All Shook Up after Elvis party on wilderness ride at Loch Rannoch

“Its Now or Never”! Time for prosecco picnic at Loch Rannoch after Elvis party.

So you know how it is when the “old git” gets an idea into his head! Sometimes – did I hear the “old gal” say ‘often’ there! – they seem a bit madcap … but more often than not it would need to be admitted that they turn out to be great days out. Yes sometimes they can go spectacularly awry and today’s plan certainly had that potential – but fortunately it fell into the spectacularly good category.

You see my dynamic crew were invited to a birthday party for the Dad of a friend of the “old gal’s” on the Saturday night in our home town of Auchterarder. And it wasn’t just any birthday party – it was a 60th party with an Elvis theme … with compulsory dressing up in Elvis-era gear as the birthday boy was a huge fan of the King of Rock and Roll. And so bedecked in their teddy boy outfit and rockabilly dress my crew had great fun as they partied the night away till 11.30pm.

Which is all fine and dandy except the “old git” had decided that the next day Team Matilda would head off to one of our favourite wilderness spots of Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire!  And that’s why at 7am the morning after the night before the alarm wakened my crew. A couple of hours later and we were driving up the A9 turning off just after Pitlochry for Tummel Bridge. Amazingly, 75 miles away from base, we were parked up and ready to ride by 11.30am.

What a difference twelve hours can make!

Cool Cats! My crew at Elvis party at 11.30pm on Saturday in Auchterarder.

Tandeming Cats! My crew at 11.30am on Sunday ready to roll (without the rock!) on the banks of scenic Loch Rannoch nearly 75 miles away from Auchterrader. What a difference 12 hours can make! Sunglasses required but not for sore heads!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now sunglasses were required as we set off – but not for reasons of sore heads, but because the sun was shining brightly! Now despite giving the appearance of being bright eyed and bushy tailed it was evident that my crew – or at least the “old git” – did still feel a bit ‘All Shook Up’ as there was an ‘operator error’ with Strava at the first photo stop! Read on for more details!

The “old gal” had suggested we go anti-clockwise round the loch for the first time. Every previous visit had seen us stick to a clockwise rotation of the loch – but the “old gal” is a bit of a rebel and likes a change to freshen things up now and then, so the decision was made. 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!  Oh and apologies in advance for the “operator error” which results in us appearing to tandem on water up the loch! Read on to discover whose fault that was!

The Loch Rannoch folly.

The anti-clockwise circuit started with a nice descent from our parking spot, turning right before crossing the bridge over the River Gaur followed by a steady steep uphill climb for about half a mile. It certainly raised the body temperatures of my dynamic crew! But the climb is worth it with views across the whole length and breadth of the loch. A point of interest is Eilean Nam Faoileag – a small island which was occupied from the middle of the 15th century until the middle of the 17th century and now is home to a tower which is a 19th-century folly. You can’t miss the impressive Rannoch Power Station – part of the Tummel Valley hydro scheme – which has been in operation since 1930 and is currently being renovated to extend its lifespan.

The route on the quieter south side of the lock is amazingly scenic – possibly more so than the (slightly) busier north shore road. The B-class single track road never seems to be more than a couple of yards from the loch itself and there is always lots to catch the eye of Team Matilda.

The “old gal” spotted a (mini) kilted Highlander at the side of the road!

The wilderness factor is underlined as the narrow road winds its way through the magical Black Wood of Rannoch – one of the largest areas of ancient pine forest left in Scotland. It certainly lives up to its Forestry Commission billing as “a living growing monument with some trees thought to be about 400 years old, and is home to a wonderful variety of plants and wildlife, including deer, pine martens and red squirrel.” It is little wonder that it is designated a Special Area of Conservation and was looking magnificent in the sunshine. It was truly a wonderful spot to be out tandeming in and both the “old gal” and the “old git” felt privileged to be there.

The route is gently undulating – and despite their excesses from partying last night (or should that be because of!) – my dynamic crew were really in the zone today and we were pedalling along at an average of over 15-16 mph for long stretches – a good bit faster than our normal.

We soon reached a stony beach area at the top of the loch – which my dynamic crew decided would be a perfect spot for their prosecco picnic. But as he dismounted the “old git” let out a loud “Aaagh” as he made the discovery that Strava had not been recording the ride for 8 miles from the first photo stop! Seems he had stopped the timer so as not to waste valuable seconds when taking some pictures – and then promptly forgot to start it again as we tandemed off! And his pain was made even worse by the fact that we had been fair rattling along! Oh how me and the “old gal” laughed!

Painful moment for the “old git” discovering HIS Strava operator error. Oh how we laughed!

However his pain – or was that embarrassment because the “old gal” is always telling him to just let it auto-pause – was soon forgotten about when the “old git” spied a perfect picnic table for two right at the edge of the loch. He quickly unhooked the bottle of prosecco I had been safely carrying in my la bouclee bottle carrier and plonked it in nature’s fridge that is Loch Rannoch to chill.

Arty shot of the bottle of prosecco in nature’s fridge at Loch Rannoch!

As the “old git” popped open the prosecco cork with a loud pop, a Mum was walking on the beach with her young daughter and says to the girl that there was a couple celebrating! The Mum asked the “old gal” what my crew were celebrating. My stoker replied that we were just celebrating it being Sunday lunchtime! To which she replied as she walked off enviously: “Oh I remember these days, I think!”

Cheers! Perfect prosecco picnic table for two with a view on the edge of the loch.

My dynamic crew toasted another sensational picnic spot with a nicely chilled glass of fizz before enjoying some smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese croissants and some fresh fruit for lunch.

The “old git” did manage to redeem himself a bit in the “old gal’s” critical eye when he brought out his portable tripod extension and set it up, linked to a bluetooth clicker, to be able to take pictures of both of us together. Whisper it but in the photo below,  the “old gal” put on her best smile when he said “ready” – even tho it was being taken from behind and only showed her back view!

I’ve obviously been learning to take pictures of my dynamic crew when they’re not looking!

After enjoying the prosecco picnic – and some amazing views right down the loch in bright sunshine – it was time for my crew to get back on my saddles and pedal across the bridge over the River Tummel and thru Kinloch Rannoch before heading down the north side of the loch.

The “old gal” decided a quick stop was required at the wild camping area about a third of the way back down the loch – which offers a perfect viewpoint for pictures with the majesty of the perfectly conical shape of Schiehallion – one of Scotland’s most recognisable mountains – in the background. This area provides easy access to rocky beach and the loch which was looking beautiful despite the clouds darkening and the imminent prospect of rain. Unfortunately those clouds had “stolen” the top of Schiehallion which wasn’t visible in the photos!

Here I am at the wild camping site on the north side – but where is Schiehallion hiding?!

It’s up there under the cloud! The “old gal” pointing to where Schiehallion’s iconic conical top should be.

My crew didn’t stop for long as it appeared the forecast rain was due to arrive soon. And just short of three miles from the end it started – fortunately just light rain as we climbed a steep hill towards the end of the loch before a rapid downhill to Bridge of Gaur and the mile or so back to our parking spot.

After a quick hi five to celebrate completing the circuit, and with the rain getting heavier, I was quickly packed away in Matilda Transport and my crew drove the 5 miles to the end of the road and the wonderfully remote Rannoch railway station where there is a favourite coffee and cake spot for the “old git” and the “old gal” – the amazing Rannoch Station Tearoom.

It really is a truly fabulous hidden gem – and must get the vote for being not only the most remote tearoom in Scotland – but the most welcoming and friendly. Run by the uber-hospitable Bill and Jenny Anderson it offers cyclists, walkers and railway passengers an amazing oasis of home made tasty coffees, cakes and light meals. You can even have a wine or a beer while sitting on the station platform watching the live theatre that is the natural wilderness of Rannoch Moor.

The duo’s customer service ethic has no bounds – and even runs to delivering phone orders of bacon butties to train passengers travelling up and down the Glasgow to Fort William route. In my crew’s case it extends to happily reserving a couple of scones (via Facebook) to ensure they didn’t run out! What service!  So it was delicious home made fruit scones with clotted cream and jam followed by gigantic slices of seriously yummy carrot cake and lemon mascarpone cake, washed down with a cafetiere of wonderfully strong freshly brewed coffee.

Finger lickin good clotted cream scones, fab cakes and strong coffee! Yum!

According to my dynamic crew the tearoom more than lived up to its five star Trip Advisor certificate of excellence award. And if the look of satisfaction on the “old gal’s” face as she sampled the goodies was anything to go by, I think if she could have awarded six stars, it would have been more than earned!

Bill and Jenny were excitedly getting ready for a visit from a tv crew filming for the new series of the Channel 4 show Village of the Year with actress Penelope Keith. Over this summer the programme has been visiting villages across the UK to determine the winner of this brand new competition, with a £10,000 prize to be spent on a worthwhile community project. Kinloch Rannoch has been one of the villages nominated for filming for the 2017 series which aims to celebrate all that is great about our rural communities. Certainly if breathtaking wilderness scenery is anything to go by, the village should be an outright winner! My crew will be watching progress.

The uber hospitable Bill and Jenny who take service standards to new highs at Rannoch Station Tearoom.

As my dynamic crew were leaving  a nice gentleman introduced himself – after recognising them by their hi-viz yellow t-shirts emblazoned with my blog – as being Steve from Dial a Bike Rannoch who said he was an avid reader of my blog posts! Steve runs a cycle rental service in the Rannoch Moor, Kinloch Rannoch and Tummel Bridge area. So if you happen to be staying in the area and need some bikes to get around then Steve is your man! He even has a couple of those electric bikes – for those that want to cheat! But he has yet to introduce a tandem to his stable of bikes – although my crew did their best to persuade him that he should!

Replete and refreshed after their afternoon tea, it was time to head back out of the Tummel Valley and back to base. The weather had deteriorated to heavy rain, leaving Team Matilda feeling lucky that we had such an enjoyable – and mainly dry – ride round the loch. Back at Matildas Rest – and with internet connection restored – a check of Strava revealed that we didn’t record any gongs on our route … but this was because it was the first time that we had done the Loch Rannoch loop anti-clockwise!

Now due to that unfortunate incident – which the “old git” refers to as “operator error” when it was really his own silly fault! – Strava officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of only 15.8 miles at an average speed of 12.2 mph, and a top speed of 31.1 mph. However the old-fashioned speedometer thingy on my handlebars, which is not prone to “operator error”! – recorded me and my dynamic crew covering 24.7 miles and an average speed of 13.6 mph and a maximum of 32.1 mph. The traveling time was 1 hour 49 minutes and we managed to burn up 1,441 calories.

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. Oh and I will apologies again for the Strava “operator error” which results in us appearing to tandem on water up loch on the video! (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.)

It has certainly been an action packed 24 hours for my dynamic crew – from arriving at the Elvis party to arriving back at Matildas Rest after another memorable tandeming trip full of laughs and fun.

Next up the “old git” tells me we are doing another loch trip on Sunday when we return to Loch Katrine in the heart of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and Rob Roy Country – the scene of some previous “interesting” trips which have included some fairly serious mechanical problems of my rear gear cog disintegrating and then the pedal arm sheared clean off my rear pedal crank axle. My spokes are crossed there is no repeat this time – and also for some much needed summer sunshine!

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Wilderness Loch Rannoch in Autumn splendour

Basking in the Autumn colours with my matching red leather la bouclee wine carrier!

Basking in the Autumn colours at Loch Rannoch with my matching red leather la bouclee wine carrier!

On returning to Scotland from the adventure of Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem, followed by a week in Normandy in northern France, the “old git” and the “old gal” – along with me – were really missing our long days in the fresh air as we tandemed along.

So after two weeks my dynamic crew could stand it no more and decided on an uplifting trip to the wilderness beauty spot of Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire.

The “old gal” invited good friends, and solo cyclists, Gillian and Craig along as they had heard all about our trips to Rannoch and Tummel and wanted to experience it for themselves.

The spectacular images started with the view from the bridge over the River Tummel.

The spectacular images started with the view from the bridge over the River Tummel.

After driving up the busy A9 my crew enjoyed the spectacular image that is the view from the bridge over the River Tummel – with the trees on its banks just starting to change colour.

We stopped at the Queen’s View visitor centre – run by Forestry Commission Scotland – and met up with Gillian and Craig for coffee and a chat, and a walk to the viewpoint.

On a clear day ... overlloking Rannoch and Tummel from Queen's View

On a clear day … overlooking Rannoch and Tummel from Queen’s View

With it being such a clear day the views were eye-catching to say the least. We then drove down to the bottom of Loch Rannoch and parked up just past Bridge of Gaur,

Gillian and Craig with their solo bikes and their shiny new car.

Ready for the off! Gillian and Craig with their solo bikes and their shiny new car.

We quickly unpacked the cars – admiring Gillian and Craig’s shiny new white car as we did so – to ensure we got the best of the weather. Then, in perfect Autumn sunshine we  off on our usual clockwise route. You can check out the details of our scenic route on the loop round Loch Rannoch on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics! strava-loch-rannoch

My new red leather bouclee accessory agains the perfect backdrop of Loch Rannoch

My new red leather bouclee accessory against the perfect backdrop of Loch Rannoch

Despite not having tandemed for nearly two weeks, I am pleased to report that Team Matilda had lost none of the fitness we had in France. We were soon rolling along at a good pace, and whisper it, but Gillian and Craig seemed to be struggling to keep up!

Maybe they were just drinking in the amazing views across the loch to the mountains, or just making my dynamic duo feel good – but they were definitely lagging behind!

The “old gal” decided a quick stop was required at the wild camping area about two-thirds of the way up the loch – which offers a perfect opportunity for pictures with the majesty of the perfectly conical shape of Schiehallion – one of Scotland’s most recognisable mountains – in the background.

This area provides easy access to rocky beach and the loch was looking beautiful reflecting the bright sunshine off its surface.

The brightness of the sun made it difficult to get that group shot with Schiehallion in the background.

The brightness of the sun made it difficult to get that group shot with Schiehallion in the background.

Tandeming on we soon arrived in the town of Kinloch Rannoch at our regular picnic spot – overlooking a waterfall and the surrounding trees just starting to change colour. Perfection!

This was time for Team Matilda to introduce Gillian and Craig into the delightful benefits of their (in)famous prosecco picnics – which in fact today was a Cremant picnic as the bottle was one of many the “old gal” brought back from France.

And I am delighted to report that my new very fancy red leather la bouclee wine bottle carrier accessory did its job perfectly – with the air flow created by our tandeming keeping the bottle cool!

The "old git"expertly popping the cork - and not a drop was spilled!

The “old git”expertly popping the cork – and not a drop was spilled!

Cheers! The "old gal", the "old git", Gillian and Craig toast the Cremant picnic!

Cheers! The “old gal”, the “old git”, Gillian and Craig toast the Cremant picnic!

There can't be many more perfect spots for a picnic - complete with waterfall!

There can’t be many more perfect spots for a picnic – complete with waterfall!

After a most enjoyable picnic we set off down the quieter south side of the loch – which if anything is even more scenic than the north shore. The B-class single track road never seems to be more than a couple of yards from the loch itself.

The wilderness factor is underlined as it winds its way through the magical Black Wood of Rannoch – one of the largest areas of ancient pine forest left in Scotland.

Photobombing! Gillian making sure she gets in the picture on the banks of Loch Rannoch.

Photobombing! Gillian making sure she gets in the picture on the banks of Loch Rannoch.

It certainly lives up to its Forestry Commission billing as “a living growing monument with some trees thought to be about 400 years old, and is home to a wonderful variety of plants and wildlife, including deer, pine martens and red squirrel.” It is little wonder that it is designated a Special Area of Conservation and was looking magnificent in all its Autumn splendour.

And it wouldn't have been fair to leave Craig out of the picture either!

And it wouldn’t have been fair to leave Craig out of the picture either!

We stopped again to bask in the warm sunshine by the side of the loch to take in more of the views – and for some more fun pictures.

Gillian and Craig balancing on a rock overlooking the beauty of the loch.

Gillian and Craig balancing on a rock overlooking the beauty of the loch.

Never trust your stoker has to be the caption for this photo with the "old git" in blissful ignorance of the "old gal;s" funny face!

Never trust your stoker – the “old git” in blissful ignorance of the “old gal’s” funny face!

The “old git” and the “old gal” were really in the zone today and we were pedalling along at an average of over 12 mph – a good bit above our usual which hovers around the 10 mph mark.

I was uber impressed with my dynamic duo, and none more so towards the end of the loop where there is a fairly steep double hill. But we sailed up it as if it wasn’t there! So much so that the “old gal” was heard to say: “Is that it?!”

After completing the circuit, and clocking up 25 miles, it was back to the cars and I was packed away before a short 6 mile drive to the end of the road and the wonderfully remote Rannoch railway station. The “old git” had got the timing right today and was delighted to report that the amazing Rannoch Station tearoom was still open – and my crew and Gillian and Craig piled in for some welcome coffee and cake.

End of the line! One of the remotest and most scenic stations in Scotland overlooks Rannoch Moor.

End of the line! One of the remotest and most scenic stations in Scotland overlooks Rannoch Moor.

The station is just one stop down the line from Corrour station – where parts of the new Trainspotting 2 movie were recently filmed.

The final stop for the day was to walk across the road from the station to be met by Scott and Steph, mine hosts at the oasis which is Moor of Rannoch Hotel.

A toast to a successful circuit of Loch Rannoch from the gin bar at Moor of Rannoch hotel!

A toast to a successful circuit of Loch Rannoch from the gin bar at Moor of Rannoch hotel!

It is hard to describe this hotel to fully justify what it offers but essentially it is probably best summed up in the four headline words they use on their website – Retreat, Relax, Unwind, Escape.

The hotel’s major selling point – apart from the gin bar (obviously!) is that there is no tv signal and no wifi. You are quite literally cut off from the modern world.

Spot the "stag party" of friendly deer merging in with the bracken on the moor.

Spot the “stag party” of friendly deer merging in with the bracken on the moor.

But that is a huge benefit, and the scenery provides the stimulating brain food as the hotel looks out over the wilderness of Rannoch Moor to the Glencoe mountains. And right on cue as we relaxed before dinner the friendly “stag party” arrived – a herd of deer who come off the hill for food from a local who leaves vegetables out every evening for them.

The “old git” and the “old gal” had worked up an appetite with their route round the loch in a record time of under 2 hours, so along with Gillian and Craig thoroughly enjoyed a superb meal – with the kitchen presenting Highland Perthshire’s larder at its very best!

Another gin as a night cap – along with the cheeseboard which is offered free after dinner – neatly rounded off the day! But not before hotel owner Scott asked if any guests wanted to go outside and see the stags as it was the middle of the rutting season.

My crew went out and Scott used a high powered torch to identify a couple of the magnificent ‘Monarchs of the Glen’ who he caught in his spotlight.

Caught like a stag in the headlights! A magnificent deer just outside the hotel.

Caught like a stag in the headlights! A magnificent deer just outside the hotel.

Another stag on the edge of the moor issuing its rutting season roar!

Another stag on the edge of the moor issuing its rutting season roar!

What an end to a truly memorable day in a fabulous wilderness area with good friends! What could be better?!

Next morning we awoke to an amazing vista from the window of the luxurious bedroom – with a view right across Rannoch Moor.

Not a bad way to start the week - Monday morning coffee and the view across Rannoch Moor.

Not a bad way to start the week – Monday morning coffee and the view across Rannoch Moor.

As the “old gal” said – it’s not a bad view to start the week! After a hearty breakfast we checked out of the hotel feeling fully refreshed.

And on the drive back to Matildas Rest we took in more amazing Autumn views – while identifying a potential new route for Team Matilda to try out … along the side of Loch Tummel.

Loch Tummel in reflective mood. The calm weather showed off the area at its best.

Loch Tummel in reflective mood. The calm weather showed off the area at its best.

As we headed back out of the Rannoch and Tummel area, my dynamic crew said it won’t be long before all three of us are back tandeming in one of our favourite wilderness areas.

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