Team Matilda clocks up 6000 miles in tandem on a flood-hit weekend Tour de Arbroath mini break

I am a tandem – not Noah’s Ark! Looks like I have found the ability to cycle on a canal on NCN Rt1!

Saturday afternoon saw Team Matilda drive to Arbroath in Visit Angus for a weekend break with good solo cyclist friends Alan Ince and Anne Connell – Team AA!

We arrived late afternoon during a period of torrential rain with a severe weather warning for flooding. However the “old git” remained his usual optimistic self about a change in the weather as we all checked in to the very welcoming and luxurious Harbour Nights bed and breakfast wonderfully situated overlooking the harbour and marina.

The luxury Harbour Nights b+b sits on the waterfront.

The view from the brand new luxury sea view suite – across the marina and harbour

Everyone else thought he was mad (what’s new there!) as the “old git” said he was confident the rain would relent in time for the planned Sunday ride which would see my dynamic crew clock up their 6000th mile in tandem!

To take the minds off the by now biblical rain a gin and prosecco bar was quickly set up by the cycling teams in the brand new luxury sea view suite – with magnificent views across the marina and harbour – and naturally the crews had to sample a few of the offerings!

Team Matilda and Team AA enjoy the first prosecco toast of the Tour de Arbroath!

A gin and prosecco bar was quickly set up in the suite to take the minds off the biblical rain!

Waterproofs on we walked the short distance for a great Greek style evening meal at Andreou’s Bistro – which if it wasn’t for the constant rain battering the windows would have felt like the crews had arrived somewhere in the Mediterranean!

After a nightcap – of a sumptuous new dark red Shiraz flavoured gin brought by Anne and Alan – the crew’s went to bed with my Captain still bravely predicting that the storm would blow thru by the morning, as the weather forecast predicted. Everyone else just smiled along to keep him happy!

Ride 1 – Team Matilda hits 6000 miles in tandem on pedal where Noah’s Ark would have struggled on Arbroath – Dundee route with Anne and Alan

Sunday dawned – and believe it or not – the sun was out and the rain had subsided! So after a hearty home cooked tasty breakfast at the b+b, the crews got kitted up and we headed out of Arbroath on the pre-planned route heading for Dundee on Sustrans Scotland The National Cycle Network  #NCN Rt 1. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

Team Matilda’s dynamic crew and Anne and Alan of Team AA ready to roll at Arbroath marina.

A bracing pedal down the promenade – which was being hit by amazing waves – took us to the start of the coastal cycle path. After a couple of miles we suddenly hit a large area of water. Somewhat inadvisably the crews thought they could pedal thru, not being able to tell the depth. But when the flood water came up over my pedals after about 60 yards it was time to stop!

With fairly fast flowing water from a heavily flooded burn now lapping at the shins of the crews the next decision was whether to push the bikes on for a couple of hundred yards or reverse and seek a detour. The decision was made in no uncertain terms when a solo cyclist coming the other way decided to walk his bike thru and ended up with it over his shoulder and waist high in water!

So the “old git” bravely battled to turn me in the water and Team Matilda and Team AA waded back to dry land! But the stalwart crews simply decided to ring out their socks and shoes and squelch off to continue the ride by retracing our pedals back into Arbroath and finding the alternative cycle path which runs along the route of the A92.

Feet wet! At the edge of the waist high flooding on NCN Rt1 just after leaving Arbroath.

Drying out by the side of the cycle path as the crews rung out their shoes and socks!

The wind helped dry out the feet of the crews(!!) and we were soon turning back down a quiet rural road to the village of East Haven – where we saw a beached fishing boat! But this wasn’t the result of the severe floods but was in fact part of a beautiful community garden display!

Despite the flooding this boat is meant to be beached in a lovely garden at East Haven.

Back on the planned #NCN Rt1 the next stop was at Carnoustie, where there was time for photos while admiring the raw power of the high breakers pounding the seafront.

The pounding waves and bracing fresh sea air at Carnoustie enjoyed by Team Matilda and Team AA..

Alan and Anne of Team AA admiring the raw power of the sea.

The “old gal” and the “old git” take in some salty sea air at Carnoustie.

Pedalling on, the cycle path is wonderfully flat going past the Barry Buddon tank training range – with its dire warnings of potential death to trespassers if the flags are flying. The sun was shining brightly and Broughty Castle and the small harbour at Broughty Ferry offered the perfect backdrop for another photo opportunity.

Don’t jump! Broughty Ferry harbour looking down to the Tay Estuary towards the Tay bridges.

My dynamic crew enjoying the sunshine and the backdrop of Broughty Castle.

The path then continues along the scenic seafront before a new section along Dundee Docks brought us into Dundee at the revamped waterfront area incorporating the impressive V&A Dundee, which is built to look like a large ship. The cafe at Discovery Point and RRS Discovery offered a perfect stop for re-fuelling scones, cakes and coffee.

Selfie time at Discovery Point and RRS Discovery in Dundee with the V&A Dundee in the background.

My dynamic crew now had just a few miles to go till they hit their 6000th mile in tandem landmark and with much checking of my milometer on my handlebars – and the “old git” doing a countdown – it finally clicked over at Broughty Ferry sea front right beside a bench with a great view down the Tay Estuary.

Photo proof of the 6000th mile clocked up in tandem for my dynamic crew!

Naturally this was deemed a perfect spot to pop the cork on the signature #prosecco celebration with Anne and Alan who had helpfully packed a hip flask with some sloe gin which turned the fizz into a very appealing pink #ginsecco! Not surprisingly this popping of the cork and subsequent fairly loud celebrations caused a bit of interest on a very busy sunny Sunday afternoon at the sea front! But I think that hitting 6000 miles – with just as many smiles! – on a bicycle made for two is good justification for a celebration!

Popping the cork with a bang to celebrate the 6000th mile.

My dynamic crew were basking in their personal glory – fuelled as a quick bit of Google research revealed that a 6000 mile circumference as the crow flies from their home base of Auchterarder would have seen them pedal as far as Johannesburg in South Africa; Bangkok in Thailand; Sao Paulo in Brazil; or Hong Kong! Quite an achievement and as the “old gal” quipped: “See what a blind date on a tandem can sign you up for!”

A signature prosecco toast for my dynamic crew to mark the big moment at Broughty Ferry!

We even had a quick impromptu video call to our close tandeming pals Jane Termini Taylor and John Taylor to share the fizz moment as we had been with our Travelling In Tandem blog friends in person as Team Matilda hit 3000 miles on our Nutty Tandemers Club Tour de New Forest and then again for 4000 miles on the fabulous Tour de Hebridean Way last year. We just had to share the prosecco with them virtually as Team Matilda fell just a few miles short of hitting the 6000 mark on our recent Tour de Worcestershire and Warwickshire.

A virtual toast with our tandeming pals John and Jane of Travelling in Tandem blog!

There was also a toast to my trusty bike doctor John at Richards Cycles in Perth for keeping me on the road! Team Matilda is acutely aware we couldn’t have hit this landmark without you! Cheers!

The 6000th mile brought back memories of our 5000 mile landmark – which was achieved strangely enough just along the cycle path at Monifieth Beach back in May this year. Now that was during the Covid-19 lockdown and I decided it wasn’t really the mood to write a blog about it at the time, but my dynamic crew did record a couple of videos that day to record the 5000 miles for posterity!

So I decided to include them in this blog! The first one was a little celebratory tandem song – with profuse apologies to The Proclaimers! Click on the video to watch!

The second one saw the “old git” doing a toast in tribute to the “old gal” – my trusty Stoker (and Chief Engineer!) who has been a stalwart for every one of those miles! Again click below to watch!

Celebrations over, the crews pedalled back to Carnoustie where the flooding was worse than earlier, which seemed to turn the cycle path into a canal at some points. Then there was the amazing sight of the Open Championship Carnoustie Golf Links at the Carnoustie Golf Hotel and Spa looking more like a fast flowing river than its carefully manicured fairways.

Don’t put your feet down! My dynamic crew pedalling thru the floods near Carnoustie.

Looks like a river to the right of the “old gal” – but it’s the waterlogged Open Championship golf course!

Now as if the flooding wasn’t enough drama for one day, unfortunately Alan punctured around East Haven. For what ever reason noone noticed he had fallen behind and the others all pedalled on oblivious to his plight on the steep climb out of the village. A ping on Anne’s phone alerted us to the problem and we went back to find him just as he had completed a quick change of his inner tube.

It was just starting to get dark as the now tired crews pedalled back into Arbroath. Safely ensconced back at the warmth and comfort of the Harbour Nights b+b, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing Team Matilda had been awarded 20 gongs – made up of 7 personal bests; six second bests; and 7 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 44.6 miles with a moving time of 4 hours 14 minutes. The average speed was 10.5 mph – which given the windy conditions and flooding detours was pretty respectable – while the elevation was just 601 feet. The maximum speed was 24.8 mph and the “old git” and “old gal” managed to burn up 2,322 calories and produce an average power output of 136 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D mapping video – so take a look below.

After welcome reviving showers, a brilliant day was completed with some tasty fish and chips for re-fuelling from Marco’s On The Shore – superbly situated right next door to our wonderful bed and breakfast – which was naturally washed down with another couple of tastings from the gin bar!

A great full-on tandeming day out – with a second route planned for Monday, which hopefully will be a little less eventful! But who can tell! After all, I I do need something to write about in my Matildas Musings and these adventures just seem to happen naturally!

Ride 2 – Arbroath to Lunan Bay – take 2 … after a snapped rear gear cable was fixed within 20 minutes as a hero at a local bike shop saved the day!

Monday morning and my dynamic crew and solo cyclist friends Anne and Alan (Team AA) woke after a restful nights sleep at the charming and highly recommended Harbour Nights bed and breakfast for the second ride of their Tour de Arbroath mini break.

After the drama of tandeming thru the floods on Sunday both crews were hoping for a less eventful pedal. But – as always – our rides never seem to be straightforward, and this one turned into another adventure full of drama! Firstly it was blowing a hoolie – as they say in Scotland when the wind is pretty blustery. But despite a few sharp squalls while the crews enjoyed a tasty breakfast – including the local delicacy of an Arbroath Smokie – it had dried up when we pedalled off. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The bracing head wind along the sea front towards the cliffs on Sustrans Scotland The National Cycle Network  #NCN Rt 1 made progress interesting!

Then disaster struck with less than 2 miles on the clock as my dynamic crew tackled the first hill climbing away from the sea. There was a resounding twang as the “old git” changed down gear and this “old lady” tandem ground to a halt.

Closer inspection revealed I had a snapped rear gear cable at the handlebars end, and I was stuck in a low gear. Just as it looked like the ride was going to have to be abandoned a helpful local walked past and suggested calling in at the bike shop in the town.

A quick downhill pedal took us back to Arbroath and easily found the Angus Bike Chain shop. The “old gal” disappeared inside more in hope than anything – but after a quick chat with the fantastically helpful ‘Biker Steve’ who owned the shop, she gave a thumbs up and I was wheeled inside.

The business more than lived up to its reputation of being “the best bike shop in Angus”. Not only did it have the longer gear cable required for my lengthy frame in stock – but within 20 minutes the new cable was carefully fitted and I was fully tested and repaired – and all for a very modest payment. Great service!

“Biker Steve” at the fab Angus Bike Chain shop soon had a new rear gear cable attached and tested.

The Angus Bike Chain certainly lived up to its reputation of the best bike shop in Angus!

Then it was Take 2 – as the crew’s retraced their steps and enjoyed a great ride on undulating quiet roads to the wild and beautiful Lunan Bay Beach and its attractive red-coloured sand.

The wild and beautiful Lunan Bay Beach was our scenic destination.

Leaving the bike’s at the boardwalk entrance to the beach the crew’s admired the views of nearby Red Castle which overlooks the beach.. History says that both Robert the Bruce and William the Lionheart used the castle, which now is sadly in a serious state of disrepair.

The viewpoint overlooked the rugged sand dunes offered a perfect spot for some pictures of Team Matilda and Team AA before the signature #prosecco toast overlooking the blustery beach.

The “old gal” with Anne – one half of solo cycling Team AA!

Selfie time for Team Matilda and Team AA showing the wide open red coloured beach.

Another view of Lunan Bay Beach from the viewpoint in the sand dunes.

Cheers! My dynamic crew share their signature #prosecco toast overlooking the beach.

Blowing a hoolie! Prosecco toast at a blustery – but beautiful – Lunan Bay Beach.

After taking in the sea air the crews pedalled back to Arbroath but on the return leg we had a P-word incident as Alan had the misfortune to puncture for the second time on his rear wheel in two days.

The crews tried a quick fix with the instant spray sealer foam but the tube must have been too badly damaged as it didn’t work. So as we were just 3 miles from the finish, Alan decided that the rest should all head back into Arbroath, with the “old git” then collecting him by car to avoid having to do the full wheel removal puncture repair.

Don’t mention the P-word! Alan Ince suffered his second puncture in two days.

Safely back in the town the crew’s enjoyed a reviving coffee scone and cake at The Old Boatyard – while recounting another typical drama-filled Matildas Musings adventure!

The “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing that despite all the trauma of the day Team Matilda had amazingly been awarded a gong for being “8th fastest in the world” for a downhill stretch known as “Flat out to the fire station” coming back into Arbroath!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 18.2 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 39 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.1 mph given the blustery conditions, while the elevation was 924 feet. The maximum speed was 28.9 mph and the “old git” and “old gal” managed to burn up 1,188 calories and produce an average power output of 179 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D mapping video – so take a look below.

My dynamic crew bid fond farewell to Alan and Anne – with the promise of a repeat weekend trip in the future – probably in the Spring!

Before heading home to Matildas Rest, Team Matilda decided to enjoy the last of the early evening sunshine with a brief walk round the exterior impressive sandstone ruins of Arbroath Abbey, which dates back to 1178 and is now looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

The “old gal” dwarfed by the magnificent sandstone ruins of Arbroath Abbey.

A celestial moment as the sun broke thru the cloud above Arbroath Abbey

It is currently closed due to the Covid-19 restrictions but the Abbey is most famous for being the base for the Declaration of Arbroath when Scotland’s nobles swore their independence from England in a letter to the Pope sent from the Abbey 700 years ago in 1320.

A bit of history in the Arbroath sunshine to end a fabulous weekend of tandeming adventures!

Finally, As a little tribute to the unforgettable Tour de Arbroath the “old git” has pulled together a photo montage video – set to music – to help everyone remember the madcap fun  we all enjoyed – so click below and enjoy!

MATILDAS MUSINGS TANDEM BLOG RELAUNCH!! Clocking up 1000th tandem lockdown mile on furlough while bringing out our inner Romain Bardet of Team Ag2r on celebration pedal to Arbroath for prosecco fish and chips!

Matilda sporting her la bouclee wine carrier at Arbroath Habour – with vital celebratory prosecco!

Matildas Musings – the UK’s only blogging tandem is back … after a post lockdown relaunch!

Where have we been I hear you ask since my last blog at the end of last year? Well one minute my dynamic crew were getting over the festive period and thru the winter weather, then the next minute were slap bang in the middle of strict lockdown as a result of the on-going Covid-19 pandemic.

So please excuse my lack of blogging activity over these months as Team Matilda simply didn’t feel comfortable blogging about fun happy adventures in tandem on a bicycle made for two when there were far more serious issues to contemplate, while at the same time trying to stay safe.

But that’s not to say that there was no tandeming as my dynamic crew decided early on to use their initial exercise allowance to regularly get out pedalling in a bid to stay healthy while on furlough from work. And as those weeks turned into months Team Matilda targeted – and hit – their lockdown milestone of 1000 miles while maintaining Cycling UK Scotland‘s mantra of #cyclingfromhome.

So why a relaunch? Well as the world slowly tries to get back to some sort of normality – while following all essential social distancing safety rules – my dynamic crew thought the time was about right to get back to some light hearted humorous blog writing.

A quick precis if you are new to this blog (or if you have forgotten!): Matildas Musings is a blog written by Matilda, the “old lady” classic Jack Taylor tandem – and her Musings about her adventures, trials and tribulations with her “dynamic crew” – the “old git” and Captain, aka Colin, and the “old gal” and Stoker (as well as Chief Engineer) aka Diane.

Blogging tandem Matilda writes Musings about her adventures on the road on a bicycle made for two, focusing on tourism and food & drink experiences en route in Scotland and abroad!

So if this is your first time, Team Matilda sincerely hope you find the adventures of the UK’s only blogging tandem entertaining – and that our self-deprecating humour makes you smile – while finding something that you (as non-professional non-lycra-clad fun-loving fellow tandemers) can relate to!

And if you like the blog use the sign up feature to get regular updates, and you may want to follow our zany tandem adventures on my Matildas Musings FacebookTwitter or Youtube feeds.

So for the first new blog after the relaunch, the focus is on my dynamic crew clocking up their 1000th #tandem lockdown mile while bringing out their inner Romain Bardet of the Ag2r professional cycling team on a celebration pedal to Arbroath for prosecco fish and chips. And for the record this was after lockdown restrictions and rules on travelling for exercise had been eased in Scotland.

You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

For the celebration ride my crew chose one of their favourite routes from the Tay Road Bridge at Dundee to Arbroath on Sustrans Scotland #NCN Rt1.

It was a perfect tandeming day out to hit my dynamic crew’s lockdown 1000th mile mark – and I still don’t think my Stoker can quite believe that Team Matilda has tandemed that total mileage over the past three months or so!

And the milestone pedal saw my dynamic crew decked out in new replica jerseys of the Equipe Cycliste Ag2r La Mondiale Team! Naturally there had to be a few photos to try and get my Captain and Stoker to look like their star rider Romain Bardet! Do you think they achieved the look?!

The “old git” bringing out his inner Romain Bardet of Team Ag2r … he wishes!

The man himself – Romain Bardet – looking a bit younger and slimmer than the “old git” and “old gal”!

The “old gal” bringing out her inner Romain Bardet of Team Ag2r … she wishes!

The route is idyllic, with the dedicated cycle path hugging the scenic east coast from Dundee – through the port area and along to Broughty Ferry before reaching Carnoustie and on to Arbroath. And the sun was bursting through the blue sky showing off Arbroath Harbour at its very best! In fact the “old git” said the sun gave it an almost Mediterranean feel. Almost!

The “old git” against a backdrop of lobster creels and amazing sky at Arbroath Harbour.

Selfie congratulations time! My dynamic crew celebrating clocking up 1000 miles during lockdown.

Now when in Arbroath there was clearly a requirement to do as locals do and have the authentic local delicacy of an Arbroath Smokie for lunch. But my dynamic crew went one step better and enjoyed a fabulous alfresco fish and chips Arbroath style!

The fish part of this was a yummy Arbroath Smokie straight off the smoker at the wonderfully named C Lyons Fresh Fish !! Add a portion of chips from the local chippie and a some chilled prosecco which was carried on my La Bouclée wine carrier – and it was a memorable alfresco picnic to toast the 1000 lockdown miles!

Fish and chips Arbroath stye! Arbroath Smokie and chips – washed down with prosecco!

The wonderfully named fish shop where the Arbroath Smokie came straight off the smoker.

The “old gal” enjoying the views at scenic Arbroath Harbour.

Team Matilda had time to explore around the scenic harbour area before it was time to head back to Dundee – with my dynamic crew battling a fierce headwind all the way.

Back in Dundee it was great for the “old git” to meet up with his former work mate Athur Hayburn for a brief catch-up. There was time to pose for a quick photo on the waterfront area, with Arthur taking up my Stoker’s position against a backdrop of the Tay Rail Bridge.

The “old git” had an all too brief meet up with his pal Arthur – with Tay Rail Bridge behind.

The last part of our 1000 mile celebration ride was the “uphill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge – which always seems a bit of a grind. Today however for some reason it was a canter for my dynamic crew with even the “old gal” commenting that it was “easy”! There has obviously been a positive lockdown furlough effect on Team Matilda’s fitness and performance.

Back at Matilda Transport in the Tay Bridge Car Park, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than a very creditable 41 gongs! The total was made up of an amazing tally of 26 personal bests, 7 second bests; and 8 third best times.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 40 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 10 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.6 mph while the elevation was a relatively flattish 411 feet. The maximum speed was 32.4 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,706 calories and produce an average power output of 134 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D mapping video – so take a look below.

The timing of the 1000th mile ride was perfect as the “old gal” was re-opening her Number Fifty Seven Hair Salon 💇‍♀️ in Auchterarder – under the new Scottish Government guidelines – just a few days later. And with a full appointment book – from clients desperate to have their hair done after 16 weeks of lockdown – opportunities for pedals are going to be few and far between!

For the record the calculations show that over the 40 lockdown rides, the total mileage was 1039 with my dynamic crew spending 84 hours in my saddles. The average speed works out at 12.4 mph.

Total elevation was an outstanding 46,023 feet or just over 1.5 times the height of Mount Everest! That is definitely a statistic that the “old gal” – who doesn’t do hills – is going to impress her friends with!

I think that proves that our home base of Auchterarder has one similarity to Rome – being built on hills! All that #cyclingfromhome meant that which ever route my dynamic crew took – there was always a killer uphill section to finish!

Looking back it was a highly positive experience for the “old git” and the “old gal” and helped keep them healthy – both mentally and physically. And my dynamic crew feel so blessed and fortunate that they have been able to be out and about enjoying trips on a bicycle made for two during lockdown.

So now that my Matildas Musings blog is back in action – look out for more updates soon which will include some of our other landmark furlough rides – including my dynamic crew clocking up their 5000th mile in tandem on my saddles; the “old git” enjoying a pedal on his birthday; and the “old gal” being utterly amazed as Team Matilda completed a virtual JoGLE – John o’ Groats to Land’s End. There’s also a plan for a photo special with some of the best (and worst) images of my lockdown rides!

It’s good to be back! … and underlines that it’s always better when we are blogging about tandeming together! Do please feel free to leave a comment as it’s always good to hear from readers of my blog. Until the next time!

Naughty Matilda jumps on train to Dundee to ride to champagne afternoon tea and Aqua Vitae at Lindores Abbey Distillery

Waiting on a deserted station platform full of anticipation about my first ever train ride!

The Latin phrase ‘aqua vitae’ literally means the water of life! And today my dynamic crew decided to embark on a ride to enjoy a glass of their own water of life in the form of a champagne afternoon tea at a distillery. And the fact that Lindores Abbey Distillery produces its own unique brand of Aqua Vitae – while waiting on its whisky to mature – meant it was a ‘must visit’ destination!

But before enjoying the delights of the afternoon tea treats, my dynamic crew had to pedal there – and the “old git” decided that it would be a great tandem trip to ride from Dundee back to Matildas Rest – with a perfectly situated half-way stop at the distillery.

Brill idea – except that plan involved a slightly naughty adventure of getting me on a train! That doesn’t seem too difficult I hear you say. But given that tandems are officially not allowed on trains – and the “old git’s” dogged desire to beat the system – it added a bit of an edge to the day!

Is anyone watching us?! – me and the “old git” waiting on the train pictured from the station bridge!

The sun was already rising in a blue sky as my dynamic crew set off for the local Gleneagles railway station situated on the main line to Aberdeen and Inverness.  My dynamic crew were well aware that ScotRail’s official policy is to welcome cycles on all its trains but the small print states: “We don’t allow tandems, tricycles and non-folding cycle trailers as they take up too much space.”

But that wasn’t going to stop Team Matilda’s plan! The “old git” had booked two single tickets and two bike places online for the service to Dundee. My dynamic crew waited a tad nervously for the train to arrive – expecting a loudspeaker announcement if they had been spotted on CCTV on the platform.

Waiting a little nervously for the train on the platform at the impressive Gleneagles station.

The train arrived, the guard looked at all three of us for a moment and asked if we had booked. The “old git” showed the tickets and the guard said: “Ok on you go!” It would need to be said that it was an older train with a guards van storage section just behind the diesel engine – but we were on! And once the train moved off we knew there was no going back! I was securely stacked in a spacious bike rack beside four other sleek looking touring bikes – and there was plenty of room for me to fit in.

We’re on! The “old git” ensuirng I am safely secured on the bike rack!

Naturally my dynamic crew were somewhat chuffed that they had managed to get me on board. The “old git” – keeping with his reputation for planning – did have a Plan B in place should I have been refused entry to the train, which would have been tandeming to the distillery and then retracing our steps to pedal home again. But it just shows that bluffing it can pay off! In just over half an hour the train pulled in to Dundee station and in seconds I was out of the train and on the platform! I felt just a tad mischievous, but it was mission accomplished! And the station has been revamped recently, with the addition of a tandem-friendly lift which took Team Matilda up to street level. Easy!

Dundee station has a tandem-friendly lift to get me to street level!

After the excitement of actually getting on the train, the “old gal” was in need of a caffeine fix and there was a quick pit stop for morning coffee and a scone at the pleasant RSS Discovery cafe opposite the station. Before heading away on our ride there was a quick photo opportunity at two of the life-size figurines situated at Discovery Point – beside the new V&A Dundee design museum – which were part of the Oor Wullie’s BIG Bucket Trail, which claims to be Scotland’s first ever national public art trail.

The “old gal” – who has a likeing for a strong coffee – naturally had to have her photo taken at the ‘Full O’ Beans’ installation, while the “old git” had to pose as Oor Wullie at the ‘Dazzle Wullie’ artwork!

The “old gal” and me causing a stir at the ‘Full O’ Beans’ installation.

The “old git” trying his best to pose as Oor Wullie at the ‘Dazzle Wullie’ artwork!

My dynamic crew headed for the lift to get up on to the pedestrian and bicycle deck of the Tay Road Bridge to start our ride by crossing the River Tay on Sustrans Scotland National Cycle Network Route 1. You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

Ready to roll! Handlebars view of the cycle deck on the Tay Road Bridge.

After crossing the bridge in unusually benign conditions of a magnificent blue sky with not a cloud on the horizon, our route took us on NCN Rt 1 through the pretty town of Newport on Tay – which offered some spectacular views out across the river and the Tay Rail Bridge.

Bench with a view! Newport on Tay offers spectacular views across the river.

It was a great day to be out tandeming and Team Matilda pedalled on joinging NCN Rt 777 to Newburgh – thru Wormit and just before Gauldry the signposted cycle route directed us off the B995 towards the village of Balmerino. All of a sudden there was a shock to my dynamic crew’s relaxed demeanor when suddenly out of nowhere a monster hill appeared!

Much puffing and panting later the “old git” and “old gal” finally emerged at the top of the category 4 climb (and a wee bit of a push!) – and a quick look at the map fortunately revealed that was the worst of the hills! The sun was high in the sky and the “old gal” was actually heard to say that it was a bit hot – and for someone who is often cold that is quite a statement!

The “old gal” enjoying the amazing views over the fields to the sun-kissed Tay.

The views over the sun-kissed Tay were nothing short of amazing – making it a memorable tandem ride. With the temperature continuing to rise, the “old git” was glad to stop in the shade for some water, overlooking the impressive ruins of the 14th Century tower house Ballinbreich Castle.

Some much needed shade for the “old git” overlooking Ballinbreich Castle.

A quick downhill and we were tandeming into Newburgh where we were to find our wonderful oasis of Lindores Abbey Distillery – which was to be the venue for our stylish champagne afternoon tea treat.

The distillery is a relatively new visitor attraction – with whisky starting to be produced in December 2017. But Lindores is actually the historic seat of whisky making in Scotland – with distilling taking place on the site at least as early as 1494, although it was most probably happening long before that.

This is known because of the earliest written reference to Scotch Whisky (or Aqua Vitae, as it was then known), which appears in the Exchequer Roll of the same year. It mentioned a Brother John Cor, a Lindores monk, who was commissioned by King James IV to turn 8 bolls of malt into Aqua Vitae.

Here I am striking a pose at the entrance to the stylish Lindores Abbey Distillery.

The “old git” had pre-booked – as advised on the website – but my dynamic crew were non-the-less ultra impressed to be personally welcomed as we arrived at the entrance by Jane Clark, one of the managers at Lindores. And the staff made a great fuss of me, calling me a “celebrity visitor!” – and insisting I be pushed thru the shop area into a courtyard complete with a cycle rack.

A juxtaposition of an old matured tandem with an old matured whisky barrel!

As I had a rest the “old gal” and “old git” were escorted upstairs into the fabulous trendy glass surrounded Legacy Bar – which offered a wonderfully sophisticated and air conditioned atmosphere for their afternoon tea treat.

My dynamic crew were presented with a chilled glass of champagne – where they toasted the joys of tandeming – before enjoying a veritable feast of delicious finger sandwiches, savoury pastries, scones with cream and jam, delicate small cakes, and a perfectly formed cheesecake mouse. Apart from the champagne this is washed down with a choice of fragrant teas or speciality coffees – and one of the delights of this culinary experience is that all the produce is freshly home made and locally sourced.

Cheers! The “old gal” and “old git” having a champagne toast before their afternoon tea!

This was all wonderful value at £25 a head, and enjoyed looking out onto the unbelievably blue skies to the Tay Estuary beyond. My dynamic crew were introduced to Helen McKenzie Smith part of the husband and wife owners team, who describe themselves as ‘custodians of Lindores.’ Helen was charming and patiently answered all the “old git’s” questions about their project to revive whisky making on the ancient site – after a break of over 500 years!

For spirit to be officially called whisky it has to be matured for a minimum of three years and a day, so Lindores is looking forward to being able to market its first batch in December 2020.

Interestingly Lindores has decided not to go down the traditional route of many Scotch distilleries in producing gin while waiting on the maturing process. Instead – given the history – the distillery is producing its own handcrafted botanical spirit which it has branded Aqua Vitae.

The “old gal” enjoying a sample of Lindores own pre-whisky Aqua Vitae botanical spirit!

As previously mentioned, the earliest Aqua Vitae was made at Lindores as long ago as 1494, and the distillery staff have authentically recreated that recipe and reimagined it as ‘an inquisitively versatile spirit’. It is distilled in pot stills and then infused with a blend of spices and herbs, including cleavers, and sweet cicely, which grow in the gardens, amidst the grounds of the ancient Abbey, and is entirely natural, with no added sugars. Naturally the “old gal” and the “old git” were treated to a sample – which they both pronounced as being delicious!

After a most enjoyable time at the distillery, my dynamic crew explored the fascinating remains of Lindores Abbey itself. Known as the ‘Church by the Water’, it was founded in 1191 by David Earl of Huntingdon, on land overlooking the River Tay Estuary, given to him by his brother King William I. It was built with local red sandstone, and covered a very large area – the extent of which is still clearly visible today. Particularly well preserved is a section which was the eastern entrance to the Abbey.

The “old gal” and me could feel the history at the eastern entrance of Lindores Abbey.

This artist impression – created by examining the remains – shows the Abbey’s impressive size.

It was time to head away from Newburgh and start the not insignificant task of a 21 mile pedal back to base. I am sure I detected more than a bit of a champagne-fuelled wobble over the first mile or so before the “old gal” and “old git” got back into their pattern of synchronicity!

The “old gal” bracing herself on leaving Newburgh for the 21 mile pedal home!

The route home took us thru Abernethy – the one the biscuits are name after! – and then the hamlet of Aberargie before joining the rather busy A912 for just over a mile to Bridge of Earn where we rejoined quieter more enjoyable country roads to Forteviot.

And then it happened, my dynamic crew suddenly became somewhat less dynamic as they bonked – the cycling definition of hitting the wall thru a lack of energy – on the section from Forteviot to Dunning! The “old gal” was convinced the hot temperature had a part to play – but the “old git” quietly thought that the stoker’s performance had been hit by the after effects of the fizz!

An urgent reviving pit stop was called for at Dunning and Team Matilda had a long ice cold soft drink at the friendly The Kirkstyle Inn – along with one of their “emergency” energy gels – to restore factory settings! The effect was instant as when my crew set off again for what they expected to be a hard slog of the last five miles home, it amazingly turned into an easy canter with the miles flying as my crew seemed turbo-charged – which resulted in Strava recording two personal bests along the way!

We rolled back into Matildas Rest with the sun still blazing in the sky. Over a relaxing coffee on the decking, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing that my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 38.2 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 16 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.7 mph given the hot temperature and the overall elevation of 2088 feet. The maximum speed was 35.8 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 2422 calories and produce an average power output of 184 W.

And there was at least 38 smiles to match the miles – with the added advantage of bluffing our way on to a train for the first time – which for the “old git” and the “old gal” is the mark of another great day out in tandem! After all, the laugh really is my dynamic crew’s unique recipe for their own Aqua Vitae!

Actually 38m but no Strava till Carnoustie on sunny coastal HebWay training ride to Arbroath for alfresco fish lunch!

Can you spot me amongst the creels at Arbroath Harbour?!

My dynamic crew like to feature local food & drink and tourism experiences as we tandem along on our adventures on a bicycle made for two! Well today was going to be one of those “must do” experiences – a mission to see Arbroath Smokies being smoked while in Arbroath … and of course sample the local fish delicacy!

It was all part of the “old git’s” master motivational plan to get more tandem training miles clocked up for Team Matilda’s forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure in June. And with much of today’s route just a few yards from the sea it is likely to be ideal preparations for the big ride “on the edge” of Scotland!

More about the HebWay at the end of this blog, but first today’s ride. With the weather coming up trump with the forecast dry sunny – but breezy – day, the “old git” had decided on a route which hugs the coast from the Tay Road Bridge to Arbroath on Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt1.

You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The first part of today’s ride was a quick “downhill” pedal across the Tay Road Bridge, before heading through the docks area and on up the coast. Regular readers of my blog will be well aware that Team Matilda are great fans of properly maintained cycle paths, and the great news is that NCN Rt1 has had a much needed revamp. This includes the installation of a new (and more reliable) passenger and bike lift at the Tay Road Bridge providing direct access to the shared path which runs between the two carriageways on the bridge deck. Like the last one, I was delighted to see it was tandem-length!

The “old gal” at the brand new tandem-length lift at the Tay Road Bridge.

The five-star improvements have also transformed the section thru Dundee Docks – with the laying of a sensational super-smooth tarmac surface and the removal of all of those pesky z-style gates to make life much easier for cyclists – and of course tandemers!

The brilliant new super-smooth tarmac surface on the revamped NCN Rt1 thru Dundee Docks.

A new fence separates the path from the actual docks and this avoids the need for cyclists to have to carry some form of identification in case the docks implemented their policy of only allowing access to people with ID. All good news and chapeau to those involved with the funding.

Pedalling on, the “old git” spotted the Sustrans Scotland “high-visiblity” cycle counter as we arrived at Broughty Ferry which provides a visual counter of the number of cyclists using the route. And yes we only increased the counter by one unit – not two – as it counts the bikes not the riders!

Sustrans says the idea behind cycle counters is to promote sustainable transport such as walking and cycling instead of driving. In general, cycle counters have been shown to be motivational for cyclists and provide data that assists planning for cycling infrastructure. What a great idea!

Tandeming on the path heads over Barry Links, past a large Ministry of Defence area known as the Barry Buddon Training Centre. This has high security fencing along its perimeter and rather ominously every 100 yards there are warnings signs telling you to keep out as this is a live military firing area! Not surprisingly the “old gal” ordered the “old git” to pay heed to the signs and not to veer off course!

We soon arrived at Carnoustie which hosted the 147th The Open played over the Carnoustie links golf course last July. It has a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s most challenging links course, and at 7,421 yards it is the longest of any of the Open venues.

The peaceful scenic seascape at Carnoustie – just before spotting the Strava operator error!

The cycle path almost looks like it is going direct into the sea at this point, with only a barrier of boulders separating riders from the water! Time for a quick photo stop for my dynamic crew to take in the scenic views. The blissful atmosphere was however somewhat tarnished when a Strava operator error was discovered at this point – meaning none of the miles from the Tay Road Bridge had been recorded. Oh how the “old git” laughed! But at least the “old gal” was relieved to know it was his fault!

Onwards we pedalled on NCN Rt 1 and it was great to see the path being so well used by bicycles on such a sunny day. Next stop was the beautiful former fishing village of East Haven which clearly has a highly active community trust called East Haven Together to protect and promote the area’s heritage and environment. And cyclists are made most welcome – with a bike friendly drinks dispensing station and route map at the entrance to the village.

Onwards to Arbroath on the highly recommended cycle path. The harbour town – which has a proud maritime and fishing history – was looking a its best as the sun peeked thru the clouds, giving it an almost Mediterranean feel.

Now when in Arbroath there was clearly a requirement to do as locals do and have the authentic local delicacy of an Arbroath Smokie for lunch. This time we went one step better and were fortunate enough to see the fresh haddock being smoked at Stuart’s Fresh Fish.

My dynamic crew were fortunate to see Arbroath Smokies during the traditional smoking process.

So lunch was a brilliantly delicious fresh fish combination of one of the newly smoked Arbroath Smokies, a dressed crab and a side of Tiger prawns! And it all tasted so much better eating it alfresco from a bench overlooking the impressive marina.

What a catch! Yummy alfresco lunch of Arbroath Smokie, dressed crab.and tiger prawns.

Re-fuelled my dynamic crew set off on the return journey – and into the breeze! The route took us back thru East Haven – which has been fortunate enough to be allocated some money from the ArtRoots fund – a community fund for artistic and aesthetic improvements to the Sustrans Scotland National Cycle Network. The result is a giant wooden sculpture depicting the area’s history as one of the oldest fishing communities in Scotland, which dates back to 1214.

The eye-catching landmark – which depicts two fishermen carved out of redwood by a chainsaw artist – has been installed on a  site overlooking the bay near the old fisherman’s shelter. Naturally the “old git” had to have a photo taken trying (and failing!) to subtly blend in with the sculpture!

The Sustrans Artroots funded outdoor art wooden sculpture at East Haven.

There was then a unanimous vote from the stoker’s saddle as the “old gal” called a pit-stop at the Glass Pavilion situated just behind Broughty Ferry beach for another signature event of one of Team Matilda’s tandem rides – carrot cake and coffee!

Coffee and carrot cake – in tandem – at the Glass Pavillion.

Broughty Ferry itself was busy with people (and dogs!) on the path but a few friendly parps of my French horn cleared a route for us to tandem past. The “old gal” noticed further improvements by the side of the NCN Rt1 with the installation of a series of outside gym fitness stations – positioned looking out to sea – and naturally couldn’t resist trying the static cycling one!

The “old gal” on the static cycling fitness apparatus beside the NCN Rt 1 near Broughty Ferry.

The route took us back down thru the renovated path thru Dundee Docks where we noted other useful improvements like a useful mirror at a tight bend to see if anyone was riding the other way.

Mirror mirror on the cycle path wall – who is the fairest of them all?! Me, of course!

The last part of our ride – after using the new lift – was the “uphill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge – which always seems a bit of a grind. Back at Matilda Transport in the Tay Bridge Car Park, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 15 gongs – which given the breezy conditions is fairly impressive! The gong total was made up of 6 personal bests, 5 second bests; and 3 third best times.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 26.5 miles (which should have been 38 miles had there not been that annoying Strava operator error!) with a moving time of 2 hours 16 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.6 mph while the elevation was a relatively flattish 513 feet. The maximum speed was 22.4 mph, as there were no steep downhill stretches, and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,184 calories and produce an average power output of 129 W.

As always the route and pictures are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

Finally, more about Team Matilda’s forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure in June. That’s another 38 miles in the training bag – and given the proximity of NCN Rt1 to the sea it was ideal practice then for the HebWay. Not long to go now and I am looking forward to teaming up with Siggy, the attractive gent of a tandem belonging to the “old git” and “old gal’s” good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club challenge.

But obviously there’s still a good few training rides for the “old git” and “old gal” to get in peak condition before they tackle the 185 miles of the #HebWay route from Vatersay to Butt of Lewis Lighthouse at Ness over 5 days tandeming! What is it they say about practice makes perfect?

City of Discovery penguins and discovering a winery on ride to Errol

Penguin spotting at Discovery Point in Dundee with RRS Discovery and the new V&A museum.

More penguin spotting … a fabulous picnic spot … and the key attraction of exploring a winery – it sounds like another perfect schedule for a Sunday #tandem ride for Team Matildas Musings!

Another day of warm sunshine and fabulous blue skies was forecast so my dynamic crew decided on a new route south from the Tay Road Bridge to Errol on  Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt1 and NCN Rt77.

“Did someone say we are visiting a winery” asked the “old gal” – trying hard not to sound too enthusiastic – as we drove to Dundee. “Yes, and you’ll get to sample their produce!” responded the “old git” before adding: “And on a day like today you will be able to close your eyes and think you are in the vineyards of France!” … Well almost!

But first there was the business of continuing our penguin hunt by p-p-p-p-icking up a penguin … or two … on the new Maggie’s Penguin Parade charity art trail of 80 giant individually designed penguins! The 5ft-tall penguins have been decorated by local artists with designs ranging from golfers to footballers and has been set up in aid of cancer charity Maggie’s.

This ride – and some of the recommended stops – recently featured in Scottish Cycling magazine – which is well worth a read. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

After parking up opposite the city of Dundee we had to battle a bit of a headwind on the “downhill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge, before taking the lift down to Discovery Point where we spotted our first penguin of the day – Fundeeland at Discovery point.

This is a real hub of the City of Discovery with the three masts of the wooden Royal Research Ship Discovery, which was captained by Robert Falcon Scott on his first journey to the Antarctic in 1902, creating an interesting old and new backdrop with the soon-to-be-opened V&A Dundee design museum which has been built to look like a giant ship.

We headed south out of Dundee along Riverside Drive at the start of the NCN Rt77 but quickly stopped at the eye-catching Yoda Pengiun – from the Star Wars movie franchise – which has been imaginatively sponsored by Specsavers!

Here I am with the eye-catching Yoda penguin – sponsored by Specsavers!

I Believe I can Fly penguin with me and the “old gal” at Dundee Airport!

We tandemed on towards Dundee Airport where the “old gal” couldn’t resist having her photo taken with I Believe I can Fly penguin – suitably painted in old-fashioned flying gear!

Into Invergowrie – passing the station – before the path comes out beside the Tay giving impressive views of the river which is some 4.5 kilometres wide at this point. Interestingly the NCN Rt77, which links Dundee with Pitlochry, is also known as the salmon run – and it was easy to see why at this point.

The spectacular Firth of Tay is 4.5 kilometres wide at this point near Invergowrie!

On out into the Carse of Gowrie – one of the country’s prime growing areas for strawberries and raspberries – where the “old git” and the “old gal” found themselves pedalling hard against that headwind. But it was a lovely relatively flat route though and the scenery is amazing. We passed the old Errol airfield before an uphill stretch into the village of Errol itself – which retains a feel from years gone past. We tandemed on for another mile to our planned picnic spot at Port Allen.

Little remains of what was once a principal local harbour in the Victorian times at Port Allen.

Although nothing but a picturesque bridge remains now, Port Allen was one of the principal local harbours in Victorian times. Given how quiet and tranquil it was on our visit, and its rural location, it is hard to imagine it as a bustling port area.

The beautiful old bridge is all that is left of any harbour area at Port Allen.

The area – known as the Tay reed beds – form the largest continuous area of reeds in the UK and are an internationally recognised habitat for breeding and overwintering birds. It certainly provided a tranquil spot for my dynamic crew to enjoy their picnic on a lovely hand crafted bench.

Ideal hand-crafted picnic bench – deep in the Carse of Gowrie by the Tay at Port Allen.

Re-fuelled by the picnic – and a bit of warm sunny relaxation – it was time to start the return journey … with the additional carrot of the visit to the winery! Tandeming back thru Errol we took a detour to the Cairn O’Mohr fruit winery. The cycle-conscious owners have even created their own cycle path off NCN Rt77 to their farm base to make it easier for visitors to get there.

That’s a big bottle! There is no doubt about the kind of operation going on at Cairn o’Mohr.

The operation has grown in recent years and now has huge vats to mature the fruit wine.

The winery has been producing its well-known brand of Scottish fruit wines since 1987 and is a key visitor attraction in the area – offering various tours and tastings. The AliBob Cafe offers a huge range of memorable treats – and of course the opportunity to sample the produce.

The “old git” and “old gal” treated themselves to sample the range of sparkling wines – including a very tasty strawberry fizz! Naturally there was also a sozzled fruit scone – with the raisins soaked in the wine before baking! And a far too tempting range of cakes – which my dynamic crew decided it would have been rude not to taste!

Fruit fizz, scones, cakes and coffee! What’s not to like?!

Having consumed far too may calories (but very enjoyably!) the “old git” upped the pace on the ride back to Dundee in a vain attempt to burn some of them off! It really was blissful tandeming in the warm sunshine, and with the wind behind us, as we pedalled across some fantastic countryside.

The scenery we tandemed past was stunning – like this impressive tree lined avenue.

We flashed thru Invergowrie and past the airport back into Dundee via Riverside Drive where we took a few minutes to stop at the impressive Tay Bridge Disaster Memorial. It is a moving tribute to the victims of the disaster back in 1879 when the central navigation spans of the Tay Bridge collapsed into the Firth of Tay, taking with them a train, 6 carriages and 75 souls to their fate.

A shot looking towards the Tay Rail Bridge – from just beside the memorial stones to the 1879 disaster.

Just time to tick off two more penguins on our pedal back to the lift onto the Tay Road Bridge. First up was Poppy the penguin and the last one of our ride was The Baltic Builder penguin – complete in Bob the Builder artwork clevery placed beside all the construction work which is being finished off near Discovery Point.

The “old gal” with Poppy the Penguin easily spotted from the cycle path.

The Baltic Builder penguin – aka Bob the Builder – with the “old git”.

The last part of our ride was the “uphill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge – a stretch which always seems to come at the end of a long ride and therefore not one to bring shouts of enthusiasm from my dynamic crew! In truth it always seems a bit of a grind. But today the wind was blowing in the correct direction and the “old git” set the “old gal” a challenge of trying to break Team Matilda’s record for the “Killer Tay Bridge” segment of 6 minutes 46 seconds set just the week before!

And my dynamic crew were euphoric when they reached the other side of the Tay – well they would have been if they weren’t so out of puff – to discover that they had smashed their own record by over half a minute to a new Team Matilda record of 6 minutes 12 seconds. I was most impressed and am now wondering if they can beat that the next time we do this route!

After calming down and getting his breath back at Matilda Transport the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 34.4 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 52 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12 miles an hour while the elevation was 983 feet. The maximum speed was 30.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1682 calories and produce an average power output of 146 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

Again a fantastic de-stressing memorable day out and escape for my dynamic crew in glorious sunshine. I guess with the weather and the winery we really could have been tandeming on one of Team Matilda’s fabulous Tours de France …

Well almost!