6.30 bright and early on Sunday morning and my dynamic crew awakened from their slumbers for a busy schedule heading “overseas” for some “warm weather” training to the island of Millport. And the good news was that – as forecast – the sun was already streaming in the window from behind the blind filling my crew with enthusiasm for the day ahead!
As regular visitors to the island and big fans of its charm the “old git” and the “old gal” decided to go to their beloved “Costa del Millport” for one of their training rides before tackling the Hebridean Way in early June. Read on for more about that challenge – but the plan was to do some serious training laps round the island – officially known as The Isle of Cumbrae – as it is a cyclists paradise offering a gently undulating 10 mile loop on almost traffic free roads never more than a few yards from the coast.
After a quick 77 mile drive in Matilda Transport to the west coast, I was unpacked in Largs and we tandemed to catch the CalMac ferry. The island is less than a 10 minute trip across the firth of Clyde, but those few minutes make a huge difference as it feels like you are heading to a different world as you leave the mainland – and your worries – behind.
With the sun out the ferry was busy and it was good to see quite a few other bikes on the crossing – even if there were no other tandems. It was even warm enough for the “old git” and “old gal” to spend time out on the deck for a selfie as they looked ahead expectantly to what was clearly going to be a glorious day by the seaside! As we disembarked the roll on-roll off ferry we headed clockwise for a gentle 4 mile warm-up tandem into the town of Millport.
Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.
On reaching Millport town, the “old gal” decided a coffee stop was a must and my dynamic crew called in to the wonderfully named Crocodeli delicatessen – which combines the deli part with the famous Crocodile Rock landmark. The coffee was just as the “old gal” likes it – nice and strong and my crew couldn’t resist a small pistachio Italian pastry to accompany it!
Time for the first lap and we headed off clockwise quickly pedalling out from the town and enjoying magnificent views across to neighbouring islands of Arran and then Bute. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, with numerous deserted beaches and abundant wildlife. In high spirits we identified our usual “private picnic table” and “made a booking” for an hour’s time when on our second lap! In what seemed like no time at all we had completed the first circuit by pedalling back into the town in around 45 minutes. Not bad for a warm-up!
Back in Millport town my dynamic crew decided to get some new photos to show the fight to Save Millport Pier. Regular readers of my blog will remember that on our last visit back in September Team Matilda joined the campaign to save the facility. The campaign is drawing attention to the community’s fears over the deterioration of the wooden pier which dates from 1833, amid fears over its long term future – with concern it will be demolished if funds are not invested in protecting it.
Neglected since 2014 the pier is now out of bounds for safety reasons. And that means there is currently nowhere in Millport to safely tie up a boat – with the ferry slipway only usable by by roll on/ roll off ferries. As an island community, campaigners are battling to show the economy and resilience of the island is being compromised – and persuade North Ayrshire Council to repair the pier.
After checking out the pier, it was time for our second circuit and this time my crew decided to go anti clockwise – with the beach at Kames Bay looking stunning in the sunshine as the island more than lived up to its “Costa del Millport” nickname.
We pedalled on up past the ferry slipway and round the top of the island soon arriving at our idyllic quiet picnic table with stunning views over the white sand and across to Rothesay. The balmy weather provided a perfect environment for one of my dynamic crew’s cheeky prosecco picnics!
Now, as you know, prosecco picnics at remote spots are one of the great pleasures of tandeming and my dynamic crew are true exponents of the art! It was so perfect the “old git” decided to film one of his videos – with the “old gal” giving a masterclass on the art of a picnic with fizz! Hope it makes you laugh!
The food which emerged from the ‘bicycle rider’s luncheon box’ was delicious smoked salmon and spinach wraps followed by fruit salad. Oh, did I mention the prosecco to wash it all down?! Oh I did, sorry! But quite simply picnics don’t come much better than this!
Setting off again we passed the public loos at Fintry Bay where we saw a star of the island my crew had been keen to meet – the self styled Cumbrae Cludgie Cleaner! Fun-loving Suki McGregor signed up for the role following a community take-over of the public loos and is instantly recogniseable thanks to her trademark bright pink overalls and colourful dreadlocks. She even has her own Cumbrae Cludgie Cleaner Facebook page and has been posting video blogs which have gone viral!
Suki does a great job for the community – especially with Cumbrae attracting so many visitors who walk or cycle round the island. The loos are unrecognisable as public toilets – spotlessly clean with nice touches like flowers and chairs. She has a great sense of humour and told my dynamic crew that she used to run a theatre project – so it was a switch “from luvvies to lavvies”!
After the fun chat with Suki my crew got back on my saddles to complete the anti clockwise lap with the promise of a coffee and cake stop at the Dancing Midge Cafe. There my crew enjoyed some freshly brewed coffee and yummy carrot cake – de rigueur for tandemers.
There was method in their madness as the carrot cake was fuel for the planned ‘finish with a flourish’ – where Team Matilda’s last complete lap would be an attempt on our own Tour de Millport record time for going round the island of 41.2 minutes. After much discussion about which way to go – using arguments and counter arguments and the scientific experiment of sticking a finger in the air to try and establish which way the wind was blowing! – the “old gal” decided on clockwise! And to emphasise the serious nature of this new personal best attempt – she even removed her cycling jacket!
We set off from the Royal George Hotel at the harbour and it would need to be said that I was uber-impressed as we fair whizzed along with the “old git” keeping me in high gears most of the time. I was really enjoying myself as this “old lady” doesn’t normally get to experience such speeds!
And I am very proud to report that my dynamic crew excelled themselves with a non-stop circuit of the island in what Strava declared was a new personal best time of just 38.0 minutes which means we were tandeming at an average speed of 15.8 miles an hour! Just proves what a big difference my new gears make – and what’s more the “old git” and the “old gal” really enjoyed it.
Amazingly Strava also gave my dynamic crew a 5th best gong – meaning that their time is now down in history as the fifth fastest time ever recorded on the route called “Millport TT clockwise – out and back from Royal George hotel.” Well to be totally honest, it was the 5th fastest time ever recorded by a female as I am officially registered as a female by Strava – but a gong is a gong!
After the exertions of the record breaking lap my crew needed a bit of a rest and had a nice breather sitting on the rocks until the sun disappeared behind the clouds. So they called in to say hi to Sean who owns bike hire shop On Your Bike Millport in the town, and who is a regular reader of my blog.
Sean was very complimentary about my appearance describing me as “a very well kept classic tandem who looks in fine fettle!” He had a good look over my new gear bits – saying it looked “the business” and he also was full of praise for the “old gal” in her role as chief engineer for keeping me in shape!
I even got to shelter in his shop in case it rained. Sean told us he started his business 10 years ago and tandems are now an important part of his hire trade on the island – with no less than 8 in his stable, although he admitted that none of them had a name like me! Apart from the tandems he runs a fleet of over 200 bikes – and is hoping for warm sunny days to boost demand from day trippers.
The sun soon re-appeared and it was time for my Captain to implement the dinner plan – alfresco fish and chips. And very yummy it was too – sitting out on the promenade at Millport – and washed down with a glass of fizz left over from the picnic! I mean no one can ever say the “old git” doesn’t know how to treat the “old gal” and show her a good time!
Unfortunately after dodging the showers all day some ominous clouds gathered as we prepared to pedal the final 4 miles back to the ferry slipway. And as we tandemed out of town those clouds started to deposit a heavy shower. The wind whipped up from nowhere with the full force of a squall blasting into the faces of my dynamic crew, making for rather unpleasant conditions. Naturally, as we arrived at the ferry, the rain stopped – just as quickly as it started – leaving my crew a bit weather beaten!
On the short ferry crossing back to the mainland the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 26 gongs – 12 personal bests; 8 second bests; and 6 3rd bests. Looking at the data it shows Team Matilda clearly breaking our own records on each successive lap!
So the Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 39.3 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 53 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 13.7 mph – which was up 1.4 mph from our previous identical ride last September thanks to my new gears – while the elevation was 1030 feet. The maximum speed was 21.3 mph – due to no steep downhill stretches – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1876 calories and produce an average power output of 162 W.
As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.
It was all good training then for the Hebridean Way in early 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. The “old git” got a designer pal to come up with a suitably “nutty” logo for the tour! There’s now just the small matter of covering 185 miles over 5 days tandeming!
Back in Largs a quick pedal of a few hundred yards saw us back at Matilda Transport and in just over an hour we were all back at Matildas Rest after another fabulous day out full of fun, laughs, sunshine (with one heavy shower!) and great tandeming! Which left my dynamic crew wondering if there was a better way to spend a Sunday? As one of the island’s sign’s says: “Millport – in a world of its own!”