City of Discovery penguins and discovering a winery on ride to Errol

Penguin spotting at Discovery Point in Dundee with RRS Discovery and the new V&A museum.

More penguin spotting … a fabulous picnic spot … and the key attraction of exploring a winery – it sounds like another perfect schedule for a Sunday #tandem ride for Team Matildas Musings!

Another day of warm sunshine and fabulous blue skies was forecast so my dynamic crew decided on a new route south from the Tay Road Bridge to Errol on  Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt1 and NCN Rt77.

“Did someone say we are visiting a winery” asked the “old gal” – trying hard not to sound too enthusiastic – as we drove to Dundee. “Yes, and you’ll get to sample their produce!” responded the “old git” before adding: “And on a day like today you will be able to close your eyes and think you are in the vineyards of France!” … Well almost!

But first there was the business of continuing our penguin hunt by p-p-p-p-icking up a penguin … or two … on the new Maggie’s Penguin Parade charity art trail of 80 giant individually designed penguins! The 5ft-tall penguins have been decorated by local artists with designs ranging from golfers to footballers and has been set up in aid of cancer charity Maggie’s.

This ride – and some of the recommended stops – recently featured in Scottish Cycling magazine – which is well worth a read. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

After parking up opposite the city of Dundee we had to battle a bit of a headwind on the “downhill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge, before taking the lift down to Discovery Point where we spotted our first penguin of the day – Fundeeland at Discovery point.

This is a real hub of the City of Discovery 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 backdrop with the soon-to-be-opened V&A Dundee design museum which has been built to look like a giant ship.

We headed south out of Dundee along Riverside Drive at the start of the NCN Rt77 but quickly stopped at the eye-catching Yoda Pengiun – from the Star Wars movie franchise – which has been imaginatively sponsored by Specsavers!

Here I am with the eye-catching Yoda penguin – sponsored by Specsavers!

I Believe I can Fly penguin with me and the “old gal” at Dundee Airport!

We tandemed on towards Dundee Airport where the “old gal” couldn’t resist having her photo taken with I Believe I can Fly penguin – suitably painted in old-fashioned flying gear!

Into Invergowrie – passing the station – before the path comes out beside the Tay giving impressive views of the river which is some 4.5 kilometres wide at this point. Interestingly the NCN Rt77, which links Dundee with Pitlochry, is also known as the salmon run – and it was easy to see why at this point.

The spectacular Firth of Tay is 4.5 kilometres wide at this point near Invergowrie!

On out into the Carse of Gowrie – one of the country’s prime growing areas for strawberries and raspberries – where the “old git” and the “old gal” found themselves pedalling hard against that headwind. But it was a lovely relatively flat route though and the scenery is amazing. We passed the old Errol airfield before an uphill stretch into the village of Errol itself – which retains a feel from years gone past. We tandemed on for another mile to our planned picnic spot at Port Allen.

Little remains of what was once a principal local harbour in the Victorian times at Port Allen.

Although nothing but a picturesque bridge remains now, Port Allen was one of the principal local harbours in Victorian times. Given how quiet and tranquil it was on our visit, and its rural location, it is hard to imagine it as a bustling port area.

The beautiful old bridge is all that is left of any harbour area at Port Allen.

The area – known as the Tay reed beds – form the largest continuous area of reeds in the UK and are an internationally recognised habitat for breeding and overwintering birds. It certainly provided a tranquil spot for my dynamic crew to enjoy their picnic on a lovely hand crafted bench.

Ideal hand-crafted picnic bench – deep in the Carse of Gowrie by the Tay at Port Allen.

Re-fuelled by the picnic – and a bit of warm sunny relaxation – it was time to start the return journey … with the additional carrot of the visit to the winery! Tandeming back thru Errol we took a detour to the Cairn O’Mohr fruit winery. The cycle-conscious owners have even created their own cycle path off NCN Rt77 to their farm base to make it easier for visitors to get there.

That’s a big bottle! There is no doubt about the kind of operation going on at Cairn o’Mohr.

The operation has grown in recent years and now has huge vats to mature the fruit wine.

The winery has been producing its well-known brand of Scottish fruit wines since 1987 and is a key visitor attraction in the area – offering various tours and tastings. The AliBob Cafe offers a huge range of memorable treats – and of course the opportunity to sample the produce.

The “old git” and “old gal” treated themselves to sample the range of sparkling wines – including a very tasty strawberry fizz! Naturally there was also a sozzled fruit scone – with the raisins soaked in the wine before baking! And a far too tempting range of cakes – which my dynamic crew decided it would have been rude not to taste!

Fruit fizz, scones, cakes and coffee! What’s not to like?!

Having consumed far too may calories (but very enjoyably!) the “old git” upped the pace on the ride back to Dundee in a vain attempt to burn some of them off! It really was blissful tandeming in the warm sunshine, and with the wind behind us, as we pedalled across some fantastic countryside.

The scenery we tandemed past was stunning – like this impressive tree lined avenue.

We flashed thru Invergowrie and past the airport back into Dundee via Riverside Drive where we took a few minutes to stop at the impressive Tay Bridge Disaster Memorial. It is a moving tribute to the victims of the disaster back in 1879 when the central navigation spans of the Tay Bridge collapsed into the Firth of Tay, taking with them a train, 6 carriages and 75 souls to their fate.

A shot looking towards the Tay Rail Bridge – from just beside the memorial stones to the 1879 disaster.

Just time to tick off two more penguins on our pedal back to the lift onto the Tay Road Bridge. First up was Poppy the penguin and the last one of our ride was The Baltic Builder penguin – complete in Bob the Builder artwork clevery placed beside all the construction work which is being finished off near Discovery Point.

The “old gal” with Poppy the Penguin easily spotted from the cycle path.

The Baltic Builder penguin – aka Bob the Builder – with the “old git”.

The last part of our ride was the “uphill” crossing of the Tay Road Bridge – a stretch which always seems to come at the end of a long ride and therefore not one to bring shouts of enthusiasm from my dynamic crew! In truth it always seems a bit of a grind. But today the wind was blowing in the correct direction and the “old git” set the “old gal” a challenge of trying to break Team Matilda’s record for the “Killer Tay Bridge” segment of 6 minutes 46 seconds set just the week before!

And my dynamic crew were euphoric when they reached the other side of the Tay – well they would have been if they weren’t so out of puff – to discover that they had smashed their own record by over half a minute to a new Team Matilda record of 6 minutes 12 seconds. I was most impressed and am now wondering if they can beat that the next time we do this route!

After calming down and getting his breath back at Matilda Transport the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 34.4 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 52 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12 miles an hour while the elevation was 983 feet. The maximum speed was 30.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1682 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.

Again a fantastic de-stressing memorable day out and escape for my dynamic crew in glorious sunshine. I guess with the weather and the winery we really could have been tandeming on one of Team Matilda’s fabulous Tours de France …

Well almost!

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Tandeming the dens dells and delis of Dunkeld

Ready to roll in the warm sunshine – with Dunkeld Bridge in the background.

Now as you know this “old lady” likes to try something new every now and again – so when the “old git” came up with the idea of tandeming a new route around the ancient Cathedral “city” of Dunkeld in Highland Perthshire, it seemed like an exciting plan!

And when the “old git” mentioned that we passed a couple of coffee shops and finished at a new deli which we also did tapas early evening, the “old gal” was immediately on board too!

The addition of the deli word gave the “old git” the joy of coming up with some of his favoured alliteration in the title of the ride – adding to the dens and dells of Dunkeld! Simple pleasures!

Now for those who are not au fait with Scots dialect a “den” is a long and narrow valley while a “dell” is  a hollow and there are plenty of both in this area … but (whisper it) that also means it is lumpy!

The ride – and some of the recommended stops – recently featured in Scottish Cycling magazine – which is well worth a read. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The sun was already high in the sky creating a perfect day for our tandem ride as I was unloaded from Matilda Transport at the Tay Terrace Car Park handily placed beside the river just after crossing Dunkeld Bridge. After kitting up – and applying the necessary factor 30 – Team Matilda pedalled off along the A984 which runs east out of Dunkeld to Caputh.

This follows the route of an old military road built by Major William Caulfield in the 18th century. It is a lovely road to cycle with mild undulations and and some great views over the majestic River Tay.

Just after Caputh is the hamlet of Spittalfield which is home to the cyclist and walker-friendly Walkin’ Cafe. Opened a year ago the welcoming cafe specifically targets cyclists and walkers who frequent the area. For many years the building was the village store before being transformed into a cafe to keep it as a hub of the village.

The cafe has lots of cycling-related aftefacts to catch the eye – and don’t forget to look out for the French-designed poster showing all the different kinds of bikes which have been produced over the years … in the toilets! Glad to say that a tandem was featured among the drawings! The “old git” and “old gal” quickly polished off a coffee and scone from the appealing treats on offer.

The Walkin’ Cafe is a real oasis for cyclists and has lots of bike artefacts.

The Walkin’ Cafe is ideally situated on the A984 at Spittalfield to attract cyclists and walkers.

Refreshed we pedalled on for around four miles to a local landmark of the Meikleour Beech Hedge which is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest hedge in Britain and the highest of its kind in the world. It is is one third of a mile long (530 m) and 100 ft (30 m) high.

The “old gal” dwarfed by the Meikleour Beech Hedge – the longest hedge in the UK.

Our route took us left at Meikleour on to the A93 towards Blairgowrie – and although it was quite a busy road cars gave us plenty of space as we pedalled along. Just before Blairgowrie centre, we turned left again on to the scenic A923 which would take us back to Dunkeld – with the promise of enjoying the views over no less than six lochs along the way.

We quickly passed Rae Loch and Loch of Drumellie before the “old gal” decided it was time to stop for one of Team Matilda’s infamous prosecco picnics! She fortuitously called stop at beautiful Loch of Clunie. Although it was busy – due to the sunshine – with families enjoying the shallow calm water she found a spot on the beach to allow my dynamic crew to sunbathe and enjoy their picnic goodies. And the sit was made all the more comfortable by our fab new fold-up pads which our good cycling friends John and Jane had given my crew on the recent mini Tour de Perthshire.

Sun-kissed Loch of Clunie provided the perfect stop for a prosecco picnic.

Selfie time for my dynamic crew enjoying the warm sun on the loch’s beach.

Chillin – the “old gal” relaxing in the sun on our new picnic pads.

Back on the road and maybe it was just the effects of the relaxing picnic, but my dynamic crew noticed the gentle incline as we headed on past Loch of Butterstone. We took a short diversion to the entrance to the Scottish Wildlife Trust Loch of the Lowes wildlife reserve – a near 100 hectacre site where the star attraction is a pair of breeding ospreys which nest just 150 metres from the observation hide. We had actually spotted the huge wingspan of one of the magnificent birds doing a spot of fishing for food for their chicks in one of the lochs earlier.

The Loch of the Lowes reserve – famous for its ospreys – is run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

From the last of the six lochs – Loch of Craiglush – there is a steep climb and my dynamic crew had to work hard to keep my wheels turning. A long winding – but welcome – swooping downhill stretch returned us to Dunkeld with some time to explore the town. First stop was the eye-catching Atholl Memorial Fountain in the Market Cross area. The Fountain was funded by public subscription and built in 1866 ‘to the memory of George Augustus Frederick John 6th Duke of Atholl’ who had introduced a piped water supply to Dunkeld.

The “old git” at the Atholl Memorial Fountain in Dunkeld.

By now my dynamic crew were ready for a re-fuel and had some fabulous cake sitting outside on the sun drenched terrace at the Spill the Beans coffee shop.

Next we took in some of the Dunkeld Heritage Walk (or cycle!) which takes in many of the restored 18th century merchants houses in Cathedral Street – which are now looked after by The Little Houses Improvement Scheme – in partnership with the National Trust for Scotland. This includes The Old Rectory which is Dunkeld’s oldest surviving house. Scotland’s National Bard Robert Burns and Fiddler Neil Gow entertained here in 1787.

I feel like a young thing beside Dunkeld’s oldest surviving house!

Cathedral Street – not surprisingly – leads to Dunkeld Cathedral whose history can be traced to the ninth century when it emerged as an important religious centre for the early Celtic Church. No building of this period survives, the present Cathedral dates from 1318. Partly destroyed during the Reformation (1560), the choir is roofed and now serves as the parish church for regular Sunday worship. The rest of the cathedral is ruinous, but is preserved as an Ancient Monument in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, who are also responsible for the grounds.

Cooling in the shade in the grounds of the historic Dunkeld Cathedral.

The cathedral’s grounds give great views over the River Tay and Dunkeld Bridge.

The grounds of the cathedral give great views over the majestic River Tay and the historic Dunkeld Bridge which was built by Thomas Telford and opened in 1809.

After all the miles and the local history it was time for us all to return to Matilda Transport. I was safely loaded back inside while my dynamic crew got changed for a refreshment stop before dinner.

Over a nicely chilled glass of white wine, and enjoying the warm sunshine on the decking of the Atholl Arms overlooking the river, the “old git” checked Strava which showed no gongs as this was our first time on this route. But the detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 26 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 03 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.7 mph given a couple of sharp hills while the elevation was 1178 feet. The maximum speed was 29.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1528 calories and produce an average power output of 185 W.

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

Suitably impressed by that data my dynamic crew ended their day out in style with a mouth watering tapas meal at the highly recommended The Scottish Deli on Dunkeld’s Atholl Street. I am told that the prawns in garlic and the manchego cheese and serrano ham platter were particularly impressive!

Replete it was time for the 30 minute return drive to Matildas Rest and soon time for some zzzs after a memorable sunny day out as we tandemed the dens, dells and delis of Dunkeld in glorious Perthshire!