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?

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4 seasons in a day, 2 broken spokes, and 1 speedo error on HebWay training run.

Spot the blue sky! The “old gal” near Dunblane at half-way – with snow just round the corner!

The phrase “four seasons in a day” has been used by Scots people for years to describe the unpredictable Spring weather which the gods can cast down on us! And our recent sneaky Monday off tandem ride was a perfect example of where it was simply a waste of time trying to guess the best cycling clothing to suit the conditions!

My dynamic crew experienced all four key elements of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter rain, sunshine, wind, and even snow on their latest training ride for Team Matilda’s forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure in June. In fact some would say it was just ideal conditions to prepare for the ride “on the edge” of Scotland!

More about the HebWay at the end of this blog, but first today’s ride. The “old git” had decided it was time to test the “old gal” on a few hills on a canter to Dunblane, with the promise of a coffee and cake stop on the return leg at Braco – although to be fair he hadn’t quite calculated the total elevation involved of over 1400 feet … or the inclement weather conditions!

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

The route started with some uphill tandeming from Matildas Rest out on the open rural Perthshire roads past Gleneagles Hotel and its world-famous golf courses. Despite the thrust required for the incline, the “old git” applied the brakes when he saw a special road sign designed to protect red squirrels by urging motorists to drive carefully. Maybe the sign should also have said ride carefully!

The “old git” slowed down when he saw the road sign designed to protect the red squirrels.

After the Gleneagles summit my dynamic crew enjoyed a nice downhill stretch although a fairly blustery head wind meant the “old gal” had to keep pedalling as stoker when normally this downhill stretch allows for a bit of free-wheeling! Just the first of many encounters with the ever changing weather on this ride!

Pedalling on we tandemed thru Braco – with the “old gal” checking that the coffee shop was open as we pedalled past and headed up a few more tough inclines to just outside Kinbuck where the “old git” spotted a crop of Christmas trees getting ready for next festive season!

The “old git” pointing out my dynamic crew’s Christmas tree for December!

Oh how the “old gal” laughed when he joked that they could come and choose their tree in early December and could even carry it home attached to my frame! Well I think he was joking anyway!

A few pedals further on my dynamic crew passed the entrance to Cromlix House – the 5-star country house hotel owned by local tennis superstar Andy Murray. It boasts a Chez Roux restaurant and the “old gal” started to drool over what they may be serving up for lunch – but sensibly decided she wasn’t quite dressed for that kind of culinary experience!

A quick stop at our turning point on the flyover of the A9 just outside Dunblane for some water – and the chance to take in the blue sky which had suddenly appeared, and the views over to the sun dancing on the snow-capped hills in the distance.

Time to move on, and despite the pesky wind it was a great day to be out in glorious Perthshire. For a welcome respite from the challenging weather conditions there was a pit stop at the bike-friendly Braco Coffee shop !

The “old gal” in heaven with scone, millionaire shortbread and a nice strong coffee! Perfect!

As we walked in it was good to see the premises so busy – with several other cyclists and locals having decided to stop en route for sustenance. The “old gal” chose a scone and some yummy millionaire shortbread – all of which was washed down by lovely strong coffee – just the way she likes it! Great friendly service too from the Braco team! A perfect stop on a bicycle made for two really – and just underlines the fun and laughs my dynamic crew have!

As my dynamic crew emerged from the coffee stop they were hit by a shower of rain – the third of the seasons after the wind and the sunshine – but fortunately the worst of the rain seemed to have fallen when they were inside. The four seasons in a day were however completed as the “old git” and “old git” battled the rapidly changing weather conditions on the return stretch from Braco to Gleneagles where in a shady hollow they came across snow lying on the ground! Yes snow!

Four seasons in a day – tick – snow lying on the ground in a shady hollow.

It was a hard grind for my dynamic crew on the return – but a welcome downhill brought about one of those moments of madness when the “old git” and “old gal” just have to laugh out loud! Pedalling as fast as they could the “old git” checked the speedometer – expecting to see it hit 30 mph if they were lucky … only to see it suddenly record a top speed of 91.5 mph.

They say the camera never lies! – evidence of the 91.5 mph recorded on the malfunctioning speedo!

Yes you read that correctly – a reading of 91.5 mph on a bicycle made for two. Despite the fact that the camera never lies and the photographic evidence of this never-to-be-repeated feat, my dynamic crew graciously conceded it clearly was a speedo malfunction!

Then just to compound the unpredictable nature of the ride, as we were heading down towards Gleneagles there was that unmistakable ping – which can only mean a spoke had pinged on my rear wheel! My dynamic crew ground to a halt and surveyed the damage – not one but two spokes had gone!

The rest of my wheel looked fairly sound – and despite a clear wheel wobble – the “old gal” took the decision as chief engineer that we could continue to pedal and limp home at a somewhat slower than normal speed, while the “old git” did his best to avoid any potential bumps. Looks like I am going for a visit to my personal surgeon John – bike wheel builder extraordinaire at JM Richards Cycles in Perth

Spot the two broken spokes! I need a visit to my personal surgeon to repair my rear wheel!

Safely back at Maitildas Rest, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 14 gongs – which given the variable conditions is somewhat impressive! Especially as the total was made up of 3 second bests; and 11 third best times.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 28.1 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 44 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 10.3 mph while the elevation was a hilly 1,444 feet. The maximum speed was officially 32.0 mph – not the rogue 91.5 mph! – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,691 calories and produce an average power output of 154 W.

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

So that’s another near 30 miles in the bag – and given the weather conditions, mechanicals, and the 1,444 ft elevation it was an ideal training then for the Hebridean Way in mid June. 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 tour.

But obviously there’s 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?

De-hibernating by kick starting HebWay training on gusty Hillfoots Loop with cake diversion to Dollar!

The “old git” and the “old gal” admiring the views over the dramatic Ochil hills.

Sunday lunchtime and right on cue a weather window was opened by the tandem cycling gods – well as forecast – and the strong gale force winds suddenly died away to leave a sunny but blustery day.

My dynamic crew had their fingers firmly crossed – and I crossed my spokes – that would happen as today was the planned grand de-hibernating after a longer than normal, and sadly enforced, lay off.

The “old git” had planned a new route – the Hillfoots Loop around Alloa in the shadow of the towering Ochil Hills – which offered a good inaugural training ride for Team Matilda’s forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure in June. And he had a special carrot to tempt the “old gal” with – the promise of some tasty carrot cake and strong coffee at a fancy new cafe along the way. Oh the sweet talker – he certainly knows how to get the best out my Stoker you know!

More about the HebWay at the end of this blog – including the trip logo – but first today’s ride. To add to the fun we were joined by “half-bike” cyclist friends of the “old gal” and “old git” – Gillian and Craig – who just happen to have a hot tub in their garden. The promise of a  nice post-ride relaxation in the warm bubbles, complete with a glass of bubbly, was just too much for the “old gal” to turn down. I mean, what could there possibly be not to like?! (Apart from the gusty wind and the odd hill that is!)

Ready for the off – the four riders ready to blow away some cobwebs on the Hillfoots Loop.

The Hillfoots Loop is a circular route promoted by Team Matilda’s friends at Sustrans Scotland and combines no less than three different National Cycle Network Routes – 76, 768 and 767. The fantastic network of paths is a key part the Clackmannanshire Cycle Network and is part of a wider project to encourage access to the outdoors by local tourism initiative Discover Clackmannanshire.

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

The route is classed in the easy category – on a mix of well maintained dedicated tarmac paths running along old railway lines and some quiet back roads. And it was immediately a joy to tandem on as we entered NCN Rt 76 just a few wheel turns from Gillian and Craig’s house in Alloa – with the sunshine bringing smiles to my dynamic crew’s faces, despite the wind. And I must say I was impressed at the brisk pace set by the “old git”! And the fact that the “old gal” didn’t complain shows that they are both much fitter than they believe, despite their recent inaction!

A quiet farm road lead us onto a tarmac multi-use path towards Cambus before passing whisky cooperages and bonded warehouses with their distinctive aroma on one side and the River Devon on the other.  At the junction with NCN Route 76 near Tullibody, the loop continues northwards on NCN Rt 768 on a good tailored railway path towards Menstrie and the Ochil Hills.

The NCN Rt 768 section offered blissful tandeming along good railway paths in the sunshine!

At Menstrie the NCN Rt 768 continues on a quiet shared road on as we hit manageable rolling hills along the edge of the Ochils. The route by-passes the centre of Alva on a quiet back road which features the only challenging – but short – hill on the loop. And it was chapeau to my dynamic crew who managed to keep cycling to the top – despite this being the first real training ride of the year!

Team Matilda enjoying the de-hibernating experience on well-surfaced cycle paths.

At the east of Alva we joined the shared-use path alongside the main road to Tillicoultry before the route then joined NCN Rt 767, also known as the Devon Way. We took a planned three mile diversion on a well-surfaced cycle path and headed to the lovely village of Dollar where the “old git” had done his research and unearthed the quaint-sounding Cafe des Fleurs as a perfect coffee stop.

Cafe des Fleurs offered a fab coffee stop in Dollar just after the half-way point.

Now the “old gal” is known to be a bit of an aficionado of tandem and cycle friendly cafes –  and obviously their scone, cake and coffee offerings, as well as the warmth of their welcome – but Cafe des Fleurs got more than pass marks on her personal rating scale!

Despite the cafe obviously being a bit of a destination in its own right – and therefore busy with customers dressed in their Sunday best – the staff made our group clad in cycling clothing very welcome. The fruit scones were just perfect as was the strength of the fab coffee. And as for the carrot cake – de-rigueur for tandemers especially Team Matilda – well the “old gal” clearly coveted her slice and wasn’t letting anyone else near it! It was so good that it got a four and a half “yes” ranking!

The “old gat” became very protective over the slice of yummy carrot cake!

That was praise indeed! And everyone else in the group concurred the cafe would go down on the list as worth paying a return visit for further sampling! Suitably re-energised we pedalled back to Tillicoultry in no time to complete the Hillfoots Loop riding past Sauchie and back to Alloa.

Smiles all round as Team Matilda and Gillian and Craig set off for the second half of the Hilfoots loop.

Gillian had time to take a selfie-in-the-saddle on the NCN Rt 767 back from Dollar

The path is quite undulating at this point but the scenery more than makes up for any effort required with stunning panoramic views over the Ochil Hills and a satisfying overview of the route just taken.

Time for a quick breather to let the “old git” and “old gal” take in the backdrop of the Ochil Hills.

A ride thru some quiet backstreets of Alloa took us back to where we started – exhilarated after the wonderful ride. I was quickly packed back into Matilda Transport as it was time for my dynamic crew to “endure” the warm-down-up in the hot tub strategically situated in Gillian and Craig’s garden!

Safely packed back in Matilda Transport while my dynamic crew went for their warm-down-up!

Relaxing in the warm bubbles the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no gongs at all … as this was the first attempt at the Alloa Hilfoots Loop route.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 19.4 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 43 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.3 mph given the gusty conditions, while the elevation was 718 feet. The maximum speed was 29.3 mph given on a steep downhill section and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,039 calories and produce an average power output of 150 W.

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

It was a suitably long therapeutic soak – with my dynamic crew enjoying the cold bubbles from a nicely chilled glass of prosecco, while experiencing the warm bubbles of the hot tub! I mean there are worse ways (though admittedly not many!) to spend a Sunday afternoon! Absolute bliss!

Thanks again to Gillian and Craig for a much-needed outing to literally blow away some cobwebs – and the fun company and solace that only good friends can provide.

So that’s the first serious 20 miles done – and given the terrain and conditions it was an ideal training then for the Hebridean Way in mid June. 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 tour.

The “old git” got a designer pal to come up with a suitably “nutty” logo for the tour! There’s now just the small matter of covering 185 miles over 5 days tandeming! That should certainly focus the mind!

Nutty Tandemers Club logo for Hebridean Way

A Musings Special on mini Tour de Perthshire with Team Travelling in Tandem

Cheers! The Nutty Tandemers Club having one of their signature prosecco re-fuelling stops!

Early in June we were scheduled to be taking part in our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club Hebridean Way challenge. But sadly personal circumstances resulted in that adventure having to be postponed.

But my dynamic crew did manage to meet up with good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for a couple of days for a mini Tour de Perthshire.

John and Jane – dubbed Team JayJay for the trip – kindly re-organised their holiday schedule in light of the postponement of the HebWay trip. Plan B saw them book a few nights at a local caravan park in Perth to allow us to meet up again for a couple of rides.

The two tandem teams had previously enjoyed two memorable previous trips – the inaugural Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem in 2016 and Le Tour de New Forest du Tandem last year.

The Nutty Tandemers label came about from John and Jane having similar views as my dynamic crew on not taking tandeming too seriously and having lots of fun on a bicycle made for two!

Day 1 – Nutty Tandemers Club sunny fun ride around Tibbermore Kinkell Bridge and Trinity Gask

The Nutty Tandemers Club line-up for a group photo near Kinkell Bridge.

Great excitement as Team Matilda were heading to meet up with John and Jane – aka Team JayJay – for the first of two planned rides. And for this “old lady” there was the excitement of teaming up with Siggy, the attractive gent of a tandem belonging to Team JayJay’s stable of no less than three tandems – which also includes the vintage Henry and their original Pino semi-recumbent Bluebird.  Whisper it, but I hear Siggy is a bit of a charmer of a gentleman tandem … with an eye for the older ladies!

We all met up at Noah’s Ark Caravan Park in Perth – and after warm greetings we pedalled off on a route which would take Team JayJay round some of our favourite local spots.

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

After negotiating our way down from the caravan park and enduring a busy junction of the A85 over the A9 we were glad to turn off onto a much quieter road towards Tibbermore. The sun was shining and we managed to pedal a whole four miles before stopping for tea and cake and a much needed catch-up at Gloagburn Farm Shop!

Recharged we tandemed onwards thru the picturesque village of St Davids before a nice descent to our first point of interest – the historic Kinkell Bridge which is a grand four-arched bridge over the River Earn and dates from 1793. It gives great views over one of Perthshire’s top salmon beats and provided a suitable venue for the first Nutty Tandemers photo stop! After all we only had two days to get 12 good photos for next year’s calendar!

John and Jane – making up Team JayJay – taking in the views at scenic Kinkell Bridge

Kinkell Bridge is just 3 miles from the “old git” and “old gal’s” home base.

Give way! The Nutty Tandemers ready for more pedalling at Kinkell Bridge

After Kinkell Bridge we started the climb away from the River Earn in an area known as Gask Ridge Frontier  which was the earliest Roman land frontier in Britain – built in the 70’s or 80’s AD, 40 years before Hadrian’s Wall and 60 years before the Antonine Wall.

Up we went past Trinity Gask Parish Church which traces its history back to 1770 before it was time for one of the Nutty Tandemers Club signature prosecco re-hydrating stops! And naturally I had helpfully carried the bottle of fizz in my trendy la bouclee French-wine carrier!

Time for one of the Nutty Tandemers Club signature prosecco re-fuelling stops!

Jane making sure the “old gal” doesn’t spill a drop of the obligatory prosecco!

Group selfie time! Prosecco cheers for Team Matilda and Team JayJay!

Time for a breather – and a welcome refreshment – for my dynamic crew!

Refreshed we continued to climb before re-emerging on to the Tibbermore road where my dynamic crew decided to show Team JayJay the fascinating historic Tibbermore Church which is now in the care of the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust. Dating back to 1632 the characterful building ceased being a parish church in 1986 before being transferred to the trust in 2001.

Apart from being worthy of a visit in its own right due to its unusual layout, and its history, the church has another more recent claim to fame – which sees it visited by people from all over the world – as a recognised stop in the VisitScotland tour of Outlander filming locations.

Now it needs to be said that John and Jane – like the “old git” and the “old gal”- are one of the few people on the planet who have never watched an episode of the popular hit show Outlander. But clearly the mystical and spellbinding series has caught the imagination and is a ratings winner in around 40 different countries. The series, filmed in Scotland, is particularly popular in America and Europe and is now seen as a goldmine for attracting tourists by Scotland’s tourism agency.

John Jane and the “old gal” at the archway entrance to Tibbermore Church.

The church was used as a film set for the infamous witches trial – series 1 episode 11 called ‘The Devil’s Mark’. Over 10 days in June 2014 Tibbermore Church was the focal point for 120 crew and 200 extras involved in the production – transformed into the fictional Cranesmuir Church.

For the many fans of Outlander, the witches trial is one of the most memorable. The plot line sees Claire and Geillis Duncan accused of being witches – for which the punishment is being burned at the stake. The design of the building particularly lent itself to the key trial scene with the pulpit serving as the dock. Despite a spirited defence things don’t go well for Claire and Geillis – and in an attempt to save Claire, Geillis confesses to witchcraft. The “old gal” and Jane bravely shunned any superstitions and stood in the pulpit – which doubled as the dock – to recreate that scene!

The “old gal” and Jane recreate the infamous witches trial scene!

Escaping that drama it was an easy pedal back before a final uphill stretch back to the caravan park. Me and Siggy were safely locked up before the tandem crews had a quick change before heading to the nearby Glover Arms for a very welcome bar meal and a hospitable and entertaining evening.

On arrival at the Glovers Arms – while having a celebratory refreshment and perusing the menus – there was time for the “old git” to check Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 9 gongs – 5 personal bests; 2 second bests; and 3 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew – accompanied by Team JayJay – tandemed a distance of 28.6 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 21 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.2 mph given the hilly terrain while the elevation was 1015 feet. The maximum speed was 31.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1498 calories and produce an average power output of  159 W.

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

Day 2 – Nutty Tandemers Club windy ride to Forteviot Bridge of Earn and Dunning

John and Jane – Team JayJay – at Bridge of Earn prior to Storm Hector arriving.

For the second ride of the Nutty Tandemers Club mini tour Team Jay arrived at Matildas Rest by car for another local route favoured by my dynamic crew – to Forteviot and Bridge of Earn.

The weather had sadly deteriorated from the day before – being a bit colder, breezy and also a bit of drizzle, but not bad enough to stop the ride.

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

With a nice tail wind we were soon approaching Dunning and had our first stop and a piece of local history at the monument to Maggie Wall. This is an eerie stone cross with a hand painted date of 1657 and it is said to be a memorial to the last witch in Scotland to be burned at the stake.

The “old git” decided this was a suitable venue for what has become a tradition of the Nutty Tandemers Club tours – a recreation of the three wise monkeys ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ scene. During the 2016 tour it was at the side of Loch Katrine and last year it was on the Isle of Wight.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – The Three Wise Monkeys 2018 version!

The new version captured by a photo we rode on thru Dunning and on to our next history lesson at Forteviot. The open roads allowed Jane to capture the “old git” and “old gal” in action, wearing their newly branded Team Matilda hi-vis rain jackets, especially purchased for the HebWay.

An shot of Team Matilda in action – with newly branded rain jackets – taken by Jane.

Despite the lack of sunshine it felt good to be out on the quiet scenic country roads of Perthshire – which are great for tandeming and cycling. Soon we all tandemed into Forteviot – an ancient Pictish capital of Scotland, where King Kenneth MacAlpin died in the 9th Century.

The tandem teams had a stop at the fabulous new centrepiece to the village – a large carved stone inspired by the strong Pictish culture and the historic Dupplin Cross. The original rare 3m high cross, carved out of sandstone in around AD800, once stood in the palace of the Pictish Kings at Forteviot.

Thumbs up from the Nutty Tandemers at the new centrepiece stone at Forteviot.

The eye-catching stone carving – called ‘Set in Stone – the Birth of Alba’ – is part of the Heritage Lottery funded Pictish Stones project run by the Tay Landscape Partnership to provide the area with a key legacy monument marking the area’s important role in the birth of medieval Scotland.

Back on the road and with both crews enjoying their usual doze of fun and laughs the miles seemed to whizz past. Even a fairly tough twin-peaked climb out of Forteviot – didn’t phase them as they battled on to the top. The reward for that climb is an enjoyable long downhill stretch in to Bridge of Earn where we had a suitably nutty photo shoot at the bridge over the Earn.

Time for a Nutty Tandemers photo shoot at the bridge at Bridge of Earn.

The “old gal” and “old git” having a laugh despite the less than perfect weather.

Back views can often be better! But a good shot of my dynamic crew in their new jackets!

The road out of Bridge of Earn is a bit of a tough one at the best of times – a long slow grind of a tandem – but the fact that we were now battling a pretty fierce head wind rendered some of the comments coming from my Stoker’s position unrepeatable in what is after all a family blog!

Approaching Dunning the “old git” made a call for a stop at my dynamic crew’s favourite friendly country pub, The Kirkstyle Inn. One of its appeals is its range of artisan Scottish gins and this offered the ideal opportunity for a small libation to fuel up for the final miles home! After all it would have been rude not to!

The Kirkstyle Inn at Dunning was a perfect spot for a reviving gin for the Nutty Tandemers!

During our gin stop the weather took a further turn with conditions becoming both a bit wetter and a lot windier as Storm Hector gave us an indication of what was in store the next day. This made the final few miles back to Matildas Rest pretty tough going – but it was still a good ride.

Out of the rain and wind the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 21 gongs – 8 personal bests; 7 second bests; and 6 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed both crews tandemed a distance of 27.1 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 22 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.4 mph given the hilly terrain and the weather conditions, while the elevation was 1256 feet. The maximum speed was 29.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1590 calories and produce an average power output of  167 W.

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

After being a bit battered by the weather the “old gal” produced a welcome pasta dish which was naturally washed down with some prosecco during a jolly evening of suitable nuttiness!

It was really a great mini break for my dynamic crew to be able to spend a bit of time enjoying the company of  John and Jane – who yet again proved to be real kindred spirits to my dynamic crew!

Regrettably it was not the grand adventure that was originally planned, but plans are already underway to to reschedule the Nutty Tandemers Club Hebridean Way challenge for next year. And I for one can’t wait!

Quest for birthday carrot cake by tandem on early hilly HebWay training!

The rapidly ageing “old git” enjoying his birthday carrot cake even tho it had just gone 10am!

Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday dear “old git!”

Happy birthday to you!

This was the alarm call that greeted the “old git” early on Sunday morning as the “old gal” sweetly wakened him from his slumbers! Yes it was my (ageing!) Captain’s birthday! And with a busy schedule of family commitments later in the day, it was an early start for my dynamic crew to fit in another hilly training ride for the forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure.

And the quest today was to find some tasty carrot cake – which would double as birthday cake!

Which is why at the early hour of 9 am my dynamic crew were tandeming away from Matildas Rest on a repeat of a recent ride to Tibbermore. And as it was effectively the same journey that means this blog is somewhat briefer than normal! (Oh thank goodness did I hear you say?!)

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

On the long downhill stretch out of Auchterarder the “old git” was on a mission to try and break Team Matilda’s recent speed record of 34.7 mph. The “old gal” got into the spirit of things with my dynamic crew both adopting a position known as “a froomie” after Chris Froome’s unorthodox aerodynamic descending style at last summer’s Tour de France!

But for all our efforts the data showed that the fastest we hit was exactly 34.7 mph again! The “old git” couldn’t believe we hadn’t eeked at least another 0.1 of a mph out of the downhill – far less not broken the new elusive speed target of 35 mph!

After all that dizzy excitement it was back to earth with a grind as we crossed Kinkell Bridge and started the climb away from the River Earn. But – and whisper this – it was all fairly manageable, if not relatively easy! Perhaps it was something to do with the “old gal” having raised her seat a bit to give her legs a full extension on my pedals.

So Team Matilda ticked off the uphill stretch past historic Trinity Gask Parish Church before several cheeky sharp climbs in the area which was known as the Gask Ridge Frontier  – the earliest Roman land frontier in Britain – built in the 70’s or 80’s AD, 40 years before Hadrian’s Wall.

After the sharp climbs there was some relief for my dynamic crew as we sped along to Tibbermore on a gently undulating stretch to our half way stop of the oasis which is Gloagburn Farm Shop.

Fresh as a daisy at half-way point at Gloaburn – average speed 13.3mph!

My dynamic crew felt as fresh as a daisy as we arrived at Gloaburn and as Strava was paused they were happy to see that the average speed clocked was 13.3 mph! So slices of celebration carrot cake were ordered and birthday greeting exchanged! But no candles – well I mean there simply wouldn’t have been enough room for 57 candles! I mean that’s old – giving the true meaning to the “old git!”

The carrot for the fast ride was the yummy cake for the “old git’s” birthday!

No time today for any Outlanderish pranks at Tibbermore – which was the filming set for an episode of the popular hit show Outlander.  Time was ticking so refuelled we had to set off on the return trip – and yes you’ve guessed that head wind had suddenly appeared again!

But with a few smiles the miles seemed to slip by – despite the climbs – as we headed towards Madderty before taking a turning thru the picturesque village of St Davids and back down to sea level at Kinkell Bridge. Even the energy sapping long grind of Easthill didn’t phase my dynamic crew today – in fact I can proudly relate that they achieved a new personal best for that stretch with an average speed of 8.6mph! Kudos to Team Matilda!

Back at Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 16 gongs – 10 personal bests; 4 second bests; and 2 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 28.7 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 15 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.7 mph given the hilly terrain while the elevation was 1240 feet. And what with my new gears – and my dynamic crew’s weight loss – I am pleased to report that the average speed was 1.1 mph faster than the 11.6 mph when my dynamic crew last tandemed to Tibbermore just a few weeks ago. The maximum speed was 34.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1686 calories and produce an average power output of 186 W.

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

A quick mention here of the “old gal’s” birthday present to my Captain – a bottle of small batch artisan Kinrara gin from a new distillery in the heart of the Cairngorms. The “old git” is hoping that the gin itself tastes as good as the highly attractive bottle looks! And I dare say the “old gal” will manage to help him with the sampling!

The attractive Kinrara gin from a smalll batch distillery in the Cairngorms.

Todays hilly terrain was more good training for our Hebridean Way challenge – with the countdown now underway! Just 2 weeks till Team Matilda meet up with good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club tour … and the not insubstantial task of covering 185 miles over five days tandeming!

John and Jane have dubbed themselves Team JayJay for the trip which will be the third annual tour of the two tandem teams following two memorable previous trips – the inaugural Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem in 2016 and Le Tour de New Forest du Tandem last year. Both produced some fabulous sun-kissed tandeming so my spokes are crossed the weather gods are on our side again.

To emphasise the nutty nature of both team’s sense of humour Team JayJay sent a highly appropriate birthday card to my Captain! They must have looked for ages for it –  but it was rather special! You certainly couldn’t doubt whose birthday card it was!

No explanation necessary with this birthday card!

In a nutshell the Nutty Tandemers HebWay tour involves two fun-loving couples on two tandem bikes cycling 185 miles “on the edge” on the Outer Hebrides from the start on Vatersay to the end at Isle of Lewis – covering 10 islands, 6 causeways and 2 ferries.

The tour logo.

And for those who are wondering what the names of the 10 islands the tour will be tandeming thru – and that included the “old git” – then here’s the official HebWay listing: Vatersay; Barra; Eriskay; South Uist; Benbecula; Grimsay; North Uist; Berneray; Harris and Lewis.

The “old gal” has just said: “That’s going to require a fair bit of re-fuelling with prosecco and carrot cake stops!” I think she might be correct!

I mean what could possibly go wrong?!

Sunny tandem to Bridge of Earn for carrot cake on HebWay warm-up ride

Carrot cake and coffee in warm sunshine – de rigueur for happy tandemers!

Sunday lunchtime and right on cue the weather offered idyllic conditions for tandeming – bright warm sunshine and little wind. Which was just as well as the “old git” had decreed today would be a ride on a lumpy hilly route as training for Team Matilda’s forthcoming  Hebridean Way adventure. And he had a special carrot to tempt the “old gal” with – the promise of some tasty carrot cake at the half way point. Oh the sweet talker – he certainly knows how to get the best out my Stoker you know!

More about the HebWay later – including a photo shoot of my dynamic crew in the tour t-shirts – but first a run to Bridge of Earn. We weren’t able to start from Matilda’s Rest as our usual route across the A9 was closed due to a major police incident – so we started from the next village at Aberuthven.

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

First stage was an easy canter towards the village of Dunning, then on to Forteviot. The synchronicity factor of the “old git” and the “old gal” was working well with all three of us on Team Matilda perfectly in tune! It was a great day to be out and feel the warm air between my spokes on the quiet country roads of Perthshire – which are great for tandeming and cycling, as shown by the number of bikes we saw while out on our ride.

“This is the kind of tandeming I like” exclaimed the “old gal” as my dynamic crew pedalled along feeling very pleased with themselves. In what seemed like no time at all we tandemed into Forteviot – an ancient Pictish capital of Scotland, where King Kenneth MacAlpin died in the 9th Century.

A quick stop at the fabulous new centrepiece to the village – a large carved stone inspired by the strong Pictish culture and the historic Dupplin Cross. The original rare 3m high cross, carved out of sandstone in around AD800, once stood in the palace of the Pictish Kings at Forteviot.

Lovely warm sunshine means t-shirts and shorts at the new Pictish stone in Forteviot …

… in contrast to our last visit in February when my dynamic crew needed coffee to keep warm!

What a difference in weather conditions since our last visit in February when it was barely above freezing the day before the Beast fae the East blew in. No warming coffee required today for my dynamic crew as they admired the ‘Set in Stone – the Birth of Alba’ artwork.

The eye-catching stone carving – which is sensitively floodlit at night – is part of the Heritage Lottery funded Pictish Stones project run by the Tay Landscape Partnership to provide the area with a key legacy monument marking the area’s important role in the birth of medieval Scotland.

The carved stone in Forteviot is inspired by its Pictish history as an ancient capital of Scotland.

Back on the road and my dynamic crew were enjoying their usual doze of fun and laughs on my saddles as the miles seemed to whizz past in idyllic conditions. Even a fairly tough twin-peaked climb out of Forteviot – didn’t phase them as they battled on to the top.

The reward for that climb is an enjoyable long downhill stretch in to Bridge of Earn, with the “old git” reveling in his role as Captain – revealing that we were hitting the 30 mph mark at times! As we turned into the Brig Farm Shop and cafe my dynamic crew were amazed and impressed to find they had arrived in record time of just 57 minutes. There’s obviously life in this “old lady” yet! I must admit I do like it when we are whizzing along as it makes me feel like a young thing! Mind you, I guess it probably also has something to do with my crew’s weight loss – now totalling 50lbs – and improved fitness!

The Brig Farm Shop & Cafe was Team Matilda’s half way point on the ride.

Talking of weight loss … it was clearly time for a well-earned coffee and cake! Given the sunshine my crew decided an alfresco refuelling was required on the colourful decking area overlooking the farmland and ordered some carrot cake – de rigueur for many tandemers and in particular the “old gal” and the “old git”! And very yummy it was, or so they tell me! In fact so scummy that the “old git” nearly had his hand bitten off trying to get a photo before the “old gal” demolished her portion!

The “old git” just managed to get this photo before the “old gal” demolished her carrot cake!

After a nice relaxing time it was time to head on the return journey. My dynamic crew were in buoyant mood after such a good first half of today’s route – but unbeknown to them, while they were indulging their taste buds, the wind got up. Now as all tandemers know to their cost – when there is wind it is always blowing in an unhelpful direction! It was still pretty warm, but the “old gal” and the “old git” had to battle against a fierce head wind.

The road out of Bridge of Earn is a bit of a tough one at the best of times – a long slow grind of a tandem – but the head wind rendered some of the comments coming from my Stoker’s position unrepeatable in what is after all a family blog! Let’s just say that the average speed we achieved on the way to the cafe was not being achieved on the way back – much to the chagrin of my Captain! But Team Matilda gamely battled on (well truthfully there was no alternative!) tandeming back thru Forteviot and on to Dunning before arriving back at the A9 and Aberuthven.

Back at Matildas Rest, and in a welcome break from the head wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 17 gongs – 12 personal bests; 3 second bests; and 2 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 24.0 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 56 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.4 mph given the hilly terrain and thanks to my new gears – while the elevation was 1091 feet. Actually I am quite chuffed to report that the average speed was 2.2 mph faster than the 10.2 mph when my dynamic crew last tandemed to Bridge of Earn in June last year. The maximum speed was 32.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1361 calories and produce an average power output of 175 W.

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

With the strong wind and the hilly terrain it was more good training for our Hebridean Way challenge in early June. Just 3 weeks to go now before me and my dynamic crew meet up with good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club tour and the not insubstantial task of covering 185 miles over five days tandeming!

In the protected garden the “old git” decided Team Matilda needed to take a couple of pictures in the bright sunshine to unveil the newly arrived HebWay t-shirts – complete with our snazzy tour logo.

The “old git” and “old gal” sporting the new Nutty Tandemers Club HebWay tour t-shirts.

As always our t-shirts are produced by Sprinterz – a local digital print and embroidery specialist firm run by a good friend of the “old gal” called Gill and her husband Kevin. The highly professional team at Sprinterz produced stunning eye-catching t-shirts made of lightweight Cooltex material.

My dynamic crew are hoping for some warm sunny days tandeming the Hebridean Way.

To personalise things the arms of the tour t-shirts have the team names printed on the sleeves – Team Matilda obviously, and Team JayJay named after the initials of John and Jane!

The sleeves of the t-shirts list the crews of Team Matilda and Team JayJay.

This will be the third tour of the two tandem teams following two memorable previous trips – the inaugural Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem in 2016 and Le Tour de New Forest du Tandem last year. Both produced some fabulous sun-kissed tandeming so my spokes are crossed the weather gods are on our side again for the third time pedalling!

Team JayJay – John and Jane – in action on board their tandem Siggy.

Jane and John certainly seemed to have lots in common with my dynamic duo – such as not enjoying hills and definitely enjoying prosecco! In fact both Team Matilda and Team JayJay seem to have the same views on not taking tandeming too seriously – which is nuttily summed up in the tour logo!

The tour logo in detail.

As for me, I am looking forward to teaming up with Siggy, the attractive gent of a tandem belonging to Team JayJay’s stable of no less than three tandems – which also includes the vintage Henry and their original Pino semi-recumbent Bluebird. Whisper it, but I hear Siggy is a bit of a charmer of a gentleman tandem … with an eye for the older ladies! So you never know he and I may just have a little bit of a HebWay holiday tandem romance!

Siggy is also very clever and he has couplings which allow him to be separated into three sections – making it much easier to transport to the Outer Hebrides. Mind you that shouldn’t be too much of a problem as John and Jane flew to India with Siggy for an amazing tandem adventure back in February!

The “old gal” smiling in the sunshine as she looks ahead to lots of laughs on the HebWay.

So in a nutshell the Nutty Tandemers HebWay tour involves two fun-loving couples on two tandem bikes cycling 185 miles “on the edge” on the Outer Hebrides from the start on Vatersay to the end at Isle of Lewis – covering 10 islands, 6 causeways and 2 ferries. I mean what could possibly go wrong?!

My dynamic crew just need some ideas for prosecco and carrot cake stops now before departure!

Sun-kissed training ride on Millport for Hebridean Way challenge

Picnic reflections! The “old git” and “old gal” had a great picnic on sun-kissed Millport.

6.30 bright and early on Sunday morning and my dynamic 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!

As regular visitors to the island and big fans of its charm the “old git” and the “old gal” decided to go to their beloved “Costa del Millport” for one of their training rides before tackling the Hebridean Way in early June. Read on for more about that challenge – but the plan was to do some serious training laps round the island – officially known as The Isle of Cumbrae – as it is a cyclists paradise offering a gently undulating 10 mile loop on almost traffic free roads never more than a few yards from the coast.

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 – and your worries – behind.

Great views and blue sky from the deck of the ferry from Largs to Cumbrae.

With the sun out the ferry was busy and it was good to see quite a few other bikes on the crossing – even if there were no other tandems. It was even warm enough for the “old git” and “old gal” to spend time out on the deck for a selfie as they looked ahead expectantly to what was clearly going to be a glorious day by the seaside! As we disembarked the roll on-roll off ferry we headed clockwise for a gentle 4 mile warm-up tandem into the town of Millport.

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

On reaching Millport town, the “old gal” decided a coffee stop was a must and my dynamic crew called in to 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 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 45 minutes. Not bad for a warm-up!

The battle to Save Millport Pier is continuing with a campaign to have the facility repaired.

Back in Millport town my dynamic crew decided to get some new photos to show the fight to Save Millport Pier. Regular readers of my blog will remember that on our last visit back in September Team Matilda joined the campaign to save the facility. The campaign is drawing 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 pier head gives a great vantage point looking across the bay and Millport town.

Neglected since 2014 the pier is now out of bounds for safety reasons. And that means there is currently nowhere in Millport to safely tie up a boat – with the ferry slipway only usable by by roll on/ roll off ferries. As an island community, campaigners are battling to show the economy and resilience of the island is being compromised – and persuade North Ayrshire Council to repair the pier.

Warning – unprotected edge! I hoped the “old git” wouldn’t get too close to the edge!

After checking out the pier, it was time for our second circuit and this time my crew decided to go anti clockwise – with the beach at Kames Bay looking stunning in the sunshine as the island more than lived up to its “Costa del Millport” nickname.

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

Our private picnic table overlooking the beach was bathed in warm sunshine.

Lunch table with a view! The “old gal” at our idyllic picnic bench overlooking the Isle of Bute.

Now, as you know, prosecco picnics at remote spots are one of the great pleasures of tandeming and my dynamic crew are true exponents of the art! It was so perfect the “old git” decided to film one of his videos – with the “old gal” giving a masterclass on the art of a picnic with fizz! Hope it makes you laugh!

The food which emerged from the ‘bicycle rider’s luncheon box’ was  delicious smoked salmon and spinach wraps followed by fruit salad. Oh, did I mention the prosecco to wash it all down?! Oh I did, sorry! But quite simply picnics don’t come much better than this!

Selfie time on a walk on the rocks at the beach for my dynamic crew after the picnic!

Setting off again we passed the public loos at Fintry Bay where we saw a star of the island my crew had been keen to meet – the self styled Cumbrae Cludgie Cleaner! Fun-loving Suki McGregor signed up for  the role following a community take-over of the public loos and is instantly recogniseable thanks to her trademark bright pink overalls and colourful dreadlocks. She even has her own Cumbrae Cludgie Cleaner Facebook page and has been posting video blogs which have gone viral!

Suki does a great job for the community – especially with Cumbrae attracting so many visitors who walk or cycle round the island. The loos are unrecognisable as public toilets – spotlessly clean with nice touches like flowers and chairs. She has a great sense of humour and told my dynamic crew that she used to run a theatre project – so it was a switch “from luvvies to lavvies”!

Suki – the self styled Cumbrae Cludge Cleaner – with the “old gal” outside one of the community loos!

After the fun chat with Suki 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 rigueur for tandemers.

Stop at Dancing Midge Cafe for coffee and carrot cake – de rigueur for tandemers!

There was method in their madness as the carrot cake was fuel for the planned ‘finish with a flourish’ – where Team Matilda’s last complete lap would be an attempt on our own Tour de Millport record time for going round the island of 41.2 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 new personal best attempt – she even removed her cycling jacket!

We set off from the Royal George Hotel at 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 what Strava declared was a new personal best time of just 38.0 minutes which means we were tandeming at an average speed of 15.8 miles an hour! Just proves what a big difference my new gears make – and what’s more the “old git” and the “old gal” really enjoyed it.

Amazingly Strava also gave my dynamic crew a 5th best gong – meaning that their time is now down in history as the fifth fastest time ever recorded on the route called “Millport TT clockwise – out and back from Royal George hotel.” Well to be totally honest, it was the 5th fastest time ever recorded by a female as I am officially registered as a female by Strava – but a gong is a gong!

Time for a breather and a rest for my dynamic crew after the last record-smashing lap!

After the exertions of the record breaking lap my crew needed a bit of a rest and had a nice breather sitting on the rocks until the sun disappeared behind the clouds. So they called in to say hi to Sean who owns bike hire shop On Your Bike Millport in the town, and who is a regular reader of my blog.

Sean was very complimentary about my appearance describing me as “a very well kept classic tandem who looks in fine fettle!” He had a good look over my new gear bits – saying it looked “the business” and he also was full of praise for the “old gal” in her role as chief engineer for keeping me in shape!

I even got to shelter in his shop in case it rained. Sean told us he started his business 10 years ago and tandems are now an 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 – and is hoping for warm sunny days to boost demand from day trippers.

The “old git” with On Your Bike owner Sean with one of his hire tandems.

The sun soon re-appeared and it was time for my Captain to implement the dinner plan – alfresco fish and chips. And very yummy it was too – sitting out on the promenade at Millport – and washed down with a glass of fizz left over from the picnic! I mean no one can ever say the “old git” doesn’t know how to treat the “old gal” and show her a good time!

Posh nosh! Alfresco fish suppers – the “old git” certainly knows how to treat the “old gal”!

Unfortunately after dodging the showers all day some ominous clouds gathered as we prepared to pedal the final 4 miles back to the ferry slipway. And as we tandemed out of town those clouds started to deposit a heavy shower. The wind whipped up from nowhere with the full force of a squall blasting into the faces of my dynamic crew, making for rather unpleasant conditions. Naturally, as we arrived at the ferry, the rain stopped – just as quickly as it started – leaving my crew a bit weather beaten!

On the short ferry crossing back to the mainland the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 26 gongs – 12 personal bests; 8 second bests; and 6 3rd bests. Looking at the data it shows Team Matilda clearly breaking our own records on each successive lap!

So the Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 39.3 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 53 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 13.7 mph – which was up 1.4 mph from our previous identical ride last September thanks to my new gears – while the elevation was 1030 feet. The maximum speed was 21.3 mph – due to no steep downhill stretches – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1876 calories and produce an average power output of 162 W.

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

It was all good training then for the Hebridean Way in early June. 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 tour. The “old git” got a designer pal to come up with a suitably “nutty” logo for the tour! There’s now just the small matter of covering 185 miles over 5 days tandeming!

Nutty Tandemers Club logo for Hebridean Way challenge.

Back in Largs a quick pedal of a few hundred yards 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 (with one heavy shower!) 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!”

No further comment needed!