A gander for gourmet gin tasting tae Dunning!

Bit of cycling … bit of gin … perfect combination. What could possibly go wrong?!

Standby for  a quick romp of a blog! This post is a report of a recent “midweek special” tandem trip to a gourmet gin tasting event at a nearby country pub! Now, for my dynamic crew that seemed the perfect combination – a bit of cycling and a bit of gin! Goes together a bit like gin and tonic … according to the “old git!” I mean, what could possibly go wrong?!

You probably know by now that the “old gal” and the “old git” like their gin! But not just any gin. In fact they would turn their noses up at a Gordon’s Gin and tonic with a slice of lemon! No, we are talking Scottish artisan gin here – and not only do they have a wee bit of a penchant for gin – they like to consider themselves something of gin connoisseurs!

So when the “old git” discovered that the nearby The Kirkstyle Inn was holding a gourmet gin tasting evening it seemed a natural fit! And when the “old gal” found out that the Kirkstyle’s new owner and mine host Jamie Dexter Harrison had priced the tickets at a bargain price of £10 for three gin tastings and finger food – to attract new customers – her reaction was an emphatic “sold!”

And that’s where I come in to the story – because there was the small problem of how to get there and back again given the rural location and that driving clearly was a non starter! The “old git” had a brainwave that they could arrive (and depart) by tandem! It would need to be said that the “old gal” was a bit sceptical to begin with … but soon warmed to the idea!

And so on a Wednesday night my crew had a quick turnaround from work to get kitted up in their tandeming gear – and we were off  on our Dash to Dunning along the scenic back roads from Matildas Rest in Auchterarder. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

It’s a fraction less than five miles door to door and the promise of gin drove my crew on so they wouldn’t be late for the start time of 6.30 – with the journey taking just 23 minutes! Having arrived with a few minutes to spare, there was time for a few photos outside the picturesque Inn.

Old fashioned blackboards promoting the gin night at The Kirkstyle Inn.

It would need to be said that the “old gal” and the “old git” did get a few questioning looks from other locals arriving! Let’s just say they were the only people to arrive by tandem – and the only people wearing hi-vis yellow tandeming t-shirts! Certainly one way to make an entrance!

The calm before the gins! The “old git” and “old gal” arrive in style!

So I was safely locked up outside with the promise that my crew would be back before it got dark for the ride home! And they tell me they had a great couple of hours finding out about and sampling the gins and enjoying some tasty nibbles.

The line up of three gins to sample – with lots of tonic, ice and garnishes!

First up was the Classic Edinburgh Gin – which is distilled in Scotland’s capital city with heather, milk thistle and pine and served with regular tonic and a garnish of orange peel. The citrus effect was a good way to kick off the evening!

When sampling one of the gins my crew found a suitable sign at the bar!

The second gin was Rock Rose from a small distillery at Dunnet Bay near Caithness in the far north of Scotland. The key botanical they use is rhodiola rosea, more commonly known as rose root, which is a small rose type plant which grows on the cliffs at Caithness – and gives the gin its name. To help bring out the floral botanicals, this was served with Mediterranean tonic – and am told this was a big hit!

“Keep pouring while you smile at the camera” says the “old gal”!

My crew enjoyed some tasty finger food  from the Kirkstyle kitchen before tasting the last gin – Love Gin from Eden Mill in St Andrews. This pink gin has floral and warm berry notes – and is actually one of my dynamic crew’s favourites! This time it was served with ginger ale and a slice of lime. Yum!

The two hours flew past and after sampling the third and final gin – and making some new friends in the Inn – it was time for the “old git” and the “old gal” to leave so they could get most of the return journey as the sun set – before it got pitch dark. To be on the safe side I was lit up like a Christmas tree with three rear flashing red lights and two front lights – one of which was flashing! We certainly were not going to be missed by any motorists on the country road home.

Ready for tandem ride home – with lots of lights to be safe!

Now  my dynamic crew had kind of expected the return tandem ride to be somewhat different – perhaps a tad wobbly even! But given that the “old git” and the “old gal” were pretty sober, in reality it was just like any other tandem ride. The journey was completed in a fraction under 30 mins – and we arrived home just as it got completely dark. Job done!

Back at Matildas Rest – with the  “old gal” and the “old git” buzzing with the endorphin boost created from the exercise … and the gin! – there was even more elation when they checked Strava to find they had received three gongs for their efforts! Obviously being gin fuelled helps the performance!

So Strava officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of  9.5 miles with a total moving time of 52.55 minutes, at a healthy average speed of 10.8 mph.

The total elapsed time was over 3 hours – allowing for the gin tastings! Top speed recorded was 23.3 mph and the elevation covered was 291 feet. Together we managed to burn up 520 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 147 W.

It was a joy for Team Matilda to be out pedalling along breathing in the fresh air in the beautiful Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council area near Perth City Centre. A perfect evening to celebrate being a Perth 2021 supporter! And clearly #perthistheplace (for gin!)

All told – a bit of exercise … a  bit of tandeming … and a bit of gourmet gin! Great evening really. What a tonic!

Historic Pedal around Pictish Perthshire

The entrance to St Serf's Church which houses the Dupplin Cross.

The entrance to historic St Serf’s Church in Duning which houses the Dupplin Cross.

Sunday dawned again – and after a week off after our epic Easter Tour de Loch Rannoch du Tandem the “old git” was keen to get us all back on the road again. The only snag was that my dynamic duo had to visit the “old git’s” mum in Kilmarnock in the afternoon – which involves a 140 mile round trip by car – so the alarm was set ridiculously early so my ride out could be completed by lunchtime.

“What time have you set the alarm for – that’s the middle of the night” moaned the “old gal” in mock dismay – well at least the “old git” thought it was mocking! (Whisper it, but she told me it wasn’t!) However I have to say she was keen to get some exercise to help the Hay Plan weight loss regime that my dynamic duo have been embracing. And it is obviously working as yesterday’s weigh in saw them having lost a combined total of 3 stones 2 lbs in just 8 weeks.

I am most impressed, and it certainly reduces the strain on my ageing frame! I mean that is the equivalent of 22 bags of sugar that I don’t need to be carting about! So obviously  I am expecting us to be moving faster as we don’t have as much weight to carry! I mean my crew will soon be back in their slimline – matching obviously – lycra cycling shirts too at this rate! Watch this space! And don’t say I didn’t warn you!

So after a hearty breakfast – within the guidelines of the Hay Plan – we were heading away from Matildas Rest in beautiful Spring sunshine. The “old git” had decided that today’s run would be a Pedal around Pictish Perthshire – heading towards the historic nearby villages of Dunning and Forteviot, covering a distance of around 16 miles with a few hills thrown in to test our new found fitness!

The “old gal” was so keen to get underway that she unfortunately forgot to start the Strava app on her iPhone – which automatically records our routes and provides all sorts of statistics about average speeds and elevation over the journey.

In fact it was some five miles into the ride – as we entered the village of Dunning – that the “old git” asked the “old gal” if she had started Strava. “Oops” was the cry from the back saddle and with the “old git” muttering under his breath something about it being frustrating to lose miles, we pulled over and the technology was switched on!

So you can check out most of the route of our Pedal around Pitcish Perthshire on Strava here – although it actually started from Matildas Rest in Auchterarder and not Dunning as the map shows!  

Strava small Forteviot

Through Dunning we pedalled, heading further out into the glorious Perthshire countryside – enjoying taking deep breaths of the fresh air. Everyone was feeling very healthy and 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.

Here I am at the focal point - the village square" at Forteviot.

Here I am at the focal point – the village square” at Forteviot.

The village “square” 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.

During a quick walk around, my dynamic duo discovered Forteviot Church of St Andrew. The present church, the third on the site, dates from 1778 and adopts the form of a Georgian box chapel, but dates from the 13th century. A look at the history shows that recent archaeology indicates that Christians were first buried in Forteviot graveyard in the 6th century.

Forteviot Church of St Andrew blah blah blah which dates from xxC

Forteviot Church of St Andrew which dates from 1778 but has a history dating back long before then.

Back on board we set off back to Dunning but only after a quick pit stop to get a shot of this “old lady” looking at my best in the sunshine, showing one of the many picturesque rural cottages along the way.

A lovely example of one of the many picturesque country cottages in the Forteviot area.

A lovely example of one of the many picturesque country cottages in the Forteviot area.

The “old gal” was in her element as the lack of wind made the tandeming most pleasant and her good humour was helped by the “old git” flicking up and down my gears to maintain momentum going up any steep stretches. And there were a couple of long inclines on the way out of Forteviot which the “old gal” wasn’t looking forward to, but with their new found fitness, I can report my dynamic duo managed them without a problem! And yes we were moving faster! Result!

The "old gal" smiling with a backdrop of the wonderful Perthshire countryside.

The “old gal” smiling with a backdrop of the wonderful Perthshire countryside.

At the top of the hilly section, the “old gal” was even happy to stop and pose for a picture, smiling as she took in the wonderful rural Perthshire landscape – an almost idyllic scene.

Within a short time we tandemed back into the lovely historic village of Dunning. It was originally established around the 12-13th century but the village was burned during the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. The oldest house dates from the 1730s.

In the very centre of the village is St Serf’s Church, and we parked up at the entrance to the church which has a distinctive and largely intact bell tower dating from around 1200.

The St Serf's Church and bell tower, dating back to 1200.

The St Serf’s Church and bell tower, dating back to 1200.

It is no longer used as a church as it now belongs to Historic Scotland and is the home of the famous Dupplin Cross.  This rare and impressive 3metre-high Cross was carved out of sandstone around AD 800, and once stood in the palace of the Pictish kings at Forteviot where we just pedalled from.

It was made for King Constantine, son of Fergus, who reigned from 789 to 820 – a fact revealed when a panel on the cross was discovered to have some Latin wording.

The impressive and something Dupplin Cross - history on our doorstep!

The famous Dupplin Cross – history on our doorstep!

My dynamic duo had a quick tour from a wonderfully enthusiastic Historic Scotland guide – who wouldn’t take no for an answer – and gave them a rapid history lesson which included the facts that the Dupplin Cross is the only complete example to survive in Pictish territory and that it was during King Constantine’s reign that the kingdoms of the Picts and the Scots began to merge, before finally uniting under King Kenneth around 843.

This “old lady” was actually quite glad there are some ancient artifacts that actually pre-date me! I was actually feeling quite a young thing while steeped in all this history! What was amazing was that the “old gal” who has lived in the area for more years than she cares to remember has never visited it before! As the “old git” said it is amazing what you find on your doorstep!

My dynamic duo decided that a reviving cup of coffee was necessary – with no edibles (or alcohol) as they were being good! They even actually managed to get the self-timer to work so got a shot of both of them together!

Time for a coffee before heading home - and the self timer worked!

Time for coffee before heading home – and the self timer worked!

Suitably fortified by their stop, we set off on the five miles back to Matildas Rest with one last stop for a final piece of local history at the site of a monument to Maggie Wall. This is a kind of eerie stone cross with a hand-painted date of 1657 as the story is that this is a memorial to the last witch to be burned at the stake back then.

The Maggie Wall monument just outside Dunning.

The eerie Maggie Wall witch’s monument just outside Dunning.

A quick spurt for home and everyone happy with the outing. This tandeming really is a great way to get some exercise you know … for all three of us! It actually made the “old git” and the “old gal” feel very virtuous on their long drive to Kilmarnock later!

If you haven’t already checked the route of this blog on Strava, you can do so here. Remember there was the issue of the “missing miles” – just as well my low-tech “unofficial”milometer still records the journey without any fancy wifi apps – and recorded the distance as 16.1 miles, with a moving time of 1 hr 42 minutes. The average speed was 9.4 mph and we reached a heady 23.2 mph as our maximum speed. See I told you that weight loss of my dynamic duo would increase our speed!

And finally, not long to go now so remember to keep all your fingers and toes crossed for my blog – which is a finalist in the Most Innovative category of the UK Blog Awards 2016. Not only is Matildas Musings the only blog ‘written’ by a classic Jack Taylor tandem, but it is the only Scottish finalist. The results will be announced at a glitzy awards presentation evening at the Park Plaza Hotel in London on Friday April 29. Here’s hoping …

UKBA finalist_twitter

A 16 mile canter to test new axle

Gin o'clock - pit stop in the sun at the Kirkstyle Inn

Gin o’clock – sunshine stop at the Kirkstyle Inn

After the trauma of my major operation last week to replace my pedal crank shaft, the “old git” was keen to get back out on the road to test my roadworthiness. And, I suppose he had a point with the countdown clock now showing exactly two weeks to go till we set off for Bordeaux.

The “old gal” was actually keen to get back on the saddle, as it would have to be said she had lost a little of her confidence during the major equipment malfunction during last weekend’s training run – when the pedal shaft broke clean off.

So a short canter to the nearby village of Forteviot was planned, covering a distance of 16 miles with a few hills thrown in to give my new axle a real testing.

Fortunately it was another glorious sunny Sunday morning and soon we were fair motoring along with ease – with the “old git” and the “old gal” quickly getting the feeling that I was back to full working order.

I was very happy to see them smile as I knew I had been fixed properly, and the feeling that I – as an “old lady” classic tandem had let them down due to metal fatigue – quickly disappeared.

In what seemed like no time we were tandeming through the village of Dunning – past our country pub pit stop of the Kirkstyle Inn, where we planned to pause on the return journey – heading further out into the country for another three miles.

And in just over half an hour we arrived in Forteviot – an ancient Pictish capital of Scotland, where King Kenneth MacAlpin died in the 9th Century.

The village “square” has some very quaint houses which were rebuilt for the workers of Dupplin Estate in 1927 and are beautifully maintained.

The beautiful focal point of Forteviot.

The beautiful focal point of Forteviot.

After a quick walk around in the warm sunshine, Team Matilda set off on the return journey. The wind had started to blow a bit, and cycling into the breeze slowed us down a bit on the way back – as did the long slow grind out of Forteviot towards Dunning.

So as we pulled in to Dunning, the “old gal” was more than ready for her promised g+t stop at the Kirkstyle Inn. After all it was Sunday lunchtime, and it would have been rude to tandem past! So “gin o’clock” it was!

I had a nice rest beside the lovely beer garden as the “old gal” and the “old git” enjoyed their cooling drinks – to give their legs new-found energy for the last five miles back to Matilda’s Rest.

A welcome stop (and drink!) in the warm sunshine!

A welcome stop (and drink!) in the warm sunshine!

Dunning is a very beautiful little historical village and volunteers have worked wonders with floral displays – making it a very colourful place.

Dunning looking colourful with all the blooms!

Dunning looking colourful with all the blooms!

So fortified by their stop, the dynamic duo decided to make a push for home – to give both themselves and me a bit of a workout.

I have to say I came off  best as it was easy for me, cantering along the country roads. But as the for the “old git”, whisper it, but he seemed a bit red in the face with his exertions! The “old gal” was calm and controlled as ever!

And just a little bit longer than the outward journey, to take account of the breezy conditions and the uphill inclines, we were back home.

Everyone happy with the outing and the test of my new part! So job done!

Now where is that French phrase book again – I really do need to get studying it!