Co(w)rraling the Cowches in C(ow)rieff!

The vibrant and eye-catching Crieff Cowches trail provided a fun sun-kissed trail for Team Matilda!

The imaginative Crieff Cowches art trail has come to an end – which reminded me to write a blog about my dynamic crew’s great great tandem trip round all 11 of the installations on a sun-kissed evening in August – where Team Matilda saw Crieff looking at its glorious best.

The cleverly decorated Cowches will be seen together for a final horn blowing hurrah on October 9, where they will be sold off at a charity auction.  So with the fundraiser fast approaching I decided it was time to post my blog – which recounts our attempts at Co(w)rralling the Cowches in C(ow)rieff!

Firstly a short bit of background. The Highland cow benches – or cowches for short – made up a unique art trail which succeeded in its aim of bringing huge numbers of visitors into Crieff during the summer. Each cowch had been individually decorated by local artists – who were given carte blanche to let their imagination run riot!

Why use Highland cows as the basis for this unique cultural trail? Well because Crieff occupies a key position between the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland, the town became the cattle-droving crossroads of Scotland in the 1700s – with up to 30,000 of the beasts arriving for market each year.

The Crieff Cowches trail was organised by Crieff Succeeds – the town’s Business Improvement District programme, which aims to promote Crieff as a vibrant, attractive and safe place to work, shop, visit and live. The trail has been actively promoted by the VisitCrieff tourism internet and social media sites.

So with deep blue skies and warm sunshine my dynamic crew decided to pedal round the art trail on a fun early evening ride – which would include a picnic tea at one of the Cowches! You can check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

We pedalled away from Matildas Rest in Auchterarder and firstly tandemed along the quiet country roads to The Library of Innerpeffray – which is Scotland’s first ever free lending library dating back to 1680. The gardens of the historic building – including St Mary’s Chapel with its fascinating graveyard, offered an inspirational spot for the “old git” and “old gal” to tick off their first Cowch, and number 11 on the trail map. This one was simply known as Innerpeffray Cowch and was created by June McEwan.

Cowch 11 – Innerpeffray Cowch by June McEwan

A few more miles and my dynamic crew arrived in Crieff itself, crossing Crieff Bridge to find the cleverly named Emoojis Cowch by local schoolgirl Sinead O’Malley – which is a cow covered in emojis, the smiley faces used in electronic messages.

Cowch 6 – Emoojis by Sinead O’Malley

Next Team Matilda decided to tandem around the town to Glenturret Distillery – recognised as Scotland’s oldest working whisky distillery after being established in 1775. Here the “old git” was happy to pose beside the Cowch named On Watch by Chelsea Rodger.

Cowch 10 – On Watch by Chelsea Rodger

The next stop saw us tandem downhill from the distillery to Turretbank where the “old gal” took the opportunity for a quick rest on the Cowch called Polly, created by Donna Connelly.

Cowch 7 – Polly by Donna Connelly

Tandeming into Macrosty Park my dynamic crew found the bandstand – and were able to tick off seeing Bloomin Flora by Liz Paterson. The “old gal” decided that she would enjoy a few minutes basking in the bright sun on this Cowch!

Cowch 9 – Bloomin Flora by Liz Paterson

Into the town of Crieff itself and Team Matilda tandemed up the High Street, stopping at the town hall after spotting the Sweet Annie Cowch, created by mosaic artist Katy Galbraith.

Cowch 1 – Sweetie Annie by Katy Galbraith

My dynamic crew had now ticked off more than half of the Crieff Cowches, but nearly missed the next one as it was placed in the grounds of Old St Michael’s Churchyard which we found difficult to find for a moment or two. But it was worth the hunt to discover Midnight Meadow by Ceri White.

Cowch 4 – Midnight Meadow by Ceri White

With the warm sunshine, the “old gal” decided it was time for a much needed refreshment which was enjoyed at the welcoming Quaich Bar on Crieff’s High Street. Revitalised, the next stop was at the Crieff Highland Gathering Cowch in James Square, the second on the trail to be created by June McEwen.

Cowch 2 – Crieff Highland Gathering Cowch by June McEwan

Crieff’s central James Square was where Drovers Coo was to be found – created by Hamish Bigg to pay homage to the town’s historic links to the cattle drovers.

Cowch 3 – Drovers Coo by Hamish Bigg

Just a few yards away, Kings Street was the site for my dynamic crew to tick off A Heilan Cooch, created by Catherine Redgate. It was great to see so many families having fun walking round in the evening sunshine, ticking off the Cowches from the trail map, creating a real buzz in the town

Cowch 8 – A Heilan Cooch by Catherine Redgate

The 11th and final Crieff Cowch on Team Matildas art trail was the amusingly named Military Coo by artist Gail Robertson which was situated in the grassy gardens of the town’s medical centre.

Cowch 5 – A Military Coo by Gail Robertson

Now the “old gal” is a friend of Gail Robertson, and knows she has a sense of humour, so knew she would not be even slightly offended that my dynamic crew used Military Coo as a perfect bench on which to set up a picnic tea! Our alfresco meal attracted a bit of attention from locals in a nearby pub – who all agreed that it was a good way to use one of the Cowches!

The Military Coo installation made a perfect picnic for my dynamic crew’s picnic!

After a tasty picnic – and having seen all the installations on the art trail – it was time for Team Matilda to pedal back home to Matildas Rest. Check out the full data from the ride at the end of the blog.

Meanwhile the artworks are set to be sold off at the Crieff Cowches Auction – a ‘dress-to-impress’ gala dinner at Crieff Hydro on Wednesday October 9. My dynamic crew hope the auction raises lots of money to help support Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance.

For those that like to study the figures, this was certainly one of our Team Matilda’s fun and relaxed pedals and Strava officially recorded the ride as showing that my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 27.5 miles with a moving time (or should that be moooving time given the subject of this ride!) of 2 hours 45 minutes. The average speed was 10.0 mph and the overall elevation was 1296 feet. The maximum speed was 34.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1725 calories and produce an average power output of 156 W. Almost by accident my dynamic crew recorded 11 gongs along the route – with 3 personal bests; 4 second bests; and 3 third bests.

Altogether a very pleasant cultural tandem ride Co(w)rralling the Cowches in C(ow)rieff!

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4 seasons in a day, 2 broken spokes, and 1 speedo error on HebWay training run.

Spot the blue sky! The “old gal” near Dunblane at half-way – with snow just round the corner!

The phrase “four seasons in a day” has been used by Scots people for years to describe the unpredictable Spring weather which the gods can cast down on us! And our recent sneaky Monday off tandem ride was a perfect example of where it was simply a waste of time trying to guess the best cycling clothing to suit the conditions!

My dynamic crew experienced all four key elements of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter rain, sunshine, wind, and even snow on their latest training ride for Team Matilda’s forthcoming Hebridean Way adventure in June. In fact some would say it was just ideal conditions to prepare for the ride “on the edge” of Scotland!

More about the HebWay at the end of this blog, but first today’s ride. The “old git” had decided it was time to test the “old gal” on a few hills on a canter to Dunblane, with the promise of a coffee and cake stop on the return leg at Braco – although to be fair he hadn’t quite calculated the total elevation involved of over 1400 feet … or the inclement weather conditions!

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

The route started with some uphill tandeming from Matildas Rest out on the open rural Perthshire roads past Gleneagles Hotel and its world-famous golf courses. Despite the thrust required for the incline, the “old git” applied the brakes when he saw a special road sign designed to protect red squirrels by urging motorists to drive carefully. Maybe the sign should also have said ride carefully!

The “old git” slowed down when he saw the road sign designed to protect the red squirrels.

After the Gleneagles summit my dynamic crew enjoyed a nice downhill stretch although a fairly blustery head wind meant the “old gal” had to keep pedalling as stoker when normally this downhill stretch allows for a bit of free-wheeling! Just the first of many encounters with the ever changing weather on this ride!

Pedalling on we tandemed thru Braco – with the “old gal” checking that the coffee shop was open as we pedalled past and headed up a few more tough inclines to just outside Kinbuck where the “old git” spotted a crop of Christmas trees getting ready for next festive season!

The “old git” pointing out my dynamic crew’s Christmas tree for December!

Oh how the “old gal” laughed when he joked that they could come and choose their tree in early December and could even carry it home attached to my frame! Well I think he was joking anyway!

A few pedals further on my dynamic crew passed the entrance to Cromlix House – the 5-star country house hotel owned by local tennis superstar Andy Murray. It boasts a Chez Roux restaurant and the “old gal” started to drool over what they may be serving up for lunch – but sensibly decided she wasn’t quite dressed for that kind of culinary experience!

A quick stop at our turning point on the flyover of the A9 just outside Dunblane for some water – and the chance to take in the blue sky which had suddenly appeared, and the views over to the sun dancing on the snow-capped hills in the distance.

Time to move on, and despite the pesky wind it was a great day to be out in glorious Perthshire. For a welcome respite from the challenging weather conditions there was a pit stop at the bike-friendly Braco Coffee shop !

The “old gal” in heaven with scone, millionaire shortbread and a nice strong coffee! Perfect!

As we walked in it was good to see the premises so busy – with several other cyclists and locals having decided to stop en route for sustenance. The “old gal” chose a scone and some yummy millionaire shortbread – all of which was washed down by lovely strong coffee – just the way she likes it! Great friendly service too from the Braco team! A perfect stop on a bicycle made for two really – and just underlines the fun and laughs my dynamic crew have!

As my dynamic crew emerged from the coffee stop they were hit by a shower of rain – the third of the seasons after the wind and the sunshine – but fortunately the worst of the rain seemed to have fallen when they were inside. The four seasons in a day were however completed as the “old git” and “old git” battled the rapidly changing weather conditions on the return stretch from Braco to Gleneagles where in a shady hollow they came across snow lying on the ground! Yes snow!

Four seasons in a day – tick – snow lying on the ground in a shady hollow.

It was a hard grind for my dynamic crew on the return – but a welcome downhill brought about one of those moments of madness when the “old git” and “old gal” just have to laugh out loud! Pedalling as fast as they could the “old git” checked the speedometer – expecting to see it hit 30 mph if they were lucky … only to see it suddenly record a top speed of 91.5 mph.

They say the camera never lies! – evidence of the 91.5 mph recorded on the malfunctioning speedo!

Yes you read that correctly – a reading of 91.5 mph on a bicycle made for two. Despite the fact that the camera never lies and the photographic evidence of this never-to-be-repeated feat, my dynamic crew graciously conceded it clearly was a speedo malfunction!

Then just to compound the unpredictable nature of the ride, as we were heading down towards Gleneagles there was that unmistakable ping – which can only mean a spoke had pinged on my rear wheel! My dynamic crew ground to a halt and surveyed the damage – not one but two spokes had gone!

The rest of my wheel looked fairly sound – and despite a clear wheel wobble – the “old gal” took the decision as chief engineer that we could continue to pedal and limp home at a somewhat slower than normal speed, while the “old git” did his best to avoid any potential bumps. Looks like I am going for a visit to my personal surgeon John – bike wheel builder extraordinaire at JM Richards Cycles in Perth

Spot the two broken spokes! I need a visit to my personal surgeon to repair my rear wheel!

Safely back at Maitildas Rest, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 14 gongs – which given the variable conditions is somewhat impressive! Especially as the total was made up of 3 second bests; and 11 third best times.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 28.1 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 44 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 10.3 mph while the elevation was a hilly 1,444 feet. The maximum speed was officially 32.0 mph – not the rogue 91.5 mph! – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,691 calories and produce an average power output of 154 W.

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

So that’s another near 30 miles in the bag – and given the weather conditions, mechanicals, and the 1,444 ft elevation it was an ideal training then for the Hebridean Way in mid June. I am looking forward to teaming up with Siggy, the attractive gent of a tandem belonging to the “old git” and “old gal’s” good tandeming friends John and Jane – who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog – for our self-proclaimed Nutty Tandemers Club tour.

But obviously there’s a good few training rides for the “old git” and “old gal” to get in peak condition before they tackle the 185 miles of the #HebWay route from Vatersay to Butt of Lewis Lighthouse at Ness over 5 days tandeming! What is it they say about practice makes perfect?

Matilda goes carol singing – in dulci jubilo in the winter sun!

Tra la la! All together now! Make sure the carol singing is in #tandem!

Away on a tandem 
To Tullibardine
To sing carols for Christmas
On a cold winter’s day …. !!! 

With only a week to go till Christmas Day the “old git” – who is something of a Christmas zealot – was encouraging everyone to get into full festive spirit mode! As the “old gal” quipped – “it might be more likely if there was some festive spirit flowing!” … but he was trying – very trying, as the “old gal” said in that droll you-can’t-be-certain-if-she-is-joking-or-not way she has!

Now there is a tradition on the Sunday before Christmas near Matilda’s Rest when the local churches in Auchterarder come together to hold a carol service at Tullibardine Chapel – which dates back to the 15th century, and is now looked after by Historic Environment Scotland. My dynamic crew make a point of going – as it is all quite atmospheric as there is no power in the remote chapel and it is all done by torch light.

In a reprise of last couple of years the “old git” persuaded the “old gal” that it would be a bit of a festive frolic if my crew arrived at the carols by tandem – complete with Santa hats and Christmas jumpers! And I even got to join in the fun by having an extra addition this year of sporting a pair of eye-catching Rudolph reindeer antlers!

Spot my eye-catching Rudolph reindeer antlers making me feel very festive!

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view!) the weather was quite mild so there was much excitement when we woke to get ready for our trip. And to add to the anticipation, this was going to be just the third time ever that this “old lady” had been to a carol service!

So after an early lunch I was pulled out of the garage to get a few photos at Matildas Rest before we headed off on the short 3 mile ride to Tullibardine. The “old gal” had done some sterling work transforming my duo’s crash helmets into huge Santa hats – courtesy of linking together a couple of Santa hats from the local pound shop!

Ready to roll! The “old gal” in full Christmas jumper and Santa cycling hats gear!

We headed off and it was fun tandeming up the high street which was busy with families doing some last minute shopping! It would need to be said we got more than a few funny looks from adults (but as the “old git” said that was the point of the exercise!) while loads of children gave us excited waves and I tooted my horn back in appreciation! They particularly liked my Rudolph adornments!

We then headed out of town onto the rural Perthshire roads which took us to Tullibardine Chapel – and I must admit it was great fun to be out as we all enjoyed the unseasonably bright sunshine.

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

Team Matilda were in good spirits – so much so that I wasn’t sure if there had been any actual spirits partaken before they departed! But the “old gal” and the “old git” are finely tuned athletes (or so they claim!) … so I am sure it was just my imagination!

In what seemed like no time we were approaching the chapel and the “old git” decided that we needed to arrive in style – singing our very own song, dubbed Away on a Tandem, which was a stunning rearrangement of that famous carol Away in a Manger!

The beautiful and atmospheric Tullibardine Chapel dates back to the 15th Century.

Not surprisingly this ensured Team Christmas Matilda got noticed!  The “old git” and the “old gal” definitely more than lived up to their status as founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club with their vocal arrival!

Tullibardine Chapel is now looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

So before the carols there was time to explore the history and my dynamic crew discovered that Tullibardine Chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir David Murray of Dumbarton, an ancestor of the Dukes of Atholl. The Murray family home was at Tullibardine Castle. This stood on a site a short distance to the north of the chapel, though nothing now remains of it.

The chapel occupies a scenic tranquil spot in the rural Perthshire countryside,

The chapel stands almost unchanged since an extension in about 1500 – and is one of the few medieval churches to have survived the Reformation unaltered.

My dynamic crew had a brief warm-up of their vocal chords before the service!

Just before the carol service proper started my dynamic duo warmed up their voices with a few verses outside, admired by one of the organisers Allan Perera – a well known local artist and member of the Our Lady of the Perpetual Succour host church – who on his guitar led the musical accompaniment and the choir. Alan’s wife Sheila led the service itself.

The choir and musical accompaniment which led the carol singing at Tullibardine.

So after the practice – and attracting lots of attention from people arriving, with lots of “there’s a double bike” comments – it was time for my duo to go inside the chapel for the carol service. They tell me they thoroughly enjoyed the whole event – a nice mix of Christmas carols, festive songs and readings. And encouragingly, it was busy – with a good crowd in the chapel.

It was a real Christmassy atmosphere singing carols by torchlight!

It was a real Christmassy atmosphere and after the carols my dynamic tandem crew emerged back outside to find that Team Matilda had been somewhat upstaged by someone who had arrived on horseback – as you do in the middle of the Perthshire countryside!

Upstaged by a horse who wanted to join in the carols – only in rural Perthshire!

After the service my dynamic crew pedalled off quickly in a  bid to warm up as the winter sun was setting and the temperature had dropped quickly. With the cold air the tough Easthill hill climb back to Auchterarder seemed tougher than usual!

But we were not heading directly home. My dynamic crew had an important stop off in Auchterarder with an invite to pop-in and say hello at a 90th birthday party for Betty Connell – one of the “old gal’s” long standing clients at her hairdressing salon.

Betty’s daughter Anne – a keen “half-bike” cyclist – had been told the “old git” and “old gal” would be arriving en-route home from the carol service but were told that didn’t matter! However two mad cyclists arriving wearing Santa crash helmets and Christmas jumpers certainly caused a bit of a stir – and upset the otherwise glamorous dress code just a bit! But with impeccable timing my crew arrived just as the champagne was being poured for the toast and the cake cutting! I am told that both were very tasty!

Darkness had fallen while we spend an hour or so at the birthday party, so the last mile was completed with all my lights on! It made for an interesting high speed downhill dash!

Safely back at Matildas Rest, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as showing we had tandemed a distance of just 6.15 miles with a moving time of 37 minutes – but as always it is the smiles not the miles that count. The average speed was 10 mph while the elevation was a modest 322 feet. The maximum speed was 21.3 mph given the relatively flat terrain and Team Matilda managed to burn up 347 calories and produce an average power output of 141 W.

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

All three of us on Team Christmas Matilda had great fun – and felt it was a great way to crank up the festive spirit! Talking of which I have just heard  a shout of “Where’s my Christmas gin spirit” from the “old gal” as she relaxed in her post-ride bath!

Team Matilda certainly had fun getting into the Christmas spirit – in #tandem of course!

Look out for my Matildas Musings “Merry Christmas” blog post coming soon! In the meantime I need to go and wrap a few presents and write my final cards! Oh and pour that gin!…

Errol to V&A Dundee then headwind back for steamin’ scones at Cairn O’Mohr winery!

Team Matilda in front of the new V&A museum at Discovery Point in Dundee.

Some unexpected November sunshine was forecast and Team Matilda took advantage of the mild weather for a tandem ride to admire the stunning architecture of the new V&A museum in Dundee.

I was very excited because the “old git” informed me that the V&A Dundee was designated Scotland’s first design museum – and being a bit of a design icon (of a tandem!) myself I thought it would be right up my street (or cycle path!) You never know – they might want a new exhibit for their displays!

And just to make the trip more interesting the “old git” decided on starting the trip at Errol – at the Cairn O’Mohr fruit winery – giving a nice round trip of just over 25 miles with the “old git” promising the “old gal” a carrot of ending back at the winery for a civilised afternoon coffee at the AliBob Cafe. Don’t say he doesn’t know how to treat my stoker!

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

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 cycle-conscious owners have even created their own cycle path to make it easier for visitors to get there.

My dynamic crew soon picked up speed as we tandemed away from Errol towards Dundee on the quiet country roads which make up Sustrans Scotland NCN Rt77. The “old gal” and “old git” were enjoying the tail wind and we were soon pedalling into Dundee on the riverside esplanade with the new V&A museum in our sights right on the waterfront.

The amazing new V&A museum building occupies a site directly on the Dundee waterfront.

The imposing £80 million building – which opened in mid September – 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.

The architecture of the building is incredible including this tunnel thru the middle!

The V&A Dundee is the first design museum in Scotland and the first Victoria and Albert museum outside London. At the heart of the museum, the Scottish Design Galleries feature 300 exhibits drawn from the V&A’s rich collections of Scottish design, as well as from museums and private collections across Scotland and the world.

At the entrance to the new V&A design museum.

Surely there will be space in the new V&A design museum for an iconic design like me?

As Scotland’s first design museum, V&A Dundee describes its aim as telling “a global story, investigating the international importance of design alongside presenting Scotland’s outstanding design achievements.”

I must say this “old lady” did manage to catch a bit of attention from those visiting the new V&A.

It is expected to attract 500,000 visitors in its first year, providing the city of Dundee with a big economic boost. It was good to see the area looking so busy with tourists. This “old lady” even managed to catch a bit of attention from those visiting! But my dynamic crew didn’t venture inside – deciding to leave that for another occasion when not wearing cycling gear!

It really was interesting touring round the fab new building which is built to look like a ship.

After touring the outside of the eye-catching new V&A museum it was time for the return journey back to Errol. But guess what? Yes, my dynamic crew now found themselves pedalling into a rather fierce headwind. “Why do we always hit a headwind on our return journey?” asked the “old gal.” But for once the “old git” didn’t have an answer!

The wind certainly slowed our speed as we headed back along the waterfront, past the airport and out through Invergowrie. Here the route  gives impressive views of the River Tay 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 unexpected November sun created some interesting long shadows of Team Matilda in action!

The afternoon sun created some interesting long shadows of Team Matilda in action, which the “old gal” managed to capture as we pedalled along enjoying the relatively flat and stunning Carse of Gowrie countryside – including a perfectly symmetrical tree lined avenue where the “old git” had to stop for a photo opportunity.

An Autumnal scene as the “old git” poses at a tree lined avenue on the return to Errol.

After battling the headwind, returning to the Cairn O’Mohr fruit winery provided my dynamic crew with a perfect sanctuary to refuel and recover – the fantastic AliBob Cafe which offers an amazing range of memorable and tasty treats. And the the temperature was so mild Team Matilda were able to sit outside and enjoy the late afternoon sunshine!

Believe it or not it was so mild that my dynamic crew were able to sit outside for coffee and scones.

The “old git” and “old gal” decided they had to sample the local speciality of steamin’ scones. Yes they were served warm but the steamin’ relates to the fact that the raisins are soaked in the wine before baking! And I am told they were very yummy! There was also a far too tempting range of cakes on offer – which my dynamic crew decided it would have been rude not to taste! So naturally they opted for a slice of carrot cake … so loved by tandemers everywhere!

Selfie time while sampling the steamin’ scones at AliBob cafe at Cairn O’Mhor winery!

Back in Matilda Transport, before we headed back to Matildas Rest, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 25 gongs – which given the fierce headwind on the return journey is nothing short of astonishing! The total was made up of 11 personal bests and 14 second bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 25.2 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 56 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 13.0 mph while the elevation was a modest 386 feet. The maximum speed was 23.5 mph given the relatively flat terrain and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1002 calories and produce an average power output of 129 W.

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

Another great tandem day out in November sunshine for Team Matilda. My spokes are crossed for a mild and dry Autumn and Winter so we can keep up those miles (and smiles).

Fine dining Sunday lunch – macaroni pie style!

The “old gal” with her Sunday lunch fine dining delicacy of a macaroni pie!

Don’t ever say my Captain doesn’t know how to spoil my long suffering Stoker! “Treat you to Sunday lunch by tandem,” said the “old git! “Oooh, that sounds like a plan,” said the “old gal” suitably impressed! Well let’s just say that the resulting gastronomic delight was not exactly the the silver service fine dining experience that was anticipated! Read on to find out about our (mis)adventure!

It all started so well with some bright sunshine greeting my dynamic crew on Sunday morning. Yes there was some strong gusts of wind blowing about, but the decision was taken to get out and about from a second successive Autumnal local ride. The masterplan was for a ride to Dunblane, with that promised stop for lunch at a mystery location somewhere on the return trip.

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

The route started with some uphill tandeming from Matildas Rest out on the open rural Perthshire roads past Gleneagles Hotel followed by a nice downhill stretch and on to Braco.

Near to Kinbuck Team Matilda passed the entrance to Cromlix House – the 5-star country house hotel owned by local tennis superstar Andy Murray. It boasts a Chez Roux restaurant and the “old gal” started to think that she may be in for a real culinary experience on the return pedal! Let’s just say she was mistaken!

The “old git” wasn’t saying anything as the “old gal” started to salivate at the treat which could be in-store and added more power to my pedals to get me to our turning point of Dunblane.

The 20 mile mark – the “old gal” looking fresh at Barbush Roundabout in Dunblane.

A quick stop for a breather and some water at the Barbush roundabout and we headed on the return leg. Anticipation was building … but the “old gal’s” face fell when the “old git” steered me right past the entrance to Cromlix without even breaking cadence!

So if it wasn’t Cromlix for Sunday lunch – then where? Perhaps another suitably grand venue of Gleneagles Hotel ? Not exactly. The venue chosen by my Captain to treat my Stoker was … wait for it … Braco Coffee shop !

Actually, joking aside, the “old gal” was quite pleased really as we pulled up outside given she was clad in cycling gear – not really the dress of choice for a fine dining experience!

My dynamic crew’s cycling helmets were somewhat trumped by these snazzy motorbike helmets.

As we walked in it was good to see the premises so busy – with several other cyclists and motorbikers having decided to stop en route for sustenance. My dynamic crew’s cycling helmets were somewhat trumped by a pair of very snazzy looking motorbike helmets!

Now as I said at the start of this blog – don’t ever say my Captain doesn’t know how to spoil my long suffering Stoker! The “old git” spied something he knew would have the “old gal” in ecstasy … the Scottish delicacy of a macaroni pie!

And he was correct! The “old gal” loved it! The carb-laden pie was fresh, warm, very tasty and great value! Sunday lunch sorted! Result!

Before! Happy girl! The “old gal” just before devouring the macaroni pie!

After!  Unhappy girl!  The “old gal” just after devouring the macaroni pie!

And the pies were washed down with lovely strong coffee, accompanied by a yummy piece of caramel shortcake! Great friendly service too from the Braco team! A perfect stop on a bicycle made for two really – and just underlines the fun and laughs my dynamic crew have!

Time to move on. Despite the pesky wind, It was a great day to be out in glorious Perthshire and on the return journey the “old git” – with the “old gal’s” full consent! – detoured to add on a few extra miles with a reprise of the longer loop back via Blackford, Badrill and then up past Duchally Country Estate.

This involved that heady combination of pain and euphoria for my dynamic crew as they again nailed the steep 10% gradient section known as the Duchally Ramp. The fact that Strava awarded a second best gong as we managed to grind it out only added to the sense of achievement for all three of us!

The last three miles flew past – living up to the section’s name as Duchally Downhill Fun – before a final sharp hill on Abbey Road.

Back in the sanctuary of Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 26 gongs – which given the brutal winds and the hills was nothing short of astonishing! The total was made up of 4 personal bests;  17 second bests; and 5 third bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 33.4 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 52 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.6 mph (given that we were being blown about as if in a wind tunnel!) while the elevation was a not unsubstantial 1799 feet. The maximum speed was 32.2 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 2032 calories (yes that’s before the negative effect of the macaroni pie!!!) and produce an average power output of 176 W.

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

The great macaroni pie (mis)adventure – which received lost of fun comments on my social media channels – was the second Autumnal local run in a row for Team Matilda.

The week before the “old gal” decided the destination for coffee and cake would be Gloagburn Farm Shop – with the distance of around 28 hilly miles adequate to work up an appetite for the goodies on offer. Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

On the long downhill stretch out of Auchterarder the “old git” was on a mission to try and break Team Matilda’s recent speed record of 34.7 mph. But despite my dynamic crew adopting their most aero-dynamic position, the data showed that the fastest we hit was 32.4 mph again!  Naturally the “old git” blamed the headwind! But he has ambitions to break that record again soon!

Crossing Kinkell Bridge marks the start of the climb away from the River Earn. But – and whisper this – it was all fairly manageable, if not relatively easy! So Team Matilda ticked off the uphill stretch past historic Trinity Gask Parish Church, which dates back to 1770, before several cheeky sharp climbs in the area which was known as the Gask Ridge Frontier  – the earliest Roman land frontier in Britain – built in the 70’s or 80’s AD, 40 years before Hadrian’s Wall.

After the sharp climbs there was some relief for my dynamic crew as we sped along to Tibbermore on a gently undulating stretch to our half way stop of the oasis which is Gloagburn Farm Shop.

The “old gal” – looking as fresh as a daisy – on arrival at Gloagburn Farm Shop in the sun.

My dynamic crew felt as fresh as a daisy as we arrived at Gloaburn and rewarded themselves with some coffee, scones and the signature carrot cake. After refuelling it was then time to battle the headwinds on the return journey as we tandemed thru the picturesque village of St Davids before a nice descent back to sea level at Kinkell Bridge which is a grand four-arched bridge over the River Earn and dates from 1793. It gives great views over one of Perthshire’s top salmon beats and provided a suitable spot for a photo of the “old git” while having a water break.

Kinkell Bridge offered the perfect spot for a photo showing Perthshire at its best!

Time for the final pedal and the energy sapping long grind of Easthill back up to Auchterarder. But despite a fierce headwind I can happily report that my dynamic crew managed that stretch just 9 seconds outside their personal best while achieving an average speed of 8.4 mph!

Back at Matildas Rest the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 9 gongs – not bad given the emergence of the wind … again! The total was made up of 2 personal bests; 1 second best; and 3 third bests. My dynamic crew got real pleasure out of the PB for the climb past Trinity Gask Kirk! The time on this ride was 2 minutes 24 seconds … over a  minute and a half faster than back in July when it was 4 minutes 01 seconds. Good to see their efforts rewarded!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 28.5 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 20 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.2 mph while the elevation was 1239 feet. The maximum speed was 32.4 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1571 calories and produce an average power output of 168 W.

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

So all in all two great Autumnal rides to keep my dynamic crew “in training” on their fitness regime.

There’s probably going to be a short gap till my next blog as the “old gal” and “old git” are heading to warmer climes for a sneaky holiday week sitting on a beach in Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba.

As for me I am being left behind in my cosy garage as it is a well-earned relaxing break.  The “old git” however has already researched the availability of hiring a bike for a short ride. But the “old gal” says the only pedalling that she will be doing is on one of those pedalo boats! But at least that will be “in tandem”!

Till the next adventure!

Yummy cake at new Braco Coffee shop but rain stopped play on Dunblane tandem ☔

The “old gal” drookit on arrival at the new bike-friendly Braco Coffee shop!

Carrot cake and tandeming goes together like … well like Team Matilda’s Captain and Stoker really!

And my dynamic crew’s love for a stop at a coffee shop for carrot cake has become a signature event of our rides. In fact I understand the unbeatable combination is now de rigueur for most tandemers!

The “old git” and the “old gal” had been told about a great new tandem and cycle-friendly coffee shop in Braco and the plan for the day involved a pedal to build an appetite to sample the goodies on offer.

But the plan came a bit unstuck in some heavy rain which stopped the planned route in its tracks, forcing us to quickly retreat to the coffee shop to dry out.

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

Now as regular readers of my blog will know the “old git” is a bit of a zealot for checking the weather forecast with the localised BBC Weather service being his (usually) reliable first port of call. Dry and cloudy it said! But it was wrong!

When we set out it was accurate and soon we were tandeming away from Matildas Rest out on the open rural Perthshire roads past Gleneagles Hotel and on to Braco. To be honest, the cloud was building at this point – as the “old gal” pointed out. But the “old git” in his role as Captain decided to press on with the planned route to Dunblane.

But halfway to Dunblane – just before Kinbuck – rain stopped play with some ninja showers rolling in off the hills forcing the decision to abandon and take shelter before hastily retracing our route back to Braco.

It would need to be said my dynamic crew were looking somewhat less than dynamic as they arrived outside the Braco Coffee shop – drookit being the appropriate Scots word!

But they were guaranteed a warm and friendly welcome as the previous attempt at sampling the coffee shop ended in inglorious failure as my crew arrived just 8 minutes after the owners had decided to close early at 3 pm for staff training … on a busy Bank Holiday Monday!

Braco Coffee was sadly closed on our last visit – but my crew got a friendly welcome this time!

It was most definitely a case of “You’ll have had your tea” … as they say in some parts of Scotland as my crew disappointingly arrived that day to find the blinds down and not even the option of buying a carry out coffee, despite having checked the opening hours online before setting out.

After getting in touch with the owners they admitted it perhaps wasn’t the best day to close early – and tempted my dynamic crew to pay another visit – with some vouchers to help ease the disappointment!

Great coffee, scones, brownie and carrot cake! (Scones so good already eaten!)

Fair play to them, so my Captain and Stoker were happy to re-visit … and well worthwhile it turned out to be. Braco Coffee shop opened its doors back in March and since then has been providing an oasis for cyclists and walkers in the area – well situated on the busy tourist route to Crieff.

My dynamic crew can report that the fruit scones, chocolate brownie, and of course the carrot cake were all yummy as was the very welcome freshly brewed strong coffee.

The scones were so good that my dynamic crew forgot to take the pictures until after they had been scoffed! The “old git” nearly got his hand bitten off when he remembered and stopped the “old gal” just at the moment of launching in to sample the cakes!

The “old gal” still looking a tad wet! But ready to pounce on the cakes!

A real plus point for Braco Coffee Shop is that it doesn’t just keep to the coffee and cakes offering – the menu includes interesting freshly made lunch options including the likes of quiche and an interestingly named naanwich … obviously made from naan bread! And you can wash it all down with a glass of wine … or indeed prosecco … as it has a table licence.

And it stays open past its usual 5pm closing – till 9pm on a Friday and Saturday, to offer the local area a bistro dining option.

Great friendly customer service with a smile from the Braco Coffee team!

The food was tasty, fresh and well presented – with the scones warm on serving – which along with great friendly service from the Braco Coffee team, and sparkling toilets, meant the venue got top marks from Team Matilda! Well worth pointing your wheels in the direction of Braco for a pit stop on your next cycle ride! The carrot cake is worth it alone!

Now fortunately, while my dynamic crew refuelled, the rain disappeared – allowing for a fairly pleasant return tandem ride. Indeed weather conditions had improved dramatically so the “old git” decided not to simply repeat the outward journey but to add on a few extra miles with a longer loop back via Blackford, Badrill and then past Duchally Country Estate.

This involved some euphoria after nailing the steep 7% – 10% gradient uphill section known as the Duchally Ramp – which previously had seen my dynamic crew grind to a halt. But in my new low gear they managed to grind it out – which gave all three of us a great sense of achievement.

The last three miles flew past and returning to Matildas Rest the “old gal” quickly put the Team Matilda cycling anoraks – which had performed admirably in the downpour – on the washing line to dry.

The Team Matilda anoraks that did their job keeping my dynamic crew dry hanging on the line.

While the anoraks were blowing dry in the wind, the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 16 gongs – which given the weather conditions and the hilly terrain was pretty unbelievable! The total was made up of 7 personal bests;  and 9 second bests.

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 24.2 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 09 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 11.3 mph (given the monsoon rain!) while the elevation was 1401 feet. The maximum speed was 33.6 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1569 calories and produce an average power output of 182 W.

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

So not quite the 35 miles that were planned – but still a good bit of exercise! And it is always good to find a another tandem and bike-friendly coffee shop serving carrot cake! We’ll be back!

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!