All Shook Up after Elvis party on wilderness ride at Loch Rannoch

“Its Now or Never”! Time for prosecco picnic at Loch Rannoch after Elvis party.

So you know how it is when the “old git” gets an idea into his head! Sometimes – did I hear the “old gal” say ‘often’ there! – they seem a bit madcap … but more often than not it would need to be admitted that they turn out to be great days out. Yes sometimes they can go spectacularly awry and today’s plan certainly had that potential – but fortunately it fell into the spectacularly good category.

You see my dynamic crew were invited to a birthday party for the Dad of a friend of the “old gal’s” on the Saturday night in our home town of Auchterarder. And it wasn’t just any birthday party – it was a 60th party with an Elvis theme … with compulsory dressing up in Elvis-era gear as the birthday boy was a huge fan of the King of Rock and Roll. And so bedecked in their teddy boy outfit and rockabilly dress my crew had great fun as they partied the night away till 11.30pm.

Which is all fine and dandy except the “old git” had decided that the next day Team Matilda would head off to one of our favourite wilderness spots of Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire!  And that’s why at 7am the morning after the night before the alarm wakened my crew. A couple of hours later and we were driving up the A9 turning off just after Pitlochry for Tummel Bridge. Amazingly, 75 miles away from base, we were parked up and ready to ride by 11.30am.

What a difference twelve hours can make!

Cool Cats! My crew at Elvis party at 11.30pm on Saturday in Auchterarder.

Tandeming Cats! My crew at 11.30am on Sunday ready to roll (without the rock!) on the banks of scenic Loch Rannoch nearly 75 miles away from Auchterrader. What a difference 12 hours can make! Sunglasses required but not for sore heads!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now sunglasses were required as we set off – but not for reasons of sore heads, but because the sun was shining brightly! Now despite giving the appearance of being bright eyed and bushy tailed it was evident that my crew – or at least the “old git” – did still feel a bit ‘All Shook Up’ as there was an ‘operator error’ with Strava at the first photo stop! Read on for more details!

The “old gal” had suggested we go anti-clockwise round the loch for the first time. Every previous visit had seen us stick to a clockwise rotation of the loch – but the “old gal” is a bit of a rebel and likes a change to freshen things up now and then, so the decision was made. 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!  Oh and apologies in advance for the “operator error” which results in us appearing to tandem on water up the loch! Read on to discover whose fault that was!

The Loch Rannoch folly.

The anti-clockwise circuit started with a nice descent from our parking spot, turning right before crossing the bridge over the River Gaur followed by a steady steep uphill climb for about half a mile. It certainly raised the body temperatures of my dynamic crew! But the climb is worth it with views across the whole length and breadth of the loch. A point of interest is Eilean Nam Faoileag – a small island which was occupied from the middle of the 15th century until the middle of the 17th century and now is home to a tower which is a 19th-century folly. You can’t miss the impressive Rannoch Power Station – part of the Tummel Valley hydro scheme – which has been in operation since 1930 and is currently being renovated to extend its lifespan.

The route on the quieter south side of the lock is amazingly scenic – possibly more so than the (slightly) busier north shore road. The B-class single track road never seems to be more than a couple of yards from the loch itself and there is always lots to catch the eye of Team Matilda.

The “old gal” spotted a (mini) kilted Highlander at the side of the road!

The wilderness factor is underlined as the narrow road winds its way through the magical Black Wood of Rannoch – one of the largest areas of ancient pine forest left in Scotland. It certainly lives up to its Forestry Commission billing as “a living growing monument with some trees thought to be about 400 years old, and is home to a wonderful variety of plants and wildlife, including deer, pine martens and red squirrel.” It is little wonder that it is designated a Special Area of Conservation and was looking magnificent in the sunshine. It was truly a wonderful spot to be out tandeming in and both the “old gal” and the “old git” felt privileged to be there.

The route is gently undulating – and despite their excesses from partying last night (or should that be because of!) – my dynamic crew were really in the zone today and we were pedalling along at an average of over 15-16 mph for long stretches – a good bit faster than our normal.

We soon reached a stony beach area at the top of the loch – which my dynamic crew decided would be a perfect spot for their prosecco picnic. But as he dismounted the “old git” let out a loud “Aaagh” as he made the discovery that Strava had not been recording the ride for 8 miles from the first photo stop! Seems he had stopped the timer so as not to waste valuable seconds when taking some pictures – and then promptly forgot to start it again as we tandemed off! And his pain was made even worse by the fact that we had been fair rattling along! Oh how me and the “old gal” laughed!

Painful moment for the “old git” discovering HIS Strava operator error. Oh how we laughed!

However his pain – or was that embarrassment because the “old gal” is always telling him to just let it auto-pause – was soon forgotten about when the “old git” spied a perfect picnic table for two right at the edge of the loch. He quickly unhooked the bottle of prosecco I had been safely carrying in my la bouclee bottle carrier and plonked it in nature’s fridge that is Loch Rannoch to chill.

Arty shot of the bottle of prosecco in nature’s fridge at Loch Rannoch!

As the “old git” popped open the prosecco cork with a loud pop, a Mum was walking on the beach with her young daughter and says to the girl that there was a couple celebrating! The Mum asked the “old gal” what my crew were celebrating. My stoker replied that we were just celebrating it being Sunday lunchtime! To which she replied as she walked off enviously: “Oh I remember these days, I think!”

Cheers! Perfect prosecco picnic table for two with a view on the edge of the loch.

My dynamic crew toasted another sensational picnic spot with a nicely chilled glass of fizz before enjoying some smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese croissants and some fresh fruit for lunch.

The “old git” did manage to redeem himself a bit in the “old gal’s” critical eye when he brought out his portable tripod extension and set it up, linked to a bluetooth clicker, to be able to take pictures of both of us together. Whisper it but in the photo below,  the “old gal” put on her best smile when he said “ready” – even tho it was being taken from behind and only showed her back view!

I’ve obviously been learning to take pictures of my dynamic crew when they’re not looking!

After enjoying the prosecco picnic – and some amazing views right down the loch in bright sunshine – it was time for my crew to get back on my saddles and pedal across the bridge over the River Tummel and thru Kinloch Rannoch before heading down the north side of the loch.

The “old gal” decided a quick stop was required at the wild camping area about a third of the way back down the loch – which offers a perfect viewpoint for pictures with the majesty of the perfectly conical shape of Schiehallion – one of Scotland’s most recognisable mountains – in the background. This area provides easy access to rocky beach and the loch which was looking beautiful despite the clouds darkening and the imminent prospect of rain. Unfortunately those clouds had “stolen” the top of Schiehallion which wasn’t visible in the photos!

Here I am at the wild camping site on the north side – but where is Schiehallion hiding?!

It’s up there under the cloud! The “old gal” pointing to where Schiehallion’s iconic conical top should be.

My crew didn’t stop for long as it appeared the forecast rain was due to arrive soon. And just short of three miles from the end it started – fortunately just light rain as we climbed a steep hill towards the end of the loch before a rapid downhill to Bridge of Gaur and the mile or so back to our parking spot.

After a quick hi five to celebrate completing the circuit, and with the rain getting heavier, I was quickly packed away in Matilda Transport and my crew drove the 5 miles to the end of the road and the wonderfully remote Rannoch railway station where there is a favourite coffee and cake spot for the “old git” and the “old gal” – the amazing Rannoch Station Tearoom.

It really is a truly fabulous hidden gem – and must get the vote for being not only the most remote tearoom in Scotland – but the most welcoming and friendly. Run by the uber-hospitable Bill and Jenny Anderson it offers cyclists, walkers and railway passengers an amazing oasis of home made tasty coffees, cakes and light meals. You can even have a wine or a beer while sitting on the station platform watching the live theatre that is the natural wilderness of Rannoch Moor.

The duo’s customer service ethic has no bounds – and even runs to delivering phone orders of bacon butties to train passengers travelling up and down the Glasgow to Fort William route. In my crew’s case it extends to happily reserving a couple of scones (via Facebook) to ensure they didn’t run out! What service!  So it was delicious home made fruit scones with clotted cream and jam followed by gigantic slices of seriously yummy carrot cake and lemon mascarpone cake, washed down with a cafetiere of wonderfully strong freshly brewed coffee.

Finger lickin good clotted cream scones, fab cakes and strong coffee! Yum!

According to my dynamic crew the tearoom more than lived up to its five star Trip Advisor certificate of excellence award. And if the look of satisfaction on the “old gal’s” face as she sampled the goodies was anything to go by, I think if she could have awarded six stars, it would have been more than earned!

Bill and Jenny were excitedly getting ready for a visit from a tv crew filming for the new series of the Channel 4 show Village of the Year with actress Penelope Keith. Over this summer the programme has been visiting villages across the UK to determine the winner of this brand new competition, with a £10,000 prize to be spent on a worthwhile community project. Kinloch Rannoch has been one of the villages nominated for filming for the 2017 series which aims to celebrate all that is great about our rural communities. Certainly if breathtaking wilderness scenery is anything to go by, the village should be an outright winner! My crew will be watching progress.

The uber hospitable Bill and Jenny who take service standards to new highs at Rannoch Station Tearoom.

As my dynamic crew were leaving  a nice gentleman introduced himself – after recognising them by their hi-viz yellow t-shirts emblazoned with my blog – as being Steve from Dial a Bike Rannoch who said he was an avid reader of my blog posts! Steve runs a cycle rental service in the Rannoch Moor, Kinloch Rannoch and Tummel Bridge area. So if you happen to be staying in the area and need some bikes to get around then Steve is your man! He even has a couple of those electric bikes – for those that want to cheat! But he has yet to introduce a tandem to his stable of bikes – although my crew did their best to persuade him that he should!

Replete and refreshed after their afternoon tea, it was time to head back out of the Tummel Valley and back to base. The weather had deteriorated to heavy rain, leaving Team Matilda feeling lucky that we had such an enjoyable – and mainly dry – ride round the loch. Back at Matildas Rest – and with internet connection restored – a check of Strava revealed that we didn’t record any gongs on our route … but this was because it was the first time that we had done the Loch Rannoch loop anti-clockwise!

Now due to that unfortunate incident – which the “old git” refers to as “operator error” when it was really his own silly fault! – Strava officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of only 15.8 miles at an average speed of 12.2 mph, and a top speed of 31.1 mph. However the old-fashioned speedometer thingy on my handlebars, which is not prone to “operator error”! – recorded me and my dynamic crew covering 24.7 miles and an average speed of 13.6 mph and a maximum of 32.1 mph. The traveling time was 1 hour 49 minutes and we managed to burn up 1,441 calories.

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. Oh and I will apologies again for the Strava “operator error” which results in us appearing to tandem on water up loch on the video! (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.)

It has certainly been an action packed 24 hours for my dynamic crew – from arriving at the Elvis party to arriving back at Matildas Rest after another memorable tandeming trip full of laughs and fun.

Next up the “old git” tells me we are doing another loch trip on Sunday when we return to Loch Katrine in the heart of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and Rob Roy Country – the scene of some previous “interesting” trips which have included some fairly serious mechanical problems of my rear gear cog disintegrating and then the pedal arm sheared clean off my rear pedal crank axle. My spokes are crossed there is no repeat this time – and also for some much needed summer sunshine!

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New year blaw at freezing moody Loch Rannoch

The sun trying to break through as we headed for Kinloch Rannoch on the north side of the loch.

The sun made fleetingly rare appearances as we tandemed round the beautiful Loch Rannoch.

After a busy festive period, the “old git” and the “old gal” decided on a tandem ride to blow away the cobwebs – and decided on a New Year trip to the wilderness beauty spot of Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire. This is one of Team Matilda’s favourite places to tandem and the idea was to get some “brain food” to kick off the New Year and set the standards for some spectacular rides.

And for my dynamic duo, there was the added attraction of the ride allowing them to complete their prized “boxed set” of tandeming the loop around Loch Rannoch in four different seasons in a calendar year. You see we had already completed a tour in Spring,, Summer and Autumn. So just the winter circumnavigation to go!

But what the “old git” had perhaps overlooked in his natural unbridled enthusiasm to complete the challenge was that while Loch Rannoch is a stunning area and can provide an amazing backdrop – it can be cold in Winter! “That’s bleeping cold” the “old gal” has just clarified!

To be honest it was still officially freezing on the thermometer reading on Matilda Transport as we headed up the A9, turning off just after Pitlochry for Tummel Bridge. Given that is was January 2 we knew nothing would be open and had to drive past our normal coffee stop at the Queen’s View visitor centre – run by Forestry Commission Scotland as it was closed.

But my crew were able to fuel up on some coffee and home made shortbread – which the “old gal” had wisely decided to bring with us – when we parked in Kinloch Rannoch where we decided to start our loop from today, rather than our normal start point of Bridge of Gaur at the bottom of the loch.

With the thermometer just moving into positive territory – that’s 1C! – my dynamic crew pulled on their multiple layers of clothing, including thermals, fleeces, cycling jackets, winter weather gloves and even insulating skull caps for under their crash helmets!  Then we headed off on our usual clockwise direction, which saw us cross the bridge and tandem firstly down the quieter south side of the loch. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full data and statistics! 

any-strava-l-rannoch

Lets just say that even with all that winter clothing – it was still extremely cold! In fact even the “old git conceded that it was pretty grim as we headed away from Kinloch Rannoch to be blasted by a fairly fierce wind blowing off the loch which never seems to be more than a couple of yards from the road.

With over 22 miles ahead, it did seem a tad adventurous, perhaps even a bit foolhardy – but a challenge is a challenge… and the “old git” reminded the “old gal” that they would soon reach the protection of the woodlands. It would need to be said that at this point relations between my dyanamic crew were somewhat frosty – a bit like the weather! And the “old git” didn’t really help things get any more convivial when he suggested to the “old gal” that she should be happy as she was getting the added treat of a free facial from the wind and the sleet as we tandemed along!

I felt mutiny in the air – or was it snow – but amazingly we all pedalled on and survived the bracing first mile or so before we got into our stride. The wilderness factor of the area is underlined as the narrow road – complete with passing places – winds its way into the magical Black Wood of Rannoch – one of the largest areas of ancient pine forest left in Scotland.

It certainly lives up to its Forestry Commission billing as “a living growing monument with some trees thought to be about 400 years old, and is home to a wonderful variety of plants and wildlife, including deer, pine martens and red squirrel.” It is little wonder that it is designated a Special Area of Conservation and was looking magnificent in all its moody Winter splendour. And today it had the added appeal of giving some protection from the elements.

After about 7 or 8 miles the forecast sun did make a fleeting appearance which lifted the spirits of my team somewhat. The “old gal” was so filled with enthusiasm that she even whipped her phone out to take “shadow” shots just to prove the sun did in fact decide to come out – albeit sporadically!

A moody "shadow" shot of Team Matilda - just to prove the sun did actually come out to say hello!

A moody “shadow” shot of Team Matilda – just to prove the sun did actually come out to say hello!

There was even time for a quick stop at a recognised viewpoint which gives a great vista all the way back up the loch – which combined with a much needed “wild” loo stop and the “old gal” singing the praises of her Shewee!

The "old git|" and the "old gal" forcing a smile to show they were having fun despite the cold!

The “old git|” and the “old gal” forcing a smile to show they were having fun despite the cold!

On we pedalled battling against the wind and that double hill towards the end of the south side stretch. Given the cold temperature it was perhaps no surprise my dynamic crew decided not to stop at the halfway point at the bottom of the loch for their planned alfresco cremant picnic at Bridge of Gaur – and instead we decided to head back up the north side back to Kinloch Rannoch.

The difference in tandeming conditions as we headed in the opposite direction was immediately noticeable – it was much calmer as any wind was now behind us … and the sun came out again, allowing more “shadow” fun with the camera!

Another "shadow" shot on the way up the north side of the loch while we took in the scenic beauty of the area.

Another “shadow” shot on the north side of the loch while we took in the scenic beauty of the area.

The "old gal" basking in the sunshine - well freezing in the fleeting sunshine to be exact!

The “old gal” basking in the sunshine – well freezing in the fleeting sunshine to be exact!

We tandemed on – with my crew close to “hitting the wall” as they found themselves running on empty – after the decision to delay the picnic till our return to Matilda Transport. However a quick gorge on a couple of small “emergency” bars of chocolate was enough to refuel my crew to carry on!

The original plan was to have a quick halt at a regular stop off point on the north side – at a wild camping area about two-thirds of the way up the loch – which usually offers a perfect opportunity for pictures with the majesty of the perfectly conical shape of Schiehallion – one of Scotland’s most recognisable mountains – in the background.

The only snag was that with the mist and snow which was falling on the mountains – as you will see from the photo below – Schiehallion had completely disappeared. Or as the “old gal” quipped: “Maybe it decided to go somewhere warm like the Canary Islands for a sunshine holiday … like we should have done!” And you know what … and yes I know you will find this difficult to believe … I don’t think she was joking! But I am sure they would take me along for some warm weather training!

Where's Schiehallion gone? No sign of the conical mountain top this time!

Where’s Schiehallion gone? No sign of the conical mountain top this time in the Winter mist!

It was the first time in the four different seasons of visits to Loch Rannoch that the mountain hadn’t dominated the skyline. So this “old lady” blogging tandem decided to look back at my previous Musings to remind my faithful readers what Schiehallion looked like in each of the other three seasons.

It's behind you! Despite the light Spring snow, the "old gal" had no problem seeing Schiehallion.

It’s behind you! Despite the light Spring snow, the “old gal” had no problem seeing Schiehallion.

Schiehallion showing its majesty in Summer with Team Bluebird on Le Tour de Perthshire.

Schiehallion showing its majesty in Summer – with Team Bluebird on Le Tour de Perthshire.

Schiehallion in bright Autum sunshine with Gillian and Craig

Bright Autumn sunshine to see Schiehallion – with solo cyclist friends Gillian and Craig.

Apart from the cold weather conditions, another big difference for our Winter loop was the height of the water in the loch. Looking back at the photos you will see a pebble beach – but this was completely under water for our trip this time! And amazingly the “old gal” didn’t jump at the chance when the “old git” joked: “Ok first in the water gets an extra big gin!” She did however mutter something under her breath – but this is a family blog and it can’t be repeated here!

The majesty of me - at the empty wild camping site! Imagine Schiehallion in the backdrop!

The majesty of me – at the empty wild camping site! Imagine Schiehallion in the backdrop!

The “old git” – who clearly isn’t wired up properly – asked the “old gal” why the wild camping site was totally empty only to be told in no uncertain terms this was because it was freezing! However it did allow me the opportunity of a picture to show off my majestic lines since Schiehallion was hiding!

Then it was time for the “old git’s” well thought out plan to record an “on location” New Year message – offering a cremant toast to offer best wishes for 2017 to readers of my blog and fellow tandemers everywhere. He had come up with a script and great ideas to use his new fancy phone with his new tripod device and Bluetooth gizmo to film an epic which would then be edited together into an Oscar winning film! But the fact that my dynamic crew were feeling less than dynamic and distinctly chilled meant that it was a one-take (less than) wonder! (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.)

It certainly wasn’t a Steven Spielberg production  – and it was so cold that the “old git” didn’t even have time to open the bottle of fizz! Job done my crew – fairly well chilled to the marrow by now – got back on the saddles and covered the last couple of  miles to Kinloch Rannoch in double quick time.

To defrost the “old gal” and the “old git” jumped in to the comfort of Matilda Transport – immediately switching on the heating system and enjoying a reviving cup of warm coffee. After a few minutes they were able to enjoy their picnic lunch – indoors not outdoors obviously! – while having a look at Strava which officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of  22.7 miles with a total moving time of  2 hours 27 minutes, at an average speed of 9.3 mph. And my dynamic crew showed they still had good fitness levels by recording no less than 7 Strava gongs – which given the freezing temperature was really quite an impressive performance from my crew!

Total elapsed time was just 2 hours 50 minutes due to not hanging about during the photo and video shoot! Top speed was a not too shabby 27.5 mph and the elevation covered was 389 feet. Together we managed to burn up 1,211 calories to help wipe out some of the festive excesses, and produced an estimated average power output of 123 W.

Just one complaint to the local tourism people at Rannoch and Tummel – there were lots of people about as it was the day after New Year’s Day – but nowhere was open.  Not exactly offering tourists a warm welcome ….. surely it wouldn’t have been too difficult for somewhere to open for a few hours?

As we headed home to Matildas Rest – the exercise endorphins had fortunately started to kick in – with all three of us agreeing that – even allowing for the somewhat cold temperatures – that it had still been a worthwhile ride in a spectacular area. There was even time for some self congratulation of achieving the four loops in four different seasons. Even if the “old gal” was saying that the next time she wanted to do it in t-shirt weather!

So as a reminder of much warmer wilderness tandeming – here’s a picture from our warm summer loop of the toast that we had planned …. Cheers! And all the best for 2017!

Memories of Summer! Prosecco with an Irn-Bru chaser!

Warm memories – prosecco with an Irn-Bru chaser!