stage in the season, soaking in the picturesque Perthshire countryside and wonderful fresh air.

Here I am on the edge of the famous King's Course at Gleneagles with the Ochil hills as a backdrop.

Here I am on the edge of the famous King’s Course at Gleneagles with the Ochil hills as a backdrop.

The first point of interest was cycling along the edge of the King’s  golf course – renowned as being one of the most beautiful and exhilarating places to play golf in the world. Opened in 1919, the King’s course is regarded as a masterpiece of golf course design, which has tested the aristocracy of golf, both professional and amateur. A quick photo stop allowed us to take in the views with the Ochil hills giving a dramatic backdrop to the perfectly manicured fairways.

Pedalling on we soon picked up speed on a nice downhill stretch and reaching the heady heights of 24.8 mph – albeit only for less than 100 yards – before abruptly slowing down again as we faced the next incline.

It was a wonderful day to be out tandeming – proving the old adage that “it’s always better tandeming together” – which was showing Perthshire off at its best. We soon turned sharply to the left taking the road to Blackford – passing the ghost-like golf course of the gWest complex belonging to Ochil Developments. On its website it is described as being “Scotland’s best kept secret” – and it truly is.

The golf course has been there for a few years – but the first steps towards a luxury new  resort to rival its neighbour Gleneagles have now been launched. The first 26 residential plots are now available, providing potential buyers the chance to design their very own bespoke, multi million pound home on an average of 1.25 acres of land with extraordinary views across one of Scotland’s finest landscapes.

The level crossing at Blackford - on the main rail route north to Aberdeen and Inverness.

The level crossing at Blackford – on the main rail route north to Aberdeen and Inverness.

On down towards the village of Blackford, crossing the main Glasgow to Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness railway line. It is the line the “old git” commutes each weekday on to get to Glasgow, so it was interesting to see the level crossing from a  different perspective. We headed past the sprawling Highland Spring water factory – home of one of Perthshire’s most iconic brands – before cycling through the village and past the Tullibardine Highland single malt whisky distillery which is expanding its visitor centre.

The next stage was to cross the busy A9 dual carriageway – on foot rather than pedalling – and turning into the much quieter and remote road around Bardrill. Before departure the “old git” had one of his (few) bright ideas and packed a flask with some freshly brewed coffee in it, as he was aware there were no cafes on today’s route. So after the adrenalin-fuelled activity of dodging the fast moving cars and trucks on the main route north to Inverness the “old gal” was ready for a very welcome coffee.

Smile for the selfie - practicing using the self-timer!

Smile for the selfie – practicing at coffee stop using the self-timer!

As my dynamic duo enjoyed a quick pit stop, and practicing taking a few selfies on the self-timer camera on the mobile phone, the “old gal” was even heard to praise the “old git” for his forward thinking in organising the flask of coffee! And that doesn’t happen very often – the praise I mean!

With the sunshine having made a disappearing act behind some heavy cloud we were soon on the move again, with the three of us enjoying the flat cycling on the farm roads around Bardrill. This is a good road for practicing gear changes as there are straight stretches followed by downhills and inclines all in quick succession. All was going well until a cry of “stop pedalling” was heard from the “old gal.” In her position as stoker on the rear, she gets a good view of my chain and it had slipped off the gear mechanism following a rapid change down the gears.

Fortunately the “old git” immediately stopped moving my pedals so the chain didn’t get jammed, and the “old gal” used her skills in her other role as chief engineer to hook my chain back into position and we were soon moving again.

We turned out on to the Glendevon road and paused to admire the roundabout with some huge golf clubs as an art work commemorating the Ryder Cup golf match being held at Gleneagles in September 2014 – when Europe famously beat the US 16½ to 11½.

At the main entrance to Gleneagles - the playground for the rich and famous.

At the main entrance to Gleneagles – the playground for the rich and famous.

We headed back towards Matildas rest tandeming past the posh front entrance to Gleneagles – stopping for another photo opportunity – before a nice downhill stretch back into Auchterarder. My dynamic duo decided on a stop at at the cafe at Synergy Cycles.  They both enjoyed a slice of caramel shortcake – one of the best in the area according to the “old gal”, and who would argue with her! – washed down by a nice warming coffee.

Back to Matildas Rest and a wonderful day was made even more perfect by watching Scotland beat France at Murrayfield in the Six Nations Rugby International – the first such victory for a decade! There was even time for a celebratory gin and tonic!

You can check out our route on Strava here – and make sure you click on the map to get the full data and statistics!

Strava GleneaglesI am proud to say that we are even registered as Team Matilda – what else?! – on Strava and are now a member of the the Tandem Club on the site. You will see that we were ranked 52nd out of 54 tandems registered when judged on distance covered in the past week. But I have to say we have no ambitions to top the table. Now if there was a ranking for fun quotient we would definitely be near the top – as for the three of us that’s what tandeming is all about. And we wholeheartedly agree with the Tandem Club UK website that tandeming is really twice the fun!

Tandem club twice the fun logoAnd finally – don’t forget to keep all your fingers and toes crossed for my blog – which is a finalist in the Most Innovative category of the UK Blog Awards 2016. Not only is Matildas Musings the only blog ‘written’ by a classic Jack Taylor tandem, but it is the only Scottish finalist. The results will be announced at a glitzy awards presentation evening at the Park Plaza Hotel in London at the end of April.

I have my my brake cables crossed until then in the hope that I will win the award! Although I am a bit worried as to where the “old git” would attach the trophy to my delicate frame?!

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