Roadtest glamping eco lodges at Loch Katrine and 6th anniversary KoM ride!

The snazzy new wooden eco lodges camp at Loch Katrine – we were staying in Loch Venachar

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?!

There are 8 lochside lodges in the new eco camp – each with decking area.

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”!)

The Loch eco lodges have double bed, kitchenette and en-suite facilities.

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 eco lodges all have great views from the decking over Loch Katrine.

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.”

Not quite big enough for me – but super cute matching eco kennel for any dogs!

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!

The eco lodge camp looking enchanting at dusk in this Loch Katrine photo.

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!

My dynamic crew exchanged cards and champers to mark their 6th anniversary!

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!

On that fateful first blind date on a tandem at Loch Katrine six years ago! And not aged a day!

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.

Two old artefacts together! Here I am getting ready to board the SS Sir Walter Scott at Trossachs Pier.

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!

It was almost like a private charter for my dynamic crew as it was fairly quiet on board.

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!

The “old gal” nursing her coffee while snuggled under a rug to keep warm!

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.

Concentration! The “old gal” is allowed a shot at steering the historic SS Sir Walter Scott!

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!

Ready for the King of Mountain ride from Stronachlachar pier back to top of the loch.

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.

A stop at the picnic spot – but not warm enough for t-shirts or prosecco! …

… unlike the blue skies and warm sunshine at the same spot two years ago!

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.

The “old git” pointing out lots snow still on the ‘Scottish Alps’!

Getting energised for the last four miles of the KoM ride to Trossachs Pier!

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!

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Monster spotting at sunny Loch Lubnaig in BLiSSful Rob Roy Country

Monster spotting! – The “old gal” on the lookout for Lubbie at Loch Lubnaig.

“Do you fancy looking for a monster this weekend?” the “old git” casually asked the “old gal”. Never short of a quip she wittily replied: “It’s ok I don’t need to go looking for another one – I’ve got a perfectly good one here!” Oh how the “old git” laughed! Ouch! … but I presume she was joking! Right?!

And that’s why Team Matilda found themselves monster spotting at Loch Lubnaig as they tandemed from Callander to Strathyre on Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt7 in blissful sunshine. The weather people promised some bright sunshine for Sunday but the “old gal” was just a tad cautious given the last time warmer weather was forecast two weeks ago, we all froze our spokes off on a ride to Carnoustie.

But Saturday had been a stunning day and Sunday was to be more of the same so we all kitted up and headed from our home base of Auchterarder to Callander in Matilda Transport ready to ride. And fortunately as we arrived at the car park, so did the sun! This was much to the relief of the “old git” as the “old gal” decided he was personally responsible for the Baltic temperatures on our last outing!

My Callander Girl! – The “old gal” checks out the directions on NCN Rt7

Now as all tandem teams know, one of the first duties of the stoker is to find a signpost to ensure the captain heads off in the correct direction! Sometimes this is easier said than done – but not today! Callander seemed to be a busy crossroads for NCN Rt7 with clear signposts pointing in one direction to Strathyre, and on to Killin and Loch Lomond – and to Aberfoyle in the other.

So after a picture of Team Matildas Callander girl – see what I did there?! – we headed off. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The cycle path heads out of town on the old Oban railway line alongside the picturesque river Leny. Now this is one of those railway lines that is most definitely not flat and has a slow gradual uphill section for the first two miles, which was a bit of a shock to my dynamic crew. But the synchronicity soon kicked in and we picked up speed.

The views when passing the white water Falls of Leny were mesmerising and got us ready for the spectacular outlook when we first encountered Loch Lubnaig, which is situated within the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. The route hugs high above the western shore of the freshwater loch. A look at the Strava map above reveals how it came by its name, for Lùbnaig means crooked in Gaelic.

Enjoying the warmth of the sun on their faces my dynamic crew decided there was time for monster spotting to see if we could see Lubbie – the mysterious monster said by locals to live deep in Loch Lubnaig! Despite some serious viewing – and even some calls of “Lubbie, Lubbie, Lubbie” from the “old gal” – it was nowhere to be seen! Obviously Lubbie is equally publicity shy as its cousin at Loch Ness!

It seems Lubbie was as evasive as its more famous cousin at Loch Ness!

Devastated at not being able to get a photo of Lubbie we tandemed on thru the forested Pass of Leny – with some impressively tall oaks. On we pedalled over an undulating path at the end of the loch when all of a suddenly we found ourselves unexpectedly forced to try our handlebars at mountain biking tandeming! The smooth path abruptly finished and we were faced with a very steep zig zag boulder strewn section! It was exciting for this “old lady” who as you know likes to try new things – but the “old gal” on the back was less convinced by the sharp bends and bumpy ride!

We won! Kim Proven with husband Fraser and the Innovation trophy! Credit Chris Watt

Cycling into Strathyre the “old git” decided we had to do a few more miles before our coffee and cake break so we headed off on a wonderfully smooth section of NCN 7 towards Kingshouse. Before we built up the pace for the two-mile high speed dash(!!), there was a quick photo stop at Drover’s Bho – part of the award-winning innovative cultural outside art #BLiSStrail which is  the brainchild of LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group.

And many congratulations from Team Matilda are in order for my friend (and occasional substitute stoker … very occasional!) Kim Proven, chair of LETi and her community team after recently being crowned winner of the “Innovation In Tourism” category in the National grand final of the VisitScotland Scottish Thistle Awards – regarded as Scotland’s tourism ‘Oscars’.

The “old git” seeing if Drovers Bho wanted a drink from his water bottle!

The metal scultpture of  a Highland Coo was made by Kev Paxton’s ArtFe to mark the old cattle drovers route. 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 git” couldn’t resist the tempatation of seeing if the coo wanted a drink from his water bottle!

Turning round at Kingshouse we headed back towards Strathyre – with the motivation of some nosh spurring my dynamic crew on as we blasted along clicking up thru the gears. The view ahead of the snow covered peaks was also inspirational for my dynamic crew.

The snow covered peaks were inspirational as my dynamic crew headed back towards Strathyre.

Soon we were at the fabulous Broch Cafe in Strathyre – which offers a real oasis for cyclists and walkers in the area. There we met up with the ultra-friendly owners – and friends – Lesley and Bill, and it was great to see them again.

Being lunchtime the cafe had a great buzz about it with orders flying out of the kitchen. My dynamic crew resisted ordering some very appetising paninis and instead restricted themselves to a well deserved coffee, scone and caramel shortcake! But the “old gal” was so keen to eat she forgot to take a photo until there were literally just crumbs left!

Oh crumbs! The “old gal” was so hungry for her scone and cake she forgot to take a photo!

There was a bit of rain during the break so not the weather for a leisurely game of petanque on the cafe’s own petanque court – or to give it it’s correct technical name, petanque piste! – but Bill promised that long awaited doubles match soon! Happily the sun burst thru clouds again just as it was time to leave so we managed to get a nice sunny shot of Lesley and Bill on board my frame with my dynamic crew at the Ride Out seats just outside the cafe.

All aboard! Lesley and Bill, hosts at Broch Cafe in Strathyre, try my frame for size!

Before we tandemed off there was time to check out the fascinating and historical Dun Lubnaig Broch Project – which is now completed. Brochs are mysterious circular dry-stone hollow structures – like forts – which date back to the iron age and are only found in Scotland.

One artifact meets another! The “old git” at the Dun Lubnaig Broch which dates back to the Iron Age.

Refuelled, we set off back towards Strathyre – retracing our pedals back thru the forest – drinking in both the magnificent scenery and the fresh air. The tight zig zags of the short section more suited for well sprung mountain bikes looked unmanageable so we walked down that bit!

The path at the Pass of Leny gave great views along Loch Lubnaig.

Selfie time! My dynamic crew on the forest path.

As we approached the end of Loch Lubnaig we cycled thru the Forest Holidays site – which features a group of fabulous looking log cabins with hot tubs overlooking the loch. The “old gal” called time for a stop and my crew discovered the centre’s cafe had a bar – and naturally a small libation was required! It was very relaxing and actually warmish sitting outside on a picnic bench in the sun!

Cheers! A little libation in the sunshine at the cafe at Strathyre Forest Holidays site.

Refreshed we tandemed off on the final few miles back past the Falls of Leny before a welcome gentle downhill back into Callander which was busy with people enjoying the sunshine.

The end of the ride – the “old git” back at Callander after a great day tandeming!

After I was safely packed back into Matilda Transport the “old gal” had one of her brilliant ideas – fish and chips! Ten minutes later my dynamic crew were tucking into a hearty fish supper in the car with a wonderful view of the river! Bliss!

Replete, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of just 2 gongs – both 3rd best times – which is a tad unfair given it was mainly a new route!

The figures show my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 22.7 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 51 minutes. As always it is the smiles not the miles that count, but our average speed was 8.0 mph – not too bad given the mountain bike terrain stretch! – and the elevation was a not insubstantial 1,320 feet. The maximum speed was 25.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,320 calories and produce an average power output of 146 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. I think you’ll agree the fish and chips was earned by the effort expended!

It truly was an inspirational day out for all three of us on Team Matilda – and from my perspective it was nice to get some sunshine on my ageing frame! Let’s hope the weather has turned for the better and Spring has indeed sprung!

Tandem King of Mountain ride and music cruise celebration at Loch Katrine

The “old git” and the “old gal” were joined by solo cyclist friends Gillian and Craig.

There’s nothing like tempting fate! In his infinite wisdom (ie questionable!) the “old git” decided we needed to beat our demons and do a trouble free and deluge free tandem trip to Loch Katrine – which 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.

For those of you unfamiliar with the mechanical breakdowns (which seemed to be put down to my ageing frame) – a quick reminder. Three years ago, in July 2014, my rear gear cog disintegrated and then two years ago the pedal arm sheared clean off my rear pedal crank axle. But we did successfully complete a Beating the demons tandem ride last year – albeit ending up pretty soggy in driving rain.

So it was with somewhat more confidence – hopefully not misplaced – combined with an encouraging weather forecast that we set off from Matildas Rest to meet up with good solo cyclist friends of the “old gal” and “old git” – Gillian and Craig. The “old git” had done his research and discovered there was a music cruise on the historic steamship Sir Walter Scott  later in the afternoon – and booked tickets so my dynamic duo could relax with Gillian and Craig after their exertions!

So at at ten o’clock on Sunday morning we were parked at the head of the beautiful Loch Katrine at Trossachs Pier. As we unpacked it was apparent that we were in midge country – with literally swarms of the nasty little blighters everywhere. Fortunately my crew had taken the precaution of spraying themselves from head to foot with Smidge – a highly effective repellent that they knew from previous experiences works a treat in throwing the midges off your scent and stops them biting.

The itinerary – planned (as usual) with military precision – was for us to tandem the 13 miles down to the bottom of the lock at Stronachlachar, before having a spot of lunch, then cycle the return leg, before the cruise. The distance was a manageable 26 miles – but the terrain is fairly undulating! (“That’s HILLY – not undulating” shouts the “old gal”!) So it was going to be a good test for my dynamic crew’s new found fitness! And that’s why – somewhat tongue in cheek – the “old git” was sporting his red polka dot Tour de France King of the Mountains jersey! Oh and he has matching socks too!

The “old git” was glad he wasn’t doing the hills on this penny farthing!

You can check out the route of our tour of Loch Katrine on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

In lovely dry conditions we set off tandeming down the loch – with the synchronicity soon kicking in and we picked up a fair pace. The route down the side of the loch is a well maintained private road owned by Scottish Water who use the loch as a reservoir to supply Glasgow. And of course the amazing scenery is real brain food. After about four miles, and the first really tough King of the Mountain hill, we all stopped for a welcome breather and took in the awesome views across the loch.

My dynamic crew hamming up being knackered after the first real hill! Or so they said!

An arty through my handlebars shot showing the moody skies.

My dynamic crew were really enjoying the ride – even managing to nail most of the hills that previously required them to get off and push. The route was busy with cyclists – quite a few who were clearly with cycling clubs given their matching lycra kit! A couple of very friendly ones stepped off their pace to chat for a bit and jokingly admired the “old git’s” King of the Mountain jersey and said that the “old gal’s” green one represented the sprint jersey in the Tour de France … making us quite a powerful combination. To which the “old gal” replied that my crew simply had delusions of grandeur!

It was tough going but – in a mark of the new found fitness of the “old git” and the “old gal” – we reached the bottom end in what seemed like no time at all and cycled round to Stronachlachar for a halfway break. Gillian and Craig had already arrived a good few minutes ahead of us, but they videoed our arrival as their stomachs rumbled ready for lunch! (Don’t forget that 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.)

There is a fantastic spot for lunch here – the Pier Cafe which really is a treasure of a find, in a very remote corner of the country. It has new owners and all the food on the refreshed menu is home-made on the premises. After a much-needed reviving chilled drink, extremely tasty paninis were ordered and demolished! Coffee and caramel shortcake followed – to ensure energy levels were topped up for the return journey. Five stars for the service and food – and it was good value too.

The Pier Cafe at Stronalachar offers great food and super views up the loch.

Before heading back my crew noticed a great addition to the car park – the old red phone box had been turned into a defibrillator station. Naturally my crew joked that with the hills it may be needed! – but seriously it is a great place to store such a vital piece of life saving equipment.

The “old gal” laughing that she needed the defibrillator after tackling the hills!

As we hit the first hill it brought back happy memories for the “old gal” and the “old git” – as they reminisced about a day five years go when they visited Loch Katrine on their first proper date together! You see, this spot has a very special place in the hearts of my dynamic duo as without Loch Katrine 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! They had planned a walk along the banks of the loch but as they arrived, they noticed tandems for hire from Katrine Wheelz at Trossachs Pier.

The “old git” and “old gal” on their first ever tandem ride five years ago on their first proper date!

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 my crews unconventional way of starting out, they have gelled as an unbreakable team – having become synchronised with each others foibles … both on and off the saddle. You can read a humorous account of that fateful day here.

Those fifth anniversary memories of their first tandem ride spurred my crew on as they battled the hills on the return journey. And fortunately the weather was much better and they were able to enjoy the fantastic awe inspiring scenery – albeit there was the odd shower of rain.

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.

The “old gal” at the viewpoint at Portnellan looking down at the Clan MacGregor burial ground.

On we pedalled up and down hills and spotted a couple of hired tandems coming in the opposite direction. They were crewed by Dutch tourists who insisted on high-fiving my captain on the way past! Team Matilda was happy to do our bit for post-Brexit European relations! My crew had planned a prosecco stop half way back along, but when we arrived at the picnic tables there were swarms of those midges everywhere and that idea was quickly abandoned. It must be one of the few times that my crew have voluntarily given up prosecco – but they did pledge to open it later! The good thing about cycling is that we were travelling too fast for the midges – so it was actually very pleasant … until we stopped! So a final couple of hills before the route finally levels out for the last couple of miles back to Trossachs Pier where you get a great view across to the steamship.

The “old git” on the banks of the loch looking across at the Walter Scott steamship.

On return to Trossachs Pier I was quickly packed back inside Matilda Transport in a futile attempt to thwart the midges! But my dynamic crew were delighted that we had beaten our demons and completed Loch Katrine without a major mechanical incident …. and without getting soaked!

Strava officially recorded the ride as covering an elevation of 1,643 feet – one of the biggest up and down hill rides that my dynamic duo have done. All credit to them – and I would even have to say that the “old git” really deserved to be wearing his King of the Mountains jersey! Whisper it but I think he is going to order the “old gal” one as well!

There was great euphoria when my dynamic crew discovered that Strava had awarded Team Matilda 14 gongs along the way – no less than 12 personal bests … I will repeat that … no less than 12 personal bests!! … and 2 second bests.

We tandemed a distance of 26.3 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 41 minutes, with an average speed of 9.8 mph – which is pretty impressive given the hilly terrain. Top speed was 32.9 mph – and we managed to burn up 1,858 calories and produce an estimated average power output of 172 W.

The “old gal” popping the prosecco cork after 12 personal bests!

If my dynamic crew ever needed an excuse to pop open the prosecco, then those impressive figures provided a great reason. As I rested up, my dynamic duo and Gillian and Craig got changed out of their cycling gear and had a celebration glass of bubbly on the pier. The toast was not only to the PBs – but of course to five fantastic years since that first (fateful) tandem date! Cheers!

Cheers! The “old gal” and the “old git” toast five wonderful years since that first fateful tandem ride!

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.)

The four cyclists then boarded the Sir Walter Scott for a two hour music cruise on Loch Katrine. It was a wonderful event, sailing on an iconic 115 year old steamship, listening to rock, folk and pop music – along with a good few cheesy tunes – from enthusiastic entertainer Dougie McQ against a backdrop of the stunning mountains and almost mirror-like flat loch which was reflecting the scenery.

The “old gal” pictured beside the calm reflective waters of the loch from the boat.

My dynamic crew clowning around and having lots of fun aboard the steamship.

The “old git” had to be persuaded not to get up to do his “Dad dancing” routine again – well banned by the “old gal” actually! – so he had to make do with singing along to some of his favourites from the 1970s!  The “old gal” had prepared one of her special picnics for my crew to eat while listening to the music as the cruise took us all the way down to the bottom of Loch Katrine and back up again.

The view from a porthole on the steamship underlines the beauty of the loch.

The “old gal” enjoying the view of the spectacular scenery from the front of the boat .

After disembarking my crew bid farewell to Gillian and Craig before Team Matilda headed back to Matildas Rest. All in all another fabulous tandem ride – with no mechanical mishaps – and another day full of fun, laughs, iconic scenery, sunshine, a bit of rain, prosecco, and a fantastic picnic … all shared with good friends!

And that is truly the definition of another great tandem day out for me and my dynamic crew!

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!

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!

Un peu de petanque a pedal and prosecco picnic in scenic Strathyre

Un peu de petanque – the “old gal” on the piste at Broch Cafe in Strathyre!

So a nice bright sunny Sunday morning and the “old git” was up with the lark and in his usual (annoying!) manner was pulling the duvet off the “old gal” at 7am with the promise of a great day’s tandeming ahead – with the added attraction of a game of petanque thrown in! “Haud me back!” she said – well at least that’s the polite translation of what she said!

The enticement to get out of bed was a return to Strathyre – where rural Perthshire meets rural Stirling – to do the scenic cycle we attempted during our visit back at the end of January. Regular blog readers will remember that the trip was abandoned by Team Matilda due to freezing conditions and snow!

The “old git” likes to do his homework, and after a final check of the weather to ensure there would be no snow, the “old gal” prepared one of my dynamic crew’s infamous prosecco picnics and we were off!

The route was to do a loop around Strathyre – with a detour to Loch Voil for a picnic. One of the ideas behind this trip was doing a recce for a weekend tandem tour of two great local festivals in the area on the same weekend at the end of May – and you can read more details of them throughout this blog.

My crew also planned to revisit the 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 trail is a series of large metal and wood sculptures and art installations – mostly by Scottish artists. 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.

#BLiSStrail has been so popular that it is now an “award winning trail” – with the hardworking LETi volunteers receiving the honour of a regional Scottish Thistle Award – recognised as the tourism Oscars – for “Working Together for Tourism” – which is a great accolade for a small group.

And as we drove into St Fillans – along the lovely road from Crieff – we immediately were reminded of the attraction of the BLiSStrail when we caught sight of the affectionately named “Mirror Man” glistening in the sun in the water at the top of Loch Earn opposite the The Four Seasons Hotel.

Selfie time with Mirror Man – who is officially known as STILL – on #BLiSStrail at St Fillans on Loch Earn.

The iconic mirrored sculpture is officially named “STILL” and has been created by Scottish artist Rob Mulholland. It is an eye-catching artwork and most people driving along the road can’t resist stopping for a selfie and a photo opportunity – and that obviously included my dynamic crew!

It was the first time in four recent visits that we had seen the sculpture as it is was removed from the water for winter hibernation after almost disappearing during storms in January 2016. The larger than life artwork was feared to have been destroyed in 90 mph winds which knocked him from his perch. But the half-tonne statue was recovered and underwent substantial repairs – including re-attaching his head (which sounds painful to me being another iconic metal structure!)

The “old gal” trying to hold Mirror Man who was clearly in reflective mood!

The start point for Team Matilda’s tandem tour was the Broch Cafe in Strathyre – where we had been invited to have a pre cycle coffee by the hospitable owners Lesley and Bill, who we met on a previous trip to the area. The cafe was closed back in January to allow the staff a break but when we arrived it was bustling with customers having breakfast and had a great vibe about it!

After a welcome Lucaffee coffee and home made scone there was time for a quick photo of the Broch team at the Ride Out seats which sit beside the cafe before we headed off – with Bill promising us a game of petanque on our return!

The “old gal” with the team at Broch Cafe relaxing at the Ride Out seats!

My crew got on my saddles and we started to tandem off on the sun-kissed Sustrans Scotland NCR7 which runs around the Strathyre area. 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! 

Unfortunately there was to be no repeat of my substitute stoker adventures with Kim Proven –  the enthusiastic chair of LETi and owner of Briar Cottages at Lochearnhead  – who sadly had damaged her shoulder in a fall which meant she couldn’t cycle. Such a shame as I know Kim was so looking forward to her third trip on my saddle! She must have been devastated!

But Kim had informed my crew to look out for the site where a newly commissioned sculpture will be installed just as NCR 7 leaves the village. It will be a Highland Coo to mark the old cattle drovers route and is being added to the BLiSStrail to mark 2017 being the Year of History Heritage and Archaeology.

We quickly identified the area and it is going to be a great new addition to the BLiSStrail. And that section of NCR 7 leaving Strathyre has to be one of the best cycle paths that I have ever been 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! There is even a section with reflective cats eyes near the village, to make it easier for locals to cycle home in the dark! Credit to Sustrans Scotland!

We picked up a fair speed on the cycle path, and in no time we were at Kingshouse where we took the turning for Balquidder – soon passing the grave of Rob Roy MacGregor. The loop heads back to Strathyre via the old road but my dynamic crew decided on a beautiful detour – tandeming 4 miles each way along the banks of Loch Voil to the grounds of the stylish boutique Monachyle Mhor hotel.

This is one of the best rides Team Matilda have had the pleasure of experiencing – gently undulating single track roads with the most wonderful views across Loch Voil. And with hardly a whisper of wind, the loch’s surface was like a mirror, reflecting the surrounding hills. Truly magnifique!

Here I am posing at Monachyle Mhor just at the end of Loch Voil – what a setting  for a hotel!

Apart from the scenery the reason for the detour was to check out how easy it would be to arrive by tandem at the Mhor Festival which is held at the hotel over three days from the 26th to 29th of May.

Billed as the best “off the beaten track” festival in Scotland it promotes itself as a festival of food, drink, music, theatre and dance! Thousands of visitors can vouch for last years rip roaring success. Dance, food, art, theatre, champagne and oyster bar and so much more for all age groups! And whisper it – but there is going to be a gin bar this year! The “old gal” will think she has died and gone to heaven! As the festival web site says: Come, play, sing, dance, cook, learn, chill! I mean what’s not to like?! 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! So recce successfully done – I would say that is a date in the diary for Team Matilda!

Always prepared! I carry a bottle of fizz for my dynamic crew in my la Bouclee!

So after our detour to suss out the route to the Mhor Festival 2017 – it was time to find a spot for my dynamic crew’s now infamous prosecco picnic – a key part of any tandeming trip for Team Matilda!

Time for a prosecco picnic on the banks of scenic Loch Voil? Oh ok, if you insist!

The “old git” is getting quite a dab hand at finding idyllic picnic spots – much to the delight of the “old gal” – and he certainly didn’t disappoint this time – pulling over at a spot on the road where the banking dropped down to a completely deserted and isolated pebble beach area on Loch Voil.

Surely this spot should get an award as one of best picnic spots in Scotland?

It certainly got an award from my crew as being one of the best picnic spots in Scotland! The food and drink goodies were quickly unpacked and set up against a perfect backdrop of the loch gently lapping at the water’s edge, with a vista looking across the loch to the hills on the opposite bank.

The “old git” doing the very important popping the cork job!

The “old git” quickly did the honours and popped the cork – without spilling a drop naturally, despite it being shaken up on my la Bouclee wine carrier. Then it was time for my crew to have a toast to one of those perfect tandeming picnics – and savour the first sip of French Cremant brought back from our trip to the Loire Valley last year! Blisss!

The “old gal” chilling and savouring the first sip of Cremant! Bliss!

Cheers! Fizz in the sun with a view! What’s not to like?

Refuelled following a most civilised picnic lunch – smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese croissants and some fresh fruit in case you wanted to know the menu – it was time for my crew to do some serious pedalling on the return trip. The first part was an easy tandem back along the Loch Voil road back to Balquhidder – before turning onto the old road back to Strathyre which goes thru the forest.

Enjoying the forest – but not the hills – on the old road back to Strathyre!

It was a lovely winding route which was again a joy to tandem – apart from one killer hill, which actually turned out out be two steep hills back to back! Maybe it was the fizz from the bubbly at lunchtime, but my dynamic crew manfully (and womanfully!) pedalled on to the top! Then there was a nice downhill stretch – which required a spot of testing my brakes at corners. And then a more dramatic stop as the “old git” remembered about one of the most intriguing installations on the BLiSStrail – the fabulous stone miniature Mill House and Bridge.

The “old gal” at the intricate stone miniature Mill House and bridge on the #BLiSStrail.

You have to look closely to find it – sitting on the edge of a garden on the right on the descent on the old Strathyre road before crossing the old stone bridge over the River Balvaig. It seems local children know it as the “The Fairy House” and it is well worth seeking out.

At the bottom of the hill we rejoined the off road cycle path NCR 7 and cycled back into the Broch recreation area where my crew couldn’t resist a photo at the impressive wooden Soaring Eagle.

The dramatic Soaring Eagle catches the eye near the Broch Cafe.

So now we were back in Strathyre my dynamic crew decided it would be easily possible to cycle back from a visit to the Mhor Festival to take in the evening entertainment at the second festival being held in the area on that last Bank Holiday weekend of May – the Strathyre Music Festival.

It was 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. And it must be one of Scotland’s best value music festivals with it costing only £5 entry fee per day. For the full schedule for the 2017 festival – running from Friday 26th thru till Sunday 29th May, check out the event’s website.

Our tandem ride ended up where we started back at the Broch Cafe. While Lesley busily worked away serving customers, Bill took some time out to proudly show my dynamic crew the cafe’s newly installed petanque court – or to give it it’s correct technical name, petanque piste!

Clearly Bill is going to become a bit of a petanque aficionado as he already has his own personal set of boules – made to measure to his hands! And I have to say that the “old gal” and the “old git” very quickly took to it – and of course I had to have  a bash at it too!

How do bikes play petanque? In tandem with their Stokers obviously!

It seems a doubles match has already been arranged for our next visit! Let’s just say that if the petanque is played in true French style with a glass (or two) of wine – and Broch Cafe is licensed – then my dynamic duo may end up a bit off piste!

Anyway, after the excitement of un peu de petanque it was time for my team to enjoy that traditional tandemers reviving snack of yummy coffee and cake – home made at the Broch Cafe – while checking Strava to find that they received three gongs on the ride.

Strava officially recorded the ride as a distance of  15.8 miles with a total moving time of 2hrs 57 minutes due to the issue over the “old git” having a senior moment and forgetting to pause Strava for the picnic. This resulted in a very slow average speed of just 5.3 mph being recorded –  about half my crew’s current average recently. But given that the picnic lasted over an hour in the sunshine, the “old git” reckons the average speed was nearer the norm of 10 mph.

Top speed recorded was 32.9 mph and the elevation covered was a not insubstantial 497 feet. We managed to burn up 1610 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 135 W.

All in all a fabulous day which underlines the Team Matilda philosophy – that it’s the Smiles and not the miles that count! Can’t wait to return for the double festival extravaganza!

Pedalling into social media, supporting Perth 2021, Sustrans Scotland goodies and more fame!

My new Twitter page heading with my @matildasmusings handle.

My new Twitter page heading with my @matildasmusings handle.

Well its been an exciting few days here at Matildas Rest – the result of which is that this “old lady” has again proved she is not too old to learn new tricks and has become a social media whizzkid!

Clearly I have always been good at computer technology – given that I write this blog – but until now I had resisted the temptation to enter the often confusing social media world of Facebook and Twitter. I had left that to my Captain to communicate with my followers on my behalf!

But as they say “every day is a school day” so I decided to take the plunge and go headfirst into a social media frenzy by creating both my very own Facebook page and a Twitter feed! And I am delighted with the results as both are “branded” to tie in with my blog!

I was delighted to find that the @matildasmusings handle was free for both services so I eagerly grabbed them. I started with Twitter – I had to add some pictures and write a little bit about myself. Where to start? So I got the “old git” to help as he considers himself to be a bit of wordsmith!

sm-new-twitter-smallHe came up with: Blogging classic tandem Matilda writes Musings about her adventures on the road focusing on tourism and food & drink experiences en route in Scotland + abroad!

I have to say he does have a way with words – just don’t tell him or he gets all big headed! – as it does what it says on the tin. Then I added where Matildas Rest is, and finally my blog website address and I was ready to send my first Tweet! It just announced that I was now live on Twitter – not that memorable! But Oooh the excitement that I am now  able to communicate directly with my fans! I am going to learn all the lingo – like using hashtags like #ScotSpirit which seems to perfectly encapsulate me!

So I would be delighted if you “followed” me and sent me a message by clicking the “follow” button after clicking on to my Twitter page here. I guess my only problem as an “old lady” will be keeping within the 140 characters allowed to get my message across! So I’ll have to tag lots of people, and develop a new form of MatildasMusings shorthand!

No such worries about restrictions on the number of words on Facebook however! It was equally easy to set up my own page –  again starting by adding in the same banner pictures to give it the same look as Twitter! It’s all got to look slick and  a seamless operation you know!

Then time for the words for the “About” page. This time I started with: The Facebook page of Matildas Musings which is a blog written by Matilda – the “old lady” classic tandem – and her Musings about her adventures, trials and tribulations with the “old git” and Captain, aka Colin, and the “old gal” and Chief Stoker (as well as Chief Engineer) aka Diane.

The header for my very own Facebook page with @matildasmusings handle.

The header for my very own Facebook page with my @matildasmusings handle.

I then added the same words as the Twitter biography – and my contact details and blog address. I thought I was finished, then Facebook asked for my mission! I thought of being witty with something like “to proudly go where no tandem has gone before” but in the end I settled for: “To promote all things tandem, tourism, and food & drink in Scotland and abroad.” Clever eh?!

So now I was live on Facebook and the very first message I posted was about how chuffed I was with my very own page – and the fact that it neatly ties in with my Twitter feed and my blog! I would be ecstatic if you “liked” my page and sent me a wee message by clicking the “like” button after clicking on to my Facebook page here.

I was on a roll, so next up was to change my profile pic – the one of my dynamic duo in their Saltire tandeming jerseys and me on the beach – in order to add my support to Perth 2021. This is the campaigning body promoting Perth’s bid to be named the first UK City of Culture in Scotland!

My Perth is the Place 2021 profile picture.

My Perth is the Place 2021 profile picture.

So as proud residents of Perthshire and to show Team Matildas support for the bid, I downloaded my very own Perth2021 Twibbon – which gave me a neat ribbon-style border for my profile photo which says “Perth is the Place 2021”. It is aimed at Twitter users but using my new found technology skills it was easy to make it my Facebook profile picture too. I just need to remember to use the hashtags #Perthistheplace and #Perth2021 now!

My message to pledge my support to Perth2021.

My message to pledge my support to Perth2021.

As the Perth2021 website states Perth is a unique city at the heart of Scotland’s story. Both the oldest city of Scotland – the ancient crowning place of Scottish kings – and the youngest, granted city status in 2012. The city wants City of Culture status in 2021 to:

  • create mass participation in culture and creative learning which enrich lives and remove barriers to access and enjoyment.
  • connect rural and urban communities through inspiring arts programmes which bring people and places together.
  • cultivate new cultural activity and talent, locally and across the UK.
  • collaborate on our creative economy, and be a place where artists, creative industries and business innovation can flourish.
  • challenge ideas about urban renewal – by being a great small city.

The 2021 team has been urging locals to become part of the bid by pledging support. So naturally I was more than happy to add my voice to the campaign with my own personal message!

So after my success in the social media world, I have had some presents recently from the very kind people at Sustrans Scotland who look after the National Cycle Network in Scotland.

The pile of goodies I received from Sustrans Scotland.

The goodies I received from Sustrans Scotland.

My new saddle covers!

My new saddle covers!

For the support of Team Matilda in promoting cycle paths around Scotland I received a pile of goodies including route maps, reflectors, lights and badges!

I was even sent a couple of Sustrans Scotland’s vivid green waterproof saddle covers which will make me look much more professional when I have the misfortune to get caught in the rain. I will certainly look better that the previous default position of having unglamorous supermarket carrier bags thrown over my seats by the “old gal”!

The Villagers article about me!

The Villagers article about me!

The last bit of news I have in this post is news of more fame – which may go to my handlebars! I am very proud as Team Matilda have been featured in a lovely full page article – “Fun in tandem with BLS community” – in The Villagers newspaper in Robroycountry reflecting on my recent fantastic visit to take in the cultural and foodie #BLiSStrail around Strathyre.

Regular readers of my blog will remember it was great fun for my dynamic crew to meet lots of local tourism business folk like people from Sula Furnishing, The Broch Cafe, Airlie House, Strathyre Outdoors and Strathyre Music Festival.

During a memorable Scottish music jam local band Balvaig and LETi chair Kim Proven of Briar Cottages, Lochearnhead performed a special version of my theme song which you can watch on Youtube here!

It was all wonderful, and if you haven’t already read it then you need to read my blog post on my BLiSSful Strathyre’s savoir-faire sojourn.

Guess who is on the front page of Roar's newsletter?!

Guess who is on the front page of Roar’s newsletter?!

I have also been featured on the front page of the newsletter of the charity Roar – Connections for Life  newsletter. Regular readers will remember that in January I paid a visit to their Paisley base and helped 91 year old John Chapman tick riding a tandem off his bucket list! John was a star!

Again, if you haven’t already read it then you meed to read my blog post Roaring to help 91 year old John tick riding a tandem off his bucket list! It really has a wow of a feelgood factor! What a #ScotSpirit

Now with all this social media stuff, pledges, presents and publicity, what I need to do is find some half decent weather to get my dynamic crew of the “old git” and the “old gal” back out on the open road, so I have some real tandeming to post about!