Road-testing the new Tighnavon Glamping Pods enterprise at wilderness Loch Rannoch

Team Matilda ready to road-test the new Tighnavon Glamping Pods venture at Kinloch Rannoch.

Day 1 – Spectacular Friday arriving at Tighnavon Glamping Pods with sunset experience!

Great excitement at Matildas Rest! It was Friday and the start of Team Matilda’s annual holidays and we had been invited to road-test a new development of glamping pods – specifically targetted at cyclists and outdoor types! And the fact that the luxury en-suite pods are based on the edge of wilderness Loch Rannoch – one of my crew’s favourite spots on earth – made it even more magical.

With Matilda Transport packed we headed off to Kinloch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire for our back to nature weekend of relaxation and tandeming – is there a better way to spend a romantic break?!

The Tighnavon Glamping Pods venture has only been open for three months and aims to provide a grown up version of camping – without having to put your tent up – for people who like their creature comforts but still want to get away from it all and re-connect with nature. Just perfect for my dynamic crew who don’t do camping under canvas under any circumstances!

The Tighnavon Glamping Pods are ideally situated in the village of Kinloch Rannoch.

The new tourism business of four wooden cabins, which sleep up to four people, are ideally situated nestling in some of Scotland’s most atmospheric and picturesque scenery to attract cyclists – as well as walkers and fishermen – who don’t want to be tied to a full week’s accommodation in one place.

Team Matilda was staying in the pod called Stag and although it may look bijou from the outside, my dynamic crew found it like a tardis inside – complete with everything they could need, including a nice touch of the bed already made up! And as the “old gal” quickly found a choice of sockets to plug in her hairdryer she said: “Glamping is clearly my kind of camping!”

As the Tighnavon Glamping Pods website says: “Our pods are equipped to a high standard – each has a double bed and a fold down double sofa bed and can comfortably sleep up to four people. There is a fully accessible wet-room with overhead shower and a small kitchenette equipped with kettle, toaster, microwave, twin hob, mini oven and fridge. Bedding, crockery, and pans are all provided – even tea, coffee and biscuits!” All you are asked to bring is your own towels.

A nice touch on arrival at the pods is that the bed already made up!

The pods are amazingly good value – and the prices refreshingly don’t change with the seasons. Each pod is priced at only £50 a night Sunday to Thursday and £80 on a Friday and Saturday night. There is a minimum stay of 2 nights and no additional costs for electricity or dogs.

Everything about the pods reflects the aim of the glamping concept providing a comfy and dry home-from-home experience – but still with that feeling of being out in the country!

There’s lots more about the “old gal” and “old git’s” experience of glamping later in this blog – including a walk-thru video of the facilities on offer and a video chat with the ultra friendly and hospitable co-owners Ian Philp and Sheona Glenville-Sutherland about “fulfilling their dream” and opening the pods.

The luxury en-suite pods offer a really comfy home-from-home experience!

The plan was for an early evening tandem ride around Loch Rannoch – hopefully timing it to arrive back at the beach at the top of the loch for a prosecco toast to enjoy the sunset. As my dynamic crew had arrived at the pods in good time they firstly explored the village of Kinloch Rannoch – firstly calling in to the friendly Riverbank Cafe to enjoy yummy home-made cake and coffee.

Next the “old gal” and “old git” were attracted to a sign for The Shed Gallery based in the Old Smiddy just off the village square which houses the modern gallery and workspace of photographer Ian Biggs. Ian’s stunning work draws its inspiration from the dynamic and evocative landscape of the Rannoch glen. Finally the Country Store and Post Office offered the chance for Team Matilda to stock up with a few last minute provisions from their impressive range for a village shop.

Tighnavon Ride 1 – Once in a lifetime spectacular sunset Loch Rannoch Loop

The “old gal” looking relaxing in the sunshine before our Loch Rannoch loop!

It was time to get my pedals moving and amazingly for late September the sun was beating down and my dynamic crew were really looking forward to a loop round the sun-kissed loch. You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

Leaving the pods behind we set off thru the village square and headed down the north side of the loch on the B846. It is an area Team Matilda know well and the route is mostly gently undulating – and given the absence of any noticeable wind it was a true joy to be out tandeming.

The “old gal” decided a quick stop was required at the wild camping area about a third of the way 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 a small rocky beach area, and the loch which was looking stunning with the blue sky creating a deep blue colour on the water.

Rock with a sun-kissed view! The “old gal” with the iconic Schiehallion behind her!

You simply wouldn’t think it was September with these shades of blue!

Naturally there had to be a Team Matilda selfie! – showing the conical shape of Schiehallion.

Me and the “old gal” enjoying the rays of the sun at the wild camping site on the north side of the loch.

On we pedalled with the “old git” and “old gal” exhilarated by their progress down the loch. It was all too easy and then, just after Killichonan, we hit the steep hill at the saw mill! Let’s just say both my dynamic crew were breathing somewhat rapidly when we got to the top.

The reward is a rapid downhill to Bridge of Gaur, turning left at the end of the loch before crossing the bridge over the River Gaur. Next up was a steady – but more manageable – steep uphill climb for about half a mile. But the climb is worth it with views across the whole length and breadth of the loch.

The folly on a small island in Loch Rannoch dates from the 19th century.

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 also can’t miss the impressive Rannoch Power Station – part of the Tummel Valley hydro scheme – on the opposite bank which has been in operation since 1930.

The route on the quieter south side of the loch is amazingly scenic – even 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.

This “old lady” was happy that we were whizzing along as it is always good to get a bit of speed going. Then one of our regular stops at an iconic tree which offers a fabulous view right up the loch.

The “old gal” at one of our regular stops on the south side at a tree with a view right up the loch.

This tree always brings a hearty laugh from the “old gal” as it was the place for an amusing photo where the “old git” didn’t realise that the “old gal” was taking the mickey and misbehaving by sticking her tongue out when he was adopting his serious tandemer pose for a team selfie! Ironically it turned out to be one of my dynamic crew’s best ever photos as it completely sums up what a Team Matilda adventure on a bicycle made for two is all about! No words are needed!

What happens when my Stoker takes the mickey when my Captain adopts his serious photo mode!

The wilderness factor was underlined as the narrow road winds its way through the magical Black Wood of Rannoch – more detail of which can be found in Sunday’s section below. Credit to the “old git” but he had timed the ride to perfection and my dynamic crew arrived at the beach area at the Kinloch Rannoch end just as the sun was starting to sink in the sky for their prosecco toast!

The added bonus was that neither the “old git” or the “old gal” had realised that the sun was going to be setting behind the mountains at the far end of the loch creating some magical light patterns, across the sky and then across the loch. It was a perfect spot to capture some amazing sunset shots, including one which had the effect of looking like the beach and sand dunes were on fire, giving everything it touched a healthy glow!

As the sun started to set it created a wonderful healthy glow on my dynamic crew’s faces!

My dynamic crew then had some fun positioning themselves to get the angle just right to get a selfie catching the fantastic sunset going directly in to their bottle of prosecco!

The “old git” got the angle just right to catch the fabulous sunset in the prosecco bottle!

What a magnificent way to spend a Friday evening! It really was one of those once in a lifetime experiences and the “old gal” and “old git” felt so lucky to be there. A true back to nature feeling!

The “old gal’s” head in the sun! It was a true privilege to see the sunset dancing on the loch!

Back in the comfort of the glamping pod, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as as showing that my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 22.9 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 49 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.5 mph given the undulating terrain, and the overall elevation was 820 feet. The maximum speed was 31.1 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1242 calories and produce an average power output of 169 W. Almost by accident my dynamic crew recorded 2 gongs along the route – with 2 second bests.

A tasty home-cooked meal was served up by the “old gal” – using the pod’s ample cooking facilities – followed by some chill time, before sleep beckoned with my dynamic crew dreaming of their spectacular ‘money can’t buy’ wilderness sunset experience.

Sleep beckoned dreaming of the once in a lifetime sunset experience at Loch Rannoch!

Day 2 – Energetic Saturday tandem ride in glorious Highland Perthshire sunshine!

Our sun-kissed Tighnavon Glamping Pod as we opened the curtains on Saturday morning!

Saturday dawned with the sun rising into a cloudless bright blue sky as Team Matilda wakened re-invigorated from a very deep and relaxing sleep courtesy of an extremely comfortable bed in the glamping pod. Buoyed by last night’s spectacular sunset over Loch Rannoch my dynamic crew were in good spirits and it was clearly going to be a good day!

The “old git” had scheduled a tandem loop of Loch Tummel for today – complete with one of the “old gal’s” signature prosecco picnics. And as this new route is set to be fairly hilly, and also takes in a short 0.75 mile section of the A9 main trunk road to Inverness, it could be just what my stoker will need!

My dynamic crew – who don’t do camping under canvas under any circumstances – have been most impressed with everything about the glamping pods. So much so that the “old gal” decided that she would record her thoughts on the Tighnavon development by filming a walk-thru of our en-suite pod – which is named Stag – to show the facilities on offer. You can watch the video here:

So after a healthy breakfast I was packed into Matilda Transport for the short 7 mile drive to our start point at Tummel Bridge, the village at the head of Loch Tummel.

Tighnavon Ride 2 – Hilly Loch Tummel loop including a stretch on the A9!

Loch Tummel is home to two of the nine hydro electric power stations which make up the impressive Tummel Valley scheme which was constructed in the1930s. Team Matilda parked opposite the grandeur of Tummel Bridge Power Station – which is now a listed building.

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

After kitting out in what was to be highly appropriate red polka dot King of the Mountain jerseys, the “old gal” showed her creative streak with a reflective shot of Team Matilda departing on the ride – captured in a mirror at the car park and transformed into a black and white image! Clever eh?!

The “old gal” showed her creative talent to capture this reflective image of Team Matilda!

The initial route almost saw us pedal to a standstill within a couple of minutes as we tackled the steep inclines of the B846 for the first two miles. The “old gal” was somewhat relieved when the route took a left turn onto the Foss Road to drop down to hug the banks of the loch. The sun was streaming thru the dense array of trees as we passed the edge of Frenich Wood, part of the Tay Forest Park, creating spectacular shadows and light patterns.

The “old gal” at the edge of the dense Frenich Wood, part of the Tay Forest Park.

The “old git” against the fabulous strong blue colours of the loch and sky.

The quiet single track road along the loch had a nice smooth surface, but it was fairly undulating and required a good bit of pedalling. But the views over the loch – with the strong blue colours of the loch and the sky – were truly spectacular. We stopped regularly to take in the scenery, including a fabulous natural view point from a rocky promontory jutting out over the loch – which was the perfect spot for a Team Matilda selfie!

Selfie time at a rocky promontory – giving a view along the full length of Loch Tummel.

It was a great day to be out tandeming – and along with the hills there were lots of smiles as we clocked off the miles! Next stop however was the thought-provoking entrance to Clunie Power Station and the eye-catching Clunie Memorial Arch.

Clunie dam holds back the waters of Loch Tummel. A tunnel from the loch feeds Clunie power station, which then discharges into Loch Faskally. The dramatic arch at Clunie honours the men who died in the late 1940s while digging the tunnel. The self-styled ‘Tunnel Tigers’ – named because of their cavalier approach to working conditions in the days before health and safety in their quest to earn huge bonuses – removed about 400,000 tons of rock for the Clunie pipeline. The arch measures 6.9 m across – the same dimensions as the tunnel.  This remains one of the largest water tunnels in the UK.

The “old gal” is dwarfed by the Clunie Memorial Arch built to the same dimensions as the tunnel.

Moving on, as we approached Pitlochry the only visible option to get across to the road down the opposite side of Loch Tummel was for Team Matilda to cut up on to the busy A9 trunk road. Naturally this was rather alarming due to the fast moving traffic and heavy lorries using the main route between the central belt and the Highlands. The “old git” not surprisingly opted for the safe option of walking along the grass verge for 0.75 of a mile – as tandeming would have been extremely ill-advised – until the exit route off for the road back towards Tummel Bridge.

The “old git” wisely decided that pushing along the grass verge of the busy A9 was the safest option!

Team Matilda were happy to leave the dangers of the A9 behind and got back on my saddles riding along the B8019 at Faskally Caravan Park where suddenly out of nowhere – and as if by magic – signs for Sustrans Scotland National Cycle Network Rt 7 appeared! Just as quickly as they appeared they disappeared again – obviously heading further north! Our route crossed a bridge high over the River Gary – providing another must-do photo stop looking down into the deep valley below.

The bridge over River Gary crosses a scenic deep valley below!

After the trauma of having to engage with the A9, and the unseasonably warm sunshine, my dynamic crew were a little frazzled – so the “old gal” made a good shout for a time-out for lunch after finding a suitable spot off the busy B8019 road.

It is at moments like this that the meticulous forward planning which goes into a Team Matilda tandem ride – which can sometime seem a bit overdone – really pay off. The “old gal” and the “old git” enjoyed a luxury picnic with glasses of cold prosecco – kept cool by my trendy La Bouclee french-designed wine carrier – washing down croissants filled with smoked ham and chilli cream cheese. To follow, a fresh fruit salad and some much needed energy replenishment in the form of some chocolate! Heaven!

The fizz for the signature prosecco picnic was kept cool in my trendy la bouclee wine carrier!

The “old gal” enjoying a re-fuelling prosecco picnic in the sunshine!

Refuelled and refreshed by the food and fizz my dynamic crew pedalled on for a tough 3 miles till they came to their next scheduled stop at the Queens View Visitor Centre offering Highland Perthshire’s most iconic view over Loch Tummel and further down to Loch Rannoch.

Queens View Visitor Centre offers Highland Perthshire’s most iconic viewpoint.

It is the area’s most popular visitor attraction and naturally Team Matilda sparked more than a bit of attention from the throngs of bus parties who were visiting as I was pushed up to the viewpoint to get a good look from high over the loch!

The story goes that when Queen Victoria visited in 1866, she assumed that the sweeping view west along Loch Tummel was named after her – but she was wrong. Local history says that the view was really named after Isabella, the first wife of Robert the Bruce, who lived more than 500 years earlier. But that hasn’t stopped the visitor centre and cafe cashing in on the royal connection!

The bench says ‘reserved for royalty’ so naturally I presumed it was for this “old lady” to lean against!

Great image of me with Queen Victoria and her loyal servant John Brown at the post box!

After a loo stop and managing to get a coffee and a piece of caramel shortcake from the cafe – which looked like it had been hit by a plague of locusts in the shape of bus visitors! – the “old gal” was almost delirious to see that she was now getting the benefit of all the uphill climbs with the remainder of the route a highly enjoyable long descent down the side of the loch back to Tummel Bridge.

The “old git” on the original Tummel Bridge built by General Wade in 1733

The village takes its name from the old bridge which crosses the River Tummel which was built by General Wade in 1733. The old bridge still stands, although it is only open to pedestrians and cyclists, with a much more boring structure carrying the road alongside.

I was packed back in Matilda Transport and after a short drive we were back at our ultra-comfortable pod – enjoying a much needed refreshment to celebrate an epic day on a bicycle made for two!

Back at Tighnavon Glamping Pods – after an epic sun-kissed day of tandeming!

Over a very welcome, and relaxing gin on the decking of the glamping pod, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing that my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 26.3 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 59 minutes. The average speed was 8.8 mph given the hot temperature and the overall elevation of 1756 feet. The maximum speed was 39.1 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1958 calories and produce an average power output of 163 W. No gongs recorded, however, as this was our first time doing this ride.

Team Matilda enjoying sitting on the decking of the pod which was bathed in the early evening sun.

The sun – or the exertions of the pedalling, or perhaps both! -obviously got to the “old gal” as after a quick change out of her cycling gear she was soon found to have dozed off for a quick 40 winks on the decking! Needless to say, the “old git” – ever one to capture an opportunity – managed to stay awake and take a surprise photo of her in her relaxed state!

Only a one word caption required: spangled!

After a bit of necessary relaxation my dynamic crew headed out for what was supposed to be a dinner treat at Edina’s Kitchen – the restaurant in the new Dunalastair Hotel Suites, literally just round the corner in the square at Kinloch Rannoch. The “old git” and “old gal” were full of anticipation at a culinary delight to come as the new hotel claims to offer “award winning 5-star” food and service with “a range of dishes to suit every taste prepared by Michelin and Rosette trained chefs.”

The reality was sadly completely different and was a major disappointment. From the moment we arrived the restaurant was a chaotic scene with seemingly untrained staff not having a clue. To be told twice within two minutes of entering the bar area – by two different people – that “You shouldn’t be here – we are fully booked tonight” is quite simply unacceptable at any eaterie, far less one which sets out its stall as such a prestigious venue. Oh and that was despite the “old git” telling both members of staff that we had in fact booked a week ago, and confirmed the booking just a couple of hours earlier.

Dunalastair Hotel Suites failed by a long way to live up to its ‘award winning 5-star’ reputation.

We were allowed to stay after the confusion was sorted out – although amazingly no apology was forthcoming. But it might have been better had we been turned away – as the food was a major let down. The “old gal’s” main course, as an example, was some rather dry duck with two carrot sticks and one mange tout along with a spoonful of beetroot mash!

Two unexciting courses later – they would even have been disappointing if had been served in a pub – and a moderate bottle of wine saw Team Matilda’s wallet around £100 lighter and leaving with an overwhelming feeling of anti-climax. It really was such a shame as it should have been the ideal venue for a nice evening out from the pods.

Walking back the “old gal” and the “old git” enjoyed looking at the very clear sky which offered a wonderful view of the stars – without the usual light pollution. The Tighnavon Glamping Pods site looked perfectly cosy and romantic under the stars! With the temperature dropping, my dynamic crew both commented that they were happy that they were not in fact sleeping under the stars under canvas in the great outdoors – but in the comfort of a proper bed inside the heated pod i

The Tighnavon Glamping Pod site looked perfectly cosy and romantic under the stars!

Day 3 – Relaxing Sunday as tandeming abandoned due to heavy rain!

Opening the pod doors on Sunday, the weather had changed – so tandeming abandoned!

Sunday morning and the “old git” threw open the doors of our pod to discover that the glorious sunshine had suddenly disappeared overnight – with the weather changing to rain. A quick check of his “go-to” weather forecast – BBC Weather – confirmed that it was going to be heavy rain all day. So a quick discussion amongst my dynamic crew decided that tandeming was abandoned for the day.

The “old git” harrumphed as he was a bit frustrated as he had planned another loop of Loch Rannoch – but I must say here that he “old gal” was actually quietly rather pleased after the fairly arduous day in my saddles yesterday on the ride around Loch Tummel!

So the change of plan involved a much more relaxing morning – followed by a leisurely drive around our planned tandeming route to allow us to still pay a visit to the famous Rannoch Station Tearoom

The rain was nothing short of torrential as my dynamic crew drove the 11 miles from Tighnavon to the end of Loch Rannoch at Bridge of Gaur. The “old gal” was feeling rather smug – and cosy – sitting in Matilda Transport knowing that the alternative would have been a serious drooking from the rain!

They then headed on for final six miles of the scenic but secluded B846 road – which must be one of the world’s longest cul-de-sacs! But the reward at the end of the journey is 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 uber hospitable Bill and Jenny who take service standards to new highs at Rannoch Station Tearoom.

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 dynamic crew’s case it extended to a hugely warm welcome – impressively remembering names and our tandeming adventures! So it was a delicious serving of home made fruit scones with clotted cream and jam followed by gigantic slices of seriously yummy carrot cake washed down with a cafetiere of wonderfully strong freshly brewed coffee.

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 and their Rannoch Station Tearoom were featured recently on the Channel 4 show The World’s Most Beautiful Railway – which is well worth a look!

More than replete – stuffed is the word that comes to mind! – my dynamic crew drove back to Kinloch Rannoch on the quieter road on the south side of the loch. Fortunately the rain had more or less gone off for a bit as the “old gal” fancied doing a bit of photography to try and capture the magical qualities of the Black Wood of Rannoch – one of the largest areas of ancient pine forest left in Scotland.

The “old gal” tried a spot of photography to capture the magical qualities of the Black Wood of Rannoch

It certainly lives up to its Forestry and Land Scotland 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 dramatically magnificent even in the wet conditions. It was truly a wonderful wilderness spot, and the “old gal” and the “old git” felt privileged to be there.

The Black Wood of Rannoch is home to “granny pines” some of which are up to 400 years old.

Inspired by the natural beauty of one of the “jewels” of Rannoch, Team Matilda drove back to the comfort of our luxury pod for some chill time – with even the “old git” now conceding that tandeming in the heavy rain they experienced would have been awful! Music to the “old gal’s” ears!

Later in the afternoon, Ian Philp and Sheona Glenville-Sutherland – the co-owners of Tighnavon – dropped by to hear my dynamic crew’s thoughts and comments on their new luxury en-suite glamping pods. Since it was wine o’clock, the “old gal” popped a cork on a bottle of wine and all had a most hospitable chat about the new tourism venture, and why it was badly needed in the area.

The “old git” filmed an interview with Sheona about the concept behind the new Tighnavon Glamping Pods at Kinloch Rannoch, which you can watch the video here:

After their media commitments, Team Matilda enjoyed another fabulous meal before more relaxation and an amazingly sound sleep. Next morning, sadly, it was time to leave the comfort of Tighnavon and head back to Matildas Rest – thoroughly refreshed after a great mini-break in what is one of the “old gal” and “old git’s” favourite places on earth.

So, my dynamic crew’s overall verdict: If you like the idea of getting back to nature – but without the canvas tent, then this is definitely for you. The new wooden en-suite glamping pods offer the ideal opportunity to enjoy luxury away-from-it-all accommodation, where you can do exactly as you please – while enjoying some exhilarating cycling and stunning scenery pedalling in the beautiful wilderness area of Loch Rannoch. As the “old git” said: “What’s not to like?!”

Team Matilda toasting Tighnavon Glamping Pods – what’s not to like?!

Thanks to Sheona and Ian at Tighnavon Glamping Pods at Kinloch Rannoch for their help, accommodation, and hospitality offered to Team Matilda on their mini-break. All opinions are that of Team Matilda!

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!

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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