Cycle and cruise in tandem with Loch Tay Safaris

Team Matilda were invited to boat-test the new cycle and cruise offering at Loch Tay Safaris.

Sunday dawned and although there were menacing dark clouds about, my dynamic crew were up early and energised as Team Matilda had been invited to road test – or that should really be boat-test! – another of Scotland’s top tourist attractions for my blog!

This time the invitation was to try out Loch Tay Safaris new cycle and cruise offering – which allows people the ultimate fun way to explore Perthshire’s largest loch on an exciting adrenalin-fuelled combination of two wheels and a fast RIB boat.

So we headed off to the pretty estate village of Kenmore – parking in the Loch Tay Safaris car park right on the edge of the loch beside their private jetty and pontoon – to get ready for our adventure.

Ready for the off! At the Loch Tay Safaris car park in Kenmore right on the edge of the loch.

Adding to the excitement was that this ‘old lady’ had been under repair and had a whole new gear mechanism fitted – including chain set, crank, mech and gear selector. So all three of us on Team Matilda were keen to get out on the open roads of Highland Perthshire to see how my ‘new bits’ performed! There are some pics and some technical stuff at the end of this blog post which details the work I had done to my ageing frame!

We decided to follow one of the suggested routes for the cycle and cruise itinerary – a near 14 mile loop from Kenmore to Aberfeldy and back on scenic roads which straddle both sides of the River Tay.

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

We left Kenmore on Sustrans Scotland NCN Route 7 crossing the bridge and turning right onto the quiet B846. The route immediately takes you up a hill on the edge of the Tay Forest Park, but my crew found this much easier than normal due to my new gearing!

A great long flat stretch soon had us building up speed before crossing the River Lyon just before it joins the Tay. Turning right and less than 2 miles later we found ourselves in the wonderfully named Highland Perthshire hamlet of Dull – where it would need to be said the weather wasn’t very bright! See what I did there?!

The weather wasn’t very bright when we reached the wonderfully named hamlet of Dull.

But locals – clearly with a sense of humour – are keen to make the most of the unusual name and promote the road sign as a tourist attraction in its own right. It helps that Dull has been twinned with Boring – a small town in Oregon USA which also has an etymologically-similar name.

Naturally my dynamic crew had to stop for the must-do selfie with the sign and discovered that Dull and Boring created the League of Extraordinary Communities in 2013 and made Bland in New South Wales Australia its first member – giving them a Dull, Boring and Bland tie-up!

Dull is twinned with Boring in Oregon, USA. Can’t describe my dynamic crew as dull and boring!

Dull’s other claim to fame is that it is the base of Highland Safaris – the parent business of Loch Tay Safaris. It is quite an operation and as winner of the Best Visitor Experience in Scotland offers exhilarating Land Rover Safaris, a red deer centre, inspiring walking and mountain biking activities, Perthshire’s only gold panning centre, and a cafe.

We were soon in Aberfeldy – marking the half way point – and headed west on the A827 to complete the loop back to Kenmore. This is more undulating but even the long climb near the end didn’t present my crew – and my new gears – with too many problems.

The welcome freewheel downhill saw us return to our lochside base and there was plenty of time for a fun photoshoot with me and the Loch Tay Safaris boat called Iolaire. Even though I wasn’t actually going on the cruise, the ever-cautious “old gal” did kit me out with a lifebelt … just in case I fell in!

Got my lifebelt on my handlebars at Loch Tay Safaris! Can’t be too careful around boats!

You can’t miss the signs for Loch Tay Safaris at Kenmore – the ultimate way to experience the loch.

After the photos there was time for a picnic lunch of smoked salmon and spinach wraps and fresh fruit salad which the “old gal” had prepared for some fuel before they took to the water!

Then I was safely locked up at the lochside before my dynamic crew donned their life jackets and had a full safety briefing before boarding for their 90 minute cruise!

Loch Tay Safaris is a new venture only launched last summer. As the blurb says: “Our modern, custom built cabin RIB is safe, comfortable, fast, dry and guaranteed to raise a smile!”

Although Iolaire can seat up to 12 people my dynamic crew were fortunate enough to be the only people on board so effectively had a fantastic private charter!

Ahoy there! The “old git” and “old gal” up front on the fast Loch Tay Safari RIB.

Not long into the cruise the “old git” and “old gal” were given the chance of sitting up front by expert skipper Alex while the superbly informative tour guide Norman took us on a journey through local history, nature and folklore. Points of interest included the old piers where steamboats plied their trade in years past taking day-trippers on the water until 1939; and the so-called Loch Tay Fault Line.

The interesting route taken by the comfortable Iolaire RIB on the Loch Tay Safari ride.

The RIB’s versatility makes it perfect for getting in close to the inaccessible banks of the loch and exploring the unique landscape from the water. About half way, at the deepest point of the loch, just off Ben Lawyers, our tour guide Norman regaled us with stories about Loch Tay’s very own Kelpie lair describing the supernatural mythical white horse which lured people to its lair deep in the waters.

My dynamic crew know a think or two about Kelpies, having visited the magnificent metal horse sculptures near Falkirk, including filming one of my Matildas Musings video clips – featuring three iconic steel structures – for my Youtube channel. The “old gal” was offered the chance to feed the Kelpies – with some appropriately named ‘Kelpie Food’ masquerading as oats!

The “old gal” was invited to feed the Kelpies – with Kelpie food, obviously!

One of the highlights of the cruise comes near the end when its stops just beside the Scottish Crannog Centre – a unique reconstruction of an ancient loch dwelling which recreates what life was like on Loch Tay some 2,500 years ago in the early Iron Age. Here in Highland Perthshire the prehistoric crannogs were originally timber-built roundhouses supported on piles or stilts driven into the loch bed.

The Loch Tay Safari boat cabin has comfy seating for 12 passengers – all with their own binoculars.

All too soon the cruise was at an end and we returned to the pontoon at Kenmore – thanking Alex and Norman for a brilliant sail. Loch Tay Safaris is certainly a highly recommended way to explore the loch if you are in the area – not just by the “old git” and “old gal” but by the great reviews on Tripadvisor.

Returning to terra firma – buoyed by the exuberance of the cruise – my dynamic crew quickly found their land legs and we set off on our second tandem circuit to complete our cycle-cruise-cycle agenda. And I am delighted to report it was even quicker than the first – with the miles literally flying past.

Soon we were thru Dull again (still not much brighter!) and passed Menzies Castle – the seat of the Clan Menzies. It dates back to the 16th century and Charles Edward Stuart stayed here for two nights before the fateful Battle of Culloden in 1746.

A quick dash thru the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village of Weem took us to our second crossing of the impressive Wade’s Bridge which spans the Tay. It was built in 1733 by the architect William Adam – son of the better known Robert Adam.

A blistering downhill finish into Kenmore saw a first for Team Matilda – as we set off a “slow down” warning as we flashed past one of these new digital speed signs which registered us at 33 mph! Shame it wasn’t a speed camera!

The “old gal” made a shout for a drinkie stop after we dismounted so we headed to the Kenmore Hotel – which claims to be Scotland’s oldest inn. Certainly our national bard Robert Burns was a visitor back in 1787 and wrote one of his famous poems on the plaster on one of the walls.

The historic Kenmore Hotel made a great spot for a celebratory refreshment for Team Matilda!

Over a most welcome refreshment – and me back in Matilda Transport – the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 14 gongs – with 7 personal bests and 7 second bests. Certainly worth of a celebratory libation!

So the Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 27.6 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 16 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.1 mph – thanks to the changes to the gears – while the elevation was 1185 feet. The maximum speed was a dizzy 33.6 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1676 calories and produce an average power output of 184 W.

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

Team Matilda had a scenic drive home taking the single track route out of Kenmore high over the moor and through Glen Quaich. Coming over one of the many blind summits a brightly coloured rainbow appeared filling the glen with light. It seemed a fitting mark to end a spectacular day out in Perthshire and naturally the “old gal” had to take a photo!

The impressive rainbow and the view across Glen Quaich.

So lastly, as promised, the techno bit – and some photos – of my repairs which were expertly carried out with tender loving care by my personal surgeon John at JM Richards Cycles in Perth – who went above and beyond the call of duty to find a solution! I have no hesitation in recommending them if your set of two wheels needs a repair.

Now this “old lady” makes no secret of my age – and the fact that I am older than either of my dynamic crew! So it was perhaps no surprise that my gears had been suffering from a bit of wear and tear.

Proud to show off my shiny new Shimano chain set and crank and front gear mech.

I am delighted to report that I am now proudly sporting a shiny new Shimano chain set and crank and front gear mech. And to make life a bit easier – and to ensure my gears engaged every time the “old gal” shouted at the “old git” to throw a gear at it – I now have a new gear shifter on my handlebars to ease my gears into the front gears!

My Captain now has a new gear shifter to ease my gears into the front gear wheels!

And the good thing that replacing my old bits – which were more than a bit worn – was totally painless! And the result of the repairs just goes to prove that there’s still plenty of life in this “old lady”!

The old and the new! Replacing my old bits, which were a bit worn, was painless!

The “old gal” has re-named John as ‘Saint John’ due to the fact that life going uphill is now significantly more bearable – and amazingly our average speed went up by nearly 2 mph over the day. At times we were flying along so easily that the “old git” was heard to say that we could do with an extra gear!

But he was joking – right?!

So many, many thanks to John and I know my dynamic crew are now convinced they had been battling old gears for some time without realising. The outcome is that all three of us on Team Matilda are now looking forward to the Hebridean Way attempt in early June with renewed vigour!

Just need some sunshine now and everything will be perfect!

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No pedalling but new business cards and blog gongs!

I am very chuffed with the trendy new logo for Matildas Musings – which has been cleverly designed to look like a tandem!

New business cards and blog gongs are the focus for this blog as there has unfortunately been no tandeming due to yet more snow and freezing temperatures courtesy of the ‘Beast Fae The East Part Deux’. Gosh it’s been a long winter and I have to say that all three of us on Team Matilda have been getting a bit of cabin fever (or garage fever in my case!) of late with not being able to get out for a ride.

That however meant by dynamic crew could turn their attention to administrative matters on my behalf! And I am very excited and chuffed to say I now have a new business card promoting my Matildas Musings blog. The “old gal” decided the previous one was well past its sell by date you see – in particular because it showed the “old git” as somewhat younger looking than he currently looks!

The card has been drawn up by a Andrew, a graphic designer and ex-work colleague and friend of the “old git.” And what a brilliant  job he has made of the artwork – with the back of the card including a trendy new logo for Matildas Musings which has been cleverly designed to look like a tandem! Kudos to Andrew!

The front side of the glossy promotional card features three photos of Team Matilda on tour plus a short description of Matildas Musings as the UK’s only blogging tandem!

The front side of my shiny new promotional card – complete with a short description and pics of Team Matilda.

The “old git” sent the new design away to a printers and the glossy new cards arrived back at Matildas Rest. And I am chuffed to say they look fabulous and will be great for my dynamic crew to give out to people who stop and ask questions about this “old lady”! And an added benefit is that the new cards features my Matildas Musings Musings FacebookTwitter or Youtube feeds.

My new promotional business cards are now all printed up and ready to give out to interested onlookers!

If that wasn’t enough to have me blushing as red as my ageing Jack Taylor frame, then the next development had me positively agog with surprise … and pride!

I am delighted to report that my Matildas Musings blog has received not one, but two prestigious gongs – with the honour of having been named in two different lists of top cycling blogs.

The first listing is the “50 Best Pro Cycling Blogs Beginners Should Follow” by ApexBikes.com who said: “It’s really an informational and valuable blog for beginners.”

The blog gong from ApexBikes

The second gong is being listed in the “Top 100 Cycling Blogs Every Bike Fan Must Read” compiled by Feedspot. It really feels good to see my blog receiving such recognition – and it is great for raising the profile of the joys of riding a tandem. I am now proudly sporting badges for both awards on the sidebar of my blog!

and another from Feedspot.

Now all this administrative stuff and gongs are an interesting divert – but what I really need to do is find some half decent weather to get my dynamic crew of the “old git” and the “old gal” back out on the open road, so I have some real tandeming to blog about!

Out of hibernation on a rusty flutter to Forteviot

The new stone in Forteviot is inspired by the strong Pictish culture and the Dupplin Cross.

My dynamic crew decided they could wait no longer for the temperature to start rising. And much as the “old gal” likes some warmth, there was a resounding acceptance that Team Matilda had to emerge from their winter hibernation before rust and inactivity seized up all our joints!

Our last outing was just over two months ago – back before Christmas, with a short ride to Carols at Tullibardine Chapel. So, with the weather forecast giving dire warnings of the Beast from the East blasting freezing temperatures and lots of snow at the start of the week, the “old git” decided it was a case of now or never!

Ready to roll for 2018! Emerging from my garage at Matildas Rest!

My crew wakened to bright sunshine but the temperature was still stuck on zero as they fuelled up with a hearty but healthy breakfast. Next task was getting kitted up in multiple layers of winter cycling gear before I finally emerged out of my comfy garage at Matildas Rest for the first time in 2018.

After the “old gal” in her role as “chief mechanic” gave me the once over to check all my bits were lubricated and in working order, we headed off.

The “old gal” – half of my dynamic crew – wrapped up against the elements!

The “old git” had chosen a run that would be a pedal around Pictish Perthshire – heading towards the historic nearby villages of Dunning and then on to Forteviot, covering a distance of just under 16 miles with a few hills thrown in to test their fitness after a long lay off.

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

With the sun on our faces my dynamic crew tentatively pedalled off into the glorious Perthshire countryside towards Dunning. Despite initially feeling like tandem novices all three of us were quickly back into the way of it.

It probably helped that the first stretch involves a steep downhill which saw us record a speed of  just over 25 mph within the first three minutes of leaving Matildas Rest! Let’s just say that speed wasn’t beaten for the rest of the ride.

But the synchronicity factor of the “old git” and the “old gal” soon kicked in and we quickly picked up some speed, with all three of us perfectly in tune! It was great to be back out and feel the fresh air between my spokes on the quiet country roads of Perthshire – which are great for tandeming and cycling, as shown by the number of bikes we saw while out on our ride.

“This is the kind of tandeming I like” exclaimed the “old gal” as my crew pedalled along feeling very pleased with themselves. In what seemed like no time at all we tandemed into Forteviot – an ancient Pictish capital of Scotland, where King Kenneth MacAlpin died in the 9th Century.

We had travelled the near 8 miles in 50 minutes – which wasn’t too bad considering it was our first ride of the year – and the village was looking its usual pretty self in the sunshine. The village “square” (or green to be exact!) has some very quaint houses which were rebuilt for workers of the Dupplin Estate in 1927 and are create a lovely focal point for the village.

Time for a welcome cup of hot coffee for my dynamic crew at the new Forteviot stone.

As my crew enjoyed a cup of hot coffee – which the “old gal” had thoughtfully added to a flask before departure – they discovered a fabulous new centrepiece to the village since Team Matildas last visit.

A new carved stone now stands proudly – 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. It is now housed in the nearby St Serf’s Church in Dunning and looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

There is no plaque in place as yet to tell you about it, but a chat with some locals saw my dynamic crew discover it is called Set in Stone – the Birth of Alba and is a new Pictish stone celebrating Forteviot’s important role in the birth of medieval Scotland.

The new stone carving – which is sensitively floodlit at night – 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 kingdom that became Scotland. The new contemporary Pictish sculpture is being formally unveiled on Saturday 17 March at 12 noon.

The “old git” in his not remotely colour coordinated winter kit! But he wasn’t cold!

While enjoying the warmth of the coffee the “old gal” noticed that the old green wooden bus shelter was being rebuilt – and went over to speak to the workman who was cutting and sawing wood. This turned out to be local forester Jim Thomson who runs his own Woodland Craft business.

Forester Jim Thomson is building a new bus shelter as part of the Tay Landscape Partnership project.

Jim has been contracted to build a new eco-friendly bus shelter in Forteviot as part of the Tay Landscape Partnership funding for the area. It was certainly one of the best built bus shelters my crew had seen!

The new environmentally friendly wooden bus shelter taking shape in Forteviot.

It was great to see such activity in the village – which will hopefully provide a flow of visitors keen to find out more about the Pictish history of the area.

Bidding farewell to Jim, and before we got too cold, we headed back on our return journey – passing another historical site worth visiting in the village – Forteviot Church of St Andrew where archaeological studies indicate that Christians were first buried in the graveyard in the 6th century.

My dynamic crew pedalled furiously to create some heat – and were in buoyant mood as they discovered that there was (for once!) no headwind to battle. Despite a few hills climbing out of Forteviot we were soon tandeming into Dunning – a village which is also rich in history having been burned to the ground during the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion.

Here I am parked up outside the Kirkstyle Inn in Dunning – need a loo stop they said!

It is also boasts a great friendly country pub called The Kirkstyle Inn which my dynamic crew have been known to visit from time to time! It provided the ideal place for a loo stop – which the “old gal” then decided would be a good spot for a small libation to fuel up for the final miles home! After all it would have been rude not to!

The “old gal” decided a small libation would help the ride home!

So after a lovely Scottish artisan gin, it was time for the last four miles home. Gosh it had suddenly turned a good bit colder – wonder if that was anything to do with the cosy pub and the gin!? Surely not! We pedalled off quickly and didn’t stop at the the last piece of local history on today’s trip – the monument to Maggie Wall. This is an eerie stone cross with a hand painted date of 1657 and it is said to be a memorial to the last witch to be burned at the stake.

The return trip to Matildas Rest took just 10 minutes longer than the outward journey – which given the hills and my crew’s rustiness is a commendable effort. While having another warming cup of coffee the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 2 gongs … amazingly we recorded a personal best and a 3rd best.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 15.7 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 51 minutes. As always it is the smiles not the miles that count, but our average speed was 8.5 mph and the elevation was 633 feet. The maximum speed was 25.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 801 calories and produce an average power output of 108 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So the first outing of 2018 now ticked off! Both the “old gal” and the “old git” are hoping some warmer weather is on its way soon for sunny tandem rides!

Brr! the “old gal” shivering on return … hoping for sunnier tandem days ahead!

Matildas carol singing reprise – in dulci jubilo 2

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. My dynamic crew make a point of going – and it is all quite atmospheric as there is no power in the remote chapel and it is all done by candle light and torches.

In a reprise of last year the “old git” decided it would be a bit of a festive frolic if my crew arrived at the carols by tandem – complete with Santa hats, Christmas jumpers, and my twinkling festive lights! And I even had the extra addition this year of sporting a pair of Rudolph reindeer antlers and a very fetching flashing red nose!

Spot my eye-catching Rudolph reindeer antlers and flashing red nose!

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 second 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! My dynamic crew 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 out walking and 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 back out in the fresh air.

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 was 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!

Not surprisingly this ensured Team Christmas Matilda got noticed!  The “old git” and the “old gal” definitely lived up to their status as founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club with their arrival – which as luck would have it was recorded on video which you can view here:

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 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 who 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.

So after the practise – and attracting lots of attention from people arriving and 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 singng carols by torchlight!

The “old gal” and the old git” enjoying the carols at Tullibardine Chapel.

My duo had got a bit chilled sitting inside the chapel as the temperature dropped, so after the service we quickly pedalled off in a bid to warm up! My crew tandemed at a rate that Strava later confirmed was their 3rd fastest time on the tough Easthill hill climb section back towards Auchterarder!

The Carols by #tandem trip was a great way of getting Team Matilda into the festive spirit!

A rapid pedal then took us downhill and  we were back at Matilda’s Rest with my dynamic crew immediately having  a warming espresso to heat them up – accompanied by some very tasty sloe gin mince tarts.

Warm coffee and yummy sloe gin mice tarts helped my dynamic crew thaw out!

While thawing the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 2 gongs … a 2nd bests and a 3rd best.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of just 6.2 miles with a moving time of 51.2 minutes – but as always it is the Smiles not the miles that count. Average speed was 7.3 mph and the elevation was 340 feet. The maximum speed was 21.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 444 calories and produce an average power output of 129 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

All three of us on Team Christmas Matilda had fun – and felt it was a great way to get into the festive spirit! Talking of which I have just heard  a shout of “Where’s my Christmas gin spirit” from the “old gal” from her bath!

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

Back at Matildas Rest and a chance to show off my Christmas lights!

Chilly canter to Carnoustie and Christmas lights celebrations with Craig and Gillian

Solo cyclists Gillian and Craig joined my dynamic duo for the ride across the Tay to Carnoustie.

The “old git” and the “old gal” had invited good solo cycling friends Gillian and Craig to Matildas Rest for a weekend of fun! The plan was to head into Perth on the Saturday for Scotland’s biggest Christmas lights switch-on party before heading for a meal, back home for some zzzzs, then a planned gentle ride to blow away the cobwebs on the Sunday.

And it all worked a treat! I was left behind to entertain the two shiny sleek sporty lightweight racing bikes belonging to our visitors, while the cycling crews headed by bus into Perth city centre.

The cyclists all enjoying themselves watching acts like Alesha Dixon at the Perth Christmas Lights concert.

And the city certainly lived up to its billing as “Scotland’s Christmas capital” as it hosted a massive party, with an estimated 100,000 revellers flocking into the festivities.

Before the big light switch on and fireworks there was the small matter of visiting a gin and chocolate festival on the High Street. Now as you may now my dynamic crew have a bit of a thing for Scottish artisan gins – and Gillian and Craig have a bit of history in this area too – so it was a perfect match! The crew’s eagerly sampled and compared quite a few of the brands on display! It seems that one of the best was a brand new gin from Twin River Distillery based in Banchory, near where the “old gal” was brought up. The Twin Rivers refers to the Dee and the Don and the distillery is one of only three in Scotland to make its own grain neutral spirit, the base for craft spirits, to ensure a completely authentic gin offering. Result – bottle purchased for the gin cupboard at Matildas Rest!

Boyslife blasted out the hits from Boyzone and Westlife.

East 17 sang their 1994 Christmas hit Stay Another Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apart from the gin and chocolate stalls, the city was packed with fairground rides, ice sculptures,  food stalls and street performers. After squeezing our way past all that entertainment the cycling crews made their way to the main stage on Tay Street where an outdoor concert was a major feature to the switch-on celebrations with Mud, Boyzlife  and East 17 providing the musical entertainment.

Alesha Dixon was the headline act – and did not disappoint.

Topping the bill was singer Alesha Dixon, best known for Strictly Come Dancing and her role as judge on Britain’s Got Talent. She vowed the crowds with an entertaining set. Congratulations should go to Perth and Kinross Council and Perth City Centre for putting on such a fantastic and well organised day.

As the temperature dropped my dynamic crew and their friends retired to enjoy a Spanish tapas themed meal at Sante – where I am told the paella was fabulous! After a late night bus trip back to Matildas Rest – everyone was soon asleep dreaming of our pedal the next day!

Beautiful sunny skies met the “old gal” and the “old git” as they got ready to roll!

The bike crews may have been hoping for a long lie but the “old git” had everyone up sharpish – while the “old gal” offered a hearty breakfast for fuel. Fortunately the weather forecast had come up trump with the promised dry sunny day, so it was off in Matilda Transport to the Tay Bridge car park. The route was going to be one of my favourites – a near 13 mile ride across the bridge and onto Sustrans Scotland NCR1 to Carnoustie.

Craig and Gillian took a selfie which was photobombed by my dynamic crew!

As the crews unpacked in the car park opposite Dundee the view across the Tay was clear blue skies which offered the perfect backdrop for the inevitable series of selfie photos – including one where Craig and Gillian were effectively photobombed by my dynamic crew! And then we were ready to roll!

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

The first part of the trip was crossing the Tay Bridge – which carries the A92 across the Firth of Tay, and is one of the longest road bridges in Europe. Opened in 1966, it celebrated its 50th anniversary last year – making it nearly as old as me, but not quite! Intriguingly the cycle path on the bridge sits in in the middle of the two carriageways for cars, unlike most bridges where the path runs at the side of the bridge. This was a bit odd to begin, creating a feeling of being boxed in and it was slightly disconcerting having the cars driving past at such speed and in close proximity – albeit behind crash barriers.

But it did actually feel very safe and we soon got into our stride and as you will see from this Strava segment called “Hop the Tay” my crew worked up a good speed, averaging 15.3 mph over the 1.3 mile stretch with a time of 5 mins 16 secs – smashing their own previous record of 6 mins 30 secs.

Amazingly the segment also shows up any friends who have done the same route and the “old git” was surprised to see good tandem friends John and Jane – of Travelling in Tandem blog fame – pop up. They recorded a (slower!) time of 6 mins and 02 seconds when they crossed the Tay Bridge in the same direction back in September 2015 during one of their long distance rides from John O Groats.

The new V & A is designed to look like a ship on the Dundee waterfront. Credit V&A

As we got to the end of the bridge my dynamic crew got a great view of the huge new V&A Museum of Design Dundee which is taking shape as it emerges from the construction site – with the building designed to look like ships. When it opens in 2018 it will be an international centre of design for Scotland – the first ever design museum to be built in the UK outside London.

Off the bridge and we followed the well signposted NCR1 through the Dundee port area. It really is a great cycle path, and very flat, which made the “old gal” smile! And because it is a dedicated path – away from roads – it is very popular with cyclists and dog walkers, which makes for lots of sociable greetings along the way! As we tandemed round the bay the charming old fishing town of Broughty Ferry came in to view and with little effort we cycled past the castle and continued along a stretch which hugged the Blue Flag beach.

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

The spot selected for the picnic was right at the beach and had a wonderful view across the bay.

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

Along with Gillian and Craig – who had enjoyed their first time on the route – we selected a brilliant location for our picnic right at the seafront with a fabulous view across the bay. There were some steps at a slipway which providing an interesting photo opportunity for my dynamic crew, with big waves crashing in behind them!

There were some steps at a slipway which provided an interesting backdrop of big waves!

Gillian took a picture of Craig taking a photo of my dynamic crew trying not to get wet!

Naturally Craig and Gillian had to have a shot at beating the waves on the steps – although they looked a bit less comfortable on the “old git’s” shout of “It’s behind you!” as one massive wave crashed in and crept up the steps! I guess it must be his sense of humour!

It’s behind you! Gillian and Craig looking a little unsure as the waves rush in!

After playing dodge the waves my crew were ready for their picnic which today offered a menu of smoked salmon croissants with chilly cream cheese and some fresh seasonal fruit. Another wonderful picnic with another wonderful vista.

Gillian and Craig checking their performance on their phones after the picnic!

The “old gal” fortified by her picnic ready for the return trip back to the Tay Bridge.

Fortified by their picnic lunch it was time to head back on the return trip 13 mile trip back to the Tay Bridge so we would all be back before it started to get dark. As the sun began to drop in the sky so did the temperature – and a check later revealed that the promised 6C was hit … but it masked a “feels like” temperature of minus 1! So it was starting to get a bit chilly around my spokes – and Craig’s legs as he bravely (or perhaps foolhardily!) opted to wear shorts!

Here I am showing off my classic lines basking against the sea vista at Carnoustie.

Half way back the “old gal” – who was starting to get a bit chilly called a coffee break and we had a warming reviving coffee in the welcoming Glass Pavillion in Broughty Ferry. At this point Gillian and Craig bid my dynamic crew farewell as they could cycle faster on their solo bikes.

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

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

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

What should have been a quick cycle back across the bridge turned into a bit of a grind – with Strava showing that the return trip – dubbed The Killer Tay Bridge – took nearly four minutes longer than earlier in the day with a time of 8 minutes 58 seconds with the average speed dropping to 9.1 mph.

A great sunny – if chilly – day for a tandem ride, especially when the sun started to go down.

I was packed back into Matilda Transport and back home in the warmth of Matildas Rest my dynamic crew checked out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 26 gongs … 18 personal bests … five 2nd bests … and three 3rd bests.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 25.5 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 34 minutes. Average speed was 9.9 mph and the elevation was a fairly flat 505  feet. The maximum speed was 18.3 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1110 calories and produce an average power output of 108 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So a great sunny – if chilly – day for a tandem ride – made all the better by cycling with good friends. A grand day out really for Matildas Musings!

Sneaky Monday ride from Tay Bridge to the home of golf St Andrews on NCR1

The “old gal” at the stunning West Sands beach at St Andrews.

So the “old git” and the “old gal” have been suffering from the “tandem blues” – missing their days of togetherness in the saddle pedalling across the scenic dykes of north Holland and thru the spectacular vineyards of Alsace and Champagne. To counter that my dynamic crew decided that an outing was required back at home – just to get the feeling of the air between my spokes again!

Not sure that the weather was going to be quite as good – but no matter the “old git” took a sneaky Monday off work and all three of us were packed into Matilda Transport and heading for the Tay Bridge. A new route to St Andrews had been identified – with the promise of some beautiful cycle paths thru the middle of a forest and along parts of the Fife Coastal Path.

Heavy rain was falling as we drove towards the Tay Bridge and it would need to be said that the “old gal” wasn’t hopeful of us getting out for a ride as my dynamic crew had seemingly left their ponchos at home. But as always the “old git” had done his weather forecast check and it promised the rain would dry up with bright clear skies from about 11am. And amazingly as soon as we drove into the bridge car park across from Dundee, the deluge stopped and the sun emerged from behind the clouds! Result!

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

The route is part of of Sustrans Scotland NCR1 and the bit Team Matilda did was a 17 mile section which saw the three of us initially tandem from the the Tay Bridge thru Tayport, passing its attractive harbour. After a fairly potholed section of about half a mile near Kinshaldy Beach the route continue don fantastic traffic free tracks thru the Tentsmuir Forest nature reserve.

As the Forestry Commission Scotland website says: ‘Tentsmuir is a magical combination of forest trails that dip and weave between tall trees and open sand dunes that change constantly with the wind and tides. The coast here is one of Scotland’s most dynamic landscapes: parts of the shoreline are growing out into the sea at a rate of five metres a year.’

And it lived up to its billing as a magical ride emerging out onto a cycle path past the former Leuchars Air Force base – now used by the Army. After heading thru Guardbridge my dynamic crew enjoyed an excellent cycle path separated from the busy A91  by a wall and hedge which hugs the edge of the famous St Andrews golf courses – past the landmark Old Course hotel – right to the sea front … where the sun appeared again, as if on cue! The only thing that was missing was a vineyard for a wine tasting along the way! Oh how my crew are missing France! 

Selfie time! My dynamic crew arrived in St Andrews as the sun came out right on cue!

As you know It’s all about the Smiles not the miles for Team MatildasMusings! So when we arrived in St Andrews my dynamic crew found themselves with the backdrop of the magnificent West Sands Beach where the iconic slow-motion running sequence for the brilliant Chariots of Fire movie was filmed. Naturally my dynamic crew decided they had to film a short remake! You can view the 7 second remake here!:

After my dynamic crew had attracted attention from foreign tourists wondering why on earth the “old git” was doing slow-motion running at the edge of the beach, it was time to get the required photo at the historic Old Course at St Andrews – the recognised home of golf.

Me and the “old git” and “old gal” at the historic Old Course – the home of golf.

St Andrews, being a mecca for golfers from across the world, plays host to the British Golf Museum – which houses the largest collection of golf memorabilia in Europe.

St Andrews – as the home of golf – is home to the British Golf Museum.

After the exertions of making a remake of Chariots of Fire and visiting the golf landmarks, my crew were feeling a bit peckish and headed up into the town where the “old git’s” research yet again paid off as they enjoyed a memorable lunch at a wonderful fish restaurant called Tailend, which has just won the Best Restaurant in Scotland award!

It seems the multi-faceted business has their own fishing boats and then has premises in both St Andrews and Dundee which have a wet fish shop, a fish and chip takeaway, and a luxurious sit in restaurant. From sea to table in one operation – and the freshness of the fish was obvious in my dynamic crew’s sampling of the menu. They enjoyed some battered tiger prawns with chilli; seared scallops with haggis; and a traditional fish and chips – before an indulgence of chocolate brownie and salted caramel ice cream Yum! And the gorgeous food was washed down with a Tail Royale cocktail – made from locally produced Eden Mill gin topped with prosecco!

My dynamic crew just had to sample a Tailend gin and prosecco cocktail!

Refuelled by lunch it was time to start the return journey and with a rain shower forecast my dynamic crew picked up pace and headed out along the coast towards Guardbridge. As we pedalled past Leuchars the rain started, but fortunately didn’t get too heavy – and soon we had the protection of the trees of  Tentsmuir Forest to protect us.

As the rain stopped, we came across the welcome oasis of The Crepe Shack where we had a memorable stop with Pablo who made as an amazing apple, cinnamon, caramel and Lotus biscuit crepe! A fabulous crepe in a fabulous location – right bang in the middle of the forest! Brilliant!

My dynamic crew loved the amazing Crepe Shack in the middle of Tenstmuir Forest.

Energy levels replenished by a crepe, the “old git and “old gal” pedalled on along the path thru the forest – stopping briefly at an old ice house which dates back to the 19th Century and was used to keep locally caught salmon fresh. It is now an important artificial bat roost.

The ice house where fishermen used to store their catch after dragging it up from the sea.

Emerging from the forest we tandemed back along the coast thru Tayport and back to the car park at the Tay Bridge – with me being loaded into Matilda Transport in record time to beat a heavy shower which started as soon as we began the drive home.

On return to Matildas Rest my dynamic crew had time to check out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 34 personal bests! I will repeat that … 34 personal bests! However this seems to be a change in the Strava app which now gives you a personal best for the first time you do a new route – as a kind of benchmark! But a personal best is a personal best!

Strava showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 34.1 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 38 minutes. Average speed was 9.4 mph and the elevation was a 1028  feet. The maximum speed was 19.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1733 calories and produce an average power output of 119 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

All in all some much needed smiles on a great new route on NCR1 for me and my dynamic crew! We’ll certainly be back!

Hurricane Gert ride around Loch Leven and burger at Larder

The “old gal” and the “old git” at the viewpoint at Loch Leven … with a special guest!

*WARNING* this blog contains images of a red poncho which some readers may find alarming!

So with the weekend approaching the “old git” – ever the romantic – asked the “old gal” if she fancied going out for something to eat on Saturday evening. He explained that he had heard that there was a summer weekends pop up burger bar at Loch Leven’s Larder – a recommended foodie farm shop-cafe just a few hundred yards from the banks of Loch Leven.

But there’s no flies on the “old gal” – that should be there are no midges on her! – and she got it right away … she was going to have to earn her burger with a 13 mile tandem ride round the loch first!

But gamely she immediately agreed! And that’s why at about 5pm we were cycling away from the car park – right into the full force of the entrails of Hurricane Gert! Let’s just say there was a bit of head wind to start until we got into our stride – or before synchronicity kicked in!

Fortunately the route is relatively flat. Built at a cost of £3 million – it is known as the Loch Leven Heritage Trail – linking 30 natural and cultural heritage sites. You can check out the route of our tour of Loch Katrine on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

We set off on a clockwise loop and it wasn’t long before my crew encountered the dreaded midges. On a stretch along some stagnant water there were thick swarms of midges everywhere. The “old git” was literally coated in the nasty little blighters as he took the full blast as my Captain! He was muttering something about it was due to the fact that we were going so fast that there were so many on his body! We didn’t believe him of course, but the “old gal” helpfully took a picture of his forehead to show how many midges were about! (after removing his crash helmet, of course!)

Midges everywhere! Fortunately the Smidge worked wonders and meant they didn’t bite!

Fortunately my crew had taken the precaution of spraying themselves from head to foot with Smidge – a highly effective repellent that they knew from previous experiences works a treat in throwing the midges off your scent and stops them biting.

My crew were picking up speed – perhaps to try and leave the midges behind – and we soon we tandemed past the interesting RSPB Loch Leven Nature Reserve at Vane Farm before pedalling up the only real inclines to the viewpoint area battling more strong Hurricane Gert headwinds!

My dynamic crew against a backdrop of blue skies at the viewpoint overlooking scenic Loch Leven.

At the viewpoint the “old git” whipped out his portable extendable tripod and bluetooth camera clicker which allows him to take pictures of both of my dynamic crew together and took  a few arty shots to show the blue sky overlooking the fantastic vista of the loch.

Now today’s trip brought back memories of exactly a year ago when Team Matilda hosted John and Jane of  Team Bluebird to our area for a memorable week long Tour de Perthshire – which included a somewhat wet loop of Loch Leven. As the heavens opened Jane donned some “high fashion” waterproof protection – forever to be known now as “the fetching red poncho!”

Flashback to a year ago – Jane with the fetching red poncho!

So as a friendly wheeze the “old git” decided that Jane would be introduced into our ride as a special guest – courtesy of a large photo of her wearing said fetching red poncho! It was actually a bit windy and the flimsy paper print kept flapping about in the (hurricane force) winds! But my dynamic crew persevered to get the shot … just to show the three of us were thinking of Jane! Oh how we laughed!

The “old gal” saying ‘wish you were here’ to Jane in honour of the red poncho!

The “old gal” had to dissuade the “old git” from attaching the photo of Jane in a plastic wallet to the big round rock at the viewpoint and adding her email in case anyone wanted to buy a similar fashion statement! And after many smiles at the gentle ribbing, and at great memories of tandeming with wonderful friends John and Jane, we pedalled on.

The strong wind was behind us for a bit which offered some relief – but then, as always happens, it turned in direction and blasted us as a viscous side wind. Any as you know, I am a long vehicle so when the wind catches me it can be mildly scary for keeping our balance!

We negotiated a trip off the path through the car park at Kinross Pier, and a wooden boardwalk section, before rejoining the path just in time for a great view of Loch Leven castle  in the middle of the loch – which was the setting for the most traumatic year in the life of Mary Queen of Scots. It was here in 1567 that she was imprisoned and forced to abdicate before her dramatic escape a year later.

The last section took my dynamic crew back into the forest for a final coating of midges before we sped back to Matilda Transport and the end of our loop.  Feeling healthy after the ride – and wiping off  what seemed like hundreds of dead midges – my crew then retired to the sanctuary of Loch Leven’s Larder  and the pop up burger bar to enjoy some decadent pleasures.

Time for a well earned burger and a wee glass of prosecco – in tandem naturally!

While looking over the burger menu there was time to check out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 9 gongs – 6 personal bests and 3 seconds. Me and my crew had tandemed a distance of 13 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 17 minutes. The elevation was a minimal 252  feet which allowed a healthy average speed of 10.1 mph. The recorded top speed was 38.9 mph but that had to be a Strava glitch  – which makes a change from an ‘operator error!’ – as the old fashioned handlebar speedo recorded a much more realistic top speed of 17.8 mph.  Team Matilda managed to burn up 629 calories and produce an average power output of 121 W.

Cheers! Time for a wee cheeky alfresco prosecco on the decking awaiting the burgers!

Certainly something worth to toast there with the obligatory prosecco – as if my crew needed any excuse! The “old gal” ordered a sharing platter which consisted of a yummy selection of perfectly barbecued burgers – beef, salmon, chicken and portobello mushroom with a giant frankfurter thrown in for good measure.  It was all served with bowls of healthy fresh crunchy salads and tasty dressings and it really hit the spot.

Restaurant with a view! My crew’s table overlooked the nature reserve at Loch Leven.

My crew were really lucky with the weather as the hurricane winds had all but disappeared and the sun was out! It really made it an idyllic spot – with the restaurant decking overlooking the nature reserve at Loch Leven. The “old git” lost count of the number of flights of geese he saw taking off – flying in perfect v formation over the water!

We were lucky with the weather – but clearly it isn’t always sunny!

As I say, my crew were lucky – but clearly the weather isn’t always wonderful however … if the cheeky sign above the exit to the outdoor area is anything to go by … with the wording: Sorry but sometimes the weather here is pants” … written on large pairs of bloomers!

After the burgers there was just enough room it seems for the “old gal” and the “old git” to squeeze in a slice of caramel shortcake with a strong coffee before heading home exercised, fed and watered! Another great #tandem ride to show the amazing scenery of the Perth & Kinross Countryside TrustPerth & Kinross Council and Perth City Centre area! #perthistheplace for cycling!

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

So back at Matildas Rest and I was unpacked into my garage, with my dynamic crew reflecting on yet another memorable ride full of laughs – emphasising that its the Smiles not the miles that count. What better way is there to spend a Saturday evening?!