Awwh! Who said romance was dead?! Six years on to the very date of a tandem ride on a blind first date at Loch Katrine my dynamic crew were back to where it all began to celebrate their sixth anniversary! And to make it even more exciting Team Matilda had been invited to road test the new glamping eco lodges with an overnight stay followed by a sail down the loch and a King of the Mountains tandem ride back to the start.
Relaxation and some tandeming – is there a better way to spend an anniversary mini-break?!
So firstly a bit about the new eco camp where the basic idea is to provide an opportunity for people to get away from it all and re-connect with nature. The lodges are ideally based to attract cyclists and walkers as Loch Katrine nestles in some of Scotland’s most atmospheric, picturesque and historic scenery in the heart of Rob Roy Country and the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
There are just eight of the wooden lodges – four of the more basic Ben pods named after nearby hills; and four more luxurious cabins named after local lochs. We were in Loch Venachar and despite looking bijou from the outside it is like a tardis inside – complete with everything you could need if tents aren’t your scene (so ideally suited then for the “old git” and “old gal”!)
Loch Venachar can sleep four people; two in a fixed double bed and two in a fold-down bed. The Loch lodges come with bed linen and towels; en-suite facilities with walk-in electric shower; kitchenette with combo microwave, fridge and sink; freeview HDTV; free wi-fi; lighting and underfloor heating.
My dynamic crew met up with Stuart Brain, Operations Manager, and it wasn’t a surprise to learn that with facilities like that, the lodges have been almost fully booked since opening at the start of the year.
The cosy lodges are set in a semi circle, all overlooking Loch Katrine. As Stuart said: “Sleeping under the stars in this lochside setting, in the heart of Scotland’s first National Park, is a truly magical experience. Sir Walter Scott rightly described Loch Katrine as ‘the scenery of a fairy dream’ in his famous poem Lady of the Lake.”
The eco camp facility – as it’s name suggests – has been sensitively designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible. And that goes all the way from the big items to the basics like the loo paper and shower gel! There’s even a cute dog kennel – in matching shape to the wooden lodge beside each pod! However it wasn’t big enough for me, so I was secured to the railings of the decking for the night!
After the photoshoot and a walk to explore the site the rain started so my dynamic crew decided to settle in for the night! They lovingly exchanged anniversary cards – tandem themed obviously! – and uncorked a bottle of fizz brought home from their Champagne vineyards tour last summer.
The ‘Happy Anniversary’ toast brought back happy memories for the “old gal” and the “old git” – and over dinner, cleverly cooked in the microwave, they reminisced about that fateful day six years go when they visited Loch Katrine on a first blind date! You see, this spot has a very special place in the hearts of my dynamic crew as without it, they may never have teamed up together! It is the very reason they got into tandeming in the first place and it was totally by accident! The story goes that they had planned a walk along the banks of the loch but as they arrived, they noticed tandems for hire!
Thinking this would be a fun way to break the ice on the date they set off in an unsteady fashion – but the result was they got hooked on tandeming immediately – despite the constant heavy rain that day and the “old gal” falling off into an unglamorous muddy heap on at least two occasions!
And the rest, as they say, is history – with my crew romantically falling in love with a new hobby, and each other, as a result! And despite the unconventional way of starting out, they have gelled as an unbreakable team – having become synchronised with each others foibles, on and off the saddle!
Morning came and the verdict was that the eco lodges were very cosy and comfortable – with my crew awakening from their slumbers super relaxed! The only thing that wasn’t perfect was the weather with heavy rain spoiling the outlook over breakfast! The “old git” did his usual checking the forecast and promising it would dry up soon, while the “old gal” did her usual disbelieving “aye right” response!
But we were booked on the on the historic steamship SS Sir Walter Scott for a sail down the loch to Stronachlachar – with the only way back being a 14 mile tandem ride up the hilly lochside. So despite some half-hearted protestations there was nothing for it but for the “old gal” to don her waterproofs – including her new fetching hi-vis waterproof helmet cover – and get ready to board.
As it turned out there really wasn’t much of a queue! Being a non holiday wet Monday there were less than 20 passengers on board – and it was almost like a private charter just for Team Matilda!
My dynamic crew were treated like royalty and the “old gal” was delighted when a friendly crew member not only offered her a blanket to snuggle under but also a warming coffee. It would need to be said it was a tad breezy with the wind off the water! Even the “old git” – who is never cold – agreed!
Next came a real highlight for Team Matilda as my dynamic crew were invited on to the bridge of the steam ship. Now as you know the “old gal” performs the role of stoker while tandeming and never gets to do the steering – as that is clearly the domain of my Captain, aka the “old git”!
But the Captain of the ship soon turned that view on its head when he offered the “old gal” the amazing opportunity to have a go at steering the near 120 year old steamship down the loch.
The “old git” was relegated to videoing the “old gal” at the wheel enjoying her memorable experience. Click on the video below to see how she got on – and includes a short history lesson about the vessel.
As we arrived at Stronachlachar the sun appeared as if on cue – much to the delight of the “old gal” who wasn’t relishing a tandem ride in the rain … and the relief of the “old git” who hadn’t exactly been coming up trumps with his weather reports recently!
So buoyed by the sunshine we immediately pedaled off from the pier towards Inversnaid for a short four mile each way warm up ride beside Loch Arklet before lunch.
Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.
Back at Stronachlachar we enjoyed a very hospitable welcome from the owners of The Pier Cafe. Despite being tempted by the wide variety of specials on offer, my dynamic crew decided on some very tasty ciabattas to energise themselves for the hills ahead. This was followed by a shared portion of carrot cake. The excuse here was that the code for the wi-fi was ‘carrotcake’ and it would have been rude not to sample it. The “old gal” officially rated it as “one of the best” in her carrot cake league table!
Suitably refuelled it was time to hit the first hill for the King of the Mountain rated ride back to Trossachs Pier. And amazingly – with some clever use of the gears – I am proud to report that we sailed up the first steep Invergyle climb with some energy to spare!
It was tough going but the “old git” and the “old gal” are clearly somewhat fitter than they tell themselves! And that – combined with some welcome sunshine – allowed my dynamic crew to to enjoy the fantastic awe inspiring scenery as they tandemed along.
One of the highlights, about half way back along the route, is a scenic viewpoint at Portnellan which overlooks the burial ground of the Clan MacGregor – which dates back to the 17th century – and has historic links to the legendary Rob Roy MacGregor.
To get a breather after a tough set of hills in succession, we stopped at a picnic area and fondly remembered an amazing prosecco fuelled picnic with good tandeming friends John and Jane on a fabulous warm sunny August day from 2016 during our memorable Nutty Tandemers Club tour.
Here’s hoping for some fun-filled sunny days like that when we team up again with John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our joint attempt at the Hebridean Way in early June. Just a small matter of 185 miles over 5 days tandeming!
Despite now being well into April there was still evidence of the harsh Scottish winter with significant snow still languishing on the slopes of the hills known locally as the Scottish Alps.
Maybe a glass of prosecco would have helped – but after getting our breath back and some refreshing water, it was time to face the last couple of hills and complete the 14 mile King of the Mountains ride back to the eco lodge camp at Trossachs Pier.
With me safely packed back in Matilda Transport the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 8 gongs – 3 personal bests; 3 second bests; and 2 thirds! Which was pretty impressive given the somewhat hilly nature of the ride!
So the Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 21.05 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 05 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 10.1 mph, while the elevation was 1083 feet. The maximum speed was 30.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1327 calories and produce an average power output of 158 W.
As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.
All in all a fabulous 6th anniversary mini break – back where it all started for Team Matilda! And with the stay in the new eco lodges, it was great to leave the daily grind far behind on a date to re-connect with nature at an area which has very special memories for my dynamic crew.
Thanks to all at Loch Katrine for their help, overnight accommodation, sail and friendship offered to Team Matilda on their mini-break. All opinions are that of Team Matilda!