Yummy cake at new Braco Coffee shop but rain stopped play on Dunblane tandem ☔

The “old gal” drookit on arrival at the new bike-friendly Braco Coffee shop!

Carrot cake and tandeming goes together like … well like Team Matilda’s Captain and Stoker really!

And my dynamic crew’s love for a stop at a coffee shop for carrot cake has become a signature event of our rides. In fact I understand the unbeatable combination is now de rigueur for most tandemers!

The “old git” and the “old gal” had been told about a great new tandem and cycle-friendly coffee shop in Braco and the plan for the day involved a pedal to build an appetite to sample the goodies on offer.

But the plan came a bit unstuck in some heavy rain which stopped the planned route in its tracks, forcing us to quickly retreat to the coffee shop to dry out.

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

Now as regular readers of my blog will know the “old git” is a bit of a zealot for checking the weather forecast with the localised BBC Weather service being his (usually) reliable first port of call. Dry and cloudy it said! But it was wrong!

When we set out it was accurate and soon we were tandeming away from Matildas Rest out on the open rural Perthshire roads past Gleneagles Hotel and on to Braco. To be honest, the cloud was building at this point – as the “old gal” pointed out. But the “old git” in his role as Captain decided to press on with the planned route to Dunblane.

But halfway to Dunblane – just before Kinbuck – rain stopped play with some ninja showers rolling in off the hills forcing the decision to abandon and take shelter before hastily retracing our route back to Braco.

It would need to be said my dynamic crew were looking somewhat less than dynamic as they arrived outside the Braco Coffee shop – drookit being the appropriate Scots word!

But they were guaranteed a warm and friendly welcome as the previous attempt at sampling the coffee shop ended in inglorious failure as my crew arrived just 8 minutes after the owners had decided to close early at 3 pm for staff training … on a busy Bank Holiday Monday!

Braco Coffee was sadly closed on our last visit – but my crew got a friendly welcome this time!

It was most definitely a case of “You’ll have had your tea” … as they say in some parts of Scotland as my crew disappointingly arrived that day to find the blinds down and not even the option of buying a carry out coffee, despite having checked the opening hours online before setting out.

After getting in touch with the owners they admitted it perhaps wasn’t the best day to close early – and tempted my dynamic crew to pay another visit – with some vouchers to help ease the disappointment!

Great coffee, scones, brownie and carrot cake! (Scones so good already eaten!)

Fair play to them, so my Captain and Stoker were happy to re-visit … and well worthwhile it turned out to be. Braco Coffee shop opened its doors back in March and since then has been providing an oasis for cyclists and walkers in the area – well situated on the busy tourist route to Crieff.

My dynamic crew can report that the fruit scones, chocolate brownie, and of course the carrot cake were all yummy as was the very welcome freshly brewed strong coffee.

The scones were so good that my dynamic crew forgot to take the pictures until after they had been scoffed! The “old git” nearly got his hand bitten off when he remembered and stopped the “old gal” just at the moment of launching in to sample the cakes!

The “old gal” still looking a tad wet! But ready to pounce on the cakes!

A real plus point for Braco Coffee Shop is that it doesn’t just keep to the coffee and cakes offering – the menu includes interesting freshly made lunch options including the likes of quiche and an interestingly named naanwich … obviously made from naan bread! And you can wash it all down with a glass of wine … or indeed prosecco … as it has a table licence.

And it stays open past its usual 5pm closing – till 9pm on a Friday and Saturday, to offer the local area a bistro dining option.

Great friendly customer service with a smile from the Braco Coffee team!

The food was tasty, fresh and well presented – with the scones warm on serving – which along with great friendly service from the Braco Coffee team, and sparkling toilets, meant the venue got top marks from Team Matilda! Well worth pointing your wheels in the direction of Braco for a pit stop on your next cycle ride! The carrot cake is worth it alone!

Now fortunately, while my dynamic crew refuelled, the rain disappeared – allowing for a fairly pleasant return tandem ride. Indeed weather conditions had improved dramatically so the “old git” decided not to simply repeat the outward journey but to add on a few extra miles with a longer loop back via Blackford, Badrill and then past Duchally Country Estate.

This involved some euphoria after nailing the steep 7% – 10% gradient uphill section known as the Duchally Ramp – which previously had seen my dynamic crew grind to a halt. But in my new low gear they managed to grind it out – which gave all three of us a great sense of achievement.

The last three miles flew past and returning to Matildas Rest the “old gal” quickly put the Team Matilda cycling anoraks – which had performed admirably in the downpour – on the washing line to dry.

The Team Matilda anoraks that did their job keeping my dynamic crew dry hanging on the line.

While the anoraks were blowing dry in the wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 16 gongs – which given the weather conditions and the hilly terrain was pretty unbelievable! The total was made up of 7 personal bests;  and 9 second bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 24.2 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 09 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.3 mph (given the monsoon rain!) while the elevation was 1401 feet. The maximum speed was 33.6 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1569 calories and produce an average power output of 182 W.

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

So not quite the 35 miles that were planned – but still a good bit of exercise! And it is always good to find a another tandem and bike-friendly coffee shop serving carrot cake! We’ll be back!

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Tandeming the dens dells and delis of Dunkeld

Ready to roll in the warm sunshine – with Dunkeld Bridge in the background.

Now as you know this “old lady” likes to try something new every now and again – so when the “old git” came up with the idea of tandeming a new route around the ancient Cathedral “city” of Dunkeld in Highland Perthshire, it seemed like an exciting plan!

And when the “old git” mentioned that we passed a couple of coffee shops and finished at a new deli which we also did tapas early evening, the “old gal” was immediately on board too!

The addition of the deli word gave the “old git” the joy of coming up with some of his favoured alliteration in the title of the ride – adding to the dens and dells of Dunkeld! Simple pleasures!

Now for those who are not au fait with Scots dialect a “den” is a long and narrow valley while a “dell” is  a hollow and there are plenty of both in this area … but (whisper it) that also means it is lumpy!

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

The sun was already high in the sky creating a perfect day for our tandem ride as I was unloaded from Matilda Transport at the Tay Terrace Car Park handily placed beside the river just after crossing Dunkeld Bridge. After kitting up – and applying the necessary factor 30 – Team Matilda pedalled off along the A984 which runs east out of Dunkeld to Caputh.

This follows the route of an old military road built by Major William Caulfield in the 18th century. It is a lovely road to cycle with mild undulations and and some great views over the majestic River Tay.

Just after Caputh is the hamlet of Spittalfield which is home to the cyclist and walker-friendly Walkin’ Cafe. Opened a year ago the welcoming cafe specifically targets cyclists and walkers who frequent the area. For many years the building was the village store before being transformed into a cafe to keep it as a hub of the village.

The cafe has lots of cycling-related aftefacts to catch the eye – and don’t forget to look out for the French-designed poster showing all the different kinds of bikes which have been produced over the years … in the toilets! Glad to say that a tandem was featured among the drawings! The “old git” and “old gal” quickly polished off a coffee and scone from the appealing treats on offer.

The Walkin’ Cafe is a real oasis for cyclists and has lots of bike artefacts.

The Walkin’ Cafe is ideally situated on the A984 at Spittalfield to attract cyclists and walkers.

Refreshed we pedalled on for around four miles to a local landmark of the Meikleour Beech Hedge which is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest hedge in Britain and the highest of its kind in the world. It is is one third of a mile long (530 m) and 100 ft (30 m) high.

The “old gal” dwarfed by the Meikleour Beech Hedge – the longest hedge in the UK.

Our route took us left at Meikleour on to the A93 towards Blairgowrie – and although it was quite a busy road cars gave us plenty of space as we pedalled along. Just before Blairgowrie centre, we turned left again on to the scenic A923 which would take us back to Dunkeld – with the promise of enjoying the views over no less than six lochs along the way.

We quickly passed Rae Loch and Loch of Drumellie before the “old gal” decided it was time to stop for one of Team Matilda’s infamous prosecco picnics! She fortuitously called stop at beautiful Loch of Clunie. Although it was busy – due to the sunshine – with families enjoying the shallow calm water she found a spot on the beach to allow my dynamic crew to sunbathe and enjoy their picnic goodies. And the sit was made all the more comfortable by our fab new fold-up pads which our good cycling friends John and Jane had given my crew on the recent mini Tour de Perthshire.

Sun-kissed Loch of Clunie provided the perfect stop for a prosecco picnic.

Selfie time for my dynamic crew enjoying the warm sun on the loch’s beach.

Chillin – the “old gal” relaxing in the sun on our new picnic pads.

Back on the road and maybe it was just the effects of the relaxing picnic, but my dynamic crew noticed the gentle incline as we headed on past Loch of Butterstone. We took a short diversion to the entrance to the Scottish Wildlife Trust Loch of the Lowes wildlife reserve – a near 100 hectacre site where the star attraction is a pair of breeding ospreys which nest just 150 metres from the observation hide. We had actually spotted the huge wingspan of one of the magnificent birds doing a spot of fishing for food for their chicks in one of the lochs earlier.

The Loch of the Lowes reserve – famous for its ospreys – is run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

From the last of the six lochs – Loch of Craiglush – there is a steep climb and my dynamic crew had to work hard to keep my wheels turning. A long winding – but welcome – swooping downhill stretch returned us to Dunkeld with some time to explore the town. First stop was the eye-catching Atholl Memorial Fountain in the Market Cross area. The Fountain was funded by public subscription and built in 1866 ‘to the memory of George Augustus Frederick John 6th Duke of Atholl’ who had introduced a piped water supply to Dunkeld.

The “old git” at the Atholl Memorial Fountain in Dunkeld.

By now my dynamic crew were ready for a re-fuel and had some fabulous cake sitting outside on the sun drenched terrace at the Spill the Beans coffee shop.

Next we took in some of the Dunkeld Heritage Walk (or cycle!) which takes in many of the restored 18th century merchants houses in Cathedral Street – which are now looked after by The Little Houses Improvement Scheme – in partnership with the National Trust for Scotland. This includes The Old Rectory which is Dunkeld’s oldest surviving house. Scotland’s National Bard Robert Burns and Fiddler Neil Gow entertained here in 1787.

I feel like a young thing beside Dunkeld’s oldest surviving house!

Cathedral Street – not surprisingly – leads to Dunkeld Cathedral whose history can be traced to the ninth century when it emerged as an important religious centre for the early Celtic Church. No building of this period survives, the present Cathedral dates from 1318. Partly destroyed during the Reformation (1560), the choir is roofed and now serves as the parish church for regular Sunday worship. The rest of the cathedral is ruinous, but is preserved as an Ancient Monument in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, who are also responsible for the grounds.

Cooling in the shade in the grounds of the historic Dunkeld Cathedral.

The cathedral’s grounds give great views over the River Tay and Dunkeld Bridge.

The grounds of the cathedral give great views over the majestic River Tay and the historic Dunkeld Bridge which was built by Thomas Telford and opened in 1809.

After all the miles and the local history it was time for us all to return to Matilda Transport. I was safely loaded back inside while my dynamic crew got changed for a refreshment stop before dinner.

Over a nicely chilled glass of white wine, and enjoying the warm sunshine on the decking of the Atholl Arms overlooking the river, the “old git” checked Strava which showed no gongs as this was our first time on this route. But the detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 26 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 03 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.7 mph given a couple of sharp hills while the elevation was 1178 feet. The maximum speed was 29.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1528 calories and produce an average power output of 185 W.

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

Suitably impressed by that data my dynamic crew ended their day out in style with a mouth watering tapas meal at the highly recommended The Scottish Deli on Dunkeld’s Atholl Street. I am told that the prawns in garlic and the manchego cheese and serrano ham platter were particularly impressive!

Replete it was time for the 30 minute return drive to Matildas Rest and soon time for some zzzs after a memorable sunny day out as we tandemed the dens, dells and delis of Dunkeld in glorious Perthshire!

Sun-kissed tandeming at Muthill Sportive 2018 – yellow route

Team Matilda – kitted out in eye-catching King of Mountain gear – at the Muthill Sportive.

There was much excitement at Matildas Rest on a recent Saturday as it was a big day for this “old lady” – I was taking part in a real official competitive bike event – the Muthill Sportive 2018. This would only be my second ever Sportive and I was all geared up for the big event as the “old git” had told me that not only was I going to have an official participant number but that I was going to have a timing chip. Serious stuff!

Those of you with good memories may remember my Sportive debut a year ago when the “old git’s” son Niall took up a role as substitute stoker as the “old gal” was working. Team Matilda hadn’t planned to be taking part this year as the date was scheduled to be the penultimate day of our Nutty Tandemers Club Hebridean Way Challenge. But sadly personal circumstances resulted in that adventure having to be postponed. So my dynamic crew decided on a last minute entry.

The Muthill cycling event has the reputation for being Scotland’s friendliest Sportive and that was immediately apparent from the warm welcome my crew received at the registration desk – which was basking in bright sunshine, in stark contrast to heavy rain of last year.

The idea of the Sportive is to raise funds for the Muthill to Crieff Cyclepath project which will create a safe route along the 4 miles to the Strath capital, avoiding the busy A822 road. Phase 1 of the project is complete – a 1 mile off-road route from Muthill to Templemill, which links with other core paths and quiet country walking and cycling friendly roads. Just over two years ago when it was opened, I was the first tandem to ride the new cycle path. You can read more about the project in my blog of that ride.

Ready for the off- with my official ‘158’ sportive competitor number!

Team Matilda was taking part in the Yellow Route – an 18 mile cycle around quiet local Strathearn roads. I had my start number of 158 firmly attached to my handlebars and the “old gal” volunteered to attach my snazzy timer chip to her ankle – even tho it did look like she was wearing an electronic monitoring tag!

No comments about the “old gal” being used to wearing a tag! This is the official timing chip!

Then it was time for the off and we lined up with just under 30 other bikes. I was proud to be the only tandem on the start line and I am glad to say I got quite a few “nice bike” and “special machine” compliments. A quick safety briefing, and the horn was blown and we were underway!

At the start line – ready for the hooter!

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

The “old git” and the “old gal” set off at good pace along Muthill’s main street before starting a long slow climb up past the local golf course. This turned out to be a bit of a “killer hill” so soon in the route – which is perhaps no surprise as a later check measured the incline at 10.3%.

I think the joke turned out to be on my dynamic crew who thought that wearing their King of the Mountain cycling shirts would be a big joke! But after a bit of a push (literally!) we reached the plateau and then the rest of the ride was much more enjoyable and we soon picked up speed again.

The ride was well signposted with big yellow arrows marking directions at every possible junction to ensure we couldn’t get lost – and there were marshalls at any intersections with busier roads. The route developed into a gently undulating ride, along well maintained farm roads before briefly emerging on to the Crieff to Braco road for a short section, turning into another maze of farm roads.

We crossed the Auchterarder to Crieff road before the route took us along the roads around Tullibardine and then along in front of Strathallan Airfield.

Tantalisinly there were signs for Muthill but we were directed away from the direct road for another loop round country roads – just as my crew were starting to feel their fuel tanks getting low on energy.

Fortunately there was a nice downhill stretch before the last section which made use of the completed first section of the Muthill to Crieff cycle path. Only difficulty was that this was uphill creating a Tour de France-style finish at the top of a climb! Well almost … but obviously just a tad less steep!

As we turned into Muthill church yard Team Matilda had that euphoric feeling of knowing they had actually completed a sportive as they crossed the finishing line. A quick glance at the electronic timer clock revealed that we had finished in a fairly respectable time of  just under 1 hour 31 minutes.

Hi-fives at the end – the “old git” and “old gal” happy at the end!

The friendly nature of the Muthill Sportive was underlined by the amazing hospitality on offer back in the church hall. An army of volunteers had been busy and yummy home made soup was on offer, along with tasty filled rolls, followed by a fantastic selection of home baked cakes. The fact that they even had gluten free cakes was quite literally the icing on the … well you know what I mean!

So after some much needed re-fuelling it was time to head back to Matildas Rest where the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 15 gongs – 5 personal bests; 8 second bests; and 2 third bests.

Amazingly Strava also gave my dynamic crew another 3rd best ever gong – meaning that our time of 6 mins 49 secs is now down in history as the 3rd fastest time ever recorded on the 2.3 mile section ‘Machanay Road only’. Well to be totally honest, it was the 3rd fastest time ever recorded by a female as I am officially registered as a female by Strava – but a gong is a gong! And there was also an 9th best ever time too! Phew – quite a day!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 18.3 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 31 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.1 mph given the hilly terrain while the elevation was 1036 feet. The maximum speed was 31.3 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1229 calories and produce an average power output of  202 W.

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

My dynamic crew both agreed that The Muthill Sportive was a great event and fun to be part of! Apart from living up to its reputation of being one of Scotland’s friendliest sportives, it certainly offered a great opportunity to promote cycling and the benefits of off-road cycle paths in the beautiful Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council area near Perth City Centre.

Lets hope the event raised lots of money for the Muthill to Crieff Cyclepath project and that I will soon be blogging about new developments and an extension to the existing first stage of the route – including a large span bridge to cross the River Earn at Crieff.

Team Matilda is certainly planning on being on the starting line next year!

Team Matilda are already planning to join Scotland’s friendliest sportive in 2019!

Out of hibernation on a rusty flutter to Forteviot

The new stone in Forteviot is inspired by the strong Pictish culture and the Dupplin Cross.

My dynamic crew decided they could wait no longer for the temperature to start rising. And much as the “old gal” likes some warmth, there was a resounding acceptance that Team Matilda had to emerge from their winter hibernation before rust and inactivity seized up all our joints!

Our last outing was just over two months ago – back before Christmas, with a short ride to Carols at Tullibardine Chapel. So, with the weather forecast giving dire warnings of the Beast from the East blasting freezing temperatures and lots of snow at the start of the week, the “old git” decided it was a case of now or never!

Ready to roll for 2018! Emerging from my garage at Matildas Rest!

My crew wakened to bright sunshine but the temperature was still stuck on zero as they fuelled up with a hearty but healthy breakfast. Next task was getting kitted up in multiple layers of winter cycling gear before I finally emerged out of my comfy garage at Matildas Rest for the first time in 2018.

After the “old gal” in her role as “chief mechanic” gave me the once over to check all my bits were lubricated and in working order, we headed off.

The “old gal” – half of my dynamic crew – wrapped up against the elements!

The “old git” had chosen a run that would be a pedal around Pictish Perthshire – heading towards the historic nearby villages of Dunning and then on to Forteviot, covering a distance of just under 16 miles with a few hills thrown in to test their fitness after a long lay off.

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

With the sun on our faces my dynamic crew tentatively pedalled off into the glorious Perthshire countryside towards Dunning. Despite initially feeling like tandem novices all three of us were quickly back into the way of it.

It probably helped that the first stretch involves a steep downhill which saw us record a speed of  just over 25 mph within the first three minutes of leaving Matildas Rest! Let’s just say that speed wasn’t beaten for the rest of the ride.

But the synchronicity factor of the “old git” and the “old gal” soon kicked in and we quickly picked up some speed, with all three of us perfectly in tune! It was great to be back out and feel the fresh 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 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.

We had travelled the near 8 miles in 50 minutes – which wasn’t too bad considering it was our first ride of the year – and the village was looking its usual pretty self in the sunshine. The village “square” (or green to be exact!) has some very quaint houses which were rebuilt for workers of the Dupplin Estate in 1927 and are create a lovely focal point for the village.

Time for a welcome cup of hot coffee for my dynamic crew at the new Forteviot stone.

As my crew enjoyed a cup of hot coffee – which the “old gal” had thoughtfully added to a flask before departure – they discovered a fabulous new centrepiece to the village since Team Matildas last visit.

A new carved stone now stands proudly – 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. It is now housed in the nearby St Serf’s Church in Dunning and looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

There is no plaque in place as yet to tell you about it, but a chat with some locals saw my dynamic crew discover it is called Set in Stone – the Birth of Alba and is a new Pictish stone celebrating Forteviot’s important role in the birth of medieval Scotland.

The new 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 kingdom that became Scotland. The new contemporary Pictish sculpture is being formally unveiled on Saturday 17 March at 12 noon.

The “old git” in his not remotely colour coordinated winter kit! But he wasn’t cold!

While enjoying the warmth of the coffee the “old gal” noticed that the old green wooden bus shelter was being rebuilt – and went over to speak to the workman who was cutting and sawing wood. This turned out to be local forester Jim Thomson who runs his own Woodland Craft business.

Forester Jim Thomson is building a new bus shelter as part of the Tay Landscape Partnership project.

Jim has been contracted to build a new eco-friendly bus shelter in Forteviot as part of the Tay Landscape Partnership funding for the area. It was certainly one of the best built bus shelters my crew had seen!

The new environmentally friendly wooden bus shelter taking shape in Forteviot.

It was great to see such activity in the village – which will hopefully provide a flow of visitors keen to find out more about the Pictish history of the area.

Bidding farewell to Jim, and before we got too cold, we headed back on our return journey – passing another historical site worth visiting in the village – Forteviot Church of St Andrew where archaeological studies indicate that Christians were first buried in the graveyard in the 6th century.

My dynamic crew pedalled furiously to create some heat – and were in buoyant mood as they discovered that there was (for once!) no headwind to battle. Despite a few hills climbing out of Forteviot we were soon tandeming into Dunning – a village which is also rich in history having been burned to the ground during the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion.

Here I am parked up outside the Kirkstyle Inn in Dunning – need a loo stop they said!

It is also boasts a great friendly country pub called The Kirkstyle Inn which my dynamic crew have been known to visit from time to time! It provided the ideal place for a loo stop – which the “old gal” then decided would be a good spot for a small libation to fuel up for the final miles home! After all it would have been rude not to!

The “old gal” decided a small libation would help the ride home!

So after a lovely Scottish artisan gin, it was time for the last four miles home. Gosh it had suddenly turned a good bit colder – wonder if that was anything to do with the cosy pub and the gin!? Surely not! We pedalled off quickly and didn’t stop at the the last piece of local history on today’s trip – 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 to be burned at the stake.

The return trip to Matildas Rest took just 10 minutes longer than the outward journey – which given the hills and my crew’s rustiness is a commendable effort. While having another warming cup of coffee the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 2 gongs … amazingly we recorded a personal best and a 3rd best.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 15.7 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 51 minutes. As always it is the smiles not the miles that count, but our average speed was 8.5 mph and the elevation was 633 feet. The maximum speed was 25.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 801 calories and produce an average power output of 108 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So the first outing of 2018 now ticked off! Both the “old gal” and the “old git” are hoping some warmer weather is on its way soon for sunny tandem rides!

Brr! the “old gal” shivering on return … hoping for sunnier tandem days ahead!

Matildas carol singing reprise – in dulci jubilo 2

Tra la la! All together now! Make sure the carol singing is in #tandem!

Away on a tandem 
To Tullibardine
To sing carols for Christmas
On a cold winter’s day …. !!! 

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 be 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.

In a reprise of last 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! And I even had the extra addition this year of sporting a pair of Rudolph reindeer antlers and a very fetching flashing red nose!

Spot my eye-catching Rudolph reindeer antlers and flashing red nose!

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view!) the weather was quite mild so there was much excitement when we woke to get ready for our trip. And to add to the anticipation, this was going to be just the second time ever 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!

Ready to roll! My dynamic crew in full Christmas jumper and Santa cycling hats gear!

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! They particularly liked my Rudolph adornments!

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.

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

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 (or so they claim!) … 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 our very own song, dubbed Away on a Tandem, which was a stunning rearrangement of that famous carol Away in a Manger!

Not surprisingly this ensured Team Christmas Matilda got noticed!  The “old git” and the “old gal” definitely 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:

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.

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.

My dynamic crew had a brief warm-up of their vocal chords before the service!

Just before the carol service proper started my dynamic duo warmed up their voices with a few verses outside, admired by one of the organisers Allan Perera – a well known local artist and member of the Our Lady of the Perpetual Succour host church – who on his guitar who led the musical accompaniment and the choir. Alan’s wife Sheila led the service itself.

The choir and musical accompaniment which led the carol singing.

So after the practise – and attracting lots of attention from people arriving and lots of “there’s a double bike” comments – 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, festive songs and readings. And encouragingly, it was busy – with a good crowd in the chapel.

It was a real Christmassy atmosphere singng carols by torchlight!

The “old gal” and the old git” enjoying the carols at Tullibardine 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 warm up! My crew tandemed at a rate that Strava later confirmed was their 3rd fastest time on the tough Easthill hill climb section back towards Auchterarder!

The Carols by #tandem trip was a great way of getting Team Matilda into the festive spirit!

A rapid pedal then took us downhill and  we were back at Matilda’s Rest with my dynamic crew immediately having  a warming espresso to heat them up – accompanied by some very tasty sloe gin mince tarts.

Warm coffee and yummy sloe gin mice tarts helped my dynamic crew thaw out!

While thawing the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 2 gongs … a 2nd bests and a 3rd best.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of just 6.2 miles with a moving time of 51.2 minutes – but as always it is the Smiles not the miles that count. Average speed was 7.3 mph and the elevation was 340 feet. The maximum speed was 21.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 444 calories and produce an average power output of 129 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

All three of us on Team Christmas Matilda had fun – and felt it was a great way to get into the festive spirit! Talking of which I have just heard  a shout of “Where’s my Christmas gin spirit” from the “old gal” from her bath!

Look out for my Matildas Musings “Merry Christmas” blog post just before the big day! In the meantime I need to go and wrap a few presents and write my final cards! Oh and pour that gin!…

Back at Matildas Rest and a chance to show off my Christmas lights!

Chilly canter to Carnoustie and Christmas lights celebrations with Craig and Gillian

Solo cyclists Gillian and Craig joined my dynamic duo for the ride across the Tay to Carnoustie.

The “old git” and the “old gal” had invited good solo cycling friends Gillian and Craig to Matildas Rest for a weekend of fun! The plan was to head into Perth on the Saturday for Scotland’s biggest Christmas lights switch-on party before heading for a meal, back home for some zzzzs, then a planned gentle ride to blow away the cobwebs on the Sunday.

And it all worked a treat! I was left behind to entertain the two shiny sleek sporty lightweight racing bikes belonging to our visitors, while the cycling crews headed by bus into Perth city centre.

The cyclists all enjoying themselves watching acts like Alesha Dixon at the Perth Christmas Lights concert.

And the city certainly lived up to its billing as “Scotland’s Christmas capital” as it hosted a massive party, with an estimated 100,000 revellers flocking into the festivities.

Before the big light switch on and fireworks there was the small matter of visiting a gin and chocolate festival on the High Street. Now as you may now my dynamic crew have a bit of a thing for Scottish artisan gins – and Gillian and Craig have a bit of history in this area too – so it was a perfect match! The crew’s eagerly sampled and compared quite a few of the brands on display! It seems that one of the best was a brand new gin from Twin River Distillery based in Banchory, near where the “old gal” was brought up. The Twin Rivers refers to the Dee and the Don and the distillery is one of only three in Scotland to make its own grain neutral spirit, the base for craft spirits, to ensure a completely authentic gin offering. Result – bottle purchased for the gin cupboard at Matildas Rest!

Boyslife blasted out the hits from Boyzone and Westlife.

East 17 sang their 1994 Christmas hit Stay Another Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apart from the gin and chocolate stalls, the city was packed with fairground rides, ice sculptures,  food stalls and street performers. After squeezing our way past all that entertainment the cycling crews made their way to the main stage on Tay Street where an outdoor concert was a major feature to the switch-on celebrations with Mud, Boyzlife  and East 17 providing the musical entertainment.

Alesha Dixon was the headline act – and did not disappoint.

Topping the bill was singer Alesha Dixon, best known for Strictly Come Dancing and her role as judge on Britain’s Got Talent. She vowed the crowds with an entertaining set. Congratulations should go to Perth and Kinross Council and Perth City Centre for putting on such a fantastic and well organised day.

As the temperature dropped my dynamic crew and their friends retired to enjoy a Spanish tapas themed meal at Sante – where I am told the paella was fabulous! After a late night bus trip back to Matildas Rest – everyone was soon asleep dreaming of our pedal the next day!

Beautiful sunny skies met the “old gal” and the “old git” as they got ready to roll!

The bike crews may have been hoping for a long lie but the “old git” had everyone up sharpish – while the “old gal” offered a hearty breakfast for fuel. Fortunately the weather forecast had come up trump with the promised dry sunny day, so it was off in Matilda Transport to the Tay Bridge car park. The route was going to be one of my favourites – a near 13 mile ride across the bridge and onto Sustrans Scotland NCR1 to Carnoustie.

Craig and Gillian took a selfie which was photobombed by my dynamic crew!

As the crews unpacked in the car park opposite Dundee the view across the Tay was clear blue skies which offered the perfect backdrop for the inevitable series of selfie photos – including one where Craig and Gillian were effectively photobombed by my dynamic crew! And then we were ready to roll!

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

The first part of the trip was crossing the Tay Bridge – which carries the A92 across the Firth of Tay, and is one of the longest road bridges in Europe. Opened in 1966, it celebrated its 50th anniversary last year – making it nearly as old as me, but not quite! Intriguingly the cycle path on the bridge sits in in the middle of the two carriageways for cars, unlike most bridges where the path runs at the side of the bridge. This was a bit odd to begin, creating a feeling of being boxed in and it was slightly disconcerting having the cars driving past at such speed and in close proximity – albeit behind crash barriers.

But it did actually feel very safe and we soon got into our stride and as you will see from this Strava segment called “Hop the Tay” my crew worked up a good speed, averaging 15.3 mph over the 1.3 mile stretch with a time of 5 mins 16 secs – smashing their own previous record of 6 mins 30 secs.

Amazingly the segment also shows up any friends who have done the same route and the “old git” was surprised to see good tandem friends John and Jane – of Travelling in Tandem blog fame – pop up. They recorded a (slower!) time of 6 mins and 02 seconds when they crossed the Tay Bridge in the same direction back in September 2015 during one of their long distance rides from John O Groats.

The new V & A is designed to look like a ship on the Dundee waterfront. Credit V&A

As we got to the end of the bridge my dynamic crew got a great view of the huge new V&A Museum of Design Dundee which is taking shape as it emerges from the construction site – with the building designed to look like ships. When it opens in 2018 it will be an international centre of design for Scotland – the first ever design museum to be built in the UK outside London.

Off the bridge and we followed the well signposted NCR1 through the Dundee port area. It really is a great cycle path, and very flat, which made the “old gal” smile! And because it is a dedicated path – away from roads – it is very popular with cyclists and dog walkers, which makes for lots of sociable greetings along the way! As we tandemed round the bay the charming old fishing town of Broughty Ferry came in to view and with little effort we cycled past the castle and continued along a stretch which hugged the Blue Flag beach.

With the sun out, it was a joy to be tandeming in such a lovely area on such a beautiful day. The route continues to Monifieth where a new stretch of path heads over Barry Links, past a very large Ministry of Defence area on the right known as the Barry Buddon Training Centre. This has high security fencing along its perimeter and rather ominously every 100 yards or so there are warnings signs telling you to keep out as this is a live military firing area!

The spot selected for the picnic was right at the beach and had a wonderful view across the bay.

Not surprisingly the “old gal” ordered the “old git” to pay heed to the signs and not to veer off course! Pedalling along on the NCR1 we soon came to our picnic destination of Carnoustie – home to the famous championship golf course which was looking at its spectacular best in the sunshine – with lots of golfers out on its links.

Along with Gillian and Craig – who had enjoyed their first time on the route – we selected a brilliant location for our picnic right at the seafront with a fabulous view across the bay. There were some steps at a slipway which providing an interesting photo opportunity for my dynamic crew, with big waves crashing in behind them!

There were some steps at a slipway which provided an interesting backdrop of big waves!

Gillian took a picture of Craig taking a photo of my dynamic crew trying not to get wet!

Naturally Craig and Gillian had to have a shot at beating the waves on the steps – although they looked a bit less comfortable on the “old git’s” shout of “It’s behind you!” as one massive wave crashed in and crept up the steps! I guess it must be his sense of humour!

It’s behind you! Gillian and Craig looking a little unsure as the waves rush in!

After playing dodge the waves my crew were ready for their picnic which today offered a menu of smoked salmon croissants with chilly cream cheese and some fresh seasonal fruit. Another wonderful picnic with another wonderful vista.

Gillian and Craig checking their performance on their phones after the picnic!

The “old gal” fortified by her picnic ready for the return trip back to the Tay Bridge.

Fortified by their picnic lunch it was time to head back on the return trip 13 mile trip back to the Tay Bridge so we would all be back before it started to get dark. As the sun began to drop in the sky so did the temperature – and a check later revealed that the promised 6C was hit … but it masked a “feels like” temperature of minus 1! So it was starting to get a bit chilly around my spokes – and Craig’s legs as he bravely (or perhaps foolhardily!) opted to wear shorts!

Here I am showing off my classic lines basking against the sea vista at Carnoustie.

Half way back the “old gal” – who was starting to get a bit chilly called a coffee break and we had a warming reviving coffee in the welcoming Glass Pavillion in Broughty Ferry. At this point Gillian and Craig bid my dynamic crew farewell as they could cycle faster on their solo bikes.

After tandeming back thru the dockyard, it was time for the return crossing across the Tay Bridge – but firstly we encountered the rather unusual way of accessing the bridge and staying on NCR1 – a lift! But fortunately it is very easy to use. I was thinking that I would have to be lifted unceremoniously into the lift at an awkward angle as there would probably be only room lengthwise for single bikes – but I am delighted to report I could simply be pushed in.

Going up! Unusual way of accessing the Tay Bridge on NCR1 – but happily it was a long lift!

The “old git” was waffling on about breaking another record on the way back across the bridge – but the “old gal” was quick to point out that it was in fact an uphill pedal on the return trip! The “old git” scoffed, but quickly discovered the truth as they pedalled off and were suddenly hit by a head wind!

What should have been a quick cycle back across the bridge turned into a bit of a grind – with Strava showing that the return trip – dubbed The Killer Tay Bridge – took nearly four minutes longer than earlier in the day with a time of 8 minutes 58 seconds with the average speed dropping to 9.1 mph.

A great sunny – if chilly – day for a tandem ride, especially when the sun started to go down.

I was packed back into Matilda Transport and back home in the warmth of Matildas Rest my dynamic crew checked out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 26 gongs … 18 personal bests … five 2nd bests … and three 3rd bests.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 25.5 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 34 minutes. Average speed was 9.9 mph and the elevation was a fairly flat 505  feet. The maximum speed was 18.3 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1110 calories and produce an average power output of 108 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So a great sunny – if chilly – day for a tandem ride – made all the better by cycling with good friends. A grand day out really for Matildas Musings!

Hurricane Gert ride around Loch Leven and burger at Larder

The “old gal” and the “old git” at the viewpoint at Loch Leven … with a special guest!

*WARNING* this blog contains images of a red poncho which some readers may find alarming!

So with the weekend approaching the “old git” – ever the romantic – asked the “old gal” if she fancied going out for something to eat on Saturday evening. He explained that he had heard that there was a summer weekends pop up burger bar at Loch Leven’s Larder – a recommended foodie farm shop-cafe just a few hundred yards from the banks of Loch Leven.

But there’s no flies on the “old gal” – that should be there are no midges on her! – and she got it right away … she was going to have to earn her burger with a 13 mile tandem ride round the loch first!

But gamely she immediately agreed! And that’s why at about 5pm we were cycling away from the car park – right into the full force of the entrails of Hurricane Gert! Let’s just say there was a bit of head wind to start until we got into our stride – or before synchronicity kicked in!

Fortunately the route is relatively flat. Built at a cost of £3 million – it is known as the Loch Leven Heritage Trail – linking 30 natural and cultural heritage sites. You can check out the route of our tour of Loch Katrine on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

We set off on a clockwise loop and it wasn’t long before my crew encountered the dreaded midges. On a stretch along some stagnant water there were thick swarms of midges everywhere. The “old git” was literally coated in the nasty little blighters as he took the full blast as my Captain! He was muttering something about it was due to the fact that we were going so fast that there were so many on his body! We didn’t believe him of course, but the “old gal” helpfully took a picture of his forehead to show how many midges were about! (after removing his crash helmet, of course!)

Midges everywhere! Fortunately the Smidge worked wonders and meant they didn’t bite!

Fortunately my crew had taken the precaution of spraying themselves from head to foot with Smidge – a highly effective repellent that they knew from previous experiences works a treat in throwing the midges off your scent and stops them biting.

My crew were picking up speed – perhaps to try and leave the midges behind – and we soon we tandemed past the interesting RSPB Loch Leven Nature Reserve at Vane Farm before pedalling up the only real inclines to the viewpoint area battling more strong Hurricane Gert headwinds!

My dynamic crew against a backdrop of blue skies at the viewpoint overlooking scenic Loch Leven.

At the viewpoint the “old git” whipped out his portable extendable tripod and bluetooth camera clicker which allows him to take pictures of both of my dynamic crew together and took  a few arty shots to show the blue sky overlooking the fantastic vista of the loch.

Now today’s trip brought back memories of exactly a year ago when Team Matilda hosted John and Jane of  Team Bluebird to our area for a memorable week long Tour de Perthshire – which included a somewhat wet loop of Loch Leven. As the heavens opened Jane donned some “high fashion” waterproof protection – forever to be known now as “the fetching red poncho!”

Flashback to a year ago – Jane with the fetching red poncho!

So as a friendly wheeze the “old git” decided that Jane would be introduced into our ride as a special guest – courtesy of a large photo of her wearing said fetching red poncho! It was actually a bit windy and the flimsy paper print kept flapping about in the (hurricane force) winds! But my dynamic crew persevered to get the shot … just to show the three of us were thinking of Jane! Oh how we laughed!

The “old gal” saying ‘wish you were here’ to Jane in honour of the red poncho!

The “old gal” had to dissuade the “old git” from attaching the photo of Jane in a plastic wallet to the big round rock at the viewpoint and adding her email in case anyone wanted to buy a similar fashion statement! And after many smiles at the gentle ribbing, and at great memories of tandeming with wonderful friends John and Jane, we pedalled on.

The strong wind was behind us for a bit which offered some relief – but then, as always happens, it turned in direction and blasted us as a viscous side wind. Any as you know, I am a long vehicle so when the wind catches me it can be mildly scary for keeping our balance!

We negotiated a trip off the path through the car park at Kinross Pier, and a wooden boardwalk section, before rejoining the path just in time for a great view of Loch Leven castle  in the middle of the loch – which was the setting for the most traumatic year in the life of Mary Queen of Scots. It was here in 1567 that she was imprisoned and forced to abdicate before her dramatic escape a year later.

The last section took my dynamic crew back into the forest for a final coating of midges before we sped back to Matilda Transport and the end of our loop.  Feeling healthy after the ride – and wiping off  what seemed like hundreds of dead midges – my crew then retired to the sanctuary of Loch Leven’s Larder  and the pop up burger bar to enjoy some decadent pleasures.

Time for a well earned burger and a wee glass of prosecco – in tandem naturally!

While looking over the burger menu there was time to check out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 9 gongs – 6 personal bests and 3 seconds. Me and my crew had tandemed a distance of 13 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 17 minutes. The elevation was a minimal 252  feet which allowed a healthy average speed of 10.1 mph. The recorded top speed was 38.9 mph but that had to be a Strava glitch  – which makes a change from an ‘operator error!’ – as the old fashioned handlebar speedo recorded a much more realistic top speed of 17.8 mph.  Team Matilda managed to burn up 629 calories and produce an average power output of 121 W.

Cheers! Time for a wee cheeky alfresco prosecco on the decking awaiting the burgers!

Certainly something worth to toast there with the obligatory prosecco – as if my crew needed any excuse! The “old gal” ordered a sharing platter which consisted of a yummy selection of perfectly barbecued burgers – beef, salmon, chicken and portobello mushroom with a giant frankfurter thrown in for good measure.  It was all served with bowls of healthy fresh crunchy salads and tasty dressings and it really hit the spot.

Restaurant with a view! My crew’s table overlooked the nature reserve at Loch Leven.

My crew were really lucky with the weather as the hurricane winds had all but disappeared and the sun was out! It really made it an idyllic spot – with the restaurant decking overlooking the nature reserve at Loch Leven. The “old git” lost count of the number of flights of geese he saw taking off – flying in perfect v formation over the water!

We were lucky with the weather – but clearly it isn’t always sunny!

As I say, my crew were lucky – but clearly the weather isn’t always wonderful however … if the cheeky sign above the exit to the outdoor area is anything to go by … with the wording: Sorry but sometimes the weather here is pants” … written on large pairs of bloomers!

After the burgers there was just enough room it seems for the “old gal” and the “old git” to squeeze in a slice of caramel shortcake with a strong coffee before heading home exercised, fed and watered! Another great #tandem ride to show the amazing scenery of the Perth & Kinross Countryside TrustPerth & Kinross Council and Perth City Centre area! #perthistheplace for cycling!

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. (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 back at Matildas Rest and I was unpacked into my garage, with my dynamic crew reflecting on yet another memorable ride full of laughs – emphasising that its the Smiles not the miles that count. What better way is there to spend a Saturday evening?!