Summer has finally arrived at Matildas Rest and after being on our travels for the last few weeks Team Matilda decided on a hilly ride on our own doorstep this week as my dynamic crew build up the miles and elevation for our Hebridean Way adventure in early June.
Interestingly this ride had the added advantage of turning into a cultural experience with my dynamic crew receiving an education into the cult hit tv show Outlander. They are always impressed at the rich history they find right in Team Matildas own backyard – and in this case both real and fictional.
Now a little word of praise to the “old git” and the “old gal” here. In a bid to improve their fitness they have lost 3 stones between them over the last 11 weeks by sticking rigidly to the healthy eating Hay Plan regime. I am most impressed – and grateful at the same time that I don’t have to carry all that extra weight around on my ageing frame!
So with a combination of losing weight, and the forecast of warm sunshine – it was decided it was t-shirt weather. The “old git” even ventured into his shorts for the first time this year!
Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.
I am very proud to report that today’s ride started with a new Team Matilda speed record! On leaving Auchterarder we hit a nice long downhill stretch and soon picked up speed. the “old git” was really enjoying it – although I am not sure the same can be said for the “old gal” on the back! They both got into the spirit of things and bent low to reduce drag and do what is termed “a froomie” after Chris Froome’s unorthodox aerodynamic descending style at last summer’s Tour de France.
And amazingly the data showed we hit a new all time record speed of 34.7 mph! Which is really all rather exciting for an “old lady” tandem like me! Kudos to Team Matilda! The big question now of course is can we break thru the 35 mph barrier?! I am certainly up for it!
After all that dizzy excitement it was back to earth with a sudden jolt as we crossed Kinkell Bridge and started the climb away from the River Earn. Up we went past Trinity Gask Parish Church which traces its history back to 1770. That was the first of several sharp hills around Gask and it certainly felt as if my crew were busting a Gask…et (see what I did there!) on those climbs!
As we reached the plateau my crew realised why it is so hilly as the area is known as Gask Ridge Frontier which the “old git” discovered 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. After the climbs there was some relief as Team Matilda turned right and fair zoomed along a nice flat stretch of just over 5 miles to our half way spot at Tibbermore.
My dynamic crew decided to visit 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. It is now a recognised stop in the VisitScotland tour of Outlander filming locations.
Now it needs to be said that the “old git” and the “old gal” must be one of the few people on the planet who have never watched an episode of the popular hit show Outlander – as clearly the mystical and spellbinding series has caught the imagination and attention of viewers 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.
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.
Inside the church there is a display of information and photos from the tv production and it seemed only natural that my dynamic crew would try to recreate a couple of them – albeit not in period costume but in their hi-vis cycling gear! Whisper it, but I’m not sure they would be a ratings winner!
For the many people whose specialist subject is Outlander episodes, 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” bravely shunned any superstitions and stood in the pulpit – which doubled as the dock – to recreate that scene.
In one of the final scenes of the episode Geillis is carried from the church to her fate at the stake. Perhaps wisely the “old git” decided against trying to recreate that image!
It was all very interesting and the “old git” and “old gal” certainly created a bit of a diversion for the international visitors ticking off another venue on their Outlander tour! It was good to see tourists from France and Spain visiting that day which just underlines the global appeal of the hit show. Which left me wondering if there was a potential role in a future Outlander episode for an “old lady” classic tandem! I am sure it wouldn’t present too many problems for a creative scriptwriter.
After the cultural overload of the Outlander venue, my dynamic crew felt it was more than time to overload on some goodies at Gloagburn Farm Shop just a few hundred yards away. No carrot cake today – just a tasty scone with some nice strong coffee. But guess what? The “old gal” was so engrossed in eating she forgot to take a photo!
The farm shop is extremely interesting for foodies like my dynamic crew as it sells lots of local produce from Perthshire’s larder. A few purchases were made – including supplies for the evening meal – and safely packed away in my panniers. I knew I was sporting them for a reason!
Refuelled Team Matilda set off on the return trip and immediately started to pedal into a ferocious head wind! This was somewhat unexpected and made for hard going on the journey home. But we soon built up a reasonable momentum again and the “old gal” decided we would take a different loop home to add a bit of variety. So we pedaled past the road end that would have taken us back to Trinity Gask, heading towards Madderty and turning left to the picturesque village of St Davids. Another steep climb before we picked up speed on a nice descent back to Kinkell Bridge.
My dynamic crew again took a different loop back to base which saw us climb the steep incline from Machanay bridge before powering on up the slow steady energy sapping grind of Easthill, before a welcome fast downhill finish through Auchterarder.
Back at Matildas Rest, and a welcome break from the head wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 17 gongs – 8 personal bests; 7 second bests; 1 3rd best; and encouragingly 1 Queen of the Mountain award!
The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 32.04 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 46 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.6 mph given the hilly terrain and thanks to my new gears – while the elevation was 1358 feet. The maximum speed was that new record of 34.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1825 calories and produce an average power output of 164 W.
As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.
With the strong wind and the hilly terrain it was more good training for the Hebridean Way in early June. Just 4 weeks to go now before me and my dynamic crew meet up with good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club tour and the not insubstantial task of covering 185 miles over 5 days tandeming!
One thing is for certain – days full of fun and laughs are guaranteed on the Hebridean Way challenge! What is less certain is the weather conditions – but the order has been placed with the weather people for some nice warm sunshine and a helpful tailwind!