A gander for gourmet gin tasting tae Dunning!

Bit of cycling … bit of gin … perfect combination. What could possibly go wrong?!

Standby for  a quick romp of a blog! This post is a report of a recent “midweek special” tandem trip to a gourmet gin tasting event at a nearby country pub! Now, for my dynamic crew that seemed the perfect combination – a bit of cycling and a bit of gin! Goes together a bit like gin and tonic … according to the “old git!” I mean, what could possibly go wrong?!

You probably know by now that the “old gal” and the “old git” like their gin! But not just any gin. In fact they would turn their noses up at a Gordon’s Gin and tonic with a slice of lemon! No, we are talking Scottish artisan gin here – and not only do they have a wee bit of a penchant for gin – they like to consider themselves something of gin connoisseurs!

So when the “old git” discovered that the nearby The Kirkstyle Inn was holding a gourmet gin tasting evening it seemed a natural fit! And when the “old gal” found out that the Kirkstyle’s new owner and mine host Jamie Dexter Harrison had priced the tickets at a bargain price of £10 for three gin tastings and finger food – to attract new customers – her reaction was an emphatic “sold!”

And that’s where I come in to the story – because there was the small problem of how to get there and back again given the rural location and that driving clearly was a non starter! The “old git” had a brainwave that they could arrive (and depart) by tandem! It would need to be said that the “old gal” was a bit sceptical to begin with … but soon warmed to the idea!

And so on a Wednesday night my crew had a quick turnaround from work to get kitted up in their tandeming gear – and we were off  on our Dash to Dunning along the scenic back roads from Matildas Rest in Auchterarder. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

It’s a fraction less than five miles door to door and the promise of gin drove my crew on so they wouldn’t be late for the start time of 6.30 – with the journey taking just 23 minutes! Having arrived with a few minutes to spare, there was time for a few photos outside the picturesque Inn.

Old fashioned blackboards promoting the gin night at The Kirkstyle Inn.

It would need to be said that the “old gal” and the “old git” did get a few questioning looks from other locals arriving! Let’s just say they were the only people to arrive by tandem – and the only people wearing hi-vis yellow tandeming t-shirts! Certainly one way to make an entrance!

The calm before the gins! The “old git” and “old gal” arrive in style!

So I was safely locked up outside with the promise that my crew would be back before it got dark for the ride home! And they tell me they had a great couple of hours finding out about and sampling the gins and enjoying some tasty nibbles.

The line up of three gins to sample – with lots of tonic, ice and garnishes!

First up was the Classic Edinburgh Gin – which is distilled in Scotland’s capital city with heather, milk thistle and pine and served with regular tonic and a garnish of orange peel. The citrus effect was a good way to kick off the evening!

When sampling one of the gins my crew found a suitable sign at the bar!

The second gin was Rock Rose from a small distillery at Dunnet Bay near Caithness in the far north of Scotland. The key botanical they use is rhodiola rosea, more commonly known as rose root, which is a small rose type plant which grows on the cliffs at Caithness – and gives the gin its name. To help bring out the floral botanicals, this was served with Mediterranean tonic – and am told this was a big hit!

“Keep pouring while you smile at the camera” says the “old gal”!

My crew enjoyed some tasty finger food  from the Kirkstyle kitchen before tasting the last gin – Love Gin from Eden Mill in St Andrews. This pink gin has floral and warm berry notes – and is actually one of my dynamic crew’s favourites! This time it was served with ginger ale and a slice of lime. Yum!

The two hours flew past and after sampling the third and final gin – and making some new friends in the Inn – it was time for the “old git” and the “old gal” to leave so they could get most of the return journey as the sun set – before it got pitch dark. To be on the safe side I was lit up like a Christmas tree with three rear flashing red lights and two front lights – one of which was flashing! We certainly were not going to be missed by any motorists on the country road home.

Ready for tandem ride home – with lots of lights to be safe!

Now  my dynamic crew had kind of expected the return tandem ride to be somewhat different – perhaps a tad wobbly even! But given that the “old git” and the “old gal” were pretty sober, in reality it was just like any other tandem ride. The journey was completed in a fraction under 30 mins – and we arrived home just as it got completely dark. Job done!

Back at Matildas Rest – with the  “old gal” and the “old git” buzzing with the endorphin boost created from the exercise … and the gin! – there was even more elation when they checked Strava to find they had received three gongs for their efforts! Obviously being gin fuelled helps the performance!

So Strava officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of  9.5 miles with a total moving time of 52.55 minutes, at a healthy average speed of 10.8 mph.

The total elapsed time was over 3 hours – allowing for the gin tastings! Top speed recorded was 23.3 mph and the elevation covered was 291 feet. Together we managed to burn up 520 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 147 W.

It was a joy for Team Matilda to be out pedalling along breathing in the fresh air in the beautiful Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council area near Perth City Centre. A perfect evening to celebrate being a Perth 2021 supporter! And clearly #perthistheplace (for gin!)

All told – a bit of exercise … a  bit of tandeming … and a bit of gourmet gin! Great evening really. What a tonic!

Tour de Blackford to help launch Blackford Paths Network project

Two tandems and folk group Tarneybackle ready to lead the Blackford Paths Network launch ride.

It is always exciting to get an invitation! And this “old lady” tandem was very impressed to receive an invitation to help promote the launch of a new cycle paths project in our area! According to the invite it seems that I am now a bit of a local celebrity – and my presence would help raise awareness for the campaign! Amazing but true!

Yes Team Matilda’s notoriety had been noticed by the Blackford Community Council – in the next village along from Matilda’s Rest in Auchterarder. It has set up the Blackford Paths Network project which aims to create a network of safe off-road cycle and walking paths around Blackford – and in particular routes to our home town of Auchterarder and Gleneagles railway station.

The project was holding a Drop in Consultation event at the Moray Institute and I was invited to help lead a “Tour de Blackford” cycle ride to create some interest and encourage local people to take part in survey about what routes they would like to see in the area. How could I possibly refuse?!

All kitted up with the Blackford Paths Network logo.

The “old git” got me all kitted up looking resplendent with the Blackford Paths Network logo so that I would be easily recognised – as if I wouldn’t! But just to make sure there was a lovely pre-event picture of me in the Dundee Courier to highlight the event.

Fame! Here I am pictured in The Courier promoting the launch ride and event.

The organisers had asked that me and my dynamic crew would team up with local folk trio Tarneybackle, and another local tandem, to lead a cycle round the village in a bid to drum up support for the event. But first we had to tandem to Blackford – which only underlined the need for new cycle paths! You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

In order to avoid the dangers of the A9  dual carriageway – and 4 lanes of 70mph traffic – which is the direct vehicle route between Auchterarder and Blackford, we headed off on the windy Bardrill Road. It was a joy for Team Matilda to be out pedalling along breathing in the fresh air basking in the sun in the beautiful Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council area near Perth City Centre. A perfect day to celebrate being a Perth 2021 supporter!

But the “old gal” had been warned in advance about the state of this farm road – which has a very poor surface riddled with huge potholes. As the “old git” gingerly tried to pick a path between them he wittily suggested that as some of the pot holes were so deep – and filled with rain water – that they would make a decent swimming pool! Oh how we laughed – not!

A bend littered with stones on the alternative Badrill Road route to avoid the dangerous A9.

One of the bends on the route is locally known as “sand corner” and it was easy to see why. Except that it should have been renamed “rubble corner” such was the state of the rough bumpy surface of stones left after prolonged rain erosion.

The next problem came at the end of the farm road where the only alternative is to literally dice with death and attempt the “killer crossing”over the 4 lanes of the dual carriageway – while avoiding getting sucked into the blast of passing trucks and lorries.

Another key danger is a “killer crossing” over 4 lanes of 70mph traffic on the A9 to access Blackford.

After a significant wait for a suitable gap, we were able to make a dash for it and cross the road – but with my crew’s hearts in a  bit of a flutter. Certainly a crossing to be avoided unless absolutely necessary! So Team Matilda arrived in one piece (just!) at the Moray Institute and met up with lots of other bikes for the “Tour de Blackford.”

Tandemers and cyclists gather at the Moray Institute for the Tour de Blackford!

After I made my acquaintance with the other local tandem – known simply as “The Bike”! – crewed by Blackford resident Bob Watkinson and his stoker Marguerite – we met the “Tarneybackle Tourists” John, Lorna and Sandy, before setting off on the ride round the village in bright sunshine. The “old git” was in his element – happy to parp my horn to make sure the ride got noticed and to remind locals to pop into the consultation event and fill in the survey.

Thumbs up from the “old git” as Team Matilda leads the promotional ride thru Blackford!

Here I am beside “the Bike” – the other tandem crewed by Bob and Marguerite.

I got to parp my horn lots on The Tour de Blackford to raise awareness for the launch event!

After the ride we had to pose for promotional pictures at the entrance to the village.

After three laps we cycled to the entrance to the village for a promotional photo shoot, before returning to the Moray Institute to take part in the official consultation event – which was designed to give an opportunity for cyclists, walkers and residents to share ideas on the paths project and look at maps of possible routes from Blackford to the Auchterarder area. To add to the event’s appeal Tarneybackle also performed a few familiar folk songs – while still wearing their cycling gear!

The “old gal” taking part in the consultation event to launch the Blackford Paths Network.

Blackford based folk group Tarneybackle performed at the launch event.

Funding for the Blackford Paths Network project has so far come from Tactran (the Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership) and the Climate Change Development Fund. After the survey period, the next stage is that the projects consultant will report back over the next two months on what are the best and safest routes.  The consultant will then survey those routes to provide costings so that the project can put in applications for funding to provide proper safe off road paths.

The “old gal” with Janet Law from Blackford Community Council and consultant Crispin Hayes.

After filling in the survey my dynamic crew got back on my saddles to head home home. But, in a bitter irony, we unfortunately experienced first hand just how badly proper cycle paths are needed in the area. I suffered a painful injury on the return tandem journey along Bardrill Road – when I damaged one of my spokes on my rear wheel on an awful pothole which was disguised as a puddle! Ouch!

Ouch! I damaged a rear wheel spoke on a huge pothole on the pedal home.

My dynamic crew initially thought I had suffered a broken spoke – but fortunately an inspection of the damage revealed that my spoke has just worked lose and required a bit of tightening. Phew! A bit of relief as I thought I would have to be paying a visit to the tandem doctors!

Back at Matildas Rest and time for the “old git” to check the figures on Strava which officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of  15.7 miles with a total moving time of 1 hour 42 minutes, at an average speed of 9.2 mph. Top speed recorded was 28.2 mph and the elevation covered was 403 feet. We managed to burn up 993 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 145 W.

And there was more fame to come when Team Matilda adorned a great post event article in the Dundee Courier the next day.

More fame! Team Matilda pictured in a great article in The Courier after the launch event.

All in all a good fun day to launch the Blackford Paths Project, which Team Matilda were delighted to be involved in – even if I did suffer a painful injury! And it will be fantastic if the initial consultation achieves its aims of much needed new cycle paths around a very scenic part of Perthshire.

My spokes (both damaged and undamaged) are firmly crossed!

Dash to Dunning in sun for tonic … with a splash of gin!

The “old gal” after the dash to Dunning sitting in the sun with tonic – and maybe a splash of gin!

Now Mothers Day presents my dynamic crew with a bit of a problem. There is the not insubstantial matter of a 140 mile round trip to see the “old git’s” Mum in Ayrshire – and this year the “old gal” was cooking to do a ‘meals on wheels’ treat.

So that ruled out any prospect of a ride out on the Sunday – but it didn’t stop the “old git” from scheduling in a quick tandem on the Saturday afternoon. You see he had been carefully watching the weather forecast in his anorak sort of way – and noticed that in no anoraks would be required this weekend!

In fact it was promising to be a tepid 15C with no wind! Too good an opportunity to be missed. But how to get the “old gal” to sign up for the trip – given that she doesn’t get back to Matildas Rest from working at her salon on a Saturday till nearer 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

Bingo – he had a cunning plan! So when the “old gal” returned from work, the “old gal” persuaded her to join him on a sunshine tandem ride – albeit only with the promise of an alfresco gin and tonic at a country pub at the nearby village of Dunning!

Bright sunshine as we left Matildas Rest on the warmest day of the year so far.

And it worked! So after a quick check of my gears, it was time for our Dash to Dunning along the scenic back roads from Matildas Rest in Auchterarder. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

It was a joy for Team Matilda to be out pedalling along breathing in the fresh air basking in the sun in the beautiful Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council area near Perth City Centre. A perfect day to celebrate being a Perth 2021 supporter!

And despite her initial reluctance, the “old gal” did have the good grace to admit that she was actually glad the three of us had headed out – since it was such glorious, idyllic conditions.

The synchronicity factor for Team Matilda was high and we were literally flying along the country roads and in no time we had covered the initial 5 miles and were pedalling in to Dunning. We pulled up outside The Kirkstyle Inn which has been taken over by new owner Jamie Dexter Harrison on his return from Australia to Scotland.

And one of the big attractions for future re hydration stops for my dynamic crew when travelling through Dunning on longer routes, is that the Inn has a new gin bar featuring many of the new small-batch artisan Scottish gins  – including the “old gal’s” favourite: Love Gin from Eden Mill in St Andrews.

A tray of drinks for outside re hydration purposes at The Kirkstyle Inn.

So in order to fit in with the title of this blog the “old git” ordered two tonics – Fever Tree naturally – with a splash of Love Gin in them! And since it was such a warm sunny afternoon he dutifully carried them outside to the newly renovated outside drinks garden.

While enjoying the (well earned!?) drinks the “old gal” perused the Inn’s exciting looking new menu and decided this was a place we would return to for a meal to “test” the culinary delights on offer!

Cheers! Did someone mention an alfresco tonic with gin at the Kirkstyle Inn drinks garden.

And in an amazing development, the “old git” found out that the Inn is hosting a gin tasting night in April (26th).  Jamie told us his plan is to have a gin expert come along to showcase a few Scottish gems, which will be matched with food – as well as a lesson on what to mix and how to drink gin properly! And an even bigger attraction is that tickets cost just £10 – for three gins plus nibbles! I wonder if the “old git” will be able to persuade the “old gal” that the best way to arrive at the gin night is by tandem?!

After a nice relaxing sit in the warm sunshine it was time for my crew to get back on my saddles and head off on the return journey. But there was time for a quick photo to capture the daffodils bursting into bloom to add some Spring colour to the village.

Dunning was certainly bursting into colourful bloom in the warm Spring sunshine!

The return journey was just as easy! I am not sure if it was because my dynamic crew didn’t feel the pain after their tonic (with a splash of gin!) – but they kept up a good pace on the way back.

Back at Matildas Rest – with the  “old gal” and the “old git” buzzing with the endorphin boost created from the exercise – there was even more elation when they checked Strava to find that received six medals, including no less than FIVE personal bests on the ride!

Yes FIVE! And three of those PBs were recorded on the homeward leg – which traditionally is a bit harder and more of an uphill grind for my crew! Which just goes to show that the “old gal” and the “old git” are a good bit stronger … and fitter … than they believe! The proof of the pudding is in Strava … as cyclists say … it seems! (or in the gin!)

So Strava officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of  9.9 miles with a total moving time of 52.24 minutes, at a healthy average speed of 11.3 mph.

The total elapsed time was 1 hour 42 minutes – allowing for the relaxing gin and tonic! Top speed recorded was 24.6 mph and the elevation covered was 290 feet. Together we managed to burn up 590 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 168 W.

All in all a good bit of exercise and loads more smiles squeezed into an all too brief time slot. But here’s to more sunny rides! And clearly #perthistheplace (for gin!)

Matilda goes carol singing – in dulci jubilo!

Ho! ho! ho! The "old gal" cunningly disguised the crash helmets as Santa hats!

Ho! ho! ho! The “old gal” cunningly disguised the crash helmets as Santa hats!

With only a week to go till Christmas Day the “old git” – who is something of a Christmas zealot – was encouraging everyone to get into full festive spirit mode! As the “old gal” quipped – it might have been more likely if there was some festive spirit flowing … but he was trying – very trying as the “old gal” said in that droll you-can’t-be-certain-if-she-is-joking-or-not way she has!

Now there is a tradition on the Sunday before Christmas near Matilda’s Rest when the local churches in Auchterarder come together to hold a carol service at Tullibardine Chapel – which dates back to the 15th century. My dynamic crew make a point of going – and it is all quite atmospheric as there is no power in the remote chapel and it is all done by candle light and torches.

This year the “old git” decided it would be a bit of a festive frolic if my crew arrived at the carols by tandem – complete with Santa hats, Christmas jumpers, and my twinkling festive lights!

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view!) the weather was kind and quite mild so there was much excitement when we woke on Sunday to get ready for our excursion. And to add to the anticipation, it was the first time – believe it or not – that this “old lady” had been to a carol service!

So after an early lunch I was pulled out of the garage to get a few photos at Matildas Rest before we headed off on the short 3 mile ride to Tullibardine. The “old gal” had done some sterling work transforming my duo’s crash helmets into huge Santa hats – courtesy of linking together a couple of Santa hats from the local pound shop!

As we all posed for photos the “old git” realised that a year ago – we  had to abandon our planned tandem run on this same Sunday due to fairly heavy snow!

… and the “old gal” in the snow a year ago in 2015.

What a difference a year makes – the “old gal” in 2016 …

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a right Christmas pudding! The "old git" in full festive mode!

What a right Christmas pudding! The “old git” in full festive mode!

We headed off and it was fun tandeming up the high street which was busy with families out walking and doing some last minute shopping! It would need to be said we got more than a few funny looks from adults (but as the “old git” said that was the point of the exercise) while loads of children gave us excited waves and I tooted my horn back in appreciation!

We then headed out of town onto the rural Perthshire roads which took us to Tullibardine Chapel – and I must admit it was great fun to be back out in the fresh air. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full data and statistics! 

carol-singing-strava

Team Matilda were in good spirits – so much so that I wasn’t sure if there was any actual spirits partaken before they departed! But the “old gal” and the “old git” are finely tuned athletes … so I am sure it was just my imagination!

In what seemed like no time we were approaching the chapel and the “old git” decided that we needed to arrive in style – singing jingle bells to ensure we got noticed! And guess what – we did! The “old git” and the “old gal” definetly lived up to their status as founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club with their arrival – which as luck would have it was recorded on video which you can view here. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

So before the carols there was time to explore the history and my dynamic crew discovered that Tullibardine Chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir David Murray of Dumbarton, an ancestor of the Dukes of Atholl. The Murray family home was at Tullibardine Castle. This stood on a site a short distance to the north of the chapel, though nothing now remains of it.

Team Matilda standing outside the entrance to Tullibardine Chapel - almost unchanged since it was built.

Team Matilda at the entrance to Tullibardine Chapel – almost unchanged since it was built.

The chapel stands almost unchanged since an extension in about 1500 – and is one of the few medieval churches to have survived the Reformation unaltered.

The inside of the chapel - clearly showing the medieval history - well before the carols started.

The inside of the chapel – clearly showing the medieval history – well before the carols started.

Just before the carol service proper started my dynamic duo warmed up their voices with a few verses outside, accompanied by one of the organisers Allan Perera – a well known local artist and member of the Our Lady of the Perpetual Succour host church – on his guitar.

Getting into voice - my dynamic crew warming up their vocal chords by singing in tandem!

Getting into voice – my dynamic crew warming up their vocal chords by singing in tandem!

The "old gal" getting into fine voice - accompanied by Alan Pererera's guitar.

The “old gal” getting into fine voice – accompanied by Allan Perera’s guitar.

Don't you think the (large) Santa hats and Crimbo jumpers added to the occasion?!

Don’t you think the (large) Santa hats and Crimbo jumpers added to the occasion?!

So after a warm up – and after attracting lots of attention from interested people arriving – it was time for my duo to go inside the chapel for the carol service. They tell me they thoroughly enjoyed the whole event – a nice mix of Christmas carols and readings. And encouragingly, it was packed – with nearly 200 people crowding into the chapel.

After the carols my dynamic duo emerged to find that they had been somewhat upstaged by someone who had arrived on horseback – as you do in the middle of the Perthshire countryside! So naturally I had to have a photo taken with the horse!

Here I am somewhat overshadowed by a huge white horse outside the chapel.

Here I am somewhat overshadowed by a huge white horse outside the chapel.

My duo had got a bit chilled sitting inside the chapel as the temperature dropped, so after the service we quickly pedalled off in a bid to raise some heat! In fact they tandemed so quickly, Strava later confirmed that they recorded a personal best record time on the Easthill hill climb section back towards Auchterarder! Back into town and there was a stop at the “old gal’s” hair salon to get a few festive photos.

Me and the "old gal" adding a festive touch outside her hair salon.

Me and the “old gal” adding a festive touch outside her hair salon.

Great place for a hair do - I am reliably informed! The "old gal's" salon!

Great place for a hair do – I am reliably informed! The “old gal’s” salon!

A short pedal and we were back at Matilda’s Rest with my dynamic crew immediately having  a warming espresso to heat them up! But all three of us on Team Matilda had fun – and were feeling even more Christmassy than before!

Look out for my Matildas Musings Christmas wishes blog post just before the big day! In the meantime I need to go and warp a few presents and write my final cards!

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BLiSSful Balquhidder’s brilliant bravura!

Reflections on the BLiSStrail - Team Matilda at the Look Out mirrored cabin at Loch Voil.

Reflections on the BLiSStrail – Team Matilda at the Look Out mirrored cabin at Loch Voil.

What excitement at Matilda’s Rest! I have been hardly been able to sleep since this “old lady” tandem was invited back to the Loch Earn area to do another blog on their fascinating cultural outside art #BLiSStrail. Yes I will say that again, invited back!

It seems that LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group, was so impressed with my photo and video blog from my trip to see the first section of the art trail at the end of October around the St Fillans and Lochearnhead loop that they asked Team Matilda to come back and do another blog on one of the other two legs of the trail – this time around Balquhidder.

The unique BLiSS trail is named after the four villages it links – Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St Fillans – deep in the heart of Rob Roy Country within the Loch Lomond and  The Trossachs National Park – where Perthshire meets rural Stirling. The trail is made up of a series of large ornamental metal and wood sculptures and art installations, mostly by various artists, to commemorate the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

The brainchild of LETi, the BLiSS trail is also designed to encourage more visitors to the area – to boost tourism and the local economy. And since our first visit it has become an “award winning trail” – receiving the honour of a regional Scottish Thistle Award – recognised as the tourism Oscars – for “Working Together for Tourism.”

The “old git” and the “old gal” were delighted to accept on my behalf.  So on Saturday afternoon I was packed into Matilda Transport and we headed off through St Fillans and down the side of stunning Loch Earn, through Lochearnhead on the A84 to The Golden Larches bed and breakfast – Team Matilda’s base for their mini-weekend adventure.

There my dynamic duo were met by the extremely hospitable owner Alistair Buchan – who showed them the first of the art installations along this section of the BLiSS trail – Sunflowers by Kev Paxton – situated in the car park of The Golden Larches, opposite the old Balquhidder Station.

The first iconic piece of art I got to see was the giant Sunflowers in the car park at The Golden Larches.

The first iconic piece of art I got to see was the giant Sunflowers..

You certainly can’t miss this sculpture as it is 4m high – somewhat larger than the common sunflower! It certainly towered above me, and I am sure the giant sunflowers turn heads and raise a few smiles on the A84. Given that this is a pre festive tour, the next person I was introduced to was “wee Santa” who was on hand to make me feel welcome at my new abode for the evening!

Making my acquaintance with "wee Santa" at the Golden Larches.

Ho! ho! ho! Here I am making my acquaintance with “wee Santa” at The Golden Larches.

Alistair couldn’t have done any more to make my dynamic duo comfortable on what was a somewhat chilly night. They were shown to their lovely, relaxed, warm and welcoming room. He even went the extra mile when the “old gal” suddenly proclaimed that she was in danger of missing her favourite tv show – Strictly Come Dancing – when they went out for dinner.

But Alistair showed his superhero qualities by setting up the large flat screen satellite tv to record the programme – so they could watch it later on catch-up. What a star! And the “old gal” was a happy girl again! I mean if she had missed it, in the words of judge Craig Revel Horwood it would have been “a disaster darling!”

mhor-84-signAfter a bit of relaxation the “old git” and the “old gal” ventured out to sample the dinner menu at the highly recommended MHOR 84  Motel which serves food to satisfy the many cyclists and walkers who pass by.

To fuel up for the ride ahead the next day, my dynamic duo stocked up on a meal which  tantalised their taste buds – scallops, burgers and cheesecake, washed down with the obligatory red wine!

The amazing burgers at MHOR 84!

The amazing burgers at MHOR 84!

The “old gal” was stunned into silence  by the burgers – and given that doesn’t happen very often, they must have been good! The additional toppings of black pudding and blue cheese left her literally lost for words … other than the odd “yum!”

The decor at Mhor 84 is  modern and stylishly shabby with mismatched metal chairs alongside thin, rustic tables that have been rescued from schools and science labs. There’s even three tartan ducks on the wall! Its far from twee, and it works – mhor than living up to its reputation as being “deliciously subversive!”

"Home from home" comforts at the Golden Larches.

“Home from home” comforts at the Golden Larches.

On return to The Golden Larches my crew reveled in what the “old git” described as “home from home” comforts – and give his exacting standards of what makes home comforts that is praise indeed. And after Alistair’s heroics with the tv set box, my dynamic duo were able to be very decadent and (whisper it) watch Strictly in bed! Then it was time for some zzzzs before an early alarm call to hit the BLiSS trail.

So Sunday dawned and my crew were up before dawn to have a very tasty breakfast, home cooked by Alistair, before I was set up for the day’s tandeming ahead.

Before we headed off I was very honoured to get to meet Kim Proven, the livewire chair of LETi  and owner of luxury self-catering Briar Cottages at nearby Lochearnhead. And she even brought along the Scottish Thistle Award the BLiSS trail won recently as a prop for photos.

Here I am posing along with Kim Proven and the Scottish Thistle tourism award.

Two livewire ladies – me posing with Kim and the BLiSS trail Scottish Thistle tourism award.

Kim uses every opportunity to publicise the area to get people to come and see the natural beauty of the area for themselves. And that’s probably one of the reasons the trail got noticed by the Thistle Award judges in the first place!

Kim scrubbed up well to receive the award from STV's Jennifer Reoch.

The “scrubbed up” version of Kim receiving the ScottishThistle award from STV’s Jennifer Reoch.

As Kim said at the glitzy awards dinner: “LETi has proved that a small group can carry out an effective tourism campaign on a shoestring through local people’s skills, energy and enthusiasm.”

The BLiSS trail is designed to encourage visitors to smile, stop and spend time in the villages – and all the installations are near cafes and restaurants.

Now for those of you who haven’t looked up the dictionary to find out what bravura in my headline for this post means – let me explain. It is used as in “a display of great bravura” which really means a display of great technical skill, brilliance and daring. And this “old lady” thought that it summed up the outdoor cultural BLiSS trail brilliantly!

And naturally Kim agreed! The “old gal” did some filming, so watch this video clip where Kim tells my Matildas Musings blog the background to the bravura BLiSS trail – and watch out for some exciting exclusive advance news of plans to revamp the trail for 2017. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

Because it was only three weeks till Christmas, the “old git” – who is a real Crimbo lover – decided that a few festive shots had to be taken – complete with fetching Santa hats! I must say I thought that Kim really suited the “old gal’s” animal print trimmed one!

The "old git" and Kim from LETi along with "wee Santa" and me!

The “old git” and Kim getting into the Christmas spirit along with “wee Santa” and me!

Kim from LETi, the "old git" and Alistair - mine host at The Golden Larches.

Here I am with Kim from LETi, the “old git” and Alistair – mine host at The Golden Larches.

The “old gal” was being kept busy in her role as my blog photographer and – despite the freezing temperature – there was time for a quick shot with the “old git”Kim and Alistair before we left The Golden Arches, full of praise for our stay.

Now Kim, who is a self-confessed tandem virgin, and who has actually had very little experience of riding a  bike at all – gamely accepted the “old git’s” challenge to take a shot as temporary substitute stoker – while the “old gal” gave up her back seat role (and crash helmet!) to film the attempt.

So can you guess what happens next ….. Did Kim manage to put her faith in the “old git” as Captain and hand over control – or did it end in disaster?!

Click on the video to find out! (And don’t forget that if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

So it was a success! Congratulations to Kim! This “old lady” says she was a natural – although the “old git” is telling anyone who will listen (and there are not many!) that he is a good teacher and was very gentle with Kim being a newbie and that he didn’t change my gears and avoided any tight corners! But he is asking why she didn’t take her hand off my handlebars to wave to the camera!

As for Kim, she was delighted with her first ride on a tandem and – believe it or not – wants to have a second go on me! Maybe she and her husband will become tandemers!

Team Matilda bid fond farewell to Kim armed with a detailed map of where to find each art installation and feature along the way. You can check out the details of our scenic route on the BLiSStrail around Balquhidder on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full data and statistics! 

balq-bliss-strava

The Cockerel.

Firstly we headed back about a mile on Sustrans Scotland Route 7 to see The Cockerel – a Sustrans Millennium Mile Marker. Four artists were commissioned by Sustrans to create distinctive mile markers for each part of the UK. Scottish sculptor Ian McColl created Scotland’s design – known as The Cockerel.

We tandemed back on ourselves on the well surfaced and safe off-road cycle path and found what must be one of the most scenic spots for a National Cycle Route identification sign in Scotland. As the “old git” somewhat confusingly said: “It’s so quiet you can almost hear the silence!”

The scenic Sustrans Scotland route marker on National Cycle Route 7.

The scenic Sustrans Scotland route marker on National Cycle Route 7.

We cycled on to the Balquhidder turn off from the A84 where there are two features almost side-by-side. The first is a recently restored cast iron Victorian signpost – with one arm pointing to Rob Roy’s Grave 2 miles away and the other to destinations including Oban.

They don't make them like they used to! The "old gal" and me at the Victorian sign.

They don’t make them like they used to! The “old gal” and me at the Victorian sign.

Opposite the signpost is the iconic red phone box – which still works! It has been used, and photographed, by many a cyclist, walker and visitor to the area.

Who you gonna call? The "old git" holding on the line at the iconic red phone box!

Who you gonna call? The “old git” holding on the line at the iconic red phone box!

On we tandemed towards Balquhidder, but you can’t visit here without stopping at Rob Roy’s Grave for a photo opportunity!  As you enter the village from the east, a spur leads to the village kirkyard. Here you find Balquhidder’s Parish Church, the ruins of the Old Church it replaced, and the grave of Rob Roy MacGregor. Alongside him lie his wife and two of their sons.

The "old git" and me at Rob Roy's Grave in Balquhidder for the obligatory photo.

The “old git” and me at Rob Roy’s Grave in Balquhidder for the obligatory photo.

A few hundred yards of pedalling saw Team Matilda stop by the village hall to take a look at the Grooming Stag made of willow by sculptor June McEwan from nearby Crieff. It is an eye-catching symbol of the hall – a real social hub being the venue for social gatherings and community activities

The "old gal" with the Grooming Stag - a feature at Balquhidder village hall.

The “old gal” with the Grooming Stag – a feature at Balquhidder village hall.

The “old gal” then noticed an additional interesting feature beside the village hall – another of the iconic red phone boxes … but this one has been turned into a book exchange for the local community. What a wonderful idea!

The "old gal" taking time out to flick thru the pages of a book at the book exchange - hope we don't need to put out an SOS!

The “old gal” flicking thru the pages of a book at the exchange – hope we don’t need to put out an SOS!

Our map then took us about half a mile off our main route, along the road to Strathyre, to find one of the most unusual artworks on the trail – the Half Way Totem Pole.

The Half Way Totem Pole serves a local traffic rule.

The Half Way Totem Pole serves as a market for a local traffic rule.

Now it would need to be said that my dynamic crew were looking for a high totem pole and almost missed this feature. But they are glad they didn’t! The mini totem pole has been created by Balquhidder local Edward Chadfield. The unconventional traffic sign serves a purpose on the single track road it sits beside. When meeting a vehicle coming towards you, the local rule is that whoever is furthest from the half way point does the reversing! Fortunately I didn’t have to reverse and my crew had plenty of time to get a good photo.

Selfie time for my dynamic duo looking towards the vista of Loch Voil.

Selfie time for my dynamic duo looking towards the vista of Loch Voil.

The “old git” and the “old gal” took a few moments here to take in the magnificent vista – as they were almost mesmerised by the beauty of the views. As the “old git” said: “This is real brain food!”

The remote beauty of Loch Voil through my handlebars.

The remote beauty of Loch Voil through my handlebars.

We retraced our steps back to the main route – with four miles to go till our lunch break at the end of the loch. This ride was one of the best Team Matilda have had the pleasure of experiencing – gently undulating single track roads with the most wonderful views across Loch Voil. And with hardly a whisper of wind, the loch’s surface was like a mirror, reflecting the surrounding hills. Just magnificent!

The "old gal" and me on the edge of the flat calm and reflective Loch Voil.

The “old gal” and me on the edge of the flat calm and reflective Loch Voil.

We pedalled on looking for more of the art installations. The Look Out, situated just at the end of Loch Voil before the neighbouring Loch Doine, was Team Matilda’s favourite on the BLiSS trail.

The Look Out was my dynamic duo's favourite piece of art on the cultural BLiSStrail.

The Look Out was my dynamic duo’s favourite on the cultural BLiSStrail.

It is essentially a mirrored cube which blends into the surrounding backdrop. In fact it is so well situated that my dynamic crew really had to look to find it in the middle of a field!

The "old gal" in reflective mood at the atmospheric Look Out installation.

The “old gal” in reflective mood at the atmospheric Look Out installation.

The Look Out was created by Daniel Tyler and Angus Richie as part of their final year thesis project while studying for their Masters of Architecture at the University of Strathclyde.

It provides “a place of contemplation framing views of Loch Doine and Loch Voil whilst disappearing into the backdrop of the surrounding glen.” It also provided my crew with the opportunity for a few fun photographs, and I even got in on the act with the mirrors making me even  longer than I actually am!

The "old git" on one of the seats which amplifies distant waterfalls and bird calls.

The “old git” on one of the seats which amplifies distant waterfalls and bird calls.

To infinity and beyond! Clones of the "old gal" and the "old git" in the mirrors!

To infinity and beyond! Clones of the “old gal” and the “old git” in the mirrors!

Here I am longer than ever thanks to the effects of the mirrors at the Look Out!

Here I am longer than ever thanks to the effects of the mirrors at the Look Out!

Team Matilda forced themselves away from the sanctuary of the Look Out and found the next two cultural features within the grounds of the stylish boutique Monachyle Mhor hotel.

The Cave is right at the entrance – made of Oriented Strand Board – a material often used in the construction industry but rarely shown off. A group of MHOR micro project students created a hand sculpted installation which just demands to be explored and photographed inside and out.

the-cave

The Sheiling is also based within the grounds of the hotel and part of the same project as The Cave. It is based on the concept of a traditional Scottish shepherd hut. Slatted wood enables a unique view of the landscape and the ever changing light creates interesting ladder shadows.

The Sheiling is based on a traditional Scottish shepherd hut.

The Sheiling is based on a traditional Scottish shepherd hut.

Perfect for an "old lady" like me - parked at the boutique Monachyle Mhor.

Perfect for an “old lady” like me – parked at the boutique Monachyle Mhor hotel.

After exploring these installations it was time for some much needed sustenance at Monachyle Mhor. As my dynamic crew walked in, one of the staff who had clearly been watching the unusual occurrence of a blogging tandem investigating their art installations, pointed to my fetching red la buclee wine carrier and said: “I like that – very classy!”

Oh I was so pleased, as I do like compliments you know! The “old gal” and the “old git” were welcomed in like old friends and immediately made to feel comfortable despite being kitted out in cycling gear!

They took a seat in the small and cosy snug bar – with its trendy new bar amazingly fitting in to the old fashioned surroundings including an old metal fireplace with a healthy fire glowing away!

Perfect tandemers lunch! Soup, sarnies and prosecco! What could be better?

Perfect tandemers lunch! Soup, sarnies and prosecco! What could be better?

My dynamic duo then enjoyed some most welcome hot soup and sandwiches – along with a reviving glass of prosecco! I mean it would have been rude of them not to!

The “old git” had a bit of a job persuading the “old gal” to done their jackets and go back out into the cold – me thinks she could have easily stayed there all afternoon! In fact she was dragged away saying: “Mhor, mhor mhor!”!

As the temperature started to drop my dynamic crew decided to pick up the pace in a bid to keep warm and tandemed back towards Balquhidder in double quick time. I was most impressed as they still have that fitness built up for our summer trip – and easily nailed some hilly terrain.

But Team Matilda still found time to admire the raw scenic beauty of a very calm Loch Voil as we tandemed along. Despite tandeming at a fair speed the “old gal” managed to film a short video as we pedalled along. Watch out for the bumps! (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

 We tandemed through Balquhidder and back up to the junction with the A84 where the “old gal” decided my crew needed to thaw out and have the traditional cyclists treat of coffee and cake at Mhor 84. And that allowed me to be introduced to the Mhor Coo, the last of our features on the BLiSS trail. It seems the popular local coo moooves around (get it?!) at the motel. But I easily found it beside the Christmas tree at the front door!

As the last feature of our BLiSStrail trip I got to meet the Mhor Coo!

As the last feature of our BLiSStrail trip I got to meet the Mhor Coo!

Over a warming coffee, the “old git” and the “old gal” reflected on what a marvellous idea the BLiSS trail is and how it offers the perfect opportunity for some culture and cycling!

No wonder it won the regional Scottish Thistle Award! And of course Team Matilda wishes the LETi team the best of luck in the national finals in March next year.

Before then I am delighted to say that I have already been invited back to complete the third and final leg of the BLiSStrail – this time around Strathyre. The plan is to do that in January or February. I for one can’t wait and I know my dynamic crew are looking forward to it too!

As dusk fell, and the temperature fell well below zero, the “old git” suggested one final photo – a festive shot with my Christmas lights lit up and my crew donning Santa hats! Then it was a rapid last mile back to the warmth of Matilda Transport and back to Matilda’s Rest.

All in all it certainly had been a BLiSSful and brilliant bravura in Balquhidder!

Ho! ho! ho! The "old git" and "old gal" decided to don Santa hats for the last photo of the trip.

The “old git” and “old gal” decided to don Santa hats for the last photo of the trip.

Thanks to all at LETi for their help, bed and breakfast and sustenance offered to allow Team Matilda to complete their tour of the Balquhidder leg of the BLiSS trail.

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