Canter to Carnoustie across the Tay Bridge

This way for tandemers and cyclists! The “old gal” with the Tay Road bridge behind.

A rare Monday off together for my dynamic crew, and a hopeful weather forecast,  provided the perfect opportunity for a “workday” tandem trip. The “old gal” – who has an aversion to too many hills – remembered we had enjoyed a fairly flat ride on off-road cycle paths to Carnoustie last year, and recommended a repeat. The route starts near Newport on Tay and involves crossing the Tay Bridge, into Dundee and following Sustrans Scotland NCR 1 hugging the coast to the golf town of Carnoustie.

So a short 45 minute drive in Matilda Transport saw us parked up in the car park across the Tay from Dundee – which offers direct access to the bridge via a ramp. After a final weather check – and the promise of bright sunshine – we headed off. 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!

The Tay Bridge carries the A92 across the Firth of Tay and at around 2,250 metres – or 1.4 miles – it is one of the longest road bridges in Europe. Opened in 1966, it celebrated its 50th anniversary last year – making it nearly as old as me, but not quite! Intriguingly the cycle path on the bridge sits in in the middle of the two carriageways for cars, unlike most bridges where the path runs at the side of the bridge. This was a bit odd to begin, creating a feeling of being boxed in and it was slightly disconcerting having the cars driving past at such speed and in close proximity. But it did actually feel very safe and we soon got into our stride.

The Tay Road Bridge celebrated its 50th anniversary last year – almost as old as me!

The water was remarkably calm and with clear skies we got a great view of the adjacent Tay Rail Bridge. Off the bridge and we followed the well signposted NCR1 along the riverbank and through the Dundee port area. You are advised that you may need photographic identification to gain access, but my crew just pressed the button and the gate opened for us!

It really is a great cycle path, and very flat, which made the “old gal” smile! And because it is a dedicated path – away from roads – it is very popular with cyclists and dog walkers, which makes for lots of sociable greetings along the way! As we tandemed round the bay the charming old fishing town of Broughty Ferry came in to view and with little effort we cycled past the castle and continued along a stretch which hugged the Blue Flag beach.

It was great path for me and my dynamic true – off road and nice long, flat straight stretches.

With the sun out, it was a joy to be tandeming in such a lovely area on such a beautiful day. The route continues to Monifieth where a new stretch of the path heads over Barry Links, past a very large Ministry of Defence area on the right known as the Barry Buddon Training Centre. This has high security fencing along its perimeter and rather ominously every 100 yards or so there are warnings signs telling you to keep out as this is a live military firing area!

The “old gal” paying attention to the warnings to keep out of the Ministry of Defence live firing range!

Not surprisingly the “old gal” ordered the “old git” to pay heed to the signs and not to veer off course! Pedalling along on the NCR1 we soon came to Carnoustie – home to the famous championship golf course which was looking at its spectacular best in the sunshine – with lots of golfers out on its links.

My dynamic crew were enjoying themselves so much that the “old gal” suggested going on the additional 7 miles to Arbroath – further up the coast for our picnic! So off we pedalled but almost as soon as we set off there was an almost instant change in the weather. The skies darkened quickly and it started to rain.

About a mile out of Carnoustie the “old git” took the executive team decision that we were going to get very wet and we turned round. We got back to Carnoustie just as a heavy downpour started – emphasising that it was the correct decision.

My crew took refuge in the cafe of the Carnoustie Leisure Centre and had a coffee while hoping the shower would pass. But the skies darkened further and the squally shower got heavier. As we were clearly cyclists sheltering from the rain, the staff took pity on us and allowed us to eat our picnic in the cafe!

Luckily we were able to use the Carnoustie Leisure Centre cafe for an indoor picnic

No prosecco this time as the “old git” thought that may be pushing the kind hospitality my crew were being offered! Lunch over and there was nothing for it but for Team Matilda to get kitted up in their rain jackets and head back to Dundee.

It would need to be said that spirits were a bit low as we headed off – with the prospect of being extremely soaked by the time we had covered the 13 miles back to Matilda Transport. But fortunately as we got to the edge of the Ministry of Defense firing range the rain stopped as quickly as it started and we could see clear sky ahead. The dark clouds started to lift as the imposing Broughty Ferry Castle came into view, and decided to risk a stop for a photo.

Here I am posing with the “old gal” at the imposing Broughty Ferry Castle.

And as the storm clouds blew away the sea suddenly became calmer again and my dynamic crew were once again enjoying our tandem ride. We had another quick stop at a nature corner outlining the area’s wildlife, highlighted by an impressive sculpture to represent bird feathers.

A sculpture of bird feathers on the way back to Dundee.

We continued along the route with the sun back out to play, tandeming back through the dockyard to the bridge. Just beside the bridge there is a massive construction sight where the huge new V&A Museum of Design Dundee is taking shape – with the building designed to look like ships. When it opens in 2018 it will be an international centre of design for Scotland – the first ever design museum to be built in the UK outside London.

The ship like design of the new V&A Museum of Design Dundee is now starting to take shape.

After checking out the museum it was time for the return crossing across the Tay Bridge – but firstly we encountered the rather unusual way of accessing the bridge and staying on NCR1 – a lift! But fortunately it is very easy to use. I was thinking that I would have to be lifted unceremoniously into the lift at an awkward angle as there would probably be only room lengthwise for single bikes – but I am delighted to report I could simply be pushed in.

Going up! Unusual way of accessing the Tay Bridge on NCR1 – but happily it was a long lift!

Emerging from the lift and rejoining the cycle path there is a great view from above of the new V&A museum. It certainly looks very impressive even at this early stage of construction.

A view of the new V & A Museum from the Tay Bridge.

The “old git” was waffling on about breaking another record on the way back across the bridge – but the “old gal” was quick to point out that it was in fact an uphill pedal on the return trip! The “old git” scoffed, but quickly discovered the truth as they pedalled off and were suddenly hit by a head wind!

What should have been a quick cycle back across the bridge turned into a bit of a grind – before Team Matilda were back in the car park across from Dundee. A reviving cup of coffee was required, but the the “old git” and the “old gal” were euphoric when they checked Strava to find they had gained no less than 23 gongs – 14 personal bests and 9 second best times! Mind you this was probably mainly due to keeping pedalling at a fair speed to beat the showers, but also underlines that my dynamic crew are a good bit fitter and stronger than they think!

Strava officially recorded the ride as Team Matilda covering a distance of  27.9 miles with a total moving time of 3 hours 06 minutes – giving an average speed of 9.0 mph.

The total elapsed time was just 4 hours 13 minutes – allowing for sheltering from the rain! Top speed recorded was just 19.0 mph given the flatness of the route, with the elevation covered being just 164 feet. Together we managed to burn up 1,343 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 108 W.

Regular readers of my blog will know only too well by now that the “old git” has found a clever new app called Relive which creates a nifty 3D video interpretation of our rides – effectively bringing Strava to life. So take a look at the video of our route 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.)

The overall verdict from my dynamic crew was that it was brilliant way to record another 28 miles on a rare weekday off for my crew, which left them feeling righteous! Add to that lots of laughs and the fact that we managed to dodge the showers and it was a win, win situation!

Great preparation for my Tour de Deux Festivals du Tandem this weekend….

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Tay Bridge to Carnoustie on the Ooor Wullie Bucket Trail … and Tour de Perthshire getting close!

On the cycle path at the Tay Bridge which intriguingly sits in the middle of the two carriageways for cars.

The Tay Bridge cycle path sits in the middle of the two car carriageways.

After last Sunday’s hilly and wet ride at Loch Katrine, the “old gal” had a simple request when planning this weekend’s ride. “Can we do a flat ride in the dry?” she begged! Well good that the “old git” is, he hasn’t (yet!) perfected the art of being able to control the weather -but he did graciously concede to planning a ride which didn’t involve any King of the Mountains tandeming!

We had been recommended to a route which starts at Newport on Tay and involves crossing the Tay Bridge, into Dundee and following National Cycle Network Route (NCR)1 up the east coast to Carnoustie – a perfectly manageable distance of 13 miles. And it was showing almost totally flat – with the only real elevation getting onto the bridge! When the “old gal” saw this she was ecstatic and happily agreed.

Therefore on Sunday morning we were all in good spirits as we drove away from Matildas Rest – with the added bonus of some bright sunshine making an appearance! A 45 minute drive in Matilda Transporter saw us parked up in the car park across the Tay from Dundee, which had direct access to NCR 1 via a ramp. You can check out the route of our Tay bridge to Carnoustie ride on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

ATB Tay Bridge StravaThe Tay Bridge carries the A92 across the Firth of Tay and at around 2,250 metres – or 1.4 miles – it is one of the longest road bridges in Europe. Opened in 1966, it celebrates its 50th anniversary later this month. Intriguingly the cycle path on the bridge sits in in the middle of the two carriageways for cars, unlike most bridges where the path runs at the side of the bridge. This was a bit odd to begin, creating a feeling of being boxed in and it was slightly disconcerting the cars driving past at such speed and in close proximity. But it did actually feel very safe and we soon got into our stride.

The "old gal" taking in the views on the Tay Bridge with Newport on Tay behind her.

The “old gal” taking in the views on the Tay Bridge with Newport on Tay behind her.

It was fairly breezy on the bridge but with the clear skies we got a good view of the adjacent Tay Rail Bridge.  The windy conditions allowed for a good practice of my dynamic duo’s latest gizmo – walkie talkies! Now why do you need walkie talkies when you are both on the same bike I hear you ask – and that would normally be a very sensible question! But there is a good answer. You see the “old git” – because (whisper it!) is getting on in years his hearing is not what it used to be! And that has left the “old gal” becoming increasingly frustrated as she has been having to shout things usually three times before she is heard. And if the message is “truck behind” it is usually too late by the time the message is understood!

So to avoid catastrophic consequences (and to ease the “old gal’s” blood pressure”!) they invested in a set of voice activated walkie talkies with earpieces which worked a treat and means they can actually communicate with each other! And I have to say it is an improvement – even if it does leave my crew looking like two FBI secret service agents!

Off the bridge and we followed the well signposted NCR1 along the river bank and then through the Dundee port area. You are advised that you may need photographic identification for this part of the cycle path, but  we just pressed the button on the gate and it opened for us!

It really is a great cycle path – and as flat as promised. And because it is a dedicated path – away from roads – it is very popular which makes for lots of sociable greetings along the way! As we tandemed round the bay the charming old fishing town of Broughty Ferry came in to view and with little effort we cycled past the castle and continued along a stretch which hugged the Blue Flag beach.

With the sun out, it was a joy to be tandeming in such a lovely area on such a beautiful day. The route continues to Monifeith where a new stretch of the path heads over Barry Links, past a very large Ministry of Defence area on the right – and kept well secret – known as the Barry Buddon Training Centre. This has high security fencing along its perimeter and rather ominously every 100 yards or so there are warnings signs telling you to keep out as this is a live military firing area!

Danger! No entry! The "old gal" emphasises the warning signs at the live firing area.

Danger! No entry! The “old gal” emphasises the warning signs at the live firing area.

Not surprisingly the “old gal” ordered the “old git” to pay heed to the signs and not to veer off course! Instead we headed along the NCR1 to Carnoustie – home to the famous championship golf course which was looking at its spectacular best today in the sunshine. The path took us along the sea front and we found a nice bench in an alcove for a lunch stop, which protected us from the sea breeze.

Now it has been mentioned in passing that perhaps Team Matilda were perhaps over indulging in the calories with our famous prosecco picnic lunches! To be honest, my dynamic crew put that down to envy! But in deference to those claims, my crew decided to set up a parsimonious prosecco picnic for  a giggle.

The parsimonious prosecco picnic - just a giggle to show what slim pickings would look like!

The parsimonious prosecco picnic – just a giggle to show what slim pickings would look like!

After that the rest of the grand Sunday prosecco picnic was unloaded from the cool bag. Today’s menu was croissants filled with smoked salmon and chilli flavoured cream cheese, a few mini pork pies and some jarlsberg cheese, followed by a healthy fruit salad, and of course the key ingredient – the nicely chilled small bottles of prosecco.

The real version of my dynamic duo's picnic - with everything in tandem, naturally!

The real version of my dynamic duo’s picnic – with everything in tandem, naturally!

I have to say I was feeling very glamorous with the sun shining on my frame – looking every inch a classic tandem today! And I have been basking in the adoration of passers by today as would you believe that during the day no less than five different people  came up to my dynamic crew and wanted to chat about the tandem and my history. Phrases such as “lovely bike” and “beautiful condition” and “lovely paint job” were being banded about as well as questions about how easy (or difficult) I was to ride! But the “old gal” expertly fielded all questions and obviously said I was a joy to ride! Apart from the weight of my steel frame going up hills, that is! It was all going to my head a bit, and the “old git” just added to that  feeling when he told me that a fellow member of the Tandem Club UK had described me during a discussion about Jack Taylor tandems as “a work of art”! Well as we all know, it is nice to be recognised!

So after lunch we headed off on the return journey – managing to run the gauntlet of the golf courses and the military firing range without incident! We pulled up and had a nice coffee and slice of chocolate and ginger cake at the lovely looking Tayberry restaurant in Broughty Ferry, with my dynamic crew making a mental note to return for a meal.

You know my crew really shouldn’t be let out alone as the “old git” decided to have some fun on the walkie talkies when the “old gal” went to the loo, and suddenly found herself listening to the “old git” whispering sweet nothings in her ear! Oh how he laughed! Let’s just say the “old gal” wasn’t quite so impressed!

As we cycled on we passed the first of several pieces of artwork themed on the famous Oor Wullie cartoon character – complete with the bucket he sits on – from the Sunday Post newspaper. This one was brightly coloured in purple, and on closer examination the “old git” discovered it was called Dreamland Wullie and that it was part of a newly created Oor Wullie Bucket Trail which has been set up in and around Dundee.

The "old gal" with Dreamland Wullie - part of the Oor Wullie Bucket Trail!

The “old gal” with Dreamland Wullie – part of the Oor Wullie Bucket Trail!

The trail is a huge public art event running to 27 August, featuring 55 5ft tall sculptures of Oor Wullie sitting on his bucket, all individually sponsored and decorated by artists/designers located in and around the city for the public to view, share and adore. Trail maps and a digital app are available to enable the folks of Dundee and visitors to go out and find all 55 sculptures and to strike them off their ‘bucket’ list.  Then at the end of the summer the statues will all be auctioned off with proceeds going to the Archie Foundation’s appeal for a new twin operating theatre pediatric surgical suite for Tayside Children’s Hospital.

Pedalling on we passed the beach. During a particularly narrow stretch along what was not much wider than the beach wall, the “old git” decided it would be a good idea to do a selfie video to show the problems we can encounter when trying to dodge wayward pedestrians, prams and dogs – who all believe they have a much greater right to use any shared paths than this “old lady” tandem does! As you will see the most often repeated phrase is “excuse me!” And if you listen carefully you will hear my horn being parped! (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.)

After negotiating the selfie video shoot next stop was Broughty Ferry Castle where we found another Oor Wullie, proudly sitting against the backdrop of the castle. This one was called Rain Song Wullie, and was a good match for my dynamic duo’s saltire cycling tops.

Who needs Pokemon Go when you can have this much fun on the Oor Wullie Bucket trail!

Who needs Pokemon Go when you can have this much fun on the Oor Wullie Bucket trail!

Now as you know every proper castle has to have a drawbridge. And of course I had never been on a drawbridge before so the “old git” duly obliged by pushing me up the steep rampart so I could imposingly pose for a picture, much to the amusement (that should really be bemusement!) of visitors to the castle.

Posing with the "old git" on the drawbridge at Broughty Ferry Castle.

Posing with the “old git” on the drawbridge at Broughty Ferry Castle.

We could see another Oor Wullie on the harbour wall and this one was cleverly themed as Oor Lifesaver – decorated in full RNLI gear as it was placed just yards away from the local lifeboat.

Oor Lifesaver Wullie, positioned near the RNLI station at Broughty Ferry.

Oor Lifesaver Wullie, positioned near the RNLI station at Broughty Ferry.

We continued along the route, back through the dockyard’s electronic gates, emerging on the other side to one of the most colourful Oor Wullies, called Glow Wullie.

Selfie time! The "old gal" and the "old git" at Glow Wullie near the waterfront at Dundee.

Selfie time! Glow Wullie with the “old gal” and the “old git” near the waterfront at Dundee.

With four Oor Wullies collected my dynamic crew decided that was enough – but it’s a great idea and had clearly brought lots of families out walking on the streets to let children tick them off.

Time for the return crossing across the Tay Bridge and we had to get the lift back up to the cycle path level. And the “old git” got the “old gal” to record my first (well second obviously, as I had to go down in the lift earlier – but who is arguing!) trip on a lift to show how easy it is to use. I was thinking I would have to be lifted unceremoniously into the lift at an angle as there would probably be only length for single bikes – but I was delighted to say I could simply be pushed in. Have a laugh at the “old git” doing his tour guide bit! (And don’t forget that if you are reading this on email, that you need to click onto the blog to watch the video.)

A quick cycle back across the bridge and we were soon back in the car park at the other side of the bridge – just in time to toast a great ride with a cooling soft drink, while checking up on Strava. It officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of 26.5 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 25 minutes, with an average speed of 7.8 mph. The plus point was that the elevation covered was just 374 feet – and most of that was going up and down to the Tay Bridge! Top speed was 32.4 mph – and we even managed to burn up 1,632 calories and produce an estimated average power output of 119 W. Another fabulous ride and a great day had by all!

So on the way back to Matildas Rest thoughts turned to France – and amazingly there are now just six weeks left till the Grand Depart for  Le Tour de Loire Valley in mid September  which will see my dynamic duo having to pedal me nearly 230 miles while through the world-famous vineyards and stunning chateaux of the region.

This will be the third annual Tour de France holiday for Team Tandem Ecosse (Team Matilda’s name for foreign holidays!) – following in the footsteps of amazing tours of Burgundy in 2014 and Bordeaux in 2015. (If you want to read my Musings of those wonderful trips – just type Burgundy or Bordeaux into the ‘Search Matildas Musings’ box  and you will see the postings.)

The logo for Le Tour de Perthshire.

The logo for Le Tour de Perthshire.

But before then – in just two weeks time my dynamic duo are hosting two fellow tandemers, Jane and John Taylor who live near Southampton in Hampshire, on Le Tour de Perthshire.

Yes I am so excited as they are bringing their Pino semi-recumbent tandem called Bluebird  – who has her own mini blog-style ‘Travels with Bluebird’ Facebook page – to stay in Perthshire for a week.

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!

Jane and John certainly seem to have much in common with my crew – such as not enjoying hills and definitely enjoying wine!

In fact the quartet seem to have the same views on not taking tandeming too seriously – including decorating Bluebird with Christmas lights then sitting in the garage with a glass of wine to take a photograph – that they have decided that they are the founder members of the self-created Nutty Tandemers Club!

John and Jane showing they are founding members of the self-created Nutty Tandemers Club!

John and Jane showing they are founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club!

So the plan is that me and Bluebird – accompanied by our crews, obviously! – will be going out for some of the most scenic rides around my area, including the likes of Loch Rannoch and Loch Katrine. My dynamic duo have even arranged for a couple of days off work to be local tour guides for Le Tour de Perthshire!

This “old lady” is certainly 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 those famous prosecco picnics or when we stop at local hostelries!

I mean the crews of Team Matilda and Team Bluebird clearly think they are the ones going to be enjoying themselves – but us tandems are going to have brilliant time together.

Meantime Jane and John have sent a contribution to my blog explaining a bit about themselves and the forthcoming Tour de Perthshire:

“So, the much awaited Tour de Perthshire will soon be upon us and The Nutty Tandemers Club will ride forth for the first time.

The southern contingent – aka Team Bluebird – has been out and about all over the place, near and far, riding a variety of terrains so hopefully Perthshire won’t throw anything unexpected our way.

Team Bluebird out and about at Milford on Sea in Hampshire.

Team Bluebird out and about on a ride at Milford on Sea in Hampshire.

We do know it’s a beautiful area having ridden through parts of it on a few different trips in recent years – but we know we are going to see so much more with your suggestions and your company Matilda. And Bluebird says she is eagerly anticipating meeting up with you too.

Since last September we have ridden Scottish hills, Holland and Belgium’s flat land, and tracks and roads in quite a few English counties so we hope we have covered all eventualities.

Despite all our endeavours – like Team Matilda – climbing hills has never got any easier! We get up them, not many defeat us, but it’s a slow process! But does that matter? Of course not, because we aren’t in a race.

I am glad to say we have similar attitudes to tandeming as Team Matilda –  we go out on Bluebird to enjoy the ride, look at the views, smell the fresh air and feel at one with the world.

Team Bluebird on a picnic minus prosecco - this will change on Le Tour de Perthshire!

Team Bluebird on a picnic minus prosecco – this will change on Le Tour de Perthshire!

Oh and one final thing, we are looking forward to sampling those famous prosecco picnics of yours Matilda!

Cheers and here’s to a very successful Tour de Perthshire!

Jane and John

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