Road-testing the new Tighnavon Glamping Pods enterprise at wilderness Loch Rannoch

Team Matilda ready to road-test the new Tighnavon Glamping Pods venture at Kinloch Rannoch.

Day 1 – Spectacular Friday arriving at Tighnavon Glamping Pods with sunset experience!

Great excitement at Matildas Rest! It was Friday and the start of Team Matilda’s annual holidays and we had been invited to road-test a new development of glamping pods – specifically targetted at cyclists and outdoor types! And the fact that the luxury en-suite pods are based on the edge of wilderness Loch Rannoch – one of my crew’s favourite spots on earth – made it even more magical.

With Matilda Transport packed we headed off to Kinloch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire for our back to nature weekend of relaxation and tandeming – is there a better way to spend a romantic break?!

The Tighnavon Glamping Pods venture has only been open for three months and aims to provide a grown up version of camping – without having to put your tent up – for people who like their creature comforts but still want to get away from it all and re-connect with nature. Just perfect for my dynamic crew who don’t do camping under canvas under any circumstances!

The Tighnavon Glamping Pods are ideally situated in the village of Kinloch Rannoch.

The new tourism business of four wooden cabins, which sleep up to four people, are ideally situated nestling in some of Scotland’s most atmospheric and picturesque scenery to attract cyclists – as well as walkers and fishermen – who don’t want to be tied to a full week’s accommodation in one place.

Team Matilda was staying in the pod called Stag and although it may look bijou from the outside, my dynamic crew found it like a tardis inside – complete with everything they could need, including a nice touch of the bed already made up! And as the “old gal” quickly found a choice of sockets to plug in her hairdryer she said: “Glamping is clearly my kind of camping!”

As the Tighnavon Glamping Pods website says: “Our pods are equipped to a high standard – each has a double bed and a fold down double sofa bed and can comfortably sleep up to four people. There is a fully accessible wet-room with overhead shower and a small kitchenette equipped with kettle, toaster, microwave, twin hob, mini oven and fridge. Bedding, crockery, and pans are all provided – even tea, coffee and biscuits!” All you are asked to bring is your own towels.

A nice touch on arrival at the pods is that the bed already made up!

The pods are amazingly good value – and the prices refreshingly don’t change with the seasons. Each pod is priced at only £50 a night Sunday to Thursday and £80 on a Friday and Saturday night. There is a minimum stay of 2 nights and no additional costs for electricity or dogs.

Everything about the pods reflects the aim of the glamping concept providing a comfy and dry home-from-home experience – but still with that feeling of being out in the country!

There’s lots more about the “old gal” and “old git’s” experience of glamping later in this blog – including a walk-thru video of the facilities on offer and a video chat with the ultra friendly and hospitable co-owners Ian Philp and Sheona Glenville-Sutherland about “fulfilling their dream” and opening the pods.

The luxury en-suite pods offer a really comfy home-from-home experience!

The plan was for an early evening tandem ride around Loch Rannoch – hopefully timing it to arrive back at the beach at the top of the loch for a prosecco toast to enjoy the sunset. As my dynamic crew had arrived at the pods in good time they firstly explored the village of Kinloch Rannoch – firstly calling in to the friendly Riverbank Cafe to enjoy yummy home-made cake and coffee.

Next the “old gal” and “old git” were attracted to a sign for The Shed Gallery based in the Old Smiddy just off the village square which houses the modern gallery and workspace of photographer Ian Biggs. Ian’s stunning work draws its inspiration from the dynamic and evocative landscape of the Rannoch glen. Finally the Country Store and Post Office offered the chance for Team Matilda to stock up with a few last minute provisions from their impressive range for a village shop.

Tighnavon Ride 1 – Once in a lifetime spectacular sunset Loch Rannoch Loop

The “old gal” looking relaxing in the sunshine before our Loch Rannoch loop!

It was time to get my pedals moving and amazingly for late September the sun was beating down and my dynamic crew were really looking forward to a loop round the sun-kissed loch. You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

Leaving the pods behind we set off thru the village square and headed down the north side of the loch on the B846. It is an area Team Matilda know well and the route is mostly gently undulating – and given the absence of any noticeable wind it was a true joy to be out tandeming.

The “old gal” decided a quick stop was required at the wild camping area about a third of the way down the loch – which offers a perfect viewpoint for pictures with the majesty of the perfectly conical shape of Schiehallion – one of Scotland’s most recognisable mountains – in the background. This area provides easy access to a small rocky beach area, and the loch which was looking stunning with the blue sky creating a deep blue colour on the water.

Rock with a sun-kissed view! The “old gal” with the iconic Schiehallion behind her!

You simply wouldn’t think it was September with these shades of blue!

Naturally there had to be a Team Matilda selfie! – showing the conical shape of Schiehallion.

Me and the “old gal” enjoying the rays of the sun at the wild camping site on the north side of the loch.

On we pedalled with the “old git” and “old gal” exhilarated by their progress down the loch. It was all too easy and then, just after Killichonan, we hit the steep hill at the saw mill! Let’s just say both my dynamic crew were breathing somewhat rapidly when we got to the top.

The reward is a rapid downhill to Bridge of Gaur, turning left at the end of the loch before crossing the bridge over the River Gaur. Next up was a steady – but more manageable – steep uphill climb for about half a mile. But the climb is worth it with views across the whole length and breadth of the loch.

The folly on a small island in Loch Rannoch dates from the 19th century.

A point of interest is Eilean Nam Faoileag – a small island which was occupied from the middle of the 15th century until the middle of the 17th century and now is home to a tower which is a 19th-century folly. You also can’t miss the impressive Rannoch Power Station – part of the Tummel Valley hydro scheme – on the opposite bank which has been in operation since 1930.

The route on the quieter south side of the loch is amazingly scenic – even more so than the (slightly) busier north shore road. The B-class single track road never seems to be more than a couple of yards from the loch itself and there is always lots to catch the eye.

This “old lady” was happy that we were whizzing along as it is always good to get a bit of speed going. Then one of our regular stops at an iconic tree which offers a fabulous view right up the loch.

The “old gal” at one of our regular stops on the south side at a tree with a view right up the loch.

This tree always brings a hearty laugh from the “old gal” as it was the place for an amusing photo where the “old git” didn’t realise that the “old gal” was taking the mickey and misbehaving by sticking her tongue out when he was adopting his serious tandemer pose for a team selfie! Ironically it turned out to be one of my dynamic crew’s best ever photos as it completely sums up what a Team Matilda adventure on a bicycle made for two is all about! No words are needed!

What happens when my Stoker takes the mickey when my Captain adopts his serious photo mode!

The wilderness factor was underlined as the narrow road winds its way through the magical Black Wood of Rannoch – more detail of which can be found in Sunday’s section below. Credit to the “old git” but he had timed the ride to perfection and my dynamic crew arrived at the beach area at the Kinloch Rannoch end just as the sun was starting to sink in the sky for their prosecco toast!

The added bonus was that neither the “old git” or the “old gal” had realised that the sun was going to be setting behind the mountains at the far end of the loch creating some magical light patterns, across the sky and then across the loch. It was a perfect spot to capture some amazing sunset shots, including one which had the effect of looking like the beach and sand dunes were on fire, giving everything it touched a healthy glow!

As the sun started to set it created a wonderful healthy glow on my dynamic crew’s faces!

My dynamic crew then had some fun positioning themselves to get the angle just right to get a selfie catching the fantastic sunset going directly in to their bottle of prosecco!

The “old git” got the angle just right to catch the fabulous sunset in the prosecco bottle!

What a magnificent way to spend a Friday evening! It really was one of those once in a lifetime experiences and the “old gal” and “old git” felt so lucky to be there. A true back to nature feeling!

The “old gal’s” head in the sun! It was a true privilege to see the sunset dancing on the loch!

Back in the comfort of the glamping pod, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as as showing that my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 22.9 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 49 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.5 mph given the undulating terrain, and the overall elevation was 820 feet. The maximum speed was 31.1 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1242 calories and produce an average power output of 169 W. Almost by accident my dynamic crew recorded 2 gongs along the route – with 2 second bests.

A tasty home-cooked meal was served up by the “old gal” – using the pod’s ample cooking facilities – followed by some chill time, before sleep beckoned with my dynamic crew dreaming of their spectacular ‘money can’t buy’ wilderness sunset experience.

Sleep beckoned dreaming of the once in a lifetime sunset experience at Loch Rannoch!

Day 2 – Energetic Saturday tandem ride in glorious Highland Perthshire sunshine!

Our sun-kissed Tighnavon Glamping Pod as we opened the curtains on Saturday morning!

Saturday dawned with the sun rising into a cloudless bright blue sky as Team Matilda wakened re-invigorated from a very deep and relaxing sleep courtesy of an extremely comfortable bed in the glamping pod. Buoyed by last night’s spectacular sunset over Loch Rannoch my dynamic crew were in good spirits and it was clearly going to be a good day!

The “old git” had scheduled a tandem loop of Loch Tummel for today – complete with one of the “old gal’s” signature prosecco picnics. And as this new route is set to be fairly hilly, and also takes in a short 0.75 mile section of the A9 main trunk road to Inverness, it could be just what my stoker will need!

My dynamic crew – who don’t do camping under canvas under any circumstances – have been most impressed with everything about the glamping pods. So much so that the “old gal” decided that she would record her thoughts on the Tighnavon development by filming a walk-thru of our en-suite pod – which is named Stag – to show the facilities on offer. You can watch the video here:

So after a healthy breakfast I was packed into Matilda Transport for the short 7 mile drive to our start point at Tummel Bridge, the village at the head of Loch Tummel.

Tighnavon Ride 2 – Hilly Loch Tummel loop including a stretch on the A9!

Loch Tummel is home to two of the nine hydro electric power stations which make up the impressive Tummel Valley scheme which was constructed in the1930s. Team Matilda parked opposite the grandeur of Tummel Bridge Power Station – which is now a listed building.

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

After kitting out in what was to be highly appropriate red polka dot King of the Mountain jerseys, the “old gal” showed her creative streak with a reflective shot of Team Matilda departing on the ride – captured in a mirror at the car park and transformed into a black and white image! Clever eh?!

The “old gal” showed her creative talent to capture this reflective image of Team Matilda!

The initial route almost saw us pedal to a standstill within a couple of minutes as we tackled the steep inclines of the B846 for the first two miles. The “old gal” was somewhat relieved when the route took a left turn onto the Foss Road to drop down to hug the banks of the loch. The sun was streaming thru the dense array of trees as we passed the edge of Frenich Wood, part of the Tay Forest Park, creating spectacular shadows and light patterns.

The “old gal” at the edge of the dense Frenich Wood, part of the Tay Forest Park.

The “old git” against the fabulous strong blue colours of the loch and sky.

The quiet single track road along the loch had a nice smooth surface, but it was fairly undulating and required a good bit of pedalling. But the views over the loch – with the strong blue colours of the loch and the sky – were truly spectacular. We stopped regularly to take in the scenery, including a fabulous natural view point from a rocky promontory jutting out over the loch – which was the perfect spot for a Team Matilda selfie!

Selfie time at a rocky promontory – giving a view along the full length of Loch Tummel.

It was a great day to be out tandeming – and along with the hills there were lots of smiles as we clocked off the miles! Next stop however was the thought-provoking entrance to Clunie Power Station and the eye-catching Clunie Memorial Arch.

Clunie dam holds back the waters of Loch Tummel. A tunnel from the loch feeds Clunie power station, which then discharges into Loch Faskally. The dramatic arch at Clunie honours the men who died in the late 1940s while digging the tunnel. The self-styled ‘Tunnel Tigers’ – named because of their cavalier approach to working conditions in the days before health and safety in their quest to earn huge bonuses – removed about 400,000 tons of rock for the Clunie pipeline. The arch measures 6.9 m across – the same dimensions as the tunnel.  This remains one of the largest water tunnels in the UK.

The “old gal” is dwarfed by the Clunie Memorial Arch built to the same dimensions as the tunnel.

Moving on, as we approached Pitlochry the only visible option to get across to the road down the opposite side of Loch Tummel was for Team Matilda to cut up on to the busy A9 trunk road. Naturally this was rather alarming due to the fast moving traffic and heavy lorries using the main route between the central belt and the Highlands. The “old git” not surprisingly opted for the safe option of walking along the grass verge for 0.75 of a mile – as tandeming would have been extremely ill-advised – until the exit route off for the road back towards Tummel Bridge.

The “old git” wisely decided that pushing along the grass verge of the busy A9 was the safest option!

Team Matilda were happy to leave the dangers of the A9 behind and got back on my saddles riding along the B8019 at Faskally Caravan Park where suddenly out of nowhere – and as if by magic – signs for Sustrans Scotland National Cycle Network Rt 7 appeared! Just as quickly as they appeared they disappeared again – obviously heading further north! Our route crossed a bridge high over the River Gary – providing another must-do photo stop looking down into the deep valley below.

The bridge over River Gary crosses a scenic deep valley below!

After the trauma of having to engage with the A9, and the unseasonably warm sunshine, my dynamic crew were a little frazzled – so the “old gal” made a good shout for a time-out for lunch after finding a suitable spot off the busy B8019 road.

It is at moments like this that the meticulous forward planning which goes into a Team Matilda tandem ride – which can sometime seem a bit overdone – really pay off. The “old gal” and the “old git” enjoyed a luxury picnic with glasses of cold prosecco – kept cool by my trendy La Bouclee french-designed wine carrier – washing down croissants filled with smoked ham and chilli cream cheese. To follow, a fresh fruit salad and some much needed energy replenishment in the form of some chocolate! Heaven!

The fizz for the signature prosecco picnic was kept cool in my trendy la bouclee wine carrier!

The “old gal” enjoying a re-fuelling prosecco picnic in the sunshine!

Refuelled and refreshed by the food and fizz my dynamic crew pedalled on for a tough 3 miles till they came to their next scheduled stop at the Queens View Visitor Centre offering Highland Perthshire’s most iconic view over Loch Tummel and further down to Loch Rannoch.

Queens View Visitor Centre offers Highland Perthshire’s most iconic viewpoint.

It is the area’s most popular visitor attraction and naturally Team Matilda sparked more than a bit of attention from the throngs of bus parties who were visiting as I was pushed up to the viewpoint to get a good look from high over the loch!

The story goes that when Queen Victoria visited in 1866, she assumed that the sweeping view west along Loch Tummel was named after her – but she was wrong. Local history says that the view was really named after Isabella, the first wife of Robert the Bruce, who lived more than 500 years earlier. But that hasn’t stopped the visitor centre and cafe cashing in on the royal connection!

The bench says ‘reserved for royalty’ so naturally I presumed it was for this “old lady” to lean against!

Great image of me with Queen Victoria and her loyal servant John Brown at the post box!

After a loo stop and managing to get a coffee and a piece of caramel shortcake from the cafe – which looked like it had been hit by a plague of locusts in the shape of bus visitors! – the “old gal” was almost delirious to see that she was now getting the benefit of all the uphill climbs with the remainder of the route a highly enjoyable long descent down the side of the loch back to Tummel Bridge.

The “old git” on the original Tummel Bridge built by General Wade in 1733

The village takes its name from the old bridge which crosses the River Tummel which was built by General Wade in 1733. The old bridge still stands, although it is only open to pedestrians and cyclists, with a much more boring structure carrying the road alongside.

I was packed back in Matilda Transport and after a short drive we were back at our ultra-comfortable pod – enjoying a much needed refreshment to celebrate an epic day on a bicycle made for two!

Back at Tighnavon Glamping Pods – after an epic sun-kissed day of tandeming!

Over a very welcome, and relaxing gin on the decking of the glamping pod, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing that my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 26.3 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 59 minutes. The average speed was 8.8 mph given the hot temperature and the overall elevation of 1756 feet. The maximum speed was 39.1 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1958 calories and produce an average power output of 163 W. No gongs recorded, however, as this was our first time doing this ride.

Team Matilda enjoying sitting on the decking of the pod which was bathed in the early evening sun.

The sun – or the exertions of the pedalling, or perhaps both! -obviously got to the “old gal” as after a quick change out of her cycling gear she was soon found to have dozed off for a quick 40 winks on the decking! Needless to say, the “old git” – ever one to capture an opportunity – managed to stay awake and take a surprise photo of her in her relaxed state!

Only a one word caption required: spangled!

After a bit of necessary relaxation my dynamic crew headed out for what was supposed to be a dinner treat at Edina’s Kitchen – the restaurant in the new Dunalastair Hotel Suites, literally just round the corner in the square at Kinloch Rannoch. The “old git” and “old gal” were full of anticipation at a culinary delight to come as the new hotel claims to offer “award winning 5-star” food and service with “a range of dishes to suit every taste prepared by Michelin and Rosette trained chefs.”

The reality was sadly completely different and was a major disappointment. From the moment we arrived the restaurant was a chaotic scene with seemingly untrained staff not having a clue. To be told twice within two minutes of entering the bar area – by two different people – that “You shouldn’t be here – we are fully booked tonight” is quite simply unacceptable at any eaterie, far less one which sets out its stall as such a prestigious venue. Oh and that was despite the “old git” telling both members of staff that we had in fact booked a week ago, and confirmed the booking just a couple of hours earlier.

Dunalastair Hotel Suites failed by a long way to live up to its ‘award winning 5-star’ reputation.

We were allowed to stay after the confusion was sorted out – although amazingly no apology was forthcoming. But it might have been better had we been turned away – as the food was a major let down. The “old gal’s” main course, as an example, was some rather dry duck with two carrot sticks and one mange tout along with a spoonful of beetroot mash!

Two unexciting courses later – they would even have been disappointing if had been served in a pub – and a moderate bottle of wine saw Team Matilda’s wallet around £100 lighter and leaving with an overwhelming feeling of anti-climax. It really was such a shame as it should have been the ideal venue for a nice evening out from the pods.

Walking back the “old gal” and the “old git” enjoyed looking at the very clear sky which offered a wonderful view of the stars – without the usual light pollution. The Tighnavon Glamping Pods site looked perfectly cosy and romantic under the stars! With the temperature dropping, my dynamic crew both commented that they were happy that they were not in fact sleeping under the stars under canvas in the great outdoors – but in the comfort of a proper bed inside the heated pod i

The Tighnavon Glamping Pod site looked perfectly cosy and romantic under the stars!

Day 3 – Relaxing Sunday as tandeming abandoned due to heavy rain!

Opening the pod doors on Sunday, the weather had changed – so tandeming abandoned!

Sunday morning and the “old git” threw open the doors of our pod to discover that the glorious sunshine had suddenly disappeared overnight – with the weather changing to rain. A quick check of his “go-to” weather forecast – BBC Weather – confirmed that it was going to be heavy rain all day. So a quick discussion amongst my dynamic crew decided that tandeming was abandoned for the day.

The “old git” harrumphed as he was a bit frustrated as he had planned another loop of Loch Rannoch – but I must say here that he “old gal” was actually quietly rather pleased after the fairly arduous day in my saddles yesterday on the ride around Loch Tummel!

So the change of plan involved a much more relaxing morning – followed by a leisurely drive around our planned tandeming route to allow us to still pay a visit to the famous Rannoch Station Tearoom

The rain was nothing short of torrential as my dynamic crew drove the 11 miles from Tighnavon to the end of Loch Rannoch at Bridge of Gaur. The “old gal” was feeling rather smug – and cosy – sitting in Matilda Transport knowing that the alternative would have been a serious drooking from the rain!

They then headed on for final six miles of the scenic but secluded B846 road – which must be one of the world’s longest cul-de-sacs! But the reward at the end of the journey is the wonderfully remote Rannoch railway station where there is a favourite coffee and cake spot for the “old git” and the “old gal” – the amazing Rannoch Station Tearoom.

It really is a truly fabulous hidden gem – and must get the vote for being not only the most remote tearoom in Scotland – but the most welcoming and friendly. Run by the uber-hospitable Bill and Jenny Anderson it offers cyclists, walkers and railway passengers an amazing oasis of home made tasty coffees, cakes and light meals. You can even have a wine or a beer while sitting on the station platform watching the live theatre that is the natural wilderness of Rannoch Moor.

The uber hospitable Bill and Jenny who take service standards to new highs at Rannoch Station Tearoom.

The duo’s customer service ethic has no bounds – and even runs to delivering phone orders of bacon butties to train passengers travelling up and down the Glasgow to Fort William route. In my dynamic crew’s case it extended to a hugely warm welcome – impressively remembering names and our tandeming adventures! So it was a delicious serving of home made fruit scones with clotted cream and jam followed by gigantic slices of seriously yummy carrot cake washed down with a cafetiere of wonderfully strong freshly brewed coffee.

According to my dynamic crew the tearoom more than lived up to its five star Trip Advisor certificate of excellence award. And if the look of satisfaction on the “old gal’s” face as she sampled the goodies was anything to go by, I think if she could have awarded six stars, it would have been more than earned!

Bill and Jenny and their Rannoch Station Tearoom were featured recently on the Channel 4 show The World’s Most Beautiful Railway – which is well worth a look!

More than replete – stuffed is the word that comes to mind! – my dynamic crew drove back to Kinloch Rannoch on the quieter road on the south side of the loch. Fortunately the rain had more or less gone off for a bit as the “old gal” fancied doing a bit of photography to try and capture the magical qualities of the Black Wood of Rannoch – one of the largest areas of ancient pine forest left in Scotland.

The “old gal” tried a spot of photography to capture the magical qualities of the Black Wood of Rannoch

It certainly lives up to its Forestry and Land Scotland 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 dramatically magnificent even in the wet conditions. It was truly a wonderful wilderness spot, and the “old gal” and the “old git” felt privileged to be there.

The Black Wood of Rannoch is home to “granny pines” some of which are up to 400 years old.

Inspired by the natural beauty of one of the “jewels” of Rannoch, Team Matilda drove back to the comfort of our luxury pod for some chill time – with even the “old git” now conceding that tandeming in the heavy rain they experienced would have been awful! Music to the “old gal’s” ears!

Later in the afternoon, Ian Philp and Sheona Glenville-Sutherland – the co-owners of Tighnavon – dropped by to hear my dynamic crew’s thoughts and comments on their new luxury en-suite glamping pods. Since it was wine o’clock, the “old gal” popped a cork on a bottle of wine and all had a most hospitable chat about the new tourism venture, and why it was badly needed in the area.

The “old git” filmed an interview with Sheona about the concept behind the new Tighnavon Glamping Pods at Kinloch Rannoch, which you can watch the video here:

After their media commitments, Team Matilda enjoyed another fabulous meal before more relaxation and an amazingly sound sleep. Next morning, sadly, it was time to leave the comfort of Tighnavon and head back to Matildas Rest – thoroughly refreshed after a great mini-break in what is one of the “old gal” and “old git’s” favourite places on earth.

So, my dynamic crew’s overall verdict: If you like the idea of getting back to nature – but without the canvas tent, then this is definitely for you. The new wooden en-suite glamping pods offer the ideal opportunity to enjoy luxury away-from-it-all accommodation, where you can do exactly as you please – while enjoying some exhilarating cycling and stunning scenery pedalling in the beautiful wilderness area of Loch Rannoch. As the “old git” said: “What’s not to like?!”

Team Matilda toasting Tighnavon Glamping Pods – what’s not to like?!

Thanks to Sheona and Ian at Tighnavon Glamping Pods at Kinloch Rannoch for their help, accommodation, and hospitality offered to Team Matilda on their mini-break. All opinions are that of Team Matilda!

Co(w)rraling the Cowches in C(ow)rieff!

The vibrant and eye-catching Crieff Cowches trail provided a fun sun-kissed trail for Team Matilda!

The imaginative Crieff Cowches art trail has come to an end – which reminded me to write a blog about my dynamic crew’s great great tandem trip round all 11 of the installations on a sun-kissed evening in August – where Team Matilda saw Crieff looking at its glorious best.

The cleverly decorated Cowches will be seen together for a final horn blowing hurrah on October 9, where they will be sold off at a charity auction.  So with the fundraiser fast approaching I decided it was time to post my blog – which recounts our attempts at Co(w)rralling the Cowches in C(ow)rieff!

Firstly a short bit of background. The Highland cow benches – or cowches for short – made up a unique art trail which succeeded in its aim of bringing huge numbers of visitors into Crieff during the summer. Each cowch had been individually decorated by local artists – who were given carte blanche to let their imagination run riot!

Why use Highland cows as the basis for this unique cultural trail? Well because Crieff occupies a key position between the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland, the town became the cattle-droving crossroads of Scotland in the 1700s – with up to 30,000 of the beasts arriving for market each year.

The Crieff Cowches trail was organised by Crieff Succeeds – the town’s Business Improvement District programme, which aims to promote Crieff as a vibrant, attractive and safe place to work, shop, visit and live. The trail has been actively promoted by the VisitCrieff tourism internet and social media sites.

So with deep blue skies and warm sunshine my dynamic crew decided to pedal round the art trail on a fun early evening ride – which would include a picnic tea at one of the Cowches! You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

We pedalled away from Matildas Rest in Auchterarder and firstly tandemed along the quiet country roads to The Library of Innerpeffray – which is Scotland’s first ever free lending library dating back to 1680. The gardens of the historic building – including St Mary’s Chapel with its fascinating graveyard, offered an inspirational spot for the “old git” and “old gal” to tick off their first Cowch, and number 11 on the trail map. This one was simply known as Innerpeffray Cowch and was created by June McEwan.

Cowch 11 – Innerpeffray Cowch by June McEwan

A few more miles and my dynamic crew arrived in Crieff itself, crossing Crieff Bridge to find the cleverly named Emoojis Cowch by local schoolgirl Sinead O’Malley – which is a cow covered in emojis, the smiley faces used in electronic messages.

Cowch 6 – Emoojis by Sinead O’Malley

Next Team Matilda decided to tandem around the town to Glenturret Distillery – recognised as Scotland’s oldest working whisky distillery after being established in 1775. Here the “old git” was happy to pose beside the Cowch named On Watch by Chelsea Rodger.

Cowch 10 – On Watch by Chelsea Rodger

The next stop saw us tandem downhill from the distillery to Turretbank where the “old gal” took the opportunity for a quick rest on the Cowch called Polly, created by Donna Connelly.

Cowch 7 – Polly by Donna Connelly

Tandeming into Macrosty Park my dynamic crew found the bandstand – and were able to tick off seeing Bloomin Flora by Liz Paterson. The “old gal” decided that she would enjoy a few minutes basking in the bright sun on this Cowch!

Cowch 9 – Bloomin Flora by Liz Paterson

Into the town of Crieff itself and Team Matilda tandemed up the High Street, stopping at the town hall after spotting the Sweet Annie Cowch, created by mosaic artist Katy Galbraith.

Cowch 1 – Sweetie Annie by Katy Galbraith

My dynamic crew had now ticked off more than half of the Crieff Cowches, but nearly missed the next one as it was placed in the grounds of Old St Michael’s Churchyard which we found difficult to find for a moment or two. But it was worth the hunt to discover Midnight Meadow by Ceri White.

Cowch 4 – Midnight Meadow by Ceri White

With the warm sunshine, the “old gal” decided it was time for a much needed refreshment which was enjoyed at the welcoming Quaich Bar on Crieff’s High Street. Revitalised, the next stop was at the Crieff Highland Gathering Cowch in James Square, the second on the trail to be created by June McEwen.

Cowch 2 – Crieff Highland Gathering Cowch by June McEwan

Crieff’s central James Square was where Drovers Coo was to be found – created by Hamish Bigg to pay homage to the town’s historic links to the cattle drovers.

Cowch 3 – Drovers Coo by Hamish Bigg

Just a few yards away, Kings Street was the site for my dynamic crew to tick off A Heilan Cooch, created by Catherine Redgate. It was great to see so many families having fun walking round in the evening sunshine, ticking off the Cowches from the trail map, creating a real buzz in the town

Cowch 8 – A Heilan Cooch by Catherine Redgate

The 11th and final Crieff Cowch on Team Matildas art trail was the amusingly named Military Coo by artist Gail Robertson which was situated in the grassy gardens of the town’s medical centre.

Cowch 5 – A Military Coo by Gail Robertson

Now the “old gal” is a friend of Gail Robertson, and knows she has a sense of humour, so knew she would not be even slightly offended that my dynamic crew used Military Coo as a perfect bench on which to set up a picnic tea! Our alfresco meal attracted a bit of attention from locals in a nearby pub – who all agreed that it was a good way to use one of the Cowches!

The Military Coo installation made a perfect picnic for my dynamic crew’s picnic!

After a tasty picnic – and having seen all the installations on the art trail – it was time for Team Matilda to pedal back home to Matildas Rest. Check out the full data from the ride at the end of the blog.

Meanwhile the artworks are set to be sold off at the Crieff Cowches Auction – a ‘dress-to-impress’ gala dinner at Crieff Hydro on Wednesday October 9. My dynamic crew hope the auction raises lots of money to help support Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance.

For those that like to study the figures, this was certainly one of our Team Matilda’s fun and relaxed pedals and Strava officially recorded the ride as showing that my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 27.5 miles with a moving time (or should that be moooving time given the subject of this ride!) of 2 hours 45 minutes. The average speed was 10.0 mph and the overall elevation was 1296 feet. The maximum speed was 34.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1725 calories and produce an average power output of 156 W. Almost by accident my dynamic crew recorded 11 gongs along the route – with 3 personal bests; 4 second bests; and 3 third bests.

Altogether a very pleasant cultural tandem ride Co(w)rralling the Cowches in C(ow)rieff!

4 seasons in a day, 2 broken spokes, and 1 speedo error on HebWay training run.

Spot the blue sky! The “old gal” near Dunblane at half-way – with snow just round the corner!

The phrase “four seasons in a day” has been used by Scots people for years to describe the unpredictable Spring weather which the gods can cast down on us! And our recent sneaky Monday off tandem ride was a perfect example of where it was simply a waste of time trying to guess the best cycling clothing to suit the conditions!

My dynamic crew experienced all four key elements of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter rain, sunshine, wind, and even snow on their latest training ride for Team Matilda’s forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure in June. In fact some would say it was just ideal conditions to prepare for the ride “on the edge” of Scotland!

More about the HebWay at the end of this blog, but first today’s ride. The “old git” had decided it was time to test the “old gal” on a few hills on a canter to Dunblane, with the promise of a coffee and cake stop on the return leg at Braco – although to be fair he hadn’t quite calculated the total elevation involved of over 1400 feet … or the inclement weather conditions!

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

The route started with some uphill tandeming from Matildas Rest out on the open rural Perthshire roads past Gleneagles Hotel and its world-famous golf courses. Despite the thrust required for the incline, the “old git” applied the brakes when he saw a special road sign designed to protect red squirrels by urging motorists to drive carefully. Maybe the sign should also have said ride carefully!

The “old git” slowed down when he saw the road sign designed to protect the red squirrels.

After the Gleneagles summit my dynamic crew enjoyed a nice downhill stretch although a fairly blustery head wind meant the “old gal” had to keep pedalling as stoker when normally this downhill stretch allows for a bit of free-wheeling! Just the first of many encounters with the ever changing weather on this ride!

Pedalling on we tandemed thru Braco – with the “old gal” checking that the coffee shop was open as we pedalled past and headed up a few more tough inclines to just outside Kinbuck where the “old git” spotted a crop of Christmas trees getting ready for next festive season!

The “old git” pointing out my dynamic crew’s Christmas tree for December!

Oh how the “old gal” laughed when he joked that they could come and choose their tree in early December and could even carry it home attached to my frame! Well I think he was joking anyway!

A few pedals further on my dynamic crew passed the entrance to Cromlix House – the 5-star country house hotel owned by local tennis superstar Andy Murray. It boasts a Chez Roux restaurant and the “old gal” started to drool over what they may be serving up for lunch – but sensibly decided she wasn’t quite dressed for that kind of culinary experience!

A quick stop at our turning point on the flyover of the A9 just outside Dunblane for some water – and the chance to take in the blue sky which had suddenly appeared, and the views over to the sun dancing on the snow-capped hills in the distance.

Time to move on, and despite the pesky wind it was a great day to be out in glorious Perthshire. For a welcome respite from the challenging weather conditions there was a pit stop at the bike-friendly Braco Coffee shop !

The “old gal” in heaven with scone, millionaire shortbread and a nice strong coffee! Perfect!

As we walked in it was good to see the premises so busy – with several other cyclists and locals having decided to stop en route for sustenance. The “old gal” chose a scone and some yummy millionaire shortbread – all of which was washed down by lovely strong coffee – just the way she likes it! Great friendly service too from the Braco team! A perfect stop on a bicycle made for two really – and just underlines the fun and laughs my dynamic crew have!

As my dynamic crew emerged from the coffee stop they were hit by a shower of rain – the third of the seasons after the wind and the sunshine – but fortunately the worst of the rain seemed to have fallen when they were inside. The four seasons in a day were however completed as the “old git” and “old git” battled the rapidly changing weather conditions on the return stretch from Braco to Gleneagles where in a shady hollow they came across snow lying on the ground! Yes snow!

Four seasons in a day – tick – snow lying on the ground in a shady hollow.

It was a hard grind for my dynamic crew on the return – but a welcome downhill brought about one of those moments of madness when the “old git” and “old gal” just have to laugh out loud! Pedalling as fast as they could the “old git” checked the speedometer – expecting to see it hit 30 mph if they were lucky … only to see it suddenly record a top speed of 91.5 mph.

They say the camera never lies! – evidence of the 91.5 mph recorded on the malfunctioning speedo!

Yes you read that correctly – a reading of 91.5 mph on a bicycle made for two. Despite the fact that the camera never lies and the photographic evidence of this never-to-be-repeated feat, my dynamic crew graciously conceded it clearly was a speedo malfunction!

Then just to compound the unpredictable nature of the ride, as we were heading down towards Gleneagles there was that unmistakable ping – which can only mean a spoke had pinged on my rear wheel! My dynamic crew ground to a halt and surveyed the damage – not one but two spokes had gone!

The rest of my wheel looked fairly sound – and despite a clear wheel wobble – the “old gal” took the decision as chief engineer that we could continue to pedal and limp home at a somewhat slower than normal speed, while the “old git” did his best to avoid any potential bumps. Looks like I am going for a visit to my personal surgeon John – bike wheel builder extraordinaire at JM Richards Cycles in Perth

Spot the two broken spokes! I need a visit to my personal surgeon to repair my rear wheel!

Safely back at Maitildas Rest, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 14 gongs – which given the variable conditions is somewhat impressive! Especially as the total was made up of 3 second bests; and 11 third best times.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 28.1 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 44 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 10.3 mph while the elevation was a hilly 1,444 feet. The maximum speed was officially 32.0 mph – not the rogue 91.5 mph! – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,691 calories and produce an average power output of 154 W.

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

So that’s another near 30 miles in the bag – and given the weather conditions, mechanicals, and the 1,444 ft elevation it was an ideal training then for the Hebridean Way in mid June. I am looking forward to teaming up with Siggy, the attractive gent of a tandem belonging to the “old git” and “old gal’s” good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club tour.

But obviously there’s a good few training rides for the “old git” and “old gal” to get in peak condition before they tackle the 185 miles of the #HebWay route from Vatersay to Butt of Lewis Lighthouse at Ness over 5 days tandeming! What is it they say about practice makes perfect?

Matilda goes carol singing – in dulci jubilo in the winter sun!

Tra la la! All together now! Make sure the carol singing is in #tandem!

Away on a tandem 
To Tullibardine
To sing carols for Christmas
On a cold winter’s day …. !!! 

With only a week to go till Christmas Day the “old git” – who is something of a Christmas zealot – was encouraging everyone to get into full festive spirit mode! As the “old gal” quipped – “it might be more likely if there was some festive spirit flowing!” … but he was trying – very trying, as the “old gal” said in that droll you-can’t-be-certain-if-she-is-joking-or-not way she has!

Now there is a tradition on the Sunday before Christmas near Matilda’s Rest when the local churches in Auchterarder come together to hold a carol service at Tullibardine Chapel – which dates back to the 15th century, and is now looked after by Historic Environment Scotland. My dynamic crew make a point of going – as it is all quite atmospheric as there is no power in the remote chapel and it is all done by torch light.

In a reprise of last couple of years the “old git” persuaded the “old gal” that it would be a bit of a festive frolic if my crew arrived at the carols by tandem – complete with Santa hats and Christmas jumpers! And I even got to join in the fun by having an extra addition this year of sporting a pair of eye-catching Rudolph reindeer antlers!

Spot my eye-catching Rudolph reindeer antlers making me feel very festive!

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view!) the weather was quite mild so there was much excitement when we woke to get ready for our trip. And to add to the anticipation, this was going to be just the third time ever that this “old lady” had been to a carol service!

So after an early lunch I was pulled out of the garage to get a few photos at Matildas Rest before we headed off on the short 3 mile ride to Tullibardine. The “old gal” had done some sterling work transforming my duo’s crash helmets into huge Santa hats – courtesy of linking together a couple of Santa hats from the local pound shop!

Ready to roll! The “old gal” in full Christmas jumper and Santa cycling hats gear!

We headed off and it was fun tandeming up the high street which was busy with families doing some last minute shopping! It would need to be said we got more than a few funny looks from adults (but as the “old git” said that was the point of the exercise!) while loads of children gave us excited waves and I tooted my horn back in appreciation! They particularly liked my Rudolph adornments!

We then headed out of town onto the rural Perthshire roads which took us to Tullibardine Chapel – and I must admit it was great fun to be out as we all enjoyed the unseasonably bright sunshine.

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

Team Matilda were in good spirits – so much so that I wasn’t sure if there had been any actual spirits partaken before they departed! But the “old gal” and the “old git” are finely tuned athletes (or so they claim!) … so I am sure it was just my imagination!

In what seemed like no time we were approaching the chapel and the “old git” decided that we needed to arrive in style – singing our very own song, dubbed Away on a Tandem, which was a stunning rearrangement of that famous carol Away in a Manger!

The beautiful and atmospheric Tullibardine Chapel dates back to the 15th Century.

Not surprisingly this ensured Team Christmas Matilda got noticed!  The “old git” and the “old gal” definitely more than lived up to their status as founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club with their vocal arrival!

Tullibardine Chapel is now looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

So before the carols there was time to explore the history and my dynamic crew discovered that Tullibardine Chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir David Murray of Dumbarton, an ancestor of the Dukes of Atholl. The Murray family home was at Tullibardine Castle. This stood on a site a short distance to the north of the chapel, though nothing now remains of it.

The chapel occupies a scenic tranquil spot in the rural Perthshire countryside,

The chapel stands almost unchanged since an extension in about 1500 – and is one of the few medieval churches to have survived the Reformation unaltered.

My dynamic crew had a brief warm-up of their vocal chords before the service!

Just before the carol service proper started my dynamic duo warmed up their voices with a few verses outside, admired by one of the organisers Allan Perera – a well known local artist and member of the Our Lady of the Perpetual Succour host church – who on his guitar led the musical accompaniment and the choir. Alan’s wife Sheila led the service itself.

The choir and musical accompaniment which led the carol singing at Tullibardine.

So after the practice – and attracting lots of attention from people arriving, with lots of “there’s a double bike” comments – it was time for my duo to go inside the chapel for the carol service. They tell me they thoroughly enjoyed the whole event – a nice mix of Christmas carols, festive songs and readings. And encouragingly, it was busy – with a good crowd in the chapel.

It was a real Christmassy atmosphere singing carols by torchlight!

It was a real Christmassy atmosphere and after the carols my dynamic tandem crew emerged back outside to find that Team Matilda had been somewhat upstaged by someone who had arrived on horseback – as you do in the middle of the Perthshire countryside!

Upstaged by a horse who wanted to join in the carols – only in rural Perthshire!

After the service my dynamic crew pedalled off quickly in a  bid to warm up as the winter sun was setting and the temperature had dropped quickly. With the cold air the tough Easthill hill climb back to Auchterarder seemed tougher than usual!

But we were not heading directly home. My dynamic crew had an important stop off in Auchterarder with an invite to pop-in and say hello at a 90th birthday party for Betty Connell – one of the “old gal’s” long standing clients at her hairdressing salon.

Betty’s daughter Anne – a keen “half-bike” cyclist – had been told the “old git” and “old gal” would be arriving en-route home from the carol service but were told that didn’t matter! However two mad cyclists arriving wearing Santa crash helmets and Christmas jumpers certainly caused a bit of a stir – and upset the otherwise glamorous dress code just a bit! But with impeccable timing my crew arrived just as the champagne was being poured for the toast and the cake cutting! I am told that both were very tasty!

Darkness had fallen while we spend an hour or so at the birthday party, so the last mile was completed with all my lights on! It made for an interesting high speed downhill dash!

Safely back at Matildas Rest, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing we had tandemed a distance of just 6.15 miles with a moving time of 37 minutes – but as always it is the smiles not the miles that count. The average speed was 10 mph while the elevation was a modest 322 feet. The maximum speed was 21.3 mph given the relatively flat terrain and Team Matilda managed to burn up 347 calories and produce an average power output of 141 W.

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

All three of us on Team Christmas Matilda had great fun – and felt it was a great way to crank up the festive spirit! Talking of which I have just heard  a shout of “Where’s my Christmas gin spirit” from the “old gal” as she relaxed in her post-ride bath!

Team Matilda certainly had fun getting into the Christmas spirit – in #tandem of course!

Look out for my Matildas Musings “Merry Christmas” blog post coming soon! In the meantime I need to go and wrap a few presents and write my final cards! Oh and pour that gin!…

Fine dining Sunday lunch – macaroni pie style!

The “old gal” with her Sunday lunch fine dining delicacy of a macaroni pie!

Don’t ever say my Captain doesn’t know how to spoil my long suffering Stoker! “Treat you to Sunday lunch by tandem,” said the “old git! “Oooh, that sounds like a plan,” said the “old gal” suitably impressed! Well let’s just say that the resulting gastronomic delight was not exactly the the silver service fine dining experience that was anticipated! Read on to find out about our (mis)adventure!

It all started so well with some bright sunshine greeting my dynamic crew on Sunday morning. Yes there was some strong gusts of wind blowing about, but the decision was taken to get out and about from a second successive Autumnal local ride. The masterplan was for a ride to Dunblane, with that promised stop for lunch at a mystery location somewhere on the return trip.

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

The route started with some uphill tandeming from Matildas Rest out on the open rural Perthshire roads past Gleneagles Hotel followed by a nice downhill stretch and on to Braco.

Near to Kinbuck Team Matilda passed the entrance to Cromlix House – the 5-star country house hotel owned by local tennis superstar Andy Murray. It boasts a Chez Roux restaurant and the “old gal” started to think that she may be in for a real culinary experience on the return pedal! Let’s just say she was mistaken!

The “old git” wasn’t saying anything as the “old gal” started to salivate at the treat which could be in-store and added more power to my pedals to get me to our turning point of Dunblane.

The 20 mile mark – the “old gal” looking fresh at Barbush Roundabout in Dunblane.

A quick stop for a breather and some water at the Barbush roundabout and we headed on the return leg. Anticipation was building … but the “old gal’s” face fell when the “old git” steered me right past the entrance to Cromlix without even breaking cadence!

So if it wasn’t Cromlix for Sunday lunch – then where? Perhaps another suitably grand venue of Gleneagles Hotel ? Not exactly. The venue chosen by my Captain to treat my Stoker was … wait for it … Braco Coffee shop !

Actually, joking aside, the “old gal” was quite pleased really as we pulled up outside given she was clad in cycling gear – not really the dress of choice for a fine dining experience!

My dynamic crew’s cycling helmets were somewhat trumped by these snazzy motorbike helmets.

As we walked in it was good to see the premises so busy – with several other cyclists and motorbikers having decided to stop en route for sustenance. My dynamic crew’s cycling helmets were somewhat trumped by a pair of very snazzy looking motorbike helmets!

Now as I said at the start of this blog – don’t ever say my Captain doesn’t know how to spoil my long suffering Stoker! The “old git” spied something he knew would have the “old gal” in ecstasy … the Scottish delicacy of a macaroni pie!

And he was correct! The “old gal” loved it! The carb-laden pie was fresh, warm, very tasty and great value! Sunday lunch sorted! Result!

Before! Happy girl! The “old gal” just before devouring the macaroni pie!

After!  Unhappy girl!  The “old gal” just after devouring the macaroni pie!

And the pies were washed down with lovely strong coffee, accompanied by a yummy piece of caramel shortcake! Great friendly service too from the Braco team! A perfect stop on a bicycle made for two really – and just underlines the fun and laughs my dynamic crew have!

Time to move on. Despite the pesky wind, It was a great day to be out in glorious Perthshire and on the return journey the “old git” – with the “old gal’s” full consent! – detoured to add on a few extra miles with a reprise of the longer loop back via Blackford, Badrill and then up past Duchally Country Estate.

This involved that heady combination of pain and euphoria for my dynamic crew as they again nailed the steep 10% gradient section known as the Duchally Ramp. The fact that Strava awarded a second best gong as we managed to grind it out only added to the sense of achievement for all three of us!

The last three miles flew past – living up to the section’s name as Duchally Downhill Fun – before a final sharp hill on Abbey Road.

Back in the sanctuary of Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 26 gongs – which given the brutal winds and the hills was nothing short of astonishing! The total was made up of 4 personal bests;  17 second bests; and 5 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 33.4 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 52 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.6 mph (given that we were being blown about as if in a wind tunnel!) while the elevation was a not unsubstantial 1799 feet. The maximum speed was 32.2 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 2032 calories (yes that’s before the negative effect of the macaroni pie!!!) and produce an average power output of 176 W.

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

The great macaroni pie (mis)adventure – which received lost of fun comments on my social media channels – was the second Autumnal local run in a row for Team Matilda.

The week before the “old gal” decided the destination for coffee and cake would be Gloagburn Farm Shop – with the distance of around 28 hilly miles adequate to work up an appetite for the goodies on offer. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

On the long downhill stretch out of Auchterarder the “old git” was on a mission to try and break Team Matilda’s recent speed record of 34.7 mph. But despite my dynamic crew adopting their most aero-dynamic position, the data showed that the fastest we hit was 32.4 mph again!  Naturally the “old git” blamed the headwind! But he has ambitions to break that record again soon!

Crossing Kinkell Bridge marks the start of the climb away from the River Earn. But – and whisper this – it was all fairly manageable, if not relatively easy! So Team Matilda ticked off the uphill stretch past historic Trinity Gask Parish Church, which dates back to 1770, before several cheeky sharp climbs in the area which was known as the Gask Ridge Frontier  – the earliest Roman land frontier in Britain – built in the 70’s or 80’s AD, 40 years before Hadrian’s Wall.

After the sharp climbs there was some relief for my dynamic crew as we sped along to Tibbermore on a gently undulating stretch to our half way stop of the oasis which is Gloagburn Farm Shop.

The “old gal” – looking as fresh as a daisy – on arrival at Gloagburn Farm Shop in the sun.

My dynamic crew felt as fresh as a daisy as we arrived at Gloaburn and rewarded themselves with some coffee, scones and the signature carrot cake. After refuelling it was then time to battle the headwinds on the return journey as we tandemed thru the picturesque village of St Davids before a nice descent back to sea level at Kinkell Bridge which is a grand four-arched bridge over the River Earn and dates from 1793. It gives great views over one of Perthshire’s top salmon beats and provided a suitable spot for a photo of the “old git” while having a water break.

Kinkell Bridge offered the perfect spot for a photo showing Perthshire at its best!

Time for the final pedal and the energy sapping long grind of Easthill back up to Auchterarder. But despite a fierce headwind I can happily report that my dynamic crew managed that stretch just 9 seconds outside their personal best while achieving an average speed of 8.4 mph!

Back at Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 9 gongs – not bad given the emergence of the wind … again! The total was made up of 2 personal bests; 1 second best; and 3 third bests. My dynamic crew got real pleasure out of the PB for the climb past Trinity Gask Kirk! The time on this ride was 2 minutes 24 seconds … over a  minute and a half faster than back in July when it was 4 minutes 01 seconds. Good to see their efforts rewarded!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 28.5 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 20 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.2 mph while the elevation was 1239 feet. The maximum speed was 32.4 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1571 calories and produce an average power output of 168 W.

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

So all in all two great Autumnal rides to keep my dynamic crew “in training” on their fitness regime.

There’s probably going to be a short gap till my next blog as the “old gal” and “old git” are heading to warmer climes for a sneaky holiday week sitting on a beach in Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba.

As for me I am being left behind in my cosy garage as it is a well-earned relaxing break.  The “old git” however has already researched the availability of hiring a bike for a short ride. But the “old gal” says the only pedalling that she will be doing is on one of those pedalo boats! But at least that will be “in tandem”!

Till the next adventure!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tandeming the dens dells and delis of Dunkeld

Ready to roll in the warm sunshine – with Dunkeld Bridge in the background.

Now as you know this “old lady” likes to try something new every now and again – so when the “old git” came up with the idea of tandeming a new route around the ancient Cathedral “city” of Dunkeld in Highland Perthshire, it seemed like an exciting plan!

And when the “old git” mentioned that we passed a couple of coffee shops and finished at a new deli which we also did tapas early evening, the “old gal” was immediately on board too!

The addition of the deli word gave the “old git” the joy of coming up with some of his favoured alliteration in the title of the ride – adding to the dens and dells of Dunkeld! Simple pleasures!

Now for those who are not au fait with Scots dialect a “den” is a long and narrow valley while a “dell” is  a hollow and there are plenty of both in this area … but (whisper it) that also means it is lumpy!

The ride – and some of the recommended stops – recently featured in Scottish Cycling magazine – which is well worth a read. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The sun was already high in the sky creating a perfect day for our tandem ride as I was unloaded from Matilda Transport at the Tay Terrace Car Park handily placed beside the river just after crossing Dunkeld Bridge. After kitting up – and applying the necessary factor 30 – Team Matilda pedalled off along the A984 which runs east out of Dunkeld to Caputh.

This follows the route of an old military road built by Major William Caulfield in the 18th century. It is a lovely road to cycle with mild undulations and and some great views over the majestic River Tay.

Just after Caputh is the hamlet of Spittalfield which is home to the cyclist and walker-friendly Walkin’ Cafe. Opened a year ago the welcoming cafe specifically targets cyclists and walkers who frequent the area. For many years the building was the village store before being transformed into a cafe to keep it as a hub of the village.

The cafe has lots of cycling-related aftefacts to catch the eye – and don’t forget to look out for the French-designed poster showing all the different kinds of bikes which have been produced over the years … in the toilets! Glad to say that a tandem was featured among the drawings! The “old git” and “old gal” quickly polished off a coffee and scone from the appealing treats on offer.

The Walkin’ Cafe is a real oasis for cyclists and has lots of bike artefacts.

The Walkin’ Cafe is ideally situated on the A984 at Spittalfield to attract cyclists and walkers.

Refreshed we pedalled on for around four miles to a local landmark of the Meikleour Beech Hedge which is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest hedge in Britain and the highest of its kind in the world. It is is one third of a mile long (530 m) and 100 ft (30 m) high.

The “old gal” dwarfed by the Meikleour Beech Hedge – the longest hedge in the UK.

Our route took us left at Meikleour on to the A93 towards Blairgowrie – and although it was quite a busy road cars gave us plenty of space as we pedalled along. Just before Blairgowrie centre, we turned left again on to the scenic A923 which would take us back to Dunkeld – with the promise of enjoying the views over no less than six lochs along the way.

We quickly passed Rae Loch and Loch of Drumellie before the “old gal” decided it was time to stop for one of Team Matilda’s infamous prosecco picnics! She fortuitously called stop at beautiful Loch of Clunie. Although it was busy – due to the sunshine – with families enjoying the shallow calm water she found a spot on the beach to allow my dynamic crew to sunbathe and enjoy their picnic goodies. And the sit was made all the more comfortable by our fab new fold-up pads which our good cycling friends John and Jane had given my crew on the recent mini Tour de Perthshire.

Sun-kissed Loch of Clunie provided the perfect stop for a prosecco picnic.

Selfie time for my dynamic crew enjoying the warm sun on the loch’s beach.

Chillin – the “old gal” relaxing in the sun on our new picnic pads.

Back on the road and maybe it was just the effects of the relaxing picnic, but my dynamic crew noticed the gentle incline as we headed on past Loch of Butterstone. We took a short diversion to the entrance to the Scottish Wildlife Trust Loch of the Lowes wildlife reserve – a near 100 hectacre site where the star attraction is a pair of breeding ospreys which nest just 150 metres from the observation hide. We had actually spotted the huge wingspan of one of the magnificent birds doing a spot of fishing for food for their chicks in one of the lochs earlier.

The Loch of the Lowes reserve – famous for its ospreys – is run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

From the last of the six lochs – Loch of Craiglush – there is a steep climb and my dynamic crew had to work hard to keep my wheels turning. A long winding – but welcome – swooping downhill stretch returned us to Dunkeld with some time to explore the town. First stop was the eye-catching Atholl Memorial Fountain in the Market Cross area. The Fountain was funded by public subscription and built in 1866 ‘to the memory of George Augustus Frederick John 6th Duke of Atholl’ who had introduced a piped water supply to Dunkeld.

The “old git” at the Atholl Memorial Fountain in Dunkeld.

By now my dynamic crew were ready for a re-fuel and had some fabulous cake sitting outside on the sun drenched terrace at the Spill the Beans coffee shop.

Next we took in some of the Dunkeld Heritage Walk (or cycle!) which takes in many of the restored 18th century merchants houses in Cathedral Street – which are now looked after by The Little Houses Improvement Scheme – in partnership with the National Trust for Scotland. This includes The Old Rectory which is Dunkeld’s oldest surviving house. Scotland’s National Bard Robert Burns and Fiddler Neil Gow entertained here in 1787.

I feel like a young thing beside Dunkeld’s oldest surviving house!

Cathedral Street – not surprisingly – leads to Dunkeld Cathedral whose history can be traced to the ninth century when it emerged as an important religious centre for the early Celtic Church. No building of this period survives, the present Cathedral dates from 1318. Partly destroyed during the Reformation (1560), the choir is roofed and now serves as the parish church for regular Sunday worship. The rest of the cathedral is ruinous, but is preserved as an Ancient Monument in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, who are also responsible for the grounds.

Cooling in the shade in the grounds of the historic Dunkeld Cathedral.

The cathedral’s grounds give great views over the River Tay and Dunkeld Bridge.

The grounds of the cathedral give great views over the majestic River Tay and the historic Dunkeld Bridge which was built by Thomas Telford and opened in 1809.

After all the miles and the local history it was time for us all to return to Matilda Transport. I was safely loaded back inside while my dynamic crew got changed for a refreshment stop before dinner.

Over a nicely chilled glass of white wine, and enjoying the warm sunshine on the decking of the Atholl Arms overlooking the river, the “old git” checked Strava which showed no gongs as this was our first time on this route. But the detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 26 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 03 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.7 mph given a couple of sharp hills while the elevation was 1178 feet. The maximum speed was 29.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1528 calories and produce an average power output of 185 W.

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

Suitably impressed by that data my dynamic crew ended their day out in style with a mouth watering tapas meal at the highly recommended The Scottish Deli on Dunkeld’s Atholl Street. I am told that the prawns in garlic and the manchego cheese and serrano ham platter were particularly impressive!

Replete it was time for the 30 minute return drive to Matildas Rest and soon time for some zzzs after a memorable sunny day out as we tandemed the dens, dells and delis of Dunkeld in glorious Perthshire!

A Musings Special on mini Tour de Perthshire with Team Travelling in Tandem

Cheers! The Nutty Tandemers Club having one of their signature prosecco re-fuelling stops!

Early in June we were scheduled to be taking part in our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club Hebridean Way challenge. But sadly personal circumstances resulted in that adventure having to be postponed.

But my dynamic crew did manage to meet up with good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for a couple of days for a mini Tour de Perthshire.

John and Jane – dubbed Team JayJay for the trip – kindly re-organised their holiday schedule in light of the postponement of the HebWay trip. Plan B saw them book a few nights at a local caravan park in Perth to allow us to meet up again for a couple of rides.

The two tandem teams had previously enjoyed two memorable previous trips – the inaugural Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem in 2016 and Le Tour de New Forest du Tandem last year.

The Nutty Tandemers label came about from John and Jane having similar views as my dynamic crew on not taking tandeming too seriously and having lots of fun on a bicycle made for two!

Day 1 – Nutty Tandemers Club sunny fun ride around Tibbermore Kinkell Bridge and Trinity Gask

The Nutty Tandemers Club line-up for a group photo near Kinkell Bridge.

Great excitement as Team Matilda were heading to meet up with John and Jane – aka Team JayJay – for the first of two planned rides. And for this “old lady” there was the excitement of teaming up with Siggy, the attractive gent of a tandem belonging to Team JayJay’s stable of no less than three tandems – which also includes the vintage Henry and their original Pino semi-recumbent Bluebird.  Whisper it, but I hear Siggy is a bit of a charmer of a gentleman tandem … with an eye for the older ladies!

We all met up at Noah’s Ark Caravan Park in Perth – and after warm greetings we pedalled off on a route which would take Team JayJay round some of our favourite local spots.

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

After negotiating our way down from the caravan park and enduring a busy junction of the A85 over the A9 we were glad to turn off onto a much quieter road towards Tibbermore. The sun was shining and we managed to pedal a whole four miles before stopping for tea and cake and a much needed catch-up at Gloagburn Farm Shop!

Recharged we tandemed onwards thru the picturesque village of St Davids before a nice descent to our first point of interest – the historic Kinkell Bridge which is a grand four-arched bridge over the River Earn and dates from 1793. It gives great views over one of Perthshire’s top salmon beats and provided a suitable venue for the first Nutty Tandemers photo stop! After all we only had two days to get 12 good photos for next year’s calendar!

John and Jane – making up Team JayJay – taking in the views at scenic Kinkell Bridge

Kinkell Bridge is just 3 miles from the “old git” and “old gal’s” home base.

Give way! The Nutty Tandemers ready for more pedalling at Kinkell Bridge

After Kinkell Bridge we started the climb away from the River Earn in an area known as Gask Ridge Frontier  which was the earliest Roman land frontier in Britain – built in the 70’s or 80’s AD, 40 years before Hadrian’s Wall and 60 years before the Antonine Wall.

Up we went past Trinity Gask Parish Church which traces its history back to 1770 before it was time for one of the Nutty Tandemers Club signature prosecco re-hydrating stops! And naturally I had helpfully carried the bottle of fizz in my trendy la bouclee French-wine carrier!

Time for one of the Nutty Tandemers Club signature prosecco re-fuelling stops!

Jane making sure the “old gal” doesn’t spill a drop of the obligatory prosecco!

Group selfie time! Prosecco cheers for Team Matilda and Team JayJay!

Time for a breather – and a welcome refreshment – for my dynamic crew!

Refreshed we continued to climb before re-emerging on to the Tibbermore road where my dynamic crew decided to show Team JayJay the fascinating historic Tibbermore Church which is now in the care of the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust. Dating back to 1632 the characterful building ceased being a parish church in 1986 before being transferred to the trust in 2001.

Apart from being worthy of a visit in its own right due to its unusual layout, and its history, the church has another more recent claim to fame – which sees it visited by people from all over the world – as a recognised stop in the VisitScotland tour of Outlander filming locations.

Now it needs to be said that John and Jane – like the “old git” and the “old gal”- are one of the few people on the planet who have never watched an episode of the popular hit show Outlander. But clearly the mystical and spellbinding series has caught the imagination and is a ratings winner in around 40 different countries. The series, filmed in Scotland, is particularly popular in America and Europe and is now seen as a goldmine for attracting tourists by Scotland’s tourism agency.

John Jane and the “old gal” at the archway entrance to Tibbermore Church.

The church was used as a film set for the infamous witches trial – series 1 episode 11 called ‘The Devil’s Mark’. Over 10 days in June 2014 Tibbermore Church was the focal point for 120 crew and 200 extras involved in the production – transformed into the fictional Cranesmuir Church.

For the many fans of Outlander, the witches trial is one of the most memorable. The plot line sees Claire and Geillis Duncan accused of being witches – for which the punishment is being burned at the stake. The design of the building particularly lent itself to the key trial scene with the pulpit serving as the dock. Despite a spirited defence things don’t go well for Claire and Geillis – and in an attempt to save Claire, Geillis confesses to witchcraft. The “old gal” and Jane bravely shunned any superstitions and stood in the pulpit – which doubled as the dock – to recreate that scene!

The “old gal” and Jane recreate the infamous witches trial scene!

Escaping that drama it was an easy pedal back before a final uphill stretch back to the caravan park. Me and Siggy were safely locked up before the tandem crews had a quick change before heading to the nearby Glover Arms for a very welcome bar meal and a hospitable and entertaining evening.

On arrival at the Glovers Arms – while having a celebratory refreshment and perusing the menus – there was time for the “old git” to check Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 9 gongs – 5 personal bests; 2 second bests; and 3 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew – accompanied by Team JayJay – tandemed a distance of 28.6 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 21 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.2 mph given the hilly terrain while the elevation was 1015 feet. The maximum speed was 31.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1498 calories and produce an average power output of  159 W.

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

Day 2 – Nutty Tandemers Club windy ride to Forteviot Bridge of Earn and Dunning

John and Jane – Team JayJay – at Bridge of Earn prior to Storm Hector arriving.

For the second ride of the Nutty Tandemers Club mini tour Team Jay arrived at Matildas Rest by car for another local route favoured by my dynamic crew – to Forteviot and Bridge of Earn.

The weather had sadly deteriorated from the day before – being a bit colder, breezy and also a bit of drizzle, but not bad enough to stop the ride.

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

With a nice tail wind we were soon approaching Dunning and had our first stop and a piece of local history at the monument to Maggie Wall. This is an eerie stone cross with a hand painted date of 1657 and it is said to be a memorial to the last witch in Scotland to be burned at the stake.

The “old git” decided this was a suitable venue for what has become a tradition of the Nutty Tandemers Club tours – a recreation of the three wise monkeys ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ scene. During the 2016 tour it was at the side of Loch Katrine and last year it was on the Isle of Wight.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – The Three Wise Monkeys 2018 version!

The new version captured by a photo we rode on thru Dunning and on to our next history lesson at Forteviot. The open roads allowed Jane to capture the “old git” and “old gal” in action, wearing their newly branded Team Matilda hi-vis rain jackets, especially purchased for the HebWay.

An shot of Team Matilda in action – with newly branded rain jackets – taken by Jane.

Despite the lack of sunshine it felt good to be out on the quiet scenic country roads of Perthshire – which are great for tandeming and cycling. Soon we all tandemed into Forteviot – an ancient Pictish capital of Scotland, where King Kenneth MacAlpin died in the 9th Century.

The tandem teams had a stop at the fabulous new centrepiece to the village – a large carved stone inspired by the strong Pictish culture and the historic Dupplin Cross. The original rare 3m high cross, carved out of sandstone in around AD800, once stood in the palace of the Pictish Kings at Forteviot.

Thumbs up from the Nutty Tandemers at the new centrepiece stone at Forteviot.

The eye-catching stone carving – called ‘Set in Stone – the Birth of Alba’ – is part of the Heritage Lottery funded Pictish Stones project run by the Tay Landscape Partnership to provide the area with a key legacy monument marking the area’s important role in the birth of medieval Scotland.

Back on the road and with both crews enjoying their usual doze of fun and laughs the miles seemed to whizz past. Even a fairly tough twin-peaked climb out of Forteviot – didn’t phase them as they battled on to the top. The reward for that climb is an enjoyable long downhill stretch in to Bridge of Earn where we had a suitably nutty photo shoot at the bridge over the Earn.

Time for a Nutty Tandemers photo shoot at the bridge at Bridge of Earn.

The “old gal” and “old git” having a laugh despite the less than perfect weather.

Back views can often be better! But a good shot of my dynamic crew in their new jackets!

The road out of Bridge of Earn is a bit of a tough one at the best of times – a long slow grind of a tandem – but the fact that we were now battling a pretty fierce head wind rendered some of the comments coming from my Stoker’s position unrepeatable in what is after all a family blog!

Approaching Dunning the “old git” made a call for a stop at my dynamic crew’s favourite friendly country pub, The Kirkstyle Inn. One of its appeals is its range of artisan Scottish gins and this offered the ideal opportunity for a small libation to fuel up for the final miles home! After all it would have been rude not to!

The Kirkstyle Inn at Dunning was a perfect spot for a reviving gin for the Nutty Tandemers!

During our gin stop the weather took a further turn with conditions becoming both a bit wetter and a lot windier as Storm Hector gave us an indication of what was in store the next day. This made the final few miles back to Matildas Rest pretty tough going – but it was still a good ride.

Out of the rain and wind the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 21 gongs – 8 personal bests; 7 second bests; and 6 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed both crews tandemed a distance of 27.1 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 22 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.4 mph given the hilly terrain and the weather conditions, while the elevation was 1256 feet. The maximum speed was 29.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1590 calories and produce an average power output of  167 W.

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

After being a bit battered by the weather the “old gal” produced a welcome pasta dish which was naturally washed down with some prosecco during a jolly evening of suitable nuttiness!

It was really a great mini break for my dynamic crew to be able to spend a bit of time enjoying the company of  John and Jane – who yet again proved to be real kindred spirits to my dynamic crew!

Regrettably it was not the grand adventure that was originally planned, but plans are already underway to to reschedule the Nutty Tandemers Club Hebridean Way challenge for next year. And I for one can’t wait!

Sun-kissed tandeming at Muthill Sportive 2018 – yellow route

Team Matilda – kitted out in eye-catching King of Mountain gear – at the Muthill Sportive.

There was much excitement at Matildas Rest on a recent Saturday as it was a big day for this “old lady” – I was taking part in a real official competitive bike event – the Muthill Sportive 2018. This would only be my second ever Sportive and I was all geared up for the big event as the “old git” had told me that not only was I going to have an official participant number but that I was going to have a timing chip. Serious stuff!

Those of you with good memories may remember my Sportive debut a year ago when the “old git’s” son Niall took up a role as substitute stoker as the “old gal” was working. Team Matilda hadn’t planned to be taking part this year as the date was scheduled to be the penultimate day of our Nutty Tandemers Club Hebridean Way Challenge. But sadly personal circumstances resulted in that adventure having to be postponed. So my dynamic crew decided on a last minute entry.

The Muthill cycling event has the reputation for being Scotland’s friendliest Sportive and that was immediately apparent from the warm welcome my crew received at the registration desk – which was basking in bright sunshine, in stark contrast to heavy rain of last year.

The idea of the Sportive is to raise funds for the Muthill to Crieff Cyclepath project which will create a safe route along the 4 miles to the Strath capital, avoiding the busy A822 road. Phase 1 of the project is complete – a 1 mile off-road route from Muthill to Templemill, which links with other core paths and quiet country walking and cycling friendly roads. Just over two years ago when it was opened, I was the first tandem to ride the new cycle path. You can read more about the project in my blog of that ride.

Ready for the off- with my official ‘158’ sportive competitor number!

Team Matilda was taking part in the Yellow Route – an 18 mile cycle around quiet local Strathearn roads. I had my start number of 158 firmly attached to my handlebars and the “old gal” volunteered to attach my snazzy timer chip to her ankle – even tho it did look like she was wearing an electronic monitoring tag!

No comments about the “old gal” being used to wearing a tag! This is the official timing chip!

Then it was time for the off and we lined up with just under 30 other bikes. I was proud to be the only tandem on the start line and I am glad to say I got quite a few “nice bike” and “special machine” compliments. A quick safety briefing, and the horn was blown and we were underway!

At the start line – ready for the hooter!

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

The “old git” and the “old gal” set off at good pace along Muthill’s main street before starting a long slow climb up past the local golf course. This turned out to be a bit of a “killer hill” so soon in the route – which is perhaps no surprise as a later check measured the incline at 10.3%.

I think the joke turned out to be on my dynamic crew who thought that wearing their King of the Mountain cycling shirts would be a big joke! But after a bit of a push (literally!) we reached the plateau and then the rest of the ride was much more enjoyable and we soon picked up speed again.

The ride was well signposted with big yellow arrows marking directions at every possible junction to ensure we couldn’t get lost – and there were marshalls at any intersections with busier roads. The route developed into a gently undulating ride, along well maintained farm roads before briefly emerging on to the Crieff to Braco road for a short section, turning into another maze of farm roads.

We crossed the Auchterarder to Crieff road before the route took us along the roads around Tullibardine and then along in front of Strathallan Airfield.

Tantalisinly there were signs for Muthill but we were directed away from the direct road for another loop round country roads – just as my crew were starting to feel their fuel tanks getting low on energy.

Fortunately there was a nice downhill stretch before the last section which made use of the completed first section of the Muthill to Crieff cycle path. Only difficulty was that this was uphill creating a Tour de France-style finish at the top of a climb! Well almost … but obviously just a tad less steep!

As we turned into Muthill church yard Team Matilda had that euphoric feeling of knowing they had actually completed a sportive as they crossed the finishing line. A quick glance at the electronic timer clock revealed that we had finished in a fairly respectable time of  just under 1 hour 31 minutes.

Hi-fives at the end – the “old git” and “old gal” happy at the end!

The friendly nature of the Muthill Sportive was underlined by the amazing hospitality on offer back in the church hall. An army of volunteers had been busy and yummy home made soup was on offer, along with tasty filled rolls, followed by a fantastic selection of home baked cakes. The fact that they even had gluten free cakes was quite literally the icing on the … well you know what I mean!

So after some much needed re-fuelling it was time to head back to Matildas Rest where the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 15 gongs – 5 personal bests; 8 second bests; and 2 third bests.

Amazingly Strava also gave my dynamic crew another 3rd best ever gong – meaning that our time of 6 mins 49 secs is now down in history as the 3rd fastest time ever recorded on the 2.3 mile section ‘Machanay Road only’. Well to be totally honest, it was the 3rd fastest time ever recorded by a female as I am officially registered as a female by Strava – but a gong is a gong! And there was also an 9th best ever time too! Phew – quite a day!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 18.3 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 31 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.1 mph given the hilly terrain while the elevation was 1036 feet. The maximum speed was 31.3 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1229 calories and produce an average power output of  202 W.

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

My dynamic crew both agreed that The Muthill Sportive was a great event and fun to be part of! Apart from living up to its reputation of being one of Scotland’s friendliest sportives, it certainly offered a great opportunity to promote cycling and the benefits of off-road cycle paths in the beautiful Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council area near Perth City Centre.

Lets hope the event raised lots of money for the Muthill to Crieff Cyclepath project and that I will soon be blogging about new developments and an extension to the existing first stage of the route – including a large span bridge to cross the River Earn at Crieff.

Team Matilda is certainly planning on being on the starting line next year!

Team Matilda are already planning to join Scotland’s friendliest sportive in 2019!

Tandem ride to festival that leaves you wanting Mhor!

My dynamic crew looking for fun and funk after arriving at the Mhor Festival.

“Do you fancy going to a festival?”, the “old git” had casually asked the “old gal” a few weeks ago? 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 and pouring rain that came to mind.

But this was different – very different – a smaller scale festival for grown-ups deep in the heart of Rob Roy Country. So Sunday dawned and there was bright sunshine as we headed off early from Matildas Rest. The start point for Team Matilda’s festival trip was the fabulous Broch Cafe in Strathyre – where we had been invited to park by 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.

After a welcome Lucaffee coffee and delicious home made scone there was time for a quick catch up with Lesley and Bill and offer our congratulations at winning Most Welcoming Cafe of the Year at the Scottish Cafe Awards 2018. Back on my saddles we then headed off out of Strathyre on the super smooth surface of the Sustrans Scotland NCR7.

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

Team Matilda picked up a good speed on the off-road cycle path heading for 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!

Arriving by tandem is ideal, as it saves having to use the bus on the traffic management system on the narrow roads! It gave my dynamic crew the opportunity to ride again on one of the best routes we 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!

Arriving by tandem was perfect – avoiding the traffic management system on the narrow roads!

As we rounded the final bend we were greeted with the first view of the Mhor Festival site. The campsite, just on the edge of the loch, has to be one of the most scenic festival sites ever. In fact it is just a few hundred yards from our favourite prosecco picnic spot where Team Matilda was featured last year on BBC Scotland’s Landward television programme.

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 camp site at Mhor Festival must be one of the most scenic in Scotland.

The festival organisers at Mhor had arranged for VIP admission tickets for Team Matilda – and even arranged for our admission wrist bands to match the vivid day-glo yellow colour of their t-shirts!

I was safely parked up in the VIP car park as 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, a shopping area, a market, and of course some amazing food and drink including a champagne and seafood bar.

The festival armbands were even perfectly colour coordinated to my dynamic crew’s t-shirts!

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

No jokes please about the “old gal” and “the oldest hippy in town!”

The “old git” showing off his funkier side at an eye catching sign at Mhor Festival.

Lots of fun for kids – big and small! The “old gal” was seriously tempted!

After soaking up the atmosphere, my dynamic crew decided it was time to sample some of the culinary delights on offer and ordered up scrummy burgers before deciding to indulge in some seafood and had some amazing fresh oysters 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 – “I do like festivals like this!”

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

After lunch my  crew bumped into Kim Proven –  the enthusiastic chair of LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group, 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.

One of the joys of the event for my dynamic 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 while sunbathing!

One of highlights of the festival was left till last when my dynamic crew joined the crowds queuing to get into the Big Dutch Barn for the renowned A Play, A Pie and a Pint performance of “A funny place for a window” – the Chic Murray story.

Normally based at the famous Oran Mor in Glasgow, the play featured the life of one of Scotland’s best comics – with his drole observational wit brilliantly portrayed by Dave Andersen sporting Chic’s signature bunnet.

Despite battling some difficult accoustic challenges and a brilliant piece of unscripted comedy when a dog decided to bark at the perfect moment for a laugh – the performers deservedly received a standing ovation.

Dave Anderson was brilliant in his role playing the drole Chic Murray.

The afternoon seemed to slip past and all too soon it was time to leave and wind our way back to Strathyre. Again it was a fun fast pedal trying to outpace the various convoys of cars on the single track road, and we were soon back at Matilda Transport for the drive home.

Back at Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 9 gongs – and I am proud and delighted to say there were all personal bests.

Amazingly Strava also gave my dynamic crew a 3rd best gong – meaning that our time of 24 mins 18 secs is now down in history as the 3rd fastest time ever recorded on the hilly 5.7 mile section ‘Mhor and Mhor’ which runs from the Mhor 84 hotel to the Monachyle Mhor hotel. Well to be totally honest, it was the 3rd fastest time ever recorded by a female as I am officially registered as a female by Strava – but a gong is a gong! And there was also an 8th best and a 10th best gong! Phew – quite a day!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 16.2 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 15 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 13.0 mph, while the elevation was 514 feet. And what with my new gears – and my dynamic crew’s weight loss – I am pleased to report that the average speed was nearly 4 mph faster than the 9.1 mph when my dynamic crew did the same route exactly a year ago! The maximum speed was 30.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 867 calories and produce an average power output of 173 W.

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

What a fantastic day in the sunshine for Team Matilda at what has to be Scotland’s most artisan, scenic and chilled festival! It certainly leaves you wanting Mhor!

Let’s just say that my dynamic crew enjoyed it so much they are already planning to come back in 2019! It is certainly highly recommended – as well as being easily accessible on two wheels! You never know, we might be able to persuade some other tandems to join us!

And just a thought – but maybe the organisers may want to consider introducing a discounted ticket for people who turn up by on bikes as pedal power is certainly in tune with the environmentally friendly nature of the Mhor Festival.

Plenty of room for more tandems and solo bikes at the Mhor Festival.