Supporting Save Millport Pier campaign on Euro tour training ride

The “old gal” and me pictured looking across to the under threat Millport pier.

Team Matilda like getting involved in a good campaign … and recently me and my dynamic crew were invited to join the fight to Save Millport Pier. As regular visitors to the island and big fans of its charm we were naturally delighted to become involved to add a bit of fun to the campaign.

Which is why at 6.30 bright and early on Sunday morning my 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!

The “old git” and the “old gal” had already decided to go to their beloved “Costa del Millport” for one of their final training rides before this year’s Tour de France (including Holland) in mid September. The plan being to do some training laps round the island – officially known as The Isle of Cumbrae – as it is a cyclists paradise offering a virtually flat 10 mile loop on almost traffic free roads never more than a few yards from the coast.

And to add to the excitement Team Matilda is also going to be supporting the petition too help Save Millport Pier. Read on for more details – but I was delighted to be kitted out with a large red and white Save  Millport Pier sign attached to my frame. 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 behind.

On the ferry to Millport – my crew with King and Queen of the Mountain jerseys!

It would have to be said that my dynamic crew – always shy and reserved! – were attracting a fair bit of attention bedecked in their King and Queen of the Mountain red polka dot Tour de France jerseys … and matching socks! – impressive attention to detail! It was all definitely tongue firmly in cheek (or so the “old git” said) as the route round the island has no steep hills … just a few gradual inclines!

It was good to see so many bikes on the ferry crossing – even if there were no other tandems. As we disembarked the roll on-roll off ferry we headed clockwise for a gentle 4 mile warm-up into the town of Millport. You can check out the route of our tour of Millport training ride below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

There was a fair head-on breeze blowing as my dynamic crew pedalled from the slipway, so it was obviously going to be a day of battling the winds! But the sun was out and it was going to be a glorious day by the seaside! On arrival in the town of Millport my crew decided it was time for a coffee pit stop at 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 morning coffee ad pistachio pastry at Crocodeli – oh if you insist!

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 50 minutes. Not bad for a warm-up!

Time to get some photos at Millport Pier and lend our support to the campaign to save the facility. We met up with Mari Wallace, one of the campaign organisers, who explained that the island’s fragile economy would be boosted by the retention of a working pier. The petition aims to draw 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.

The old wooden part of Millport pier is now blocked off and unsafe – thus the campaign!

A  well-supported “sit-in” to launch the campaign had been held the day before – attracting coverage on national tv and radio. Amazingly over 7,300 signatures have now been added to the petition – more than five time’s the island’s population of just 1,400.

Mari told us that in 2014 North Ayrshire Council (NAC) took the decision to demolish the wooden part of Millport Pier. It had been neglected for several years prior to this decision being made and since then has fallen even into a worse state of repair, with it now being out of bounds for safety reasons.

The “sit-in” the day before our visit on Millport Pier was well attended. Credit: CRSC

A stay of execution was put in place when NAC were advised by some local people that the pier forms critical flood defence for the town and until other measures are put in place it is vital that it should be maintained or otherwise the town is at risk.

In the recent consultation on Millport Coastal Flood Prevention there was overwhelming support for the retention of Millport Pier and the construction of off shore breakwaters. The sting in the tail however is that even if offshore breakwaters are put in place North Ayrshire Council have ring fenced £0.5m for demolishing the pier and fully intend to do so on the premise that it’s cheaper to demolish than to maintain! Meanwhile the council says it has “no immediate plans” to demolish the pier.

My dynamic crew were directed to a great article with lots of amazing pictures about the history of Millport Pier on the Clyde River Steamer Club website. It records that in its post war heyday Millport welcomed large steamers like the Queen Mary 11, carrying over 2,000 passengers on summer holiday trips “doon the Watter” from Glasgow.

The huge Queen Mary 11 dwarfed Millport Pier back in its postwar heyday. Credit CRSC

There’s still time to sign the petition to Save Millport Pier – so please add your voice to the campaign to keep a key landmark and focal point of Millport’s sea front.

The “old git” at the entrance to the harbour – spot my Save Millport Pier sign!

After Team Matilda did our bit for the campaign, it was now time for our second circuit and this time my crew decided to go anti clockwise – to take in the views from a different direction. Pedalling out past Kames Bay the sun was shining brightly on some yellow flowers – providing an eye-catching photo opportunity for me.

The sun came out and these flowers provided a colourful image overlooking Kames Bay.

We pedalled on up past the ferry slipway and round the top of the island soon arriving at our idyllic quiet picnic tale 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 prosecco picnics!

Lunch table with a view! Our idyllic picnic bench overlooking the beach and over to Isle of Bute.

Now, as you know, prosecco picnics at remote spots are one of the great pleasures of tandeming and my crew are true exponents of the art! Today the food to emerge from their bicycle rider’s luncheon box was smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese on focaccia bread, followed by fresh strawberries and cream, and a square of chocolate. Oh, did I mention the prosecco to wash it all down?! Picnics don’t come much better than this!

Cheers! The “old git” toasts the “old gal” for another wonderful prosecco picnic!

After a walk on the beach while enjoying the warm sunshine 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 rigeur for tandemers.

After refuelling my crew decided to investigate the giant marquee that has been erected for the following weekend’s Millport Country Music Festival.  Now the island has historically hosted a highly popular country and western music weekend, which started back in 1995.  22 years on the festival has gone from strength to strength, featuring country bands from all over the UK to become one of the most popular on the west coast of Scotland, and one of the biggest Country Music festivals in Scotland. This year will be the biggest ever  with the addition of a huge 3,000 capacity concert marquee.

The marquee which will hold 3000 fans for the Millport Country Music Festival.

The “old git” then decided to finish with a flourish and that the final lap of the day would be an attempt on my dynamic crew’s existing Tour de Millport time for going round the island of 41.28 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 record attempt – she even removed her cycling jacket!

We set off from 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 a new personal best time of 40 minutes … give or take  the odd second or two – which means we were tandeming at an average speed of 15 miles an hour! All the more impressive when a check of the weather later revealed Team Matilda were battling a 14 mph headwind. And what’s more it was actually great fun – underlining my crew’s motto of “It’s always better when we’re tandeming together!”

The “old gal” looking fresh as the flowers on the prom after our record breaking lap!

After the exertions of the record breaking lap my crew decided a coffee stop would be very welcome and found a cheery welcome at the recently restored  Garrison House – a historic landmark building on the promenade which was built in 1745. It seems history reports that Millport owes its origins in the 1700s to the people who attempted to smuggle contraband into the Clyde and to those who tried to stop them! The Garrison House was built as the residence of the Captain and officers of the customs ship ‘Royal George’ which played a key role in the ‘hot pursuit’ of smugglers. The cafe was closing but happily produced some coffees which hit the spot!

Tandeming along the promenade we were hailed by Sean who owns bike hire shop On Your Bike Millport in the town. My dynamic crew turned round for a chat and it turns out Sean had seen my classic tandem frame earlier in the day and had admired it before doing some research and catching up with my blog! Sean was very complimentary about my appearance describing me as “a very well kept classic tandem who looks in fine fettle!” He also was full of praise for the “old gal” in her role as chief engineer for keeping me in shape!

Sean told us that he started his business 10 years ago and tandems are now a very 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, including the star attraction of a 7-seater “conference bike”.

He says that visitors to the island often end up having their first ever tandem ride when hiring from his business – and some … like my crew … end up being smitten by riding a bicycle made for two! Sean said: “Everyone should take a tandem ride at least once in their life! I’ve seen their popularity grow year on year. Nowadays many people are creating bucket lists of activities – and a tandem ride seems to be a popular inclusion as it is a lot less scary than a bungee jump or swimming with sharks!”

So after exchanging greetings with Sean – and his promise that he is going to become a regular reader of my blog! – we headed to the Harbour Restaurant for our meal. Regular readers of my blog will know that this is the restaurant of choice for the “old git” and the “old gal” on Millport. The food was brilliant as always – very tasty and originally presented! Both my dynamic crew were fairly hungry and couldn’t see past the burger selection! Just what was needed to restore energy levels.

After the meal it was time for the final pedal – four miles back to the ferry slipway. And after the relaxing meal  the pace was somewhat more sedate than our record lap earlier! While waiting for the ferry back to Largs my dynamic crew had time to check out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 22 gongs – made up of 8 personal bests, 10 seconds, and 11 thirds. Me and my crew had tandemed a distance of 39.3 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 11 minutes. Average speed was 12.3 mph and the elevation was a 1040  feet. The maximum speed was 21.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1906 calories and produce an average power output of 149 W.

The Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. It makes for amusing watching due to the laps and change of direction!  (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.)

Back in Largs a quick few hundred dash 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 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!”

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Overseas warm (but very windy) weather weekend training trip to Costa del Millport

Costa del Millport – Kames beach looking distinctly Mediterranean for a picnic stop on day 2.

6.30 am on a Sunday and the alarm awakes Team Matilda from their slumbers. Amazingly the “old git” and “old gal” jump out of bed! The reason for this enthusiasm is that we were heading for our annual “overseas warm weather” May Bank Holiday training weekend on the “sunshine” island of Millport.

For those unfamiliar with the charms of “Costa del Millport”, the island (officially known as The Isle of Cumbrae) is just 10 minutes by CalMac ferry from the mainland at Largs on the firth of Clyde. It is a cyclists paradise as it offers a virtually flat 10.25 mile loop round the island on almost traffic free roads.

And as added excitement we were being joined on our weekend adventure by good solo cyclist friends of the “old gal” and “old git” – Gillian and Craig. Now believe it or not they are Millport virgins! I know it is hard to believe that some people have yet to enjoy the thrill of a trip to Millport – but this was their first time so laughs are guaranteed!

So we headed off from Matildas Rest – with the only slight snag being a weather forecast which was promising winds of up to 24 mph. And given we were heading to an island that didn’t sound too clever!  Matilda Transport was parked up in Largs and we tandemed round to the ferry terminal – complete with my natty matching (and bulging) panniers! – to meet up with Gilliand and Craig.

Here I am on the short ten minute CalMac ferry crossing to Millport.

I really enjoy a ferry trip you know, as you always get to meet some interesting new bikes – especially some of these sleek new racing bikes – which is nice eye candy for this “old lady”!

Ten minutes later and we were in a different world – it’s amazing the difference that short journey “overseas” makes! It was certainly blustery as we left the ferry – with the wind as per the forecast! This was going to be interesting – especially in the cross winds given that I am a “long vehicle”!

The calm before the storm – arriving with Millport virgins Gillian and Craig.

So after disembarking there was time for a quick group selfie before heading clockwise to pedal the four miles into the town of Millport. 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! 

So this is where my dynamic crew knew it was windy! As we headed off from the ferry slipway the wind was recording a steady 24 mph – right in the direction we were tandeming! The “old gal” – who suffers a bit from asthma – found the first couple of miles particularly hard going.  Now we know what cycling in a cyclone is like! It was really tough pedalling and it seemed we were almost going backwards such was the force of the wind! But about half way towards the town as we changed direction, thankfully the wind suddenly calmed a bit. It was very much still there, but not nearly as ferocious!

On we pedalled into the town where we had arranged to hand our panniers in at the Craigard Guest House – our wonderfully friendly bed and breakfast – run by the really hospitable Janette and Crawford. We stayed here the last couple of years, and were welcomed back like old friends! I was most impressed when Crawford greeted us with “Good to see the three of you again!”

After a quick pit stop we were back on the road, heading off clockwise on our first lap. And as we cycled up the quieter side of the island it was like a totally different day from the mainland side! This was a joy with my dynamic crew enjoying the wind behind them as they flew along taking in the stunning views across the water to the nearby islands of Arran and Rothesay.

Gillian and Craig enjoying the flat open roads on Millport on their solo bikes.

Gillian and Craig were enjoying their first views of the island, taking in the beautiful scenery as we passed remote beaches with lots of 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! As we came round the top of the island, we were all a bit more prepared for the wind as we came round the headland. It was just as strong but somehow Team Matilda managed to keep the momentum going by keeping pedalling. I was actually impressed as our speed didn’t seem to drop too much – and we were still back in Millport – having completed the first lap – in well under an hour!

After a quick breather it was time to continue on clockwise for the first half of lap 2 which took us to our idyllic quiet table for four with a sea view – with the weather almost balmy on the more protected side. Just perfect for our prosecco picnic.

Bon Appetit! Time for one of my dynamic crew’s infamous prosecco picnic lunches!

Now prosecco picnics by tandem at remote quiet spots are one of the great simple pleasures in life, and my dynamic duo take them very seriously with meticulous preparation! Today the menu to emerge from their bicycle rider’s luncheon box was smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese croissants followed by fresh fruit. Picnics don’t come much better than this!

The “old gal” among the bluebells on the track down to the beach.

Selfie time for my dynamic crew after the picnic with Rothesay in the background.

After a walk on the beach the four of us got back on the saddles. Happily for the “old gal” the wind had dropped a bit as we headed past the ferry terminal and we completed the second lap faster than the first. Time for a reviving reward of some coffee and yummy carrot cake – de rigeur for tandemers – at the brilliant Dancing Midge Cafe. Refuelled it was time for the final lap of the day – but as the sun had come out there was time for some scenic shots as the cycle path passed Kames Bay.

Gillian and Craig with the “old gal” overlooking the beach as the sun decided to pay a visit!

What a view – looking towards the ragged hills of Arran out from Millport,

Just  for variety we decided to  do the final lap anti clockwise and this was clearly going to be the fastest lap of the day! The first half of this circuit was a breeze – and not in the windy sense! Gillian and Craig headed off on their solo bikes to complete an ultra-fast lap and since they were visitors on their first trip to Millport, we decided not to chase them! We pedalled up past the ferry picking up speed all the way and enjoyed most of the trip back down the quieter side … until my dynamic crew suddenly became less dynamic as they simultaneously hit the wall! With about three miles to go the “old git” and the “old gal” both almost ground to a halt with their pedalling as today’s miles had clearly taken their toll. But they battled on with Team Matilda arriving back in Millport virtually at crawling speed.

Happy to have finished the final lap of the day – clocking up 35  miles.

Spangled! The “old gal” having a rest after that final lap and cycling in a cyclone!

Relaxing back at the Craigard – while enjoying a wee glass of wine – the “old git” and the “old gal” were euphoric when they checked Strava to find they had gained no less than 16 gongs – 6 third best times; 6 second best times; and 4 personal bests! Not a bad tally given the ferocious headwinds my dynamic crew faced throughout the day – which underlines that they are a good bit fitter and stronger than they think! Strava officially recorded the ride as Team Matilda covering a distance of  34.6 miles with a total moving time of 3 hours 27 minutes – giving a healthy average speed of 10.0 mph.

The total elapsed time was just over 5 hours – allowing for the prosecco picnic and coffee and cake! Top speed recorded was 20.1 mph and the elevation covered was 531 feet. Together we managed to burn up 1690 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 122 W.

Time for a bit of rest and recuperation before Gillian and Craig knocked on the door – with another of their pop-up gin bars! They had gone to the effort of bringing some of the Glasgow-made Makaar gin, Mediterranean tonic, and even a chilli freshly cut up as a garnish! It went down a treat before we headed for our evening meal at The Harbour restaurant. Regular readers of my blog will know that this is the restaurant of choice on Millport for the “old git” and the “old gal”. And the offering now includes a cocktail menu – including gin concoctions – so the “old gal” was ecstatic!

Cheers! Well deserved cocktails for the “old gal” and “old git” at the Harbour restaurant.

The food was brilliant as always – very tasty and originally presented! The “old git” for example enjoyed some tempura prawns with a chilli dip followed by a build-your-own burger with blue cheese topping.  Just what was needed to restore energy levels! So after a great night – full of laughs – it was back to the bed and breakfast for some much needed zzzs ahead of another couple of laps tomorrow!

Day 2 dawned and bright sunshine streaming in as my dynamic crew and Gillian and Craig enjoyed  a hearty cooked breakfast at Craigard to set everyone up for the cycling ahead. After bidding farewell to Janette and Crawford, and thanking them for another great stay, we headed out to find the wind had changed – but only in direction!

Millport bay was a veritable millpond basking in the sun – but the “old gal” knew from painful experience of Millport that if the wind was still there that meant the other half of the island would be a maelstrom! And she wasn’t wrong!

So the plan was for two more training laps today – and for the first one we headed off anti clockwise. Remember 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 was a lovely day to be tandeming and all was well with the world – then just at the ferry slipway we felt the wind again! It was whipping up the sea into waves – but for some reason it didn’t feel as bad as yesterday! And it seems it wasn’t as it had dropped from 24 mph to a more placid 19 mph! But my dynamic crew were feeling fresh after their rest and powered round the island in 47 minutes.

On the way round just as we passed the public loos at Fintry Bay we saw a new star of the island my crew had been told about – the self dubbed Cumbrae Cludgie Cleaner. Fun-loving Suki McGregor signed up for  job following a community take-over of the public loos and is instantly recogniseable thanks to her trademark bright pink overalls and blonde dreadlocks. She even has her own Cumbrae Cludgie Cleaner Facebook page and has been posting video blogs which have gone viral!

We spotted the Cumbrae Cludgie Cleaner  at the loos near Fintry Bay. Photo: Scottish Sun

As we tandemed past my crew parped my horn and waved and shouted out hello and said thanks for doing a great job for the community. A few days later a great article appeared about Suki in the Scottish Sun and Team Matilda got a mention! Talking of the praise she received Suki told the paper: “I’ve had a couple on a tandem cycle past shouting ‘There’s the Cumbrae Cludgie Cleaner!”

A welcome coffee stop at Crocodeli after the initial lap on day 2.

Time for a quick coffee pit stop at the brilliantly named Crocodeli delicatessen – combining the deli part with the famous Crocodile Rock landmark. The coffee was great and we decided that their home made sandwiches would be ideal for a picnic lunch – so the “old gal” wisely got them to put a bottle of white wine in the fridge so it would be suitably chilled on our return from our final lap! The “old git” couldn’t help but laugh at the tongue-in-cheek west of Scotland humour on Crocodeli’s blackboard promoting the fact that they were self-proclaimed Piece Artistes! (For those not au fait with the Scottish dialect piece is a Scots word for sandwich!)

Only in Millport! Fantastic west of Scotland humour in bottom line of Crocodeli’s sign!

So with the weather conditions now at their best over the whole weekend, my dynamic duo decided that they would finish with a flourish! They got themselves psyched up for a record breaking Tour de Millport attempt!

Following much discussion – 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! Just to emphasise the seriousness of the situation my dynamic crew removed their cycling jackets … and so Team Matilda set off from the harbour with the aim of recording their best ever time to lap the island.

It would need to be said that we fair whizzed round the island with the “old git” keeping me in high gears most of the time and really pushing on when we hit any wind. I was enjoying myself immensely as this “old lady” doesn’t normally get to experience such speeds!

And I am proud to report that my dynamic crew excelled themselves with a non stop circuit of the island which was recorded at new personal best of 41.28 minutes – which means that we were travelling at an average of 14.89 miles an hour! Fantastic! And what’s more it was great fun which proved my crew’s motto of “It’s always better when we are tandeming together!”

Time for a breather! The “old gal” relaxing after the record breaking lap!

Not surprisingly my crew needed a few minutes to sit in silence and re-energise after their record breaking attempt and found a lovely sunny spot beside the harbour. We met up with Gillian and Craig who had taken the internal – but much hillier road – to do some sightseeing, before heading back to Crocodeli for some lovely sandwiches and collect that nicely chilled wine for the picnic!

While the “old gal” was organising the picnic purchases, the “old git” decided to have a look in the window of the gift shop next door and his eye was caught by a range of caravan signs for hanging over a wine bottle. Immediately he thought of my good friend, the recumbent tandem Bluebird, and her crew John and Jane – who we enjoyed a great Tour de Perthshire with last year when they travelled north with their caravan! And excitement is building to the first week in July when Team Matilda is travelling south to meet up with Team Bluebird for a Tour de New Forest! So the sign that said: “Everybody join the caravan of love” seemed the perfect memento from Millport!

A present for Team Bluebird … the wine didn’t survive the picnic lunch!

Unfortunately for John and Jane – but fortunately for my dynamic crew! – the perfectly chilled and fruity Oyster Bay wine didn’t have a chance of surviving the picnic! But the “old gal” says it was delicious – so it didn’t go to waste! And it wasn’t just the effect of the wine, but as my crew enjoyed their alfresco picnic as the temperature rose, Millport had a distinctly balmy Mediterranean feel to it! Yes honestly! It was truly living up to its Costa del Millport nickname!

Picnic over – it was time to cycle the four miles back to the ferry slipway – which was taken at a more sedate pace than the record attempt!

Waiting on the ferry to dock at the Cumbrae slip for the return crossing.

While waiting on the busy ferry for the crossing back to Largs there was time to check out the data and my dynamic crew were ecstatic to discover the second day’s tandeming produced another 13 gongs on Strava – including an impressive TEN personal bests! … including that lap of 41 mins 28 seconds!

The distance was recorded by Strava as 23.2 miles for day 2, with a total moving time of 1 hour 57 minutes – giving an average speed of 11.9 mph. Top speed recorded was 20.6 mph and the elevation covered was 375 feet. Together we managed to burn up 1087 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 139 W.

Reflecting on a fabulous Bank Holiday weekend of tandeming on Costa del Millport!

On the return ferry trip while basking in the bright sunshine there was time for Gillian and Craig to join my dynamic crew to reflect on a rather special weekend on Millport, which was ideal training for our Tour de France and Holland later in the year.

Team Matilda tandemed nearly 60 miles … averaging 11 mph over the two days … and recording no less than 15 personal bests! All together a pretty good result! And I for one can’t wait to go back! And it seems Gillian and Craig are now converted to the charms of Millport to, and promise to return!

As one of the promotional Facebook sites for the island says: “The Only Way is Millport”! And as this sign stresses: “Millport – in a world of its own!” And who can argue with that!

The sign says it all really!

Matildas Clan Gathering on Millport

The “old gal” and the “old git” enjoying the ride on sun-drenched Millport.

The “old gal” and the “old git” enjoying the ride on sun-drenched Millport.

6.30 am on Sunday morning and the alarm awakes Team Matilda from their slumbers! A big day ahead as we are heading on an “overseas trip” for some “warm weather training” before Le Grand Depart for Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem in two weeks time!

Today’s destination is the “sunshine” island of Millport. For those unfamiliar with the charms of “Costa del Millport”, the island (officially known as The Isle of Cumbrae) is just 10 minutes by Cal Mac ferry from the mainland at Largs on the firth of Clyde. It is a cyclists paradise as it offers a virtually flat 10.25 mile loop round the island on almost traffic free roads.

And as added excitement the day was billed as my Clan Gathering on Millport as the “old git” came up with the idea of having a family fun day on the island. So with a variety of complicated logistics the “old gal’s” daughter Kirsty and the “old git’s” son Niall joined us for the day. And to add to all of that, we were all celebrating Niall’s birthday too!

Two of Team Matilda's offspring - Kirsty and Niall - joined us for the day "doon the water"!

Two of Team Matilda’s offspring – Kirsty and Niall – joined us on Millport.

Now before we move on I have to record here that I have been pining for my new best friend Bluebird – the Pino semi-recumbent tandem – who I shared a memorable week during Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem, I really have been missing the company of my fellow tandem! And I know the “old gal” and the “old git” had a great time with Team Bluebird – John and Jane Taylor – and formed what hopefully will be a lasting friendship among the self-proclaimed founding members of The Nutty Tandemers Club.

Whisper it, but rumour has it that other tandemers are now keen to join after reading about the week’s fun and games on my blog and also on Bluebird’s mini blog Facebook site called ‘Travels with Bluebird’.

Hopefully our antics can be repeated before too long – perhaps on John and Jane’s home turf of the New Forest in Hampshire where we are reliably told (by Team Bluebird!) that there are some fabulous real English pubs!

So back to Millport – and when we arrived Kirsty and Niall jumped on the bus which meets the ferry for the four mile trip to the town of Millport while my dynamic duo enjoyed a brisk ride to join them.

After a much needed coffee pit stop at Crocodeli, Kirsty and Niall hired solo bikes from the famous Mapes, which has over 400 bicycles for hire! Now it would need to be said here that Kirsty hadn’t been on two wheels for quite a few years – but Niall cycles regularly and is rather fit!

So we hit the road and pedalled anti clockwise round the island – enjoying the views over to neighbouring islands of Arran and Rothesay. In less than an hour we all completed the first circuit. You can check out the details of  our route on sun-drenched Millport on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

Millport Clan Gathering Map

It was now almost balmy as we had a breather back in the town and everyone was feeling euphoric as they had to remove their cycling jackets due to overheating!

Heading off in a clockwise direction, we cycled about half way round the island to our fantastic lunch spot – a picnic table right on the edge of the sea.

Lunch stop at a (prosecco) picnic table on the edge of the beach.

Lunch stop at a (prosecco) picnic table on the edge of the beach.

The “old gal” had excelled herself with a magnificent prosecco picnic spread – including croissant filled with smoked salmon and cream cheese, mini pork pies, cocktail sausages, and cheese. This was followed by fresh fruit and a special “birthday” carrot cake for Niall, complete with candles!

Picnic selfie for the foursome of Kirsty, the "old gal", the "old git" and Niall! Cheers!

Picnic selfie for the foursome of Kirsty, the “old gal”, the “old git” and Niall! Cheers!

After lunch – with the sun now high in the sky and the temperature rising, there was time for a walk on the beach – enjoying the magnificent scenery in ideal conditions.

On the beach with the backdrop of Rothesay in brilliant sunshine showing the island at its best!

On the beach with the backdrop of Rothesay in brilliant sunshine showing the island at its best!

After the picnic we all enjoyed some tandem frolics – with first Niall  then Kirsty having a shot as stoker, replacing the “old gal”!

Niall taking to the role as my new temporary stoker with great ease!

Niall taking to the role as my new temporary stoker with great ease!

Niall was very confident – and don’t tell the “old gal” but the “old git” really felt a difference when he was pedalling due to his youthful enthusiasm! The “old gal” meanwhile took up her role to shoot a couple of short videos, firstly of Niall. (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.)

Next to take to my rear saddle was Kirsty – who was perhaps a little more nervous to begin with. But she soon got into her stride – although admitted it did feel a bit odd not being able to steer!

Kirst!y enjoying taking up her new role as temporary stoker

Kirsty enjoying taking up her new role as my temporary stoker!

As you can see from this short video, Kirsty did remember to pedal and didn’t try to sit with her feet up! (Remember to click onto the blog to view the video.)

After resuming our original positions we continued clockwise to complete the second full lap of the island. It was great to see it so busy – being such a beautiful day – and also good to see so many people out cycling.

I then had the pleasure of being greeted like a long lost friend – when I heard someone shout: “There’s Matilda!” It was Crawford and Janette who run the most hospitable Craigard Guest House on the island where Team Matilda have bedded down for the night when staying over on the island! It was good to see them again and we promised we would be back for an overnight stay soon!

After ice creams and much needed cold drinks on our return to the town, there was still plenty of time left so the “old git” and the “old gal” decided they had to get a photo at the island’s famous Crocodile Rock landmark – which has been given a fresh lick of paint for the summer!

Posing at Crocodile Rock - the famous landmark on Millport, complete with fresh paint job.

Posing at Crocodile Rock – the famous landmark on Millport, complete with fresh paint job.

Then, in their questionable wisdom my dynamic duo decided they would do one final “speed lap” – a non-stop round the island whizz. Kirsty retired at this point due to a sore rear end, but Niall decided he would power off and do a lap on his own. Impressively he returned back to Millport in a time of just 34.5 minutes – which means he clocked an average speed of nearly 18mph.

As for us, we started well and we were flying along for the first few miles – but then this turned out to be the hottest part of the day and in the warm sunshine it would need to be said that Team Matilda “hit the wall” at the top end of the island!

Our progress down the quieter side was somewhat slower than usual with stoney silence between my duo – who were decidedly less than dynamic at this point! The non-stop plan was abandoned as they were forced to stop for water – before a final push to get back to the town. And hats off to them (sunhats obviously!) they still completed the 10.25 mile circuit in under the hour – at 56 minutes!

Happy faces enjoying the sunshine on Costa del Millport!

Happy faces enjoying the warm sunshine and blue skies on Costa del Millport!

So after my dynamic duo “ran out of juice” on the final lap it was time to replenish liquids at the Harbour restaurant where a table was booked for a birthday meal for Niall. First up were the celebratory Millport French kiss cocktails – an intoxicating mix of gin, prosecco and lime juice – which went down a treat after the exertions!

Regular readers of my blog will know this is one of the favourite restaurants of the “old git” and the “old gal” and once again it lived up to it’s previous reputations. The food was brilliant and tasty as always – and originally presented. The “old git” for example had chilli prawns followed by a build-your-own burger with blue cheese topping! Just what was need to restore energy levels!

One of the funniest parts of the trip – which encapsulated the enjoyment of the whole day – was on the ride back to the ferry. Niall and Kirsty jumped on the bus while the “old git” and the “old gal” had to pedal the four miles to the ferry slipway. But after a lovely relaxing meal progress was a little slower than usual.

Because the road hugs the coast the arrival of the ferry is clearly visible and given that they only operate every half hour they didn’t want to miss it. The final mile is an open stretch known as the “sprint to the ferry” and I now know why! With the minutes ticking away to the 7.30 departure – and all the vehicles loaded – we were still a good half mile or so away.

The "old gal" and the "old git" on the last stretch known as "sprint to the ferry" - and it was!

The “old gal” and the “old git” on the last stretch known as “sprint to the ferry” – and it was!

It looked like we were going to miss the sailing by seconds – until the “old git” demanded one final push from the “old gal”. “Give it some wellie!” he urged and we powered along the final straight in the evening sunlight. We could see all the passengers on deck and the crew ready to depart, and Niall and Kirsty dutifully waiting for us. As we turned on to the slipway the passengers and crew all applauded as we had made it by the skin of our teeth!

I have to say it was quite an arrival – I am not used to such applause so it was a bit embarrassing – but the very second I was pushed on deck the roll on-roll off door was lifted and the engines started and we were off.

Just over five minutes later we arrived back in Largs and a quick pedal back to Matildas Transport and time to reflect on a super day before the journey home with a backdrop of a magnificent sunset over Millport.

Perfect sunset over Millport after a super family day of tandem frolics.

Perfect sunset over Millport after a super family day of tandem frolics.

Strava officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of 38.7 miles with a total moving time of 4 hours 01 minutes, with an average speed of 9.6 mph. Top speed was 20.6 mph due to the island being so flat and a lack of downhill stretches and therefore the elevation covered was just 878 feet. We managed to burn up 2,745 calories and produce an estimated average power output of 170 W.

And astonishingly Strava awarded us no less than 21 records – I will repeat that … no less than 21 records!  This included an amazing 10 personal bests – one of Team Matilda’s best ever performances on a ride! To be honest I guess that the fact that we were effectively doing laps – 4 in total – meant we kept breaking the time on the previous lap! And obviously one of them was in that final race to the ferry!But it’s still an impressive tally and one I am very proud of as an “old lady”!

The “old git” tells me to inform my readers to ignore the bit on the Strava map where it looks like we are tandeming across water! This I am reliably told was an “operator error” by the “old gal” who was so overcome with the sprint to the ferry that she forgot to switch the device off! So it looks as if we were actually pedalling over the sea back to the mainland!

All in all a five-star day of family fun filled tandem frolics on a beautiful corner of Scotland! Quite a place for a clan gathering!

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Matilda’s miles on Millport

Quiet table for two?! Our lovely isolated beach view lunch spot on Millport.

Quiet table for two with a sea view?! Our lovely isolated beach view lunch spot on Millport.

7 am on the Sunday of the early May Bank Holiday weekend and the alarm beeps! The “old gal” has a quick look out the blinds and confirms it is lashing down with rain, and as we say in Scotland – it is blowing  a hooley!

But there is no chance of a duvet day as the “old git” has booked us all on an “overseas” trip for some “warm weather” boot camp training on the “sunshine” island of Millport.

For those unfamiliar with the charms of “Costa del Millport”, the island (officially known as The Isle of Cumbrae) is just 10 minutes by Cal Mac ferry from the mainland at Largs on the firth of Clyde and it offers a virtually flat 10.25 mile loop round the island on almost traffic free roads.

It is a cyclists paradise really and is a favourite destination of those in need of some training practice. Well it is when the sun shines and the wind doesn’t blow! Which is exactly the opposite of the weather conditions when we wakened up.

Despite the “old gal’s” protestations in the parlance of John McEnroe that “You cannot be serious!” we were all soon packed up in Matilda Transport and heading down the A9 and across to the west coast in driving heavy rain to Largs for the ferry.

The “old git” – ever the optimist – was trying his best to convince the “old gal” that there was going to be a weather window later in the day when the sun would shine. It would need to be said that the “old gal” was giving him her best “I don’t believe you look” – but obviously delivered with a smile on her face!

Those annoying motorway signs which were flashing “Warning – surface water” and “Caution – high winds” didn’t really help the “old gal’s” mood. But she knew mutiny was pointless as the bed and breakfast was already booked and the “old git” was a man on a mission.

The “old git” was clearly banking on the fact that Millport – being an island – is well known for its typical “four seasons in a day” Scottish weather. And it can actually change conditions very quickly.

Almost miraculously as we drove down the alpine zig-zag bend-style Haylie Brae overlooking Largs, the rain stopped, the wind died down, and the sun broke through the thick cloud. There obviously is a God!

So we were able to keep to the original plan of leaving Matilda Transport at Largs and cycle round to the ferry – complete with my natty matching (and bulging) panniers!

A quick stop at a new Costa Coffee beside the ferry terminal and we were on board! I really enjoy a ferry trip you know, as you always meet some interesting new bikes – especially some of these sleek young racing bikes! Which is nice eye candy for this “old lady”!

On arrival - the ferry slipway at Costa del Millport - just 10 minutes from the mainland.

On arrival – the ferry slipway at Costa del Millport – just 10 minutes from the mainland.

Ten minutes later and we were in a different world – it is amazing the difference that short journey makes as you make the trip “overseas”!

So after disembarking and a quick photo stop, we headed the anti-clockwise “long way” round – the 6 miles down the quiet side of the island to the town in order to take in the stunning views of nearby islands of Rothesay and Arran and clock up the best part of the first loop.

Check out the location and route of my Tour de Millport du tandem on Strava below – don’t forget to click on the map to get the full data and statistics!

cdm - strava snipBelieve it or not as we passed beautiful remote beaches, with abundant wildlife, the sun was shining and we managed to knock up a fair speed – even with the heavy panniers! In high spirits, we identified our lunch spot for the second loop and continued pedalling into the town.

Next job was to hand our panniers in at the Craigard Guest House – a wonderfully friendly bed and breakfast business – run by the really hospitable Janette and Crawford. We stayed here last year and were all welcomed back like old friends! I was most impressed when Crawford greeted us with “Good to see the three of you again!”

After a quick pit stop we were back on the road, with us all enjoying the tandem up the side of the island which looks out on the mainland. We were whizzing along now and soon completed the first lap as we passed the ferry terminal and on to our lunch stop.

It was now almost balmy round the more protected side of the island and my dynamic duo were feeling euphoric as they had to remove their cycling jackets due to overheating! Or as the “old gal” said: “I will say this only once probably this weekend – but I am too warm!”

The “old git” unpacked the prosecco picnic lunch as they took up seats on their idyllic “quiet table for two with a sea view”!

The "old gal" posing in alfresco fine dining mode!

The “old gal” posing in alfresco fine dining mode!

Now prosecco picnics by tandem at remote quiet sports are one of the great simple pleasures in life, and my dynamic duo take them very seriously with meticulous preparation! Today they had a very healthy Hay Plan menu of caesar salad wraps and fresh fruit – and yes the bubbly is on the approved list! They are obviously taking this eating healthy plan thing seriously (not a diet shouts the “old git” who doesn’t do diets!) as they have now lost 53 pounds between them in 11 weeks. And it has left them feeling so much fitter. And as for me I am equally grateful that I don’t have to carry all that extra weight around on my ageing frame!

A quick walk on the beach to take in the scenery in brilliant sunshine was a bonus – although the views to the snow-capped peak of Goat Fell on Arran was testament to the recent cool temperatures!

The "old git" trying to blend in with the bright yellow gorse at the picnic stop!

The “old git” trying to blend in with the bright yellow gorse at the picnic stop!

Back in the saddles and we were off for again with a couple of quick stops for some photos, including the poignant War Memorial which looks directly out to see and what has been – and still is – the Royal Navy’s training ground for warships.

Paying respects at Millport's War Memorial - a truly peaceful spot.

Paying respects at Millport’s War Memorial – a truly peaceful spot.

We tandemed into Millport town again – and after a quick coffee refuelling stop we set out on the third and final loop of the day! The “old git” decided this would be a non-stop clockwise circuit against the clock! We were soon clocking up an average of over 15 mph on the calmer side of the island before we hit the wind on the ferry side! This slowed progress a bit, but we still managed the complete lap in just over 50 minutes.

Strava officially recorded the day’s cycling at a total distance of 26.5 miles, covering an elevation of 651 feet. The average speed was 9.0 mph and we reached a maximum speed of 19 mph!

Just on cue as we arrived back at Craigard Guest House the rain started, so I was quickly parked up safely in their garden with carrier bags over my saddles and bags as rain protection.

Craigard is now in its third season and Janette and Crawford have rightly established a reputation for a home-from-home stay. So my dynamic duo enjoyed a bit of rest and relaxation before a shower and change for their meal at The Harbour. Regular readers of my blog will know that this is one of the favourite restaurants of the “old git” and the “old gal”. And the offering now includes a cocktail menu – including gin concoctions – so the “old gal” was ecstatic!

Dilemma - Should I have the Pilot Cocktail or the Stoker Cocktail - or both ..?

Dilemma for the “old gal” – to have the Pilot Cocktail or the Stoker Cocktail – or both ..?

The food was brilliant as always – very tasty and originally presented! The “old gal” for example enjoyed baked camembert followed by a build-your-own burger with blue cheese topping and bacon, finishing off with a chocolate toffee brownie and all washed down with Shiraz wine. Just what was needed to restore energy levels!

So after a great night – full of laughs – it was back to the bed and breakfast for some much needed zzzs ahead of three more tandem laps on the Monday!

Well that was the plan! But someone forgot to send the email to the weather department and we awoke to gale force winds and rain battering the windows. But again the BBC weather app gave hope for sunny spells mid morning – although it was still going to be windy!

A hearty cooked breakfast at Craigard set my dynamic duo up for the day. Over breakfast the rain did stop so we headed back out full of hope for more training!

As we set off anti-clockwise the sun broke through the clouds and all seemed good as we cantered along the ferry side of the island with a nice breeze behind us. There was even time for me to become acquainted with some of the local landmarks on the way round, including Lion Rock – a prehistoric rock formation which (up close) resembles a prowling lion.

Time for a quick photo stop at the landmark of Lion rock.

Time for a quick photo stop at the landmark of Lion rock. Note the “old gal’s” pink ski gloves!

It was significantly colder and more blustery than yesterday so the “old gal” decided to break out the pink ski (sorry stoker) gloves to keep the circulation in her hands.

We were actually enjoying being out on the road, but just after we passed the ferry terminal the first drops of rain started. And as we rounded the headland at the top of the island we were met with a combination of a heavy downpour of a squally shower and the full force of the wind.

With a wind speed of around 30 mph this really was like hitting a brick wall and more or less stopped us in our tracks. No matter how much my dynamic duo huffed and puffed they couldn’t make any significant impact against the wind and our speed slowed down below 5 mph.

They battled on in stony silence passed yesterday’s idyllic lunch spot. It appeared to be a totally different world today and one that they weren’t going to stop at. Nor did we risk stopping for a picture at another of the island’s landmarks for cyclists and walkers – Indian Rock – in case we couldn’t get going again.

Eventually we managed to get to the bottom end of the island and the wind resistance dropped – which gave a welcome chance to breathe and pedal into the town.

The “old git” wisely took the decision that we should abandon any further attempts at training laps and decided on a warming coffee and lunch at the welcoming Dancing Midge Cafe. Here the “old gal” thawed out and joined the “old git” in having a tasty bagel light lunch, followed by a spirit-reviving slice of that staple of cyclists  – home made carrot cake.

As spirits revived the sun broke out again and my dynamic duo decided to venture outside again for a daft photo at the third of the island’s rock landmarks – and the most famous – Crocodile Rock. Over the years it has  attracted many generations of children to have their photograph taken with the Millport Crocodile. So naturally that meant the “old git” – who can be a big kid sometimes – had to have his photo taken there! And the “old gal” got the angle just right!

It was very scary for me at Crocodile Rock - but the "old git" rescued me just in time!

It was very scary for me at Crocodile Rock – but the “old git” rescued me just in time!

With the weather dry the “old gal” wisely decided it was time to make a break for it and tandem the 4 miles back to the ferry slipway. Fortunately we made it to the shelter before the rain started again. Just a quick shower this time fortunately, and we were soon back on the mainland for the journey back to Matilda’s Rest after our  mini break. We maybe didn’t clock up all the planned boot camp training miles – but an enjoyable time was had by all.

To finish this posting, news of the UK Blog Awards 2016. The glitzy awards ceremony was held in London last Friday night – albeit without me (or my dynamic duo) there in person! My Matildas Musings blog didn’t win a prize in the Most Innovative category in which I was shortlisted – but congratulations to all who did.

The judges clearly didn’t think a blog “written” by a classic Jack Taylor tandem was innovative enough to pedal away with the trophy! But it was great fun taking part in the event and I can always use the words “UK Blog Awards finalist” in my future posts!

In time honoured tradition of thank you speeches I would like to thank everyone for their votes and support which got me to the finals in the first place. And who would ever have thought that my blog would have been in the last 10 shortlist out of 2,000 entries – and been the only Scottish blog to reach the finals?

And there’s always 2017!

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