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

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

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

Just after 10am we headed off towards Bridge of Earn – a scenic 14 mile undulating run across roads in rural Perthshire. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Muthill Sportive 2017 yellow route with sub stoker!

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

There was much excitement on Saturday morning at Matildas Rest as it was a big day for this “old lady” – I was taking part in a real official bike event – the Muthill Sportive 2017. This would be my first ever Sportive and I was all geared up for the big event as the “old git” had told me that not only was I going to have an official participant number but that I was going to have a timing chip. Serious stuff!

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

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

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

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

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

The Muthill cycling event  has the reputation for being Scotland’s friendliest Sportive and that was immediately apparent from the warm welcome my crew received at the registration desk – in stark contrast to the chilly inclement weather outside.

The idea of the Sportive is to raise funds for the Muthill to Crieff Cyclepath project which will create a safe route along the 4 miles to the Strath capital, avoiding the busy A822 road. Phase 1 of the project is complete – a 1 mile off-road route from Muthill to Templemill, which links with other core paths and quiet country walking and cycling friendly roads. Just over a year ago when it was opened, I was the first tandem to ride the new cycle path. You can read more about the project in my blog of that ride.

Team Matilda was taking part in the Yellow Route – an 18 mile cycle around quiet local Strathearn roads. And after I had my start number of 009 firmly attached, along with my snazzy timer chip, it was time for the off and we lined up with just under 30 other bikes.

I was proud to be the only tandem on the start line and I am glad to say I got quite a few “nice bike” and “special machine” compliments from other riders. A quick safety briefing, and the horn was blown and we were underway! You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

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

The ride was well signposted with big yellow arrows marking directions at every possible junction to ensure we couldn’t get lost – and there were marshalls at any intersections with busier roads. The route developed into a gently undulating ride, along well maintained farm roads – where we played cat and mouse with the female rider overtaking each other on several occasions before briefly emerging on to the Crieff to Braco road for a short section, turning into another maze of farm roads.

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

Tantalising there were signs for Muthill but we were directed away from the direct route for another loop round country roads – just as my crew were starting to feel their fuel tanks getting low on energy. Fortunately there was a nice downhill stretch  before the last section which made use of the completed first section of the Muthill to Crieff cycle path. Only difficulty was that this was uphill creating a Tour de France-style finish at the top of climb! Well almost … but obviously just a tad less steep!

As we turned into Muthill church yard Team Matilda had that euphoric feeling of knowing they had crossed the finishing line in second place! I will repeat that … we finished second! Unbelievable!

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

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

The friendly nature of the Muthill Sportive was underlined by the amazing hospitality on offer back in the church hall. An army of volunteers had been busy and yummy home made soup was on offer, along with tasty filled rolls, followed by a fantastic selection of home baked cakes. The fact that they even had gluten free cakes was quite literally the icing on the … well you know what I mean!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

After a warm reviving shower, the “old git” and the “young son” agreed that despite the rain, it was a great event and fun to be part of! The Sportive certainly offered a great opportunity to promote cycling and the benefits of off-road cycle paths in the beautiful Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council area near Perth City Centre. A great day to celebrate being a Perth 2021 supporter! And clearly #perthistheplace for cycling!

Lets hope the Sportive raises lots of money for the Muthill to Crieff Cyclepath project and that I will soon be blogging about new developments and an extension to the existing first stage of the route – including a large span bridge to cross the River Earn at Crieff.

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

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

Le Tour de Deux Festivals du Tandem!

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

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

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

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

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

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

After a welcome Lucaffee coffee and delicious home made scone there was time for a quick photo of my dynamic crew all kitted up in their matching “Sunday best” Saltire cycling tops, before we headed off out of Strathyre on the super smooth surface of the Sustrans Scotland NCR7. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

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

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!

A gander for gourmet gin tasting tae Dunning!

Bit of cycling … bit of gin … perfect combination. What could possibly go wrong?!

Standby for  a quick romp of a blog! This post is a report of a recent “midweek special” tandem trip to a gourmet gin tasting event at a nearby country pub! Now, for my dynamic crew that seemed the perfect combination – a bit of cycling and a bit of gin! Goes together a bit like gin and tonic … according to the “old git!” I mean, what could possibly go wrong?!

You probably know by now that the “old gal” and the “old git” like their gin! But not just any gin. In fact they would turn their noses up at a Gordon’s Gin and tonic with a slice of lemon! No, we are talking Scottish artisan gin here – and not only do they have a wee bit of a penchant for gin – they like to consider themselves something of gin connoisseurs!

So when the “old git” discovered that the nearby The Kirkstyle Inn was holding a gourmet gin tasting evening it seemed a natural fit! And when the “old gal” found out that the Kirkstyle’s new owner and mine host Jamie Dexter Harrison had priced the tickets at a bargain price of £10 for three gin tastings and finger food – to attract new customers – her reaction was an emphatic “sold!”

And that’s where I come in to the story – because there was the small problem of how to get there and back again given the rural location and that driving clearly was a non starter! The “old git” had a brainwave that they could arrive (and depart) by tandem! It would need to be said that the “old gal” was a bit sceptical to begin with … but soon warmed to the idea!

And so on a Wednesday night my crew had a quick turnaround from work to get kitted up in their tandeming gear – and we were off  on our Dash to Dunning along the scenic back roads from Matildas Rest in Auchterarder. 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! 

It’s a fraction less than five miles door to door and the promise of gin drove my crew on so they wouldn’t be late for the start time of 6.30 – with the journey taking just 23 minutes! Having arrived with a few minutes to spare, there was time for a few photos outside the picturesque Inn.

Old fashioned blackboards promoting the gin night at The Kirkstyle Inn.

It would need to be said that the “old gal” and the “old git” did get a few questioning looks from other locals arriving! Let’s just say they were the only people to arrive by tandem – and the only people wearing hi-vis yellow tandeming t-shirts! Certainly one way to make an entrance!

The calm before the gins! The “old git” and “old gal” arrive in style!

So I was safely locked up outside with the promise that my crew would be back before it got dark for the ride home! And they tell me they had a great couple of hours finding out about and sampling the gins and enjoying some tasty nibbles.

The line up of three gins to sample – with lots of tonic, ice and garnishes!

First up was the Classic Edinburgh Gin – which is distilled in Scotland’s capital city with heather, milk thistle and pine and served with regular tonic and a garnish of orange peel. The citrus effect was a good way to kick off the evening!

When sampling one of the gins my crew found a suitable sign at the bar!

The second gin was Rock Rose from a small distillery at Dunnet Bay near Caithness in the far north of Scotland. The key botanical they use is rhodiola rosea, more commonly known as rose root, which is a small rose type plant which grows on the cliffs at Caithness – and gives the gin its name. To help bring out the floral botanicals, this was served with Mediterranean tonic – and am told this was a big hit!

“Keep pouring while you smile at the camera” says the “old gal”!

My crew enjoyed some tasty finger food  from the Kirkstyle kitchen before tasting the last gin – Love Gin from Eden Mill in St Andrews. This pink gin has floral and warm berry notes – and is actually one of my dynamic crew’s favourites! This time it was served with ginger ale and a slice of lime. Yum!

The two hours flew past and after sampling the third and final gin – and making some new friends in the Inn – it was time for the “old git” and the “old gal” to leave so they could get most of the return journey as the sun set – before it got pitch dark. To be on the safe side I was lit up like a Christmas tree with three rear flashing red lights and two front lights – one of which was flashing! We certainly were not going to be missed by any motorists on the country road home.

Ready for tandem ride home – with lots of lights to be safe!

Now  my dynamic crew had kind of expected the return tandem ride to be somewhat different – perhaps a tad wobbly even! But given that the “old git” and the “old gal” were pretty sober, in reality it was just like any other tandem ride. The journey was completed in a fraction under 30 mins – and we arrived home just as it got completely dark. Job done!

Back at Matildas Rest – with the  “old gal” and the “old git” buzzing with the endorphin boost created from the exercise … and the gin! – there was even more elation when they checked Strava to find they had received three gongs for their efforts! Obviously being gin fuelled helps the performance!

So Strava officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of  9.5 miles with a total moving time of 52.55 minutes, at a healthy average speed of 10.8 mph.

The total elapsed time was over 3 hours – allowing for the gin tastings! Top speed recorded was 23.3 mph and the elevation covered was 291 feet. Together we managed to burn up 520 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 147 W.

It was a joy for Team Matilda to be out pedalling along breathing in the fresh air in the beautiful Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council area near Perth City Centre. A perfect evening to celebrate being a Perth 2021 supporter! And clearly #perthistheplace (for gin!)

All told – a bit of exercise … a  bit of tandeming … and a bit of gourmet gin! Great evening really. What a tonic!

Tour de Blackford to help launch Blackford Paths Network project

Two tandems and folk group Tarneybackle ready to lead the Blackford Paths Network launch ride.

It is always exciting to get an invitation! And this “old lady” tandem was very impressed to receive an invitation to help promote the launch of a new cycle paths project in our area! According to the invite it seems that I am now a bit of a local celebrity – and my presence would help raise awareness for the campaign! Amazing but true!

Yes Team Matilda’s notoriety had been noticed by the Blackford Community Council – in the next village along from Matilda’s Rest in Auchterarder. It has set up the Blackford Paths Network project which aims to create a network of safe off-road cycle and walking paths around Blackford – and in particular routes to our home town of Auchterarder and Gleneagles railway station.

The project was holding a Drop in Consultation event at the Moray Institute and I was invited to help lead a “Tour de Blackford” cycle ride to create some interest and encourage local people to take part in survey about what routes they would like to see in the area. How could I possibly refuse?!

All kitted up with the Blackford Paths Network logo.

The “old git” got me all kitted up looking resplendent with the Blackford Paths Network logo so that I would be easily recognised – as if I wouldn’t! But just to make sure there was a lovely pre-event picture of me in the Dundee Courier to highlight the event.

Fame! Here I am pictured in The Courier promoting the launch ride and event.

The organisers had asked that me and my dynamic crew would team up with local folk trio Tarneybackle, and another local tandem, to lead a cycle round the village in a bid to drum up support for the event. But first we had to tandem to Blackford – which only underlined the need for new cycle paths! 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! 

In order to avoid the dangers of the A9  dual carriageway – and 4 lanes of 70mph traffic – which is the direct vehicle route between Auchterarder and Blackford, we headed off on the windy Bardrill Road. It was a joy for Team Matilda to be out pedalling along breathing in the fresh air basking in the sun in the beautiful Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council area near Perth City Centre. A perfect day to celebrate being a Perth 2021 supporter!

But the “old gal” had been warned in advance about the state of this farm road – which has a very poor surface riddled with huge potholes. As the “old git” gingerly tried to pick a path between them he wittily suggested that as some of the pot holes were so deep – and filled with rain water – that they would make a decent swimming pool! Oh how we laughed – not!

A bend littered with stones on the alternative Badrill Road route to avoid the dangerous A9.

One of the bends on the route is locally known as “sand corner” and it was easy to see why. Except that it should have been renamed “rubble corner” such was the state of the rough bumpy surface of stones left after prolonged rain erosion.

The next problem came at the end of the farm road where the only alternative is to literally dice with death and attempt the “killer crossing”over the 4 lanes of the dual carriageway – while avoiding getting sucked into the blast of passing trucks and lorries.

Another key danger is a “killer crossing” over 4 lanes of 70mph traffic on the A9 to access Blackford.

After a significant wait for a suitable gap, we were able to make a dash for it and cross the road – but with my crew’s hearts in a  bit of a flutter. Certainly a crossing to be avoided unless absolutely necessary! So Team Matilda arrived in one piece (just!) at the Moray Institute and met up with lots of other bikes for the “Tour de Blackford.”

Tandemers and cyclists gather at the Moray Institute for the Tour de Blackford!

After I made my acquaintance with the other local tandem – known simply as “The Bike”! – crewed by Blackford resident Bob Watkinson and his stoker Marguerite – we met the “Tarneybackle Tourists” John, Lorna and Sandy, before setting off on the ride round the village in bright sunshine. The “old git” was in his element – happy to parp my horn to make sure the ride got noticed and to remind locals to pop into the consultation event and fill in the survey.

Thumbs up from the “old git” as Team Matilda leads the promotional ride thru Blackford!

Here I am beside “the Bike” – the other tandem crewed by Bob and Marguerite.

I got to parp my horn lots on The Tour de Blackford to raise awareness for the launch event!

After the ride we had to pose for promotional pictures at the entrance to the village.

After three laps we cycled to the entrance to the village for a promotional photo shoot, before returning to the Moray Institute to take part in the official consultation event – which was designed to give an opportunity for cyclists, walkers and residents to share ideas on the paths project and look at maps of possible routes from Blackford to the Auchterarder area. To add to the event’s appeal Tarneybackle also performed a few familiar folk songs – while still wearing their cycling gear!

The “old gal” taking part in the consultation event to launch the Blackford Paths Network.

Blackford based folk group Tarneybackle performed at the launch event.

Funding for the Blackford Paths Network project has so far come from Tactran (the Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership) and the Climate Change Development Fund. After the survey period, the next stage is that the projects consultant will report back over the next two months on what are the best and safest routes.  The consultant will then survey those routes to provide costings so that the project can put in applications for funding to provide proper safe off road paths.

The “old gal” with Janet Law from Blackford Community Council and consultant Crispin Hayes.

After filling in the survey my dynamic crew got back on my saddles to head home home. But, in a bitter irony, we unfortunately experienced first hand just how badly proper cycle paths are needed in the area. I suffered a painful injury on the return tandem journey along Bardrill Road – when I damaged one of my spokes on my rear wheel on an awful pothole which was disguised as a puddle! Ouch!

Ouch! I damaged a rear wheel spoke on a huge pothole on the pedal home.

My dynamic crew initially thought I had suffered a broken spoke – but fortunately an inspection of the damage revealed that my spoke has just worked lose and required a bit of tightening. Phew! A bit of relief as I thought I would have to be paying a visit to the tandem doctors!

Back at Matildas Rest and time for the “old git” to check the figures on Strava which officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of  15.7 miles with a total moving time of 1 hour 42 minutes, at an average speed of 9.2 mph. Top speed recorded was 28.2 mph and the elevation covered was 403 feet. We managed to burn up 993 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 145 W.

And there was more fame to come when Team Matilda adorned a great post event article in the Dundee Courier the next day.

More fame! Team Matilda pictured in a great article in The Courier after the launch event.

All in all a good fun day to launch the Blackford Paths Project, which Team Matilda were delighted to be involved in – even if I did suffer a painful injury! And it will be fantastic if the initial consultation achieves its aims of much needed new cycle paths around a very scenic part of Perthshire.

My spokes (both damaged and undamaged) are firmly crossed!

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!