Bridge of Earn ride in warm sunshine and strong winds as practice for TdNF

A classic model with a classic model! The “old gal” with the magnificent Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

So Sunday morning dawned and my dynamic crew opened the blinds to what seemed like idyllic weather conditions for tandeming – bright sunshine and little wind. Which was just as well on two counts – one being that the “old gal” doesn’t like the wind at all … mind you the “old git” is not too keen on it either as it always seems to be a head wind – and as my Captain, he seems to take the brunt of it! And secondly, the “old git” had decreed today would be a longish run, in training for Team Matilda’s forthcoming Tour de New Forest – now known as TdNF – but more of that later in this blog.

Just after 10am we headed off towards Bridge of Earn – a scenic 14 mile undulating run across roads in rural Perthshire. 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! 

First stage was an easy canter towards the village of Dunning, then on to Forteviot. My crew were enjoying their usual doze of fun and laughs on my saddles as the miles seemed to whizz past in idyllic conditions. Even a fairly tough climb out of Forteviot – featuring several hills – didn’t phase them as they battled on to the top.

The reward for that climb is a great long downhill stretch in to the town of Bridge of Earn itself, with the “old git” reveling in his role as Captain – revealing that we were hitting the 30mph mark at several parts. As we turned into the Brig Farm Shop and cafe at Bridge of Earn, my dynamic crew were both amazed and impressed to find they had arrived in record time of 1 hour 02 minutes – marking an average speed of just shy of 14mph! There’s obviously life in this “old lady” yet! I must admit I do like it when we are whizzing along as it makes me feel like a young thing!

Time for a celebration scone and cake … but sitting in the car park was a beautiful classic car, a white Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. It seemed only natural for me, as a classic bike, to be pictured beside such a classic car! After all, we have similar sleek lines!

Seems the car was part of The Round Britain Tour 2017, which is is a joint celebration of two important Rolls-Royce events. Firstly, it celebrates the remarkable achievements, 110 years ago, of the original Silver Ghost, AX201, in establishing a new world record of running without involuntary stops for a distance of 14,371 miles, almost twice that previously set by a motorcar.

Spot the similar sleek lines! Here I am lined up beside the Silver Ghost.

The other reason for the tour was to celebrate another occasion 60 years ago, when a few Rolls-Royce enthusiasts decided it would be a good idea to form a club. Formed in 1957, the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club has resulted in a worldwide organisation, now in its Diamond Jubilee year.

The “old git” trying (and failing) to look cool beside one of the coolest cars on the road!

My crew then decided an alfresco refuelling was required and ordered up a spread of ice cold ginger beer, apple scone, and some carrot cake – the favourite of tandemers and in particular the “old gal” and the “old git”. All of which was yummy and consumed on the colourful decking area.

Alfresco apple scone, carrot cake, and ginger beer. Perfect refreshment for tandemers!

After a nice relaxing time in the warm sunshine it was time to head on the return journey. My dynamic crew were in happy mood after such a good first half of today’s route – but unfortunately, while they were indulging their taste buds – the wind decided to start blowing. And as we know, when there is wind, it is always blowing in an unhelpful direction. It was still pretty warm, but the “old gal” and the “old git” were now battling against a fierce head wind.

Now the road out of Bridge of Earn is a bit of a tough one at the best of times – a long slow grind of a cycle – but the head wind rendered some of the comments coming from my stoker’s position unrepeatable in what is after all a family blog! Let’s just say that the speed we achieved on the way to the cafe was not being achieved on the way back – and in fact at some stages we were lucky if we were hitting half of that speed.

But they gamely battled on (well truthfully there was no alternative!) but the ride home only got more frustrating for my crew when we had a mechanical after the turning to Forteviot on the stretch to Dunning. My chain slipped off my cog and got jammed in my metalwork. More interesting words from my stoker – but top marks to her as in her role as chief engineer she soon had the chain problem sorted – but only after I had to be turned upside down, in an ungainly manner for an “old lady”.

When we finally cycled in to the village of Dunning the temperature was rising and my crew were wilting a bit with the relentless pedalling again the wind. The “old git” had a brainwave moment and decided a brief detour into the garden area of the Kirkstyle Inn would be a good idea! I mean, he said it would have been rude to pass by without stopping!

It would have been rude to pass the Kirkstyle Inn without a stop for a tonic (with gin!)

It would need to be said that the “old gal” thought this was one of the “old git’s” better ideas – it seems he does have a few! – and immediately ordered my Captain to go to the bar and order two tonics (with a good splash of gin in them!) to recharge my dynamic crew for the last five miles of the trip.

The warm sunshine in the garden area belied the strength of the wind and lulled my crew into a false sense of security, So much so that when they got back on my saddles it was a really hard slog to get going and make any forward progress! At times it almost seemed Team Matilda was standing still – and it wasn’t for the lack of effort and power going into my pedals!

After finally returning to Matildas Rest the “old git” had to take a couple of pictures in the bright sunshine of my snazzy new name decals – well to be strictly honest … its the names of my dynamic crew which are now emblazoned on my shiny steelwork! Don’t know why they couldn’t have got a Team Matilda one … but no, its obviously all about them! But whisper it … I do actually quite like them! And one thing is for certain – no one will need to ask my crew’s names again!

The “old gal’s” name emblazoned on the Stoker’s section of my frame ….

… and the “old git’s” name on the Captain’s section. Spot the snazzy saltire flags!

A check of Strava revealed Team Matilda had registered seven personal bests along the way and eight second bests – much to the delight of the “old gal” and the “old git”. Perhaps not surprisingly all the PBs were on the outward bound half of the ride – before the wind got up!

Strava officially recorded the ride as a distance of 27.7 miles at an average speed of 10.2 mph, with a top speed of 32.0 mph. The traveling time was 2 hours 42 minutes and the elevation covered was a not insubstantial 1,276 feet. We managed to burn up 1,554 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 143 W.

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 an ideal training run for Le Tour de New Forest – what’s the TdNF I hear you ask? Well I am getting uber excited as I am ticking off the days before Team Matilda are heading off to near Southampton in Hampshire to meet up again with my “best pal” – a tandem called Bluebird!

Regular readers of my blog will remember last August my dynamic crew welcomed Team Bluebird to Perthshire. Team Bluebird are Jane and John Taylor who brought their unusual Pino semi-recumbent tandem north of the border for a fabulous week of tandeming which was called Le Tour de Perthshire.

Me and Bluebird had a great time and we have quite a bit in common as she also has her own mini blog called ‘Travels with Bluebird’. Both tandems had a wonderful week, with lots of chats and fun!

This pic sums up the Tour de Perthshire – fingers crossed for fab weather for Tour de New Forest.

And the crews certainly seemed to have lots of fun and laughs too – in bright sunshine. Jane and John certainly seemed to have lots in common with my dynamic duo – such as not enjoying hills and definitely enjoying wine! In fact both Team Bluebird and Team Matilda seemed to have the same views on not taking tandeming too seriously.

To emphasise that point the four crew members all decided they would become self-proclaimed founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club! And that definitely set the tone for the week – and gave us all a crazy reputation to live up to! And I can say that over the week all four tandemers more than passed the test to be life long members of the Nutty Tandemers Club! Check out my blog of the week’s fun and frolics to see what kind of things we got up to!

I feel confident there will be one or two prosecco toasts during the Tour!

This included my dynamic crew playing a key role in helping Team Bluebird develop a likeing for prosecco, and indeed Team Matilda’s infamous prosecco picnics! So I am sure my la bouclee wine carrier will always have a bottle in it during the TdNF!

And to make the trip even more exciting John and Jane have added not one, but two tandems to their stable of bikes since last year. They have added a vintage tandem called Henry and a tandem that easily comes apart for travelling called Siggy – so it promises to be an interesting week.

Whisper it, but I am told that Henry is a bit of a charmer of a gentleman tandem … with an eye for the ladies of similar vintage! So you never know he and I may just have a little bit of a holiday tandem romance! But I will have a good chat with Bluebird to make sure she approves!

Muthill Sportive 2017 yellow route with sub stoker!

My regular stoker “the old gal” was replaced by “the young son” for the Muthill Sportive 2017!

There was much excitement on Saturday morning at Matildas Rest as it was a big day for this “old lady” – I was taking part in a real official bike event – the Muthill Sportive 2017. This would be my first 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!

To add to the sense of anticipation I was going to have a substitute stoker for the event as the “old gal” – who is usually on my back saddle – was working and couldn’t get time off. So she was replaced by the “old git’s” son Niall, who will from here on be referred to as the “young son” in this blog post!

Now the “young son” had only had the briefest of outings on a tandem before so it was brave of him – if slightly mad – to readily volunteer to be substitute stoker for the first time in an event like a Sportive! But volunteer he did and don’t tell the “old gal” but I was looking forward to having his youthful legs power me along! (And, whisper it, but so was the “old git – although he would never admit to that!)

Now the village of Muthill is about 5 miles away from Matildas Rest and the “old git” decided it would be a good plan for us to tandem to the start line to give the “young son” a chance to get used to the joys of tandeming! Unfortunately the weather gods had plans for almost biblical rain.

The buoyant atmosphere as we set off in dry, almost sunny conditions was soon blown away as the skies darkened and heavy showers rolled in which saw my crew arrive to register at Muthill Church like drowned rats! Getting soaked before the off wasn’t exactly in the plan, and the “young son” was questioning whether his volunteering for the role of stoker had been such a good idea!

The “old git” and the “young son” ready for the start – with soaking cycling jackets!

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 – in stark contrast to the chilly inclement weather outside.

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 a year 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.

Team Matilda was taking part in the Yellow Route – an 18 mile cycle around quiet local Strathearn roads. And after I had my start number of 009 firmly attached, along with my snazzy timer chip, 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 from other riders. A quick safety briefing, and the horn was blown and we were underway! 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! 

The “old git” and the “young son” set off at good pace along Muthill’s main street before starting a long slow climb up past the local golf course. But the youthful energy provided by the “young son” in his role as stoker helped us reach the plateau in no time. And amazingly Team Matilda was in second place at this stage with just a lone female rider ahead of us.

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 – where we played cat and mouse with the female rider overtaking each other on several occasions before briefly emerging on to the Crieff to Braco road for a short section, turning into another maze of farm roads.

Just before crossing the Auchterarder to Crieff road the solo rider decided enough was enough and powered off with a cheery wave never to be seen again! So now determination kicked in and the “young son” decided that we were going to maintain our second position and helped power us along the quiet roads to Tullibardine and then along in front of Strathallan Airfield.

Tantalising there were signs for Muthill but we were directed away from the direct route 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 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 crossed the finishing line in second place! I will repeat that … we finished second! Unbelievable!

That feeling when you have just finished your first ever Sportive … and finished second!

A quick glance at the electronic timer clock revealed that we had finished in a fairly respectable time of 1 hour 28 minutes and 23 seconds. And it had stayed mainly dry. Because we kept cycling there were no photos en route, but the “old git” did ask the guy running the Dr Bike clinic to take a couple of the three of us to record our achievement at the end, which he was happy to oblige.

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!

There was time to say a quick hello to a few people the “old git” recognised – including Lorna Davidson from local folk group Tarneybackle who we met at the launch of the Blackford Paths Network project recently. And as my crew were chatting they were asked to take part in a publicity shot for the event. Oh if you insist! Ever the PR man, the “old git” grabbed every available prop!

Time for sustenance – my crew with Lorna Davidson from local folk group Tarneybackle.

As we were finishing our food, the team from Keep it Simple Timing announced that the official times for the first few bikes home had been officially verified – and my crew were delighted with the proof that the results showed that we had indeed finished second in the yellow route category! Simple pleasures and all that!

Official confirmation of the “old git” Colin and the “young son” Niall coming in second!

So after some much needed re-fuelling – and basking in the glory of being second home in our first ever Sportive – it was back to reality for my crew with the slight issue of getting back on my saddles for the five mile tandem back home! It would need to be said this was a bit of a grind as muscles had seized up a bit after stopping at the end of the Sportive! And that wasn’t confined to the “old git” as the “young son” wasn’t quite so full of that youthful exuberance that was on show earlier!

After returning to Matildas Rest a check of Strava revealed Team Matilda had registered three personal bests along the way – beating times on previous cycles set by the “old git” and the “old gal”.

Strava officially recorded the Sportive ride as a distance of 18.3 miles at an average speed of 12.1 mph, with a top speed of 28.9 mph. The elevation covered was a not insubstantial 1,048 feet, as we managed to burn up 1,201 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 192 W.

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.)

After a warm reviving shower, the “old git” and the “young son” agreed that despite the rain, it was a great event and fun to be part of! The Sportive 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. A great day to celebrate being a Perth 2021 supporter! And clearly #perthistheplace for cycling!

Lets hope the Sportive raises 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.

And it may have been my first Sportive … but it certainly won’t be my last!

Oh – and for the avoidance of doubt – although I enjoyed having the extra thrust provided by the “young son” I am looking forward to having the “old gal” back in her rightful place on my rear saddle!

Le Tour de Deux Festivals du Tandem!

Scallops oysters and champagne?! No one told us festivals were like this!

“Do you fancy going to a festival?”, the “old git” had casually asked the “old gal” a few weeks ago? “In fact do you fancy going to two festivals in tandem, by tandem on the same day?” he asked. The response wasn’t immediately enthusiastic it would need to be said – from either of my dynamic crew!

Perhaps it was those traditional images of huge crowds of people standing soaked and caked in mud at somewhere like T in the Park that came to mind. And another off putting factor was that the “old gal” and the “old git” most definitely don’t do camping!

But they decided they would lose their festival virginity with a planned day trip to Strathyre to tandem between two festivals being hosted on the same Bank Holiday weekend within Rob Roy Country. So Sunday dawned and the weather was nice and sunny as we headed off early from Matildas Rest, with a little trepidation for what the day may bring.

The start point for Team Matilda’s Le Tour de Deux Festivals du Tandem was the fabulous Broch Cafe in Strathyre – where we had been invited to park Matilda Transport by the friendly owners Lesley and Bill. Even tho it was just around 10 o’clock the cafe had a great buzz about it with orders for hearty breakfasts flying out of the kitchen.

Team Matilda – all kitted up in their Saltire cycling tops ready for the off at Broch Cafe.

After a welcome Lucaffee coffee and delicious home made scone there was time for a quick photo of my dynamic crew all kitted up in their matching “Sunday best” Saltire cycling tops, before we headed off out of Strathyre on the super smooth surface of the Sustrans Scotland NCR7. 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!

Before we built up any speed however, our first task was to look out for the site of a newly commissioned installation on the award-winning unique cultural outside art #BLiSStrail, named after the four villages it links – Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St Fillans. The trail is the brainchild of LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group,  to encourage more visitors to the area – to boost tourism and the local economy.

We quickly found Drover’s Bho – a Highland Coo metal sculpture made by Kev Paxton’s ArtFe to mark the old cattle drovers route which has just been added to the BLiSStrail to mark 2017 being the Year of History Heritage and Archaeology.

Drovers Bho – the new BLiSStrail artwork. Spot the bramble eating mouse on his head!

The artwork has been beautifully landscaped to give the impression of the coo standing on a hilloch and really makes it feel at home! The intricacy of the metal artwork has to be admired – and the “old gal” was quick to spot a bramble-eating mouse on his head!

Back on my saddles, my crew tandemed off picking up a fair speed on the off-road cycle path heading for our first destination of our two festival tour – the  Mhor Festival being held in the grounds of the stylish boutique Monachyle Mhor hotel. Billed as the best “off the beaten track” festival in Scotland it promotes itself as a festival of food, drink, music, theatre and dance! As the festival web site says: “Come, play, sing, dance, cook, learn, chill!” Well, ok,if you insist!

And the organisers agree that arriving by tandem is ideal, as it saves having to use the bus on the traffic management system on the narrow roads! The approach gave my crew the opportunity to ride again on one of the best routes Team Matilda have had the pleasure of experiencing – gently undulating single track roads with the most wonderful views across Loch Voil within the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. And with hardly a whisper of wind, the loch’s surface was like a mirror, reflecting the surrounding hills. Truly magnifique!

The camp site at Mhor Festival must be one of the most scenic festival camp sites ever.

As we rounded the final bend we were greeted with the first view of theMhor Festival site. The campsite, just on the edge of the loch, has to be one of the most scenic festival sites ever. With thousands of people already enjoying the party atmosphere it looked like my crew were going to have fun – especially as the “old git” spotted a sign promising “fun and funk”!

The “old git” and me looking for fun and funk after arriving at Mhor Festival.

The festival organisers at Mhor had arranged for VIP admission tickets for Team Matilda – which I am sure must have been a result of my recent appearance on on BBC Scotland’s Landward television programme promoting Loch Voil area as our favourite picnic spot!

I was safely parked up in the staff car park as the my dynamic crew entered the festival site – and were immediately taken by the friendly nature of the event. And there was so much going on – dance, music, comedy, art, theatre and of course some amazing food and drink including a champagne and seafood bar.

The “old gal” decided that festivals may not be that bad after all! She was quickly impressed with the funky nature of the festival and had to pose beside one of the many amusing eye-catching signs dotted around the site.

The “old gal” showing off her funkier side – one of the eye catching signs at Mhor Festival

My crew decided it was time to sample some of the culinary delights on offer in the street food area and started with some gin infused salmon served on a beetroot scone with some red cabbage. They then decided to indulge in some seafood and had some amazing freshly cooked scallops washed down with an obligatory glass of champagne!  As the “old gal” was heard to say while quaffing her fizz and enjoying the alfresco lunch – “no one told us festivals were like this!”

Cheers – some yummy seafood for alfresco lunch. What’s not to like about festivals?

After lunch my  crew bumped into Kim Proven –  the enthusiastic chair of LETi and owner of Briar Cottages at Lochearnhead  – along with her husband Fraser who were enjoying a cool jazz funk band playing in the main arena. The “old git” naturally took the opportunity to remind Fraser of his (whisky induced) promise to ride me backwards! He claimed he hadn’t forgotten but also said he needed to get some practice in – so was somewhat vague about agreeing a date to show off his circus skills!

One of the joys of the event for my crew was just chilling and relaxing in the warm sunshine. The festival site had a lovely relaxed feel about it which was great for people watching.

The festival site had a lovely relaxed feel about it – great for people watching!

The afternoon seemed to slip past and all too soon it was time for my crew to retrieve me from the car park and tandem back into Strathyre for the second part of our festival tour. It was an interesting ride back along the single track road as it was quite busy with cars leaving the site and we had to slow down and let cars pass at virtually every single passing place.

But free of the confines of the single track road the “old git” was able to go up the gears and we clocked a new Team Matilda speed record of 32.4 mph on a nice downhill stretch! I was almost giddy with excitement! I mean it is many years since this “old lady’s” wheels have turned that fast!

Our tandem back from Mhor ended up where we started, back at Broch Cafe – just yards from the venue for our second festival of the day, the Strathyre Music Festival. Time for one more picture of the “old git” in front of the large marquee which hosts the festival, before I was packed away in Matilda Transport so my crew could concentrate on enjoying the music!

The “old git” outside the large marquee for the Strathyre Music Festival.

Lesley and Bill kindly let us change out of our cycling gear at Broch Cafe into more relaxed clothes more suitable for the music festival. We could already hear the bands playing but there was an additional attraction for my dynamic crew – Bill had fired up a bbq outside the cafe – and it was busy with festival goers looking for some food. The “old git” and the “old gal” were hungry again after their tandem ride and naturally had to sample the nosh! I am reliably told that the steak burgers with cheese were delicious! So good in fact (and whisper this bit!) they had seconds!

The Strathyre Music Festival is the second festival to be held in the area over the Bank Holiday weekend. And it must be one of Scotland’s best value festivals with an entry fee of only £5 per day. The music festival started from the success of local band Balvaig. Led by Kenny Higgins, who is also vice-chair of LETi, the band is a  group of highly talented local musicians and singer songwriters who regularly meet for bothy-style folk and blues music sessions.

The festival has rapidly grown in stature and size and is now in its fifth year. It is recognised as the largest small community based music festival in Scotland – renowned for its fantastic family friendly atmosphere in a beautiful setting.

The early Sunday evening session was a bit quieter than the late Saturday session when the marquee was mobbed for a set by Mudslide, a 5-piece blues band. But my crew were able to relax and hear a set set by Hugh Kelly, an alternative blues/soul singer songwriter. This was followed by a performance from Martha L Healy which explored country, folk, bluesceltic and Americana.

Martha L Healy performing her set at the Strathyre Music Festival.

Dipping briefly into the festival my crew experienced the friendly nature of it all before tiredness started to kick in for my crew after a long day in the sunshine, and they decided to miss the headline act of Papa Shandy and the Drams. So after bidding farewell to Lesley and Bill – who were still busy serving up food – it was time to drive home. After returning to Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava to find that they received eight on the ride – four personal bests and four second best times!

Strava officially recorded the ride as a distance of 16.4 miles with a total moving time of 1 hour 49 minutes. Average speed was 9.1 mph, with a top speed being a giddy 32.4 mph.

The elevation covered was 540 feet, as we managed to burn up 1002 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 137 W.

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.)

What a fantastic day in the sunshine for Team Matilda at our first ever festivals! Let’s just say that my dynamic crew enjoyed it so much they are already planning to come back in 2018! You never know, we might be able to persuade some other tandems to join us!

Canter to Carnoustie across the Tay Bridge

This way for tandemers and cyclists! The “old gal” with the Tay Road bridge behind.

A rare Monday off together for my dynamic crew, and a hopeful weather forecast,  provided the perfect opportunity for a “workday” tandem trip. The “old gal” – who has an aversion to too many hills – remembered we had enjoyed a fairly flat ride on off-road cycle paths to Carnoustie last year, and recommended a repeat. The route starts near Newport on Tay and involves crossing the Tay Bridge, into Dundee and following Sustrans Scotland NCR 1 hugging the coast to the golf town of Carnoustie.

So a short 45 minute drive in Matilda Transport saw us parked up in the car park across the Tay from Dundee – which offers direct access to the bridge via a ramp. After a final weather check – and the promise of bright sunshine – we headed off. 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!

The Tay Bridge carries the A92 across the Firth of Tay and at around 2,250 metres – or 1.4 miles – it 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. But it did actually feel very safe and we soon got into our stride.

The Tay Road Bridge celebrated its 50th anniversary last year – almost as old as me!

The water was remarkably calm and with clear skies we got a great view of the adjacent Tay Rail Bridge. Off the bridge and we followed the well signposted NCR1 along the riverbank and through the Dundee port area. You are advised that you may need photographic identification to gain access, but my crew just pressed the button and the gate opened for us!

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.

It was great path for me and my dynamic true – off road and nice long, flat straight stretches.

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 the 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 “old gal” paying attention to the warnings to keep out of the Ministry of Defence live firing range!

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 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.

My dynamic crew were enjoying themselves so much that the “old gal” suggested going on the additional 7 miles to Arbroath – further up the coast for our picnic! So off we pedalled but almost as soon as we set off there was an almost instant change in the weather. The skies darkened quickly and it started to rain.

About a mile out of Carnoustie the “old git” took the executive team decision that we were going to get very wet and we turned round. We got back to Carnoustie just as a heavy downpour started – emphasising that it was the correct decision.

My crew took refuge in the cafe of the Carnoustie Leisure Centre and had a coffee while hoping the shower would pass. But the skies darkened further and the squally shower got heavier. As we were clearly cyclists sheltering from the rain, the staff took pity on us and allowed us to eat our picnic in the cafe!

Luckily we were able to use the Carnoustie Leisure Centre cafe for an indoor picnic

No prosecco this time as the “old git” thought that may be pushing the kind hospitality my crew were being offered! Lunch over and there was nothing for it but for Team Matilda to get kitted up in their rain jackets and head back to Dundee.

It would need to be said that spirits were a bit low as we headed off – with the prospect of being extremely soaked by the time we had covered the 13 miles back to Matilda Transport. But fortunately as we got to the edge of the Ministry of Defense firing range the rain stopped as quickly as it started and we could see clear sky ahead. The dark clouds started to lift as the imposing Broughty Ferry Castle came into view, and decided to risk a stop for a photo.

Here I am posing with the “old gal” at the imposing Broughty Ferry Castle.

And as the storm clouds blew away the sea suddenly became calmer again and my dynamic crew were once again enjoying our tandem ride. We had another quick stop at a nature corner outlining the area’s wildlife, highlighted by an impressive sculpture to represent bird feathers.

A sculpture of bird feathers on the way back to Dundee.

We continued along the route with the sun back out to play, tandeming back through the dockyard to the bridge. Just beside the bridge there is a massive construction sight where the huge new V&A Museum of Design Dundee is taking shape – 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.

The ship like design of the new V&A Museum of Design Dundee is now starting to take shape.

After checking out the museum 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!

Emerging from the lift and rejoining the cycle path there is a great view from above of the new V&A museum. It certainly looks very impressive even at this early stage of construction.

A view of the new V & A Museum from the Tay Bridge.

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 – before Team Matilda were back in the car park across from Dundee. A reviving cup of coffee was required, but the the “old git” and the “old gal” were euphoric when they checked Strava to find they had gained no less than 23 gongs – 14 personal bests and 9 second best times! Mind you this was probably mainly due to keeping pedalling at a fair speed to beat the showers, but also underlines that my dynamic crew are a good bit fitter and stronger than they think!

Strava officially recorded the ride as Team Matilda covering a distance of  27.9 miles with a total moving time of 3 hours 06 minutes – giving an average speed of 9.0 mph.

The total elapsed time was just 4 hours 13 minutes – allowing for sheltering from the rain! Top speed recorded was just 19.0 mph given the flatness of the route, with the elevation covered being just 164 feet. Together we managed to burn up 1,343 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 108 W.

Regular readers of my blog will know only too well by now that the “old git” has found a clever new app called Relive which creates a nifty 3D video interpretation of our rides – effectively bringing Strava to life. So take a look at the video of our route 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.)

The overall verdict from my dynamic crew was that it was brilliant way to record another 28 miles on a rare weekday off for my crew, which left them feeling righteous! Add to that lots of laughs and the fact that we managed to dodge the showers and it was a win, win situation!

Great preparation for my Tour de Deux Festivals du Tandem this weekend….

Sunday showers on BLiSStrail in scenic Strathyre

Taking a photo of you taking a photo of me … reflective fun at The Look Out.

So a weekend of fun and frolics with good solo cyclist friends of the “old gal” and “old git” – Gillian and Craig who had come to Matildas Rest to stay for a mini-break. My dynamic crew promised them “gin and BLiSStrail.” However I think that our visitors had (perhaps understandably!) assumed that the BLiSStrail was a tour of local pubs sampling gin! But in fact the gin was a visit to a local gin bar – followed by a cycle the next day around the award-winning unique cultural outside art #BLiSStrail, named after the four villages it links – Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St Fillans – deep in the heart of Rob Roy Country within the Loch Lomond and  The Trossachs National Park.

The weekend started with some fab Mediterranean vegetable lasagne made by the “old gal” before some “pre cycle training” of a night out in Perth! I was left behind tucked up in the garage as the bike crews headed off on a different mode of transport – the bus! – for a trip into The Venue – a gin bar which boasts no less than 200 gins on offer.

Easy to follow signs to the Gin Bar at The Venue, Perth.

There is a gin menu – a thick pamphlet which describes all the varieties, and the best mix of tonics and garnishes to have with them! So naturally the four cyclists had to sample a few gins between them! And I am reliably told that an enjoyable night was had by all! No jokes about being well oiled please!

Pre tandem ride Saturday night training – two tonics (with splash of gin) … in tandem!

No room for sore heads however as the “old git” had everyone up early, ready to head off to Strathyre to cycle round the BLiSStrail – a series of large metal and wood sculptures and art installations. It is the brainchild of LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group,  to encourage more visitors to the area – to boost tourism and the local economy.

And as we drove into St Fillans – along the lovely road from Crieff – there was time for a quick photo stop at the affectionately named “Mirror Man” – which was glistening in the sun in the water at the top of Loch Earn opposite the The Four Seasons Hotel. This iconic mirrored sculpture is officially called “STILL” and has been created by Scottish artist Rob Mulholland.

The “old git” trying (and failing!) to mirror Mirror Man in  Loch Earn at St Fillans.

The start point for our tour was Broch Cafe in Strathyre – a great facility run by the hospitable owners Lesley and Bill, who we met on a previous trips to the area.  As always the cafe was bustling with customers and has a really friendly vibe about it. After a welcome coffee Gillian decided to try out an unusual way of sitting on Thistle the Heilan’ Coo, which sits just outside the cafe, before we headed off. Me thinks she really fancies a motorbike than a pedal bike!

Gillian finding an unusual way to sit on Thistle the Heilan’ coo at Broch Cafe!

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!

We headed out of Strathyre on the Sustrans Scotland NCR7 – which Gillian and Craig immediately agreed was one of the best cycle paths that they had every cycled on! It is like a motorway surface – super smooth – which, for an “old lady” like myself who doesn’t like too many bumps and potholes, was a delight to tandem on!

Ironically, as we passed the site which will host a newly commissioned #BLiSStrail sculpture of a Highland Coo to mark the old cattle drovers route, we came across a rather unusual obstruction on the cycle path … of … you’ve guessed … a real live young Highland Coo! This one had obviously been keen to investigate the merits of NCR7 and somehow had managed to escape from its field. Despite being a relative baby, it was still fairly substantial and was blocking the route. Fortunately it was fairly friendly, and after having a few inquisitive looks at my frame (I don’t think it had seen many tandem bikes!) he happily “moooved” over to let us past.

Unusual “rush hour” obstruction on NCR7 – I had to ask Hamish to mooove over!

After the cow “diversion” we picked up a fair speed on the cycle path, and soon we were at Kingshouse where we took the turning for Balquidder – soon passing the grave of Rob Roy MacGregor.  Pedalling on into Balquidder, the “old gal” was keen to show Gillian and Craig an interesting feature beside the village hall – an unusual iconic red phone box. Unusual in that this one has been transformed into a book exchange for the local community after the actual phone service was withdrawn as it was no longer used much. What a wonderful idea! Great #ScotSpirit!

Great alternative use for a phone box – Balquhidder Book Exchange.

Tandeming on from Balquhidder we headed along the 4 miles signposted towards the stylish boutique Monachyle Mhor hotel to take in the Look Out installation – one of the key pieces of the #BLiSStrail. It is essentially a mirrored cube which blends into the surrounding backdrop. In fact it is so well situated that you really have to look hard to find it in the middle of a field! Despite the fact that the weather had turned  a bit showery, the Look Out’s cleverly designed reflective lines provided both bike crews with endless opportunities for fun photographs.

Whose looking at who?! – Gillian, Craig and the “old gal” at the Look Out.

Look(ing) out, look(ing) in! So many options, so many combinations at the mirrored cabin.

Interesting half and half reflection of the “old gal” at the Look Out.

To escape the sudden downpour the “old gal” – who doesn’t like cycling in rain! – decided we should try and take refuge in the nearest shelter. This turned out to be a space under the road bridge, which had clearly been built over the ancient old bridge – giving a fascinating glimpse of the past.

A new(ish) bridge built over the ancient old bridge at the end of Loch Voil.

When the sun broke thru again my crew decided it was time to show Gillian and Craig our perfect prosecco picnic spot on the banks of Loch Voil. And as the rain clouds blew away, we were left with a perfect vista over the loch to the hills on the other side. First job, of course, was for the “old git” to chill the prosecco in the huge outdoor wine chiller! Then to open it, and pour it, without spilling a drop! – which he successfully achieved! As they say, practice makes perfect! Gillian and Craig were suitably impressed at the alfresco lunch venue and the prosecco was the perfect accompaniment to the healthy picnic of croissants filled with smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese, followed by fresh fruit.

Wine cooler with a view! Perfect way to chill the prosecco!

Cheers! Our perfect prosecco picnic spot on the banks of Loch Voil.

The “old gal” enjoying her fresh fruit and prosecco in the sunshine!

Fortified by another prosecco picnic, we pedalled off enjoying the fabulous countryside and gently undulating road along the side of Loch Voil. But unfortunately as we got to Balquhidder the rain started again and after a vote among my dynamic crew – with the “old gal” having the casting vote! – the decision was taken to abandon the planned route to return to Strathyre on the old hilly road up through the forest. So we headed back retracing our steps by rejoining NCR 7 back to Strathyre. This turned out to be a fairly sensible outcome as the rain showed no sign of easing off.

Perfect finish! A warming coffee and yummy home made carrot cake at Broch Cafe.

Our tandem ride ended up where we started back at Broch Cafe, where it was time for my team to enjoy that traditional tandemers reviving snack of yummy coffee and home made carrot cake – while checking Strava to find that they received five gongs on the ride.

Strava officially recorded the ride as a distance of 16.0 miles with a total moving time of 1 hour 47 minutes. Average speed was 9.0 mph, with a top speed being a giddy 30.9 mph.

The elevation covered was 261 feet, as we managed to burn up 914 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 128 W.

Standby for a clever bit now … the “old git” had been told about an amazing new app called Relive which creates a 3D video interpretation of a ride – effectively bringing Strava to life. It does what it says on the tin – reliving a ride by showing the landscape and contours of the route, as well as showing photos at the spot they were taken, before ending with all the stats. Very clever bit of tech! So  having signed up Team Matilda were delighted to received their first video. Click on the play button below and take a look! I am sure you will be impressed! The “old git” certainly was!

Don’t forget you can sign up to see my Twitter feed by clicking on the word MatildasMusings, or the “follow” button.

My dynamic crew got a bit chilled at the end of the ride, so unfortunately had to turn down the offer of a game of petanque on Broch Cafe’s own piste – but they will take up the offer from Bill and  Lesley for a doubles match soon!

In the meantime I for one can’t wait to return on the last Sunday in May for Team Matilda’s double festival extravaganza tour – visiting both the Mhor Festival and the Strathyre Music Festival by tandem! If you can’t wait, read my recent blog where we sussed out the route between the two festivals!