Blowin’ a hoolie on the Salmon Run NCN Rt77 Dundee to Errol for fab soup and cake At AliBob Cafe at Cairn O’Mhor Fruit Winery

Amazing light formations on the River Tay Salmon Run on NCN Rt77 – 4.5km wide at Invergowrie.

“Do you fancy going to one of our favourite cafes and I’ll treat you to Sunday lunch with views of the Salmon Run along the River Tay?” the “old git” casually inquired of the “old gal.”

The “old gal” had been caught this way before and instead of imagining a warm drive in the car immediately knew that the “carrot” on offer was to soften her up for a Sunday pedal! Don’t say my Captain doesn’t know how to treat my stoker!

But the “old gal” readily agreed as some fresh air was required – though she wouldn’t have known just how much blustery fresh air she was letting herself in for!

The weather forecast said it would be pretty windy (with winds averaging 15mph) but remaining dry, and it was certainly blowin’a hoolie – as we say here in Scotland – as my crew set out from the Tay Bridge Kiosk car park across the bridge to Dundee.

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

After a blustery pedal across the Tay Road Bridge – protected in the middle section from the traffic – Team Matilda headed out of Dundee, the City of Discovery, on Sustrans Scotland The National Cycle Network #NCN Rt 77 – on our route to Errol, passing thru Invergowrie.

This part of the NCN – which links Dundee with Pitlochry – is nicknamed “The Salmon Run” as it hugs the mighty River Tay – famed for its salmon. And it also offers some magnificent views across the 4.5km wide river at Invergowrie.

Rt77 is nicknamed The Salmon Run with spectacular views across the mighty River Tay.

My dynamic crew were enjoying the relatively flat and stunning Carse of Gowrie countryside. However, the wind was pretty much directly in my Captain’s face – with some gusts significantly stronger than the forecast 15mph – as we pedalled along the near 15 miles along to Errol where my crew had booked a table at the wonderful – and very bike friendly – AliBob at Cairn O’Mohr Café at Cairn o Mohr Real Fruit Wines.

The bike friendly AliBob café at Errol – served up fab soup and a sandwich plus yummy cake!

It was great to see the café open for business again and thriving – despite the obvious Covid-19 restrictions. But full marks for all the safety precautions and it felt very safe.

My Captain had pumpkin soup (what else with it being so close to Halloween!) and a chicken bacon and lettuce sandwich – washed down with a yummy glass of freshly squeezed apple juice made at the neighbouring winery – and removed before the cider process begins! My dynamic crew managed to make space for a coffee and some home-made carrot cake to finish their splendid lunch treat off!

As for me, this “old lady” found plenty of bags of apples waiting to be processed at the winery, which would have been extremely useful for “dookin for apples” this Halloween – if we were allowed to be in people’s houses, which of course we are not!

Before we left the winery, the “old gal” looked very pleased with herself when she found the home delivery van for the wines!

I certainly found enough apples at the winery for “dookin; for apples” this Halloween!

The “old gal” looks quite proud of herself that she found the home delivery van for the wines!

My dynamic crew were really looking forward to the return journey – given the wind forces they faced on the outward leg – and it did not disappoint. Team Matilda fair whizzed along the return leg – with the “old gal” heard to say: “This must be what an e-assist #tandem ride would be like!”

It was certainly a fun turbo-charged run back – with the “old git” nearly losing his hi-vis jacket at a photo stop to get an Autumnal shot of a perfectly symmetrical tree lined avenue. The wind was gusting so strongly he had to keep a firm hold of it as it was acting very like one of those wind socks you see at airports!

The “old git” had to keep a tight hold on his jacket which was acting like a very lively wind sock!

Centre of a tree-line driveway – with what looks like a light source homing in on the “old git’s” helmet!

Back into Dundee in record time – as the Strava gongs prove! – and time for a quick reviving coffee at the café at Discovery Point and RRS Discovery just beside the stunning architecture of the relatively new V&A Dundee Design Museum on the waterfront.

Discovery Point and the V&A Design Museum made an impressive backdrop at Dundee waterfront,

The imposing £80 million building – which opened in 2018 – has been designed to look like a giant ship by the acclaimed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

It is built beside Discovery Point with the three masts of the wooden Royal Research Ship Discovery, which was captained by Robert Falcon Scott on his first journey to the Antarctic in 1902, creating an interesting old and new juxtaposition.

Team Matilda having fun at the coffee stop!

The coffee (and loo!) break was to give my crew strength for their nemesis of a head-wind battle across the Tay Bridge – but amazingly it didn’t seem as bad as my dynamic crew had been dreading.

However, it was good to get back into Matilda Transport and out of the blast of the wind. The “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of a spectacular total of 31 gongs – made up of 13 personal bests, 10 second bests; and 8 third best times. Whisper it, but most of the PBs were on the return leg with the wind pushing Team Matilda along!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 29.3 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 19 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.6 mph – which given the strength of the wind was perfectly acceptable! Elevation was a relatively flat 404 feet given we were pedalling alongside the river. The maximum speed was 39.4 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,296 calories and produce an average power output of 139 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D mapping video – so take a look below.

Another great fun tandem day out in the late October sunshine for Team Matilda on a bicycle made for two!

My spokes are firmly crossed for some mild and dry late Autumn and Winter weather so we can keep up those miles … and Smiles!

Team Matilda clocks up 6000 miles in tandem on a flood-hit weekend Tour de Arbroath mini break

I am a tandem – not Noah’s Ark! Looks like I have found the ability to cycle on a canal on NCN Rt1!

Saturday afternoon saw Team Matilda drive to Arbroath in Visit Angus for a weekend break with good solo cyclist friends Alan Ince and Anne Connell – Team AA!

We arrived late afternoon during a period of torrential rain with a severe weather warning for flooding. However the “old git” remained his usual optimistic self about a change in the weather as we all checked in to the very welcoming and luxurious Harbour Nights bed and breakfast wonderfully situated overlooking the harbour and marina.

The luxury Harbour Nights b+b sits on the waterfront.

The view from the brand new luxury sea view suite – across the marina and harbour

Everyone else thought he was mad (what’s new there!) as the “old git” said he was confident the rain would relent in time for the planned Sunday ride which would see my dynamic crew clock up their 6000th mile in tandem!

To take the minds off the by now biblical rain a gin and prosecco bar was quickly set up by the cycling teams in the brand new luxury sea view suite – with magnificent views across the marina and harbour – and naturally the crews had to sample a few of the offerings!

Team Matilda and Team AA enjoy the first prosecco toast of the Tour de Arbroath!

A gin and prosecco bar was quickly set up in the suite to take the minds off the biblical rain!

Waterproofs on we walked the short distance for a great Greek style evening meal at Andreou’s Bistro – which if it wasn’t for the constant rain battering the windows would have felt like the crews had arrived somewhere in the Mediterranean!

After a nightcap – of a sumptuous new dark red Shiraz flavoured gin brought by Anne and Alan – the crew’s went to bed with my Captain still bravely predicting that the storm would blow thru by the morning, as the weather forecast predicted. Everyone else just smiled along to keep him happy!

Ride 1 – Team Matilda hits 6000 miles in tandem on pedal where Noah’s Ark would have struggled on Arbroath – Dundee route with Anne and Alan

Sunday dawned – and believe it or not – the sun was out and the rain had subsided! So after a hearty home cooked tasty breakfast at the b+b, the crews got kitted up and we headed out of Arbroath on the pre-planned route heading for Dundee on Sustrans Scotland The National Cycle Network  #NCN Rt 1. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

Team Matilda’s dynamic crew and Anne and Alan of Team AA ready to roll at Arbroath marina.

A bracing pedal down the promenade – which was being hit by amazing waves – took us to the start of the coastal cycle path. After a couple of miles we suddenly hit a large area of water. Somewhat inadvisably the crews thought they could pedal thru, not being able to tell the depth. But when the flood water came up over my pedals after about 60 yards it was time to stop!

With fairly fast flowing water from a heavily flooded burn now lapping at the shins of the crews the next decision was whether to push the bikes on for a couple of hundred yards or reverse and seek a detour. The decision was made in no uncertain terms when a solo cyclist coming the other way decided to walk his bike thru and ended up with it over his shoulder and waist high in water!

So the “old git” bravely battled to turn me in the water and Team Matilda and Team AA waded back to dry land! But the stalwart crews simply decided to ring out their socks and shoes and squelch off to continue the ride by retracing our pedals back into Arbroath and finding the alternative cycle path which runs along the route of the A92.

Feet wet! At the edge of the waist high flooding on NCN Rt1 just after leaving Arbroath.

Drying out by the side of the cycle path as the crews rung out their shoes and socks!

The wind helped dry out the feet of the crews(!!) and we were soon turning back down a quiet rural road to the village of East Haven – where we saw a beached fishing boat! But this wasn’t the result of the severe floods but was in fact part of a beautiful community garden display!

Despite the flooding this boat is meant to be beached in a lovely garden at East Haven.

Back on the planned #NCN Rt1 the next stop was at Carnoustie, where there was time for photos while admiring the raw power of the high breakers pounding the seafront.

The pounding waves and bracing fresh sea air at Carnoustie enjoyed by Team Matilda and Team AA..

Alan and Anne of Team AA admiring the raw power of the sea.

The “old gal” and the “old git” take in some salty sea air at Carnoustie.

Pedalling on, the cycle path is wonderfully flat going past the Barry Buddon tank training range – with its dire warnings of potential death to trespassers if the flags are flying. The sun was shining brightly and Broughty Castle and the small harbour at Broughty Ferry offered the perfect backdrop for another photo opportunity.

Don’t jump! Broughty Ferry harbour looking down to the Tay Estuary towards the Tay bridges.

My dynamic crew enjoying the sunshine and the backdrop of Broughty Castle.

The path then continues along the scenic seafront before a new section along Dundee Docks brought us into Dundee at the revamped waterfront area incorporating the impressive V&A Dundee, which is built to look like a large ship. The cafe at Discovery Point and RRS Discovery offered a perfect stop for re-fuelling scones, cakes and coffee.

Selfie time at Discovery Point and RRS Discovery in Dundee with the V&A Dundee in the background.

My dynamic crew now had just a few miles to go till they hit their 6000th mile in tandem landmark and with much checking of my milometer on my handlebars – and the “old git” doing a countdown – it finally clicked over at Broughty Ferry sea front right beside a bench with a great view down the Tay Estuary.

Photo proof of the 6000th mile clocked up in tandem for my dynamic crew!

Naturally this was deemed a perfect spot to pop the cork on the signature #prosecco celebration with Anne and Alan who had helpfully packed a hip flask with some sloe gin which turned the fizz into a very appealing pink #ginsecco! Not surprisingly this popping of the cork and subsequent fairly loud celebrations caused a bit of interest on a very busy sunny Sunday afternoon at the sea front! But I think that hitting 6000 miles – with just as many smiles! – on a bicycle made for two is good justification for a celebration!

Popping the cork with a bang to celebrate the 6000th mile.

My dynamic crew were basking in their personal glory – fuelled as a quick bit of Google research revealed that a 6000 mile circumference as the crow flies from their home base of Auchterarder would have seen them pedal as far as Johannesburg in South Africa; Bangkok in Thailand; Sao Paulo in Brazil; or Hong Kong! Quite an achievement and as the “old gal” quipped: “See what a blind date on a tandem can sign you up for!”

A signature prosecco toast for my dynamic crew to mark the big moment at Broughty Ferry!

We even had a quick impromptu video call to our close tandeming pals Jane Termini Taylor and John Taylor to share the fizz moment as we had been with our Travelling In Tandem blog friends in person as Team Matilda hit 3000 miles on our Nutty Tandemers Club Tour de New Forest and then again for 4000 miles on the fabulous Tour de Hebridean Way last year. We just had to share the prosecco with them virtually as Team Matilda fell just a few miles short of hitting the 6000 mark on our recent Tour de Worcestershire and Warwickshire.

A virtual toast with our tandeming pals John and Jane of Travelling in Tandem blog!

There was also a toast to my trusty bike doctor John at Richards Cycles in Perth for keeping me on the road! Team Matilda is acutely aware we couldn’t have hit this landmark without you! Cheers!

The 6000th mile brought back memories of our 5000 mile landmark – which was achieved strangely enough just along the cycle path at Monifieth Beach back in May this year. Now that was during the Covid-19 lockdown and I decided it wasn’t really the mood to write a blog about it at the time, but my dynamic crew did record a couple of videos that day to record the 5000 miles for posterity!

So I decided to include them in this blog! The first one was a little celebratory tandem song – with profuse apologies to The Proclaimers! Click on the video to watch!

The second one saw the “old git” doing a toast in tribute to the “old gal” – my trusty Stoker (and Chief Engineer!) who has been a stalwart for every one of those miles! Again click below to watch!

Celebrations over, the crews pedalled back to Carnoustie where the flooding was worse than earlier, which seemed to turn the cycle path into a canal at some points. Then there was the amazing sight of the Open Championship Carnoustie Golf Links at the Carnoustie Golf Hotel and Spa looking more like a fast flowing river than its carefully manicured fairways.

Don’t put your feet down! My dynamic crew pedalling thru the floods near Carnoustie.

Looks like a river to the right of the “old gal” – but it’s the waterlogged Open Championship golf course!

Now as if the flooding wasn’t enough drama for one day, unfortunately Alan punctured around East Haven. For what ever reason noone noticed he had fallen behind and the others all pedalled on oblivious to his plight on the steep climb out of the village. A ping on Anne’s phone alerted us to the problem and we went back to find him just as he had completed a quick change of his inner tube.

It was just starting to get dark as the now tired crews pedalled back into Arbroath. Safely ensconced back at the warmth and comfort of the Harbour Nights b+b, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing Team Matilda had been awarded 20 gongs – made up of 7 personal bests; six second bests; and 7 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 44.6 miles with a moving time of 4 hours 14 minutes. The average speed was 10.5 mph – which given the windy conditions and flooding detours was pretty respectable – while the elevation was just 601 feet. The maximum speed was 24.8 mph and the “old git” and “old gal” managed to burn up 2,322 calories and produce an average power output of 136 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D mapping video – so take a look below.

After welcome reviving showers, a brilliant day was completed with some tasty fish and chips for re-fuelling from Marco’s On The Shore – superbly situated right next door to our wonderful bed and breakfast – which was naturally washed down with another couple of tastings from the gin bar!

A great full-on tandeming day out – with a second route planned for Monday, which hopefully will be a little less eventful! But who can tell! After all, I I do need something to write about in my Matildas Musings and these adventures just seem to happen naturally!

Ride 2 – Arbroath to Lunan Bay – take 2 … after a snapped rear gear cable was fixed within 20 minutes as a hero at a local bike shop saved the day!

Monday morning and my dynamic crew and solo cyclist friends Anne and Alan (Team AA) woke after a restful nights sleep at the charming and highly recommended Harbour Nights bed and breakfast for the second ride of their Tour de Arbroath mini break.

After the drama of tandeming thru the floods on Sunday both crews were hoping for a less eventful pedal. But – as always – our rides never seem to be straightforward, and this one turned into another adventure full of drama! Firstly it was blowing a hoolie – as they say in Scotland when the wind is pretty blustery. But despite a few sharp squalls while the crews enjoyed a tasty breakfast – including the local delicacy of an Arbroath Smokie – it had dried up when we pedalled off. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The bracing head wind along the sea front towards the cliffs on Sustrans Scotland The National Cycle Network  #NCN Rt 1 made progress interesting!

Then disaster struck with less than 2 miles on the clock as my dynamic crew tackled the first hill climbing away from the sea. There was a resounding twang as the “old git” changed down gear and this “old lady” tandem ground to a halt.

Closer inspection revealed I had a snapped rear gear cable at the handlebars end, and I was stuck in a low gear. Just as it looked like the ride was going to have to be abandoned a helpful local walked past and suggested calling in at the bike shop in the town.

A quick downhill pedal took us back to Arbroath and easily found the Angus Bike Chain shop. The “old gal” disappeared inside more in hope than anything – but after a quick chat with the fantastically helpful ‘Biker Steve’ who owned the shop, she gave a thumbs up and I was wheeled inside.

The business more than lived up to its reputation of being “the best bike shop in Angus”. Not only did it have the longer gear cable required for my lengthy frame in stock – but within 20 minutes the new cable was carefully fitted and I was fully tested and repaired – and all for a very modest payment. Great service!

“Biker Steve” at the fab Angus Bike Chain shop soon had a new rear gear cable attached and tested.

The Angus Bike Chain certainly lived up to its reputation of the best bike shop in Angus!

Then it was Take 2 – as the crew’s retraced their steps and enjoyed a great ride on undulating quiet roads to the wild and beautiful Lunan Bay Beach and its attractive red-coloured sand.

The wild and beautiful Lunan Bay Beach was our scenic destination.

Leaving the bike’s at the boardwalk entrance to the beach the crew’s admired the views of nearby Red Castle which overlooks the beach.. History says that both Robert the Bruce and William the Lionheart used the castle, which now is sadly in a serious state of disrepair.

The viewpoint overlooked the rugged sand dunes offered a perfect spot for some pictures of Team Matilda and Team AA before the signature #prosecco toast overlooking the blustery beach.

The “old gal” with Anne – one half of solo cycling Team AA!

Selfie time for Team Matilda and Team AA showing the wide open red coloured beach.

Another view of Lunan Bay Beach from the viewpoint in the sand dunes.

Cheers! My dynamic crew share their signature #prosecco toast overlooking the beach.

Blowing a hoolie! Prosecco toast at a blustery – but beautiful – Lunan Bay Beach.

After taking in the sea air the crews pedalled back to Arbroath but on the return leg we had a P-word incident as Alan had the misfortune to puncture for the second time on his rear wheel in two days.

The crews tried a quick fix with the instant spray sealer foam but the tube must have been too badly damaged as it didn’t work. So as we were just 3 miles from the finish, Alan decided that the rest should all head back into Arbroath, with the “old git” then collecting him by car to avoid having to do the full wheel removal puncture repair.

Don’t mention the P-word! Alan Ince suffered his second puncture in two days.

Safely back in the town the crew’s enjoyed a reviving coffee scone and cake at The Old Boatyard – while recounting another typical drama-filled Matildas Musings adventure!

The “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing that despite all the trauma of the day Team Matilda had amazingly been awarded a gong for being “8th fastest in the world” for a downhill stretch known as “Flat out to the fire station” coming back into Arbroath!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 18.2 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 39 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.1 mph given the blustery conditions, while the elevation was 924 feet. The maximum speed was 28.9 mph and the “old git” and “old gal” managed to burn up 1,188 calories and produce an average power output of 179 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D mapping video – so take a look below.

My dynamic crew bid fond farewell to Alan and Anne – with the promise of a repeat weekend trip in the future – probably in the Spring!

Before heading home to Matildas Rest, Team Matilda decided to enjoy the last of the early evening sunshine with a brief walk round the exterior impressive sandstone ruins of Arbroath Abbey, which dates back to 1178 and is now looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

The “old gal” dwarfed by the magnificent sandstone ruins of Arbroath Abbey.

A celestial moment as the sun broke thru the cloud above Arbroath Abbey

It is currently closed due to the Covid-19 restrictions but the Abbey is most famous for being the base for the Declaration of Arbroath when Scotland’s nobles swore their independence from England in a letter to the Pope sent from the Abbey 700 years ago in 1320.

A bit of history in the Arbroath sunshine to end a fabulous weekend of tandeming adventures!

Finally, As a little tribute to the unforgettable Tour de Arbroath the “old git” has pulled together a photo montage video – set to music – to help everyone remember the madcap fun  we all enjoyed – so click below and enjoy!

Naughty Matilda jumps on train to Dundee to ride to champagne afternoon tea and Aqua Vitae at Lindores Abbey Distillery

Waiting on a deserted station platform full of anticipation about my first ever train ride!

The Latin phrase ‘aqua vitae’ literally means the water of life! And today my dynamic crew decided to embark on a ride to enjoy a glass of their own water of life in the form of a champagne afternoon tea at a distillery. And the fact that Lindores Abbey Distillery produces its own unique brand of Aqua Vitae – while waiting on its whisky to mature – meant it was a ‘must visit’ destination!

But before enjoying the delights of the afternoon tea treats, my dynamic crew had to pedal there – and the “old git” decided that it would be a great tandem trip to ride from Dundee back to Matildas Rest – with a perfectly situated half-way stop at the distillery.

Brill idea – except that plan involved a slightly naughty adventure of getting me on a train! That doesn’t seem too difficult I hear you say. But given that tandems are officially not allowed on trains – and the “old git’s” dogged desire to beat the system – it added a bit of an edge to the day!

Is anyone watching us?! – me and the “old git” waiting on the train pictured from the station bridge!

The sun was already rising in a blue sky as my dynamic crew set off for the local Gleneagles railway station situated on the main line to Aberdeen and Inverness.  My dynamic crew were well aware that ScotRail’s official policy is to welcome cycles on all its trains but the small print states: “We don’t allow tandems, tricycles and non-folding cycle trailers as they take up too much space.”

But that wasn’t going to stop Team Matilda’s plan! The “old git” had booked two single tickets and two bike places online for the service to Dundee. My dynamic crew waited a tad nervously for the train to arrive – expecting a loudspeaker announcement if they had been spotted on CCTV on the platform.

Waiting a little nervously for the train on the platform at the impressive Gleneagles station.

The train arrived, the guard looked at all three of us for a moment and asked if we had booked. The “old git” showed the tickets and the guard said: “Ok on you go!” It would need to be said that it was an older train with a guards van storage section just behind the diesel engine – but we were on! And once the train moved off we knew there was no going back! I was securely stacked in a spacious bike rack beside four other sleek looking touring bikes – and there was plenty of room for me to fit in.

We’re on! The “old git” ensuirng I am safely secured on the bike rack!

Naturally my dynamic crew were somewhat chuffed that they had managed to get me on board. The “old git” – keeping with his reputation for planning – did have a Plan B in place should I have been refused entry to the train, which would have been tandeming to the distillery and then retracing our steps to pedal home again. But it just shows that bluffing it can pay off! In just over half an hour the train pulled in to Dundee station and in seconds I was out of the train and on the platform! I felt just a tad mischievous, but it was mission accomplished! And the station has been revamped recently, with the addition of a tandem-friendly lift which took Team Matilda up to street level. Easy!

Dundee station has a tandem-friendly lift to get me to street level!

After the excitement of actually getting on the train, the “old gal” was in need of a caffeine fix and there was a quick pit stop for morning coffee and a scone at the pleasant RSS Discovery cafe opposite the station. Before heading away on our ride there was a quick photo opportunity at two of the life-size figurines situated at Discovery Point – beside the new V&A Dundee design museum – which were part of the Oor Wullie’s BIG Bucket Trail, which claims to be Scotland’s first ever national public art trail.

The “old gal” – who has a likeing for a strong coffee – naturally had to have her photo taken at the ‘Full O’ Beans’ installation, while the “old git” had to pose as Oor Wullie at the ‘Dazzle Wullie’ artwork!

The “old gal” and me causing a stir at the ‘Full O’ Beans’ installation.

The “old git” trying his best to pose as Oor Wullie at the ‘Dazzle Wullie’ artwork!

My dynamic crew headed for the lift to get up on to the pedestrian and bicycle deck of the Tay Road Bridge to start our ride by crossing the River Tay on Sustrans Scotland National Cycle Network Route 1. You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

Ready to roll! Handlebars view of the cycle deck on the Tay Road Bridge.

After crossing the bridge in unusually benign conditions of a magnificent blue sky with not a cloud on the horizon, our route took us on NCN Rt 1 through the pretty town of Newport on Tay – which offered some spectacular views out across the river and the Tay Rail Bridge.

Bench with a view! Newport on Tay offers spectacular views across the river.

It was a great day to be out tandeming and Team Matilda pedalled on joinging NCN Rt 777 to Newburgh – thru Wormit and just before Gauldry the signposted cycle route directed us off the B995 towards the village of Balmerino. All of a sudden there was a shock to my dynamic crew’s relaxed demeanor when suddenly out of nowhere a monster hill appeared!

Much puffing and panting later the “old git” and “old gal” finally emerged at the top of the category 4 climb (and a wee bit of a push!) – and a quick look at the map fortunately revealed that was the worst of the hills! The sun was high in the sky and the “old gal” was actually heard to say that it was a bit hot – and for someone who is often cold that is quite a statement!

The “old gal” enjoying the amazing views over the fields to the sun-kissed Tay.

The views over the sun-kissed Tay were nothing short of amazing – making it a memorable tandem ride. With the temperature continuing to rise, the “old git” was glad to stop in the shade for some water, overlooking the impressive ruins of the 14th Century tower house Ballinbreich Castle.

Some much needed shade for the “old git” overlooking Ballinbreich Castle.

A quick downhill and we were tandeming into Newburgh where we were to find our wonderful oasis of Lindores Abbey Distillery – which was to be the venue for our stylish champagne afternoon tea treat.

The distillery is a relatively new visitor attraction – with whisky starting to be produced in December 2017. But Lindores is actually the historic seat of whisky making in Scotland – with distilling taking place on the site at least as early as 1494, although it was most probably happening long before that.

This is known because of the earliest written reference to Scotch Whisky (or Aqua Vitae, as it was then known), which appears in the Exchequer Roll of the same year. It mentioned a Brother John Cor, a Lindores monk, who was commissioned by King James IV to turn 8 bolls of malt into Aqua Vitae.

Here I am striking a pose at the entrance to the stylish Lindores Abbey Distillery.

The “old git” had pre-booked – as advised on the website – but my dynamic crew were non-the-less ultra impressed to be personally welcomed as we arrived at the entrance by Jane Clark, one of the managers at Lindores. And the staff made a great fuss of me, calling me a “celebrity visitor!” – and insisting I be pushed thru the shop area into a courtyard complete with a cycle rack.

A juxtaposition of an old matured tandem with an old matured whisky barrel!

As I had a rest the “old gal” and “old git” were escorted upstairs into the fabulous trendy glass surrounded Legacy Bar – which offered a wonderfully sophisticated and air conditioned atmosphere for their afternoon tea treat.

My dynamic crew were presented with a chilled glass of champagne – where they toasted the joys of tandeming – before enjoying a veritable feast of delicious finger sandwiches, savoury pastries, scones with cream and jam, delicate small cakes, and a perfectly formed cheesecake mouse. Apart from the champagne this is washed down with a choice of fragrant teas or speciality coffees – and one of the delights of this culinary experience is that all the produce is freshly home made and locally sourced.

Cheers! The “old gal” and “old git” having a champagne toast before their afternoon tea!

This was all wonderful value at £25 a head, and enjoyed looking out onto the unbelievably blue skies to the Tay Estuary beyond. My dynamic crew were introduced to Helen McKenzie Smith part of the husband and wife owners team, who describe themselves as ‘custodians of Lindores.’ Helen was charming and patiently answered all the “old git’s” questions about their project to revive whisky making on the ancient site – after a break of over 500 years!

For spirit to be officially called whisky it has to be matured for a minimum of three years and a day, so Lindores is looking forward to being able to market its first batch in December 2020.

Interestingly Lindores has decided not to go down the traditional route of many Scotch distilleries in producing gin while waiting on the maturing process. Instead – given the history – the distillery is producing its own handcrafted botanical spirit which it has branded Aqua Vitae.

The “old gal” enjoying a sample of Lindores own pre-whisky Aqua Vitae botanical spirit!

As previously mentioned, the earliest Aqua Vitae was made at Lindores as long ago as 1494, and the distillery staff have authentically recreated that recipe and reimagined it as ‘an inquisitively versatile spirit’. It is distilled in pot stills and then infused with a blend of spices and herbs, including cleavers, and sweet cicely, which grow in the gardens, amidst the grounds of the ancient Abbey, and is entirely natural, with no added sugars. Naturally the “old gal” and the “old git” were treated to a sample – which they both pronounced as being delicious!

After a most enjoyable time at the distillery, my dynamic crew explored the fascinating remains of Lindores Abbey itself. Known as the ‘Church by the Water’, it was founded in 1191 by David Earl of Huntingdon, on land overlooking the River Tay Estuary, given to him by his brother King William I. It was built with local red sandstone, and covered a very large area – the extent of which is still clearly visible today. Particularly well preserved is a section which was the eastern entrance to the Abbey.

The “old gal” and me could feel the history at the eastern entrance of Lindores Abbey.

This artist impression – created by examining the remains – shows the Abbey’s impressive size.

It was time to head away from Newburgh and start the not insignificant task of a 21 mile pedal back to base. I am sure I detected more than a bit of a champagne-fuelled wobble over the first mile or so before the “old gal” and “old git” got back into their pattern of synchronicity!

The “old gal” bracing herself on leaving Newburgh for the 21 mile pedal home!

The route home took us thru Abernethy – the one the biscuits are name after! – and then the hamlet of Aberargie before joining the rather busy A912 for just over a mile to Bridge of Earn where we rejoined quieter more enjoyable country roads to Forteviot.

And then it happened, my dynamic crew suddenly became somewhat less dynamic as they bonked – the cycling definition of hitting the wall thru a lack of energy – on the section from Forteviot to Dunning! The “old gal” was convinced the hot temperature had a part to play – but the “old git” quietly thought that the stoker’s performance had been hit by the after effects of the fizz!

An urgent reviving pit stop was called for at Dunning and Team Matilda had a long ice cold soft drink at the friendly The Kirkstyle Inn – along with one of their “emergency” energy gels – to restore factory settings! The effect was instant as when my crew set off again for what they expected to be a hard slog of the last five miles home, it amazingly turned into an easy canter with the miles flying as my crew seemed turbo-charged – which resulted in Strava recording two personal bests along the way!

We rolled back into Matildas Rest with the sun still blazing in the sky. Over a relaxing coffee on the decking, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing that my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 38.2 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 16 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.7 mph given the hot temperature and the overall elevation of 2088 feet. The maximum speed was 35.8 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 2422 calories and produce an average power output of 184 W.

And there was at least 38 smiles to match the miles – with the added advantage of bluffing our way on to a train for the first time – which for the “old git” and the “old gal” is the mark of another great day out in tandem! After all, the laugh really is my dynamic crew’s unique recipe for their own Aqua Vitae!