Outlanderish cultural tandem experience on ride to historic Tibbermore

The evocative grave yard at Tibbermore Church – film set for an episode of Outlander.

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.

Summer had finally arrived at Matildas Rest – thus the t-shirts and shorts for first time in 2018!

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.

Me and the “old gal” at the archway marking the entrance to the Tibbermore Church yard.

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 historic church was a perfect setting for filming of an episode of cult hit tv show Outlander.

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!

Claire and Jamie are reunited in an emotional embrace in the churchyard after the trial.

My dynamic crew recreate the passionate embrace – albeit not in period costume!

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 plot line for ‘The Devil’s Mark’ episode of Outlander filmed at Tibbermore.

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.

Geillis confesses to witchcraft from the church pulpit at the trial to save Claire.

The “old gal” recreating the role of Geillis in the Tibbermore church pulpit used as the dock.

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!

Geillis is carried from the church to her fate – a scene my dynamic crew wisely didn’t try to recreate!

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!

After the cultural overload time for a scone and coffee overload at Gloagburn.

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!

Nutty Tandemers Club logo for Hebridean Way challenge.

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!

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Busting a Gask(et!) on country roads ride to outskirts of Perth

After tandeming thru Gask our destination was Gloagburn at Tibbermore on outskirts of Perth.

My crew are always impressed at the rich history they find right on Team Matildas own doorstep. And our recent tandem trip was no exception – as they discovered while pedaling along on the rural Perthshire roads around Gask that it was the site of one of the earliest Roman settlements in Scotland. And it is even more interesting when you come across this history almost by accident.

The “old gal” had identified a new route, exploring a network of country roads in the general direction of Perth that had previously been unexplored by my dynamic crew. Not sure why – but tandeming along is a great way to see your local area that you would otherwise never see when driving a car.

So we were full of enthusiasm as we headed off from Matildas Rest on our adventure at 10.30 am – with the forecast promising a sunny weather window from the recent heavy rain … although whisper it … but it seemed likely we would be hit by the odd shower when we were out. 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! 

The great thing about living in Auchterarder is that we are out in the glorious Perthshire countryside, pedaling on quiet rural roads, in less than two minutes from starting. We soon were crossing our first point of interest  – the historic Kinkell Bridge which is a grand four-arched bridge over the River Earn and dates from 1793. It gives great views over one of Perthshire’s top salmon beats.

The scenic Kinkell Bridge spans the River Earn and dates from 1793.

A sharp right turn saw us heading along a wonderful gently undulating well surfaced road – ideal for tandeming – as we headed to Trinity Gask Parish Church. The original building traces its history back to 1770 and has a 19th-century bellcote which houses a bell bearing the date 1838. The area immediately opposite the church offers fantastic views overlooking the valley towards the landmark Craig Rossie hill, part of the Ochils.

The “old gal” overlooking the valley from near Trinity Gask Parish Church which dates from 1770.

We had perhaps been lulled into a false sense of complacency by the warm sun and the relatively flat roads. But on leaving Trinity Gask reality struck in the form of a sharp steep hill which appeared from nowhere round a corner. It certainly felt like my crew were busting a Gask…et (see what I did there!) on that climb!

As we reached the plateau my crew realised why 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.

Nearby there are remains associated with the Gask Ridge frontier – a term describing a chain of Roman watchtowers and forts built to monitor movement between the Highland massif and Fife. We came across a sign for Kirkhill Watchtower –  one of the best preserved remaining sites which would have housed a timber watchtower as an observation point overlooking the clear view to the south.

The site of the Kirkhill Watchtower – with its clear view to the south.

After the history lesson Team Matilda turned right and fair zoomed along a nice flat stretch of just over 5 miles to our half way spot of Gloagburn Farm Shop at Tibbermore on the outskirts of Perth. No picnic today due to the likelihood of rain showers, but my dynamic crew were pleased to see that they had recorded the near 14 mile distance in a very respectable time of 1 hour and 01 minute – meaning they felt they deserved a coffee and cake break!

Here I am at the entrance to Gloagburn Farm Shop – our half way coffee stop!

My crew enjoyed a freshly baked cherry and almond scone before sharing a slice of carrot cake – de rigueur for tandemers – with a nice strong coffee. But guess what? The “old git” forgot to take a photo until after it was all scoffed!

Blink and you’ll miss it! The “old gal” looking like she ate all the scones and cakes!

Gloagburn has an interesting shop – which apart from selling lots of local produce from Perthshire’s larder, has a gift section. The “old git” couldn’t resist a joke photo when he found some copies of the Out of Africa book by record breaking endurance cyclist Mark Beaumont who lives in nearby Crieff. Mark is currently cycling across Australia on the second leg of his bid to cycle around the world in 80 days! So naturally the “old git” had to get a photo with signed copies of Mark’s books kidding on he was researching and planning for a future trip …. just like Mark! Oh how the “old gal” laughed!

Planning for a future trip like record breaker Mark Beaumont?! Aye rite!

Refuelled Team Matilda set off on the return trip and amazingly immediately started to pedal into a head wind! This seems to happen on almost every recent ride! But we soon built up a good speed 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.

Back at Kinkell Bridge – the “old gal” at the entrance to what was the toll house.

My dynamic crew again took a different loop to end, powering on up the slow steady grind of Easthill, before a welcome fast downhill finish through Auchterarder town centre and ending back at Matildas Rest. And the timing couldn’t have been better, as having avoided the showers all during the ride, as soon as I was safely back in my comfy garage the heavens opened with a heavy downpour!

Time for a quick congratulatory selfie after a great fun ride – before the rain!

Safely inside, a check of Strava revealed that this “old lady” registered three gongs on the ride – two personal bests and one Queen of the Mountain award – which is rather good considering most of the route was being travelled on for the first time.

Strava officially recorded the ride as a distance of 28.5 miles at an average speed of 11.7 mph, with a top speed of 31.1 mph. The traveling time was 2 hours 25 minutes and the elevation covered was a not insubstantial 1,163 feet. We managed to burn up 1,633 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 168 W.

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 yet another great days tandeming – with lots of laughs and fun and a bit of fascinating local history thrown in along the way. I feel certain that we will be exploring some of the other network of roads around today’s route soon!