Life’s a beach (but not sunbathing temperature!) on ride to Carnoustie

“Where’s the sun” asks the freezing “old gal” in a somewhat forlorn manner!

So after our first ride of 2018 the “Beast Fae the East” – as it was called around these parts – meant heavy snow abandoned any hopes of another outing anytime soon. Finally the weather forecasters promised some milder air and my dynamic crew decided it would be safe to venture out – if they kept to the coast. The lure of a balmy 10C and even a few rays of sun was just too tempting. After all the weather folk are never wrong … are they?!

The “old git” had selected one of my favourite routes – a 13 mile ride across the Tay Road Bridge and onto Sustrans Scotland NCR1 to Carnoustie. And the “old gal” likes it too, as it is relatively flat.

The first doubts about the weather forecast surfaced however as we pulled into the Tay Bridge car park opposite Dundee. As I was unpacked from Matilda Transport it was quite difficult to even see the bridge – despite it being so close – due to mist and low cloud.

The Tay Road Bridge is there somewhere – if you look closely thru the mist!

The omens were not looking good and the “old gal” who doesn’t do cold was already full of a feeling of foreboding. But the “old git’s” natural exuberance told her the cloud would lift and there would be sunshine by the time we got to Carnoustie! Let’s just say he was wrong!

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

The first part of the trip was crossing the Tay Bridge – which carries the A92 across the Firth of Tay, and is one of the longest road bridges in Europe. On this bridge the cycle path intriguingly sits in in the middle of the two carriageways for cars, unlike most bridges where the path runs at the side of the bridge. It can be quite alarming watching lorries speeding in what seems straight for you – but you are safely boxed in behind crash barriers. Just the joggers and dog walkers to look out for!

The mist shrouded the far side before somewhat eerily the huge new V&A Museum of Design Dundee emerged from the low cloud. It is in the final stages of construction – with the building designed to look like ships. Opening later this year, it will be an international centre of design for Scotland – the first ever design museum to be built in the UK outside London.

Off the bridge and we followed the well signposted NCR1 through the Dundee port area. Emerging from the electronic gates the “old gal” was already shivering so the “old git” chivalrously offered her his cycling jacket so she had double the protection against the elements.

We pedalled on trying to work up some internal steam to fight off the bitter cold. As we tandemed round the bay the charming old fishing town of Broughty Ferry came in to view – albeit it was looking a bit damp and grey today. Passing the quaint castle we continued along a stretch of the cycle path which hugged the Blue Flag beach – which was completely deserted! Wonder why?!

The route continues to Monifieth where a new stretch of path heads over Barry Links, past a very large Ministry of Defence area on the right known as the Barry Buddon Training Centre. This has high security fencing along its perimeter and rather ominously every 100 yards or so there are warnings signs telling you to keep out as this is a live military firing area! Not surprisingly the “old gal” ordered the “old git” to pay heed to the signs and not to veer off course!

Brrr! The “old gal” trying to escape the chill for a quick picnic and welcome coffee at Carnoustie.

Another couple of miles and we reached our half way point on the ride – and our picnic destination – at Carnoustie sea front. Certainly no sunbathing for the “old gal” today as she huddled in a shelter under two jackets and warm gloves nursing a very welcome flask of coffee! The good thing was that we didn’t have to queue for a picnic bench as they were all deserted! Strange that!

Where is everyone! The picnic benches were (not surprisingly) deserted!

Despite the chilly conditions my dynamic crew bravely ate their picnic of smoked salmon and spinach wraps with and some fresh fruit. Just a shame it wasn’t a bit warmer as the view from our picnic shelter was amazing. But that sea looked icy cold!

Erm what do we do now? Here I am at the top of the bmx and skateboard track!

Our picnic spot was close to a bmx bike and skateboard track and naturally the “old git” thought this was an ideal spot for a couple of fun photos! I seriously thought he was going to take me for a ride down some of the steep slopes! As an “old lady” classic tandem I would have found that quite exhilarating! Mind you I think the “old git” was the one who was scared and decided not to risk life and limb … and my brakes! Secretly everyone was quite glad!

Personally, me thinks the “old git” was more scared than me looking at the steep slopes!

The steps at a slipway which providing another interesting photo opportunity with big waves crashing in leaving the beach almost non existent. The “old git” helpfully promised the “old gal” that they would return on a day when the sun was splitting the skies so she could soak up some rays on the sand!

It was fair to say it was bracing with the waves pounding in to Carnoustie beach!

As we tandemed back thru the car park there was a brief stop to check out the preparations for the 147th The Open which is to be played over the Carnoustie links golf course in July. It has a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s most challenging links course, and at 7,421 yards it is the longest of any of the Open venues. The last time The Open was played at Carnoustie was in 1999 when Scots golfer Paul Lawrie lifted the famous claret jug.

The “old git” checking preparations for the 147th The Open being played over Carnoustie Links in July.

As we headed off on our 13 mile return trip it was clear lots of work is going on all over the course – and at a huge extension to the hotel overlooking the 18th green. It wll be jam packed come the week of the tournament in July.

My dynamic crew quickly got into their synchronicity factor and soon we were speeding back along the NCR1. Half way back the “old gal” made a good call for a coffee and carrot cake stop at the Glass Pavilion in Broughty Ferry.

Refuelled – and with the “old gal” having regained feeling in her feet – we tandemed back thru the dockyard before facing the final challenge of our ride – the return uphill crossing of the Tay Bridge. Into a head wind, and being cold and a bit tired from our adventure, this was a bit of a grind!

But we made it back to Matilda Transport in one piece! Back in the warmth of Matildas Rest the “old gal” immediately had a bath to defrost while the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 20 gongs! Amazingly we recorded a personal best for the initial crossing of the bridge covering the 1.3 miles in a time of 5 minutes and 06 seconds – it seems at an average speed of 15.7 mph. We also collected 8 2nd bests and a further 11 3rd bests! Not at all bad considering the temperature and that it was only our second outing of the year.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 25.3 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 54 minutes. As always it is the smiles not the miles that count, but our average speed was 8.7 mph and the elevation was 512 feet. The maximum speed was 18.6 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1,050 calories and produce an average power output of 90 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So the second outing of 2018 ticked off! Both the “old gal” and the “old git” are getting a bit fed up with the cold weather. Winter can go away now – as all three of us on Team Matilda are hoping some warmer temperatures are on the way soon for sunny tandem rides!

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Chilly canter to Carnoustie and Christmas lights celebrations with Craig and Gillian

Solo cyclists Gillian and Craig joined my dynamic duo for the ride across the Tay to Carnoustie.

The “old git” and the “old gal” had invited good solo cycling friends Gillian and Craig to Matildas Rest for a weekend of fun! The plan was to head into Perth on the Saturday for Scotland’s biggest Christmas lights switch-on party before heading for a meal, back home for some zzzzs, then a planned gentle ride to blow away the cobwebs on the Sunday.

And it all worked a treat! I was left behind to entertain the two shiny sleek sporty lightweight racing bikes belonging to our visitors, while the cycling crews headed by bus into Perth city centre.

The cyclists all enjoying themselves watching acts like Alesha Dixon at the Perth Christmas Lights concert.

And the city certainly lived up to its billing as “Scotland’s Christmas capital” as it hosted a massive party, with an estimated 100,000 revellers flocking into the festivities.

Before the big light switch on and fireworks there was the small matter of visiting a gin and chocolate festival on the High Street. Now as you may now my dynamic crew have a bit of a thing for Scottish artisan gins – and Gillian and Craig have a bit of history in this area too – so it was a perfect match! The crew’s eagerly sampled and compared quite a few of the brands on display! It seems that one of the best was a brand new gin from Twin River Distillery based in Banchory, near where the “old gal” was brought up. The Twin Rivers refers to the Dee and the Don and the distillery is one of only three in Scotland to make its own grain neutral spirit, the base for craft spirits, to ensure a completely authentic gin offering. Result – bottle purchased for the gin cupboard at Matildas Rest!

Boyslife blasted out the hits from Boyzone and Westlife.

East 17 sang their 1994 Christmas hit Stay Another Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apart from the gin and chocolate stalls, the city was packed with fairground rides, ice sculptures,  food stalls and street performers. After squeezing our way past all that entertainment the cycling crews made their way to the main stage on Tay Street where an outdoor concert was a major feature to the switch-on celebrations with Mud, Boyzlife  and East 17 providing the musical entertainment.

Alesha Dixon was the headline act – and did not disappoint.

Topping the bill was singer Alesha Dixon, best known for Strictly Come Dancing and her role as judge on Britain’s Got Talent. She vowed the crowds with an entertaining set. Congratulations should go to Perth and Kinross Council and Perth City Centre for putting on such a fantastic and well organised day.

As the temperature dropped my dynamic crew and their friends retired to enjoy a Spanish tapas themed meal at Sante – where I am told the paella was fabulous! After a late night bus trip back to Matildas Rest – everyone was soon asleep dreaming of our pedal the next day!

Beautiful sunny skies met the “old gal” and the “old git” as they got ready to roll!

The bike crews may have been hoping for a long lie but the “old git” had everyone up sharpish – while the “old gal” offered a hearty breakfast for fuel. Fortunately the weather forecast had come up trump with the promised dry sunny day, so it was off in Matilda Transport to the Tay Bridge car park. The route was going to be one of my favourites – a near 13 mile ride across the bridge and onto Sustrans Scotland NCR1 to Carnoustie.

Craig and Gillian took a selfie which was photobombed by my dynamic crew!

As the crews unpacked in the car park opposite Dundee the view across the Tay was clear blue skies which offered the perfect backdrop for the inevitable series of selfie photos – including one where Craig and Gillian were effectively photobombed by my dynamic crew! And then we were ready to roll!

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

The first part of the trip was crossing the Tay Bridge – which carries the A92 across the Firth of Tay, and is one of the longest road bridges in Europe. Opened in 1966, it celebrated its 50th anniversary last year – making it nearly as old as me, but not quite! Intriguingly the cycle path on the bridge sits in in the middle of the two carriageways for cars, unlike most bridges where the path runs at the side of the bridge. This was a bit odd to begin, creating a feeling of being boxed in and it was slightly disconcerting having the cars driving past at such speed and in close proximity – albeit behind crash barriers.

But it did actually feel very safe and we soon got into our stride and as you will see from this Strava segment called “Hop the Tay” my crew worked up a good speed, averaging 15.3 mph over the 1.3 mile stretch with a time of 5 mins 16 secs – smashing their own previous record of 6 mins 30 secs.

Amazingly the segment also shows up any friends who have done the same route and the “old git” was surprised to see good tandem friends John and Jane – of Travelling in Tandem blog fame – pop up. They recorded a (slower!) time of 6 mins and 02 seconds when they crossed the Tay Bridge in the same direction back in September 2015 during one of their long distance rides from John O Groats.

The new V & A is designed to look like a ship on the Dundee waterfront. Credit V&A

As we got to the end of the bridge my dynamic crew got a great view of the huge new V&A Museum of Design Dundee which is taking shape as it emerges from the construction site – with the building designed to look like ships. When it opens in 2018 it will be an international centre of design for Scotland – the first ever design museum to be built in the UK outside London.

Off the bridge and we followed the well signposted NCR1 through the Dundee port area. It really is a great cycle path, and very flat, which made the “old gal” smile! And because it is a dedicated path – away from roads – it is very popular with cyclists and dog walkers, which makes for lots of sociable greetings along the way! As we tandemed round the bay the charming old fishing town of Broughty Ferry came in to view and with little effort we cycled past the castle and continued along a stretch which hugged the Blue Flag beach.

With the sun out, it was a joy to be tandeming in such a lovely area on such a beautiful day. The route continues to Monifieth where a new stretch of path heads over Barry Links, past a very large Ministry of Defence area on the right known as the Barry Buddon Training Centre. This has high security fencing along its perimeter and rather ominously every 100 yards or so there are warnings signs telling you to keep out as this is a live military firing area!

The spot selected for the picnic was right at the beach and had a wonderful view across the bay.

Not surprisingly the “old gal” ordered the “old git” to pay heed to the signs and not to veer off course! Pedalling along on the NCR1 we soon came to our picnic destination of Carnoustie – home to the famous championship golf course which was looking at its spectacular best in the sunshine – with lots of golfers out on its links.

Along with Gillian and Craig – who had enjoyed their first time on the route – we selected a brilliant location for our picnic right at the seafront with a fabulous view across the bay. There were some steps at a slipway which providing an interesting photo opportunity for my dynamic crew, with big waves crashing in behind them!

There were some steps at a slipway which provided an interesting backdrop of big waves!

Gillian took a picture of Craig taking a photo of my dynamic crew trying not to get wet!

Naturally Craig and Gillian had to have a shot at beating the waves on the steps – although they looked a bit less comfortable on the “old git’s” shout of “It’s behind you!” as one massive wave crashed in and crept up the steps! I guess it must be his sense of humour!

It’s behind you! Gillian and Craig looking a little unsure as the waves rush in!

After playing dodge the waves my crew were ready for their picnic which today offered a menu of smoked salmon croissants with chilly cream cheese and some fresh seasonal fruit. Another wonderful picnic with another wonderful vista.

Gillian and Craig checking their performance on their phones after the picnic!

The “old gal” fortified by her picnic ready for the return trip back to the Tay Bridge.

Fortified by their picnic lunch it was time to head back on the return trip 13 mile trip back to the Tay Bridge so we would all be back before it started to get dark. As the sun began to drop in the sky so did the temperature – and a check later revealed that the promised 6C was hit … but it masked a “feels like” temperature of minus 1! So it was starting to get a bit chilly around my spokes – and Craig’s legs as he bravely (or perhaps foolhardily!) opted to wear shorts!

Here I am showing off my classic lines basking against the sea vista at Carnoustie.

Half way back the “old gal” – who was starting to get a bit chilly called a coffee break and we had a warming reviving coffee in the welcoming Glass Pavillion in Broughty Ferry. At this point Gillian and Craig bid my dynamic crew farewell as they could cycle faster on their solo bikes.

After tandeming back thru the dockyard, it was time for the return crossing across the Tay Bridge – but firstly we encountered the rather unusual way of accessing the bridge and staying on NCR1 – a lift! But fortunately it is very easy to use. I was thinking that I would have to be lifted unceremoniously into the lift at an awkward angle as there would probably be only room lengthwise for single bikes – but I am delighted to report I could simply be pushed in.

Going up! Unusual way of accessing the Tay Bridge on NCR1 – but happily it was a long lift!

The “old git” was waffling on about breaking another record on the way back across the bridge – but the “old gal” was quick to point out that it was in fact an uphill pedal on the return trip! The “old git” scoffed, but quickly discovered the truth as they pedalled off and were suddenly hit by a head wind!

What should have been a quick cycle back across the bridge turned into a bit of a grind – with Strava showing that the return trip – dubbed The Killer Tay Bridge – took nearly four minutes longer than earlier in the day with a time of 8 minutes 58 seconds with the average speed dropping to 9.1 mph.

A great sunny – if chilly – day for a tandem ride, especially when the sun started to go down.

I was packed back into Matilda Transport and back home in the warmth of Matildas Rest my dynamic crew checked out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 26 gongs … 18 personal bests … five 2nd bests … and three 3rd bests.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 25.5 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 34 minutes. Average speed was 9.9 mph and the elevation was a fairly flat 505  feet. The maximum speed was 18.3 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1110 calories and produce an average power output of 108 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So a great sunny – if chilly – day for a tandem ride – made all the better by cycling with good friends. A grand day out really for Matildas Musings!

Sneaky Monday ride from Tay Bridge to the home of golf St Andrews on NCR1

The “old gal” at the stunning West Sands beach at St Andrews.

So the “old git” and the “old gal” have been suffering from the “tandem blues” – missing their days of togetherness in the saddle pedalling across the scenic dykes of north Holland and thru the spectacular vineyards of Alsace and Champagne. To counter that my dynamic crew decided that an outing was required back at home – just to get the feeling of the air between my spokes again!

Not sure that the weather was going to be quite as good – but no matter the “old git” took a sneaky Monday off work and all three of us were packed into Matilda Transport and heading for the Tay Bridge. A new route to St Andrews had been identified – with the promise of some beautiful cycle paths thru the middle of a forest and along parts of the Fife Coastal Path.

Heavy rain was falling as we drove towards the Tay Bridge and it would need to be said that the “old gal” wasn’t hopeful of us getting out for a ride as my dynamic crew had seemingly left their ponchos at home. But as always the “old git” had done his weather forecast check and it promised the rain would dry up with bright clear skies from about 11am. And amazingly as soon as we drove into the bridge car park across from Dundee, the deluge stopped and the sun emerged from behind the clouds! Result!

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

The route is part of of Sustrans Scotland NCR1 and the bit Team Matilda did was a 17 mile section which saw the three of us initially tandem from the the Tay Bridge thru Tayport, passing its attractive harbour. After a fairly potholed section of about half a mile near Kinshaldy Beach the route continue don fantastic traffic free tracks thru the Tentsmuir Forest nature reserve.

As the Forestry Commission Scotland website says: ‘Tentsmuir is a magical combination of forest trails that dip and weave between tall trees and open sand dunes that change constantly with the wind and tides. The coast here is one of Scotland’s most dynamic landscapes: parts of the shoreline are growing out into the sea at a rate of five metres a year.’

And it lived up to its billing as a magical ride emerging out onto a cycle path past the former Leuchars Air Force base – now used by the Army. After heading thru Guardbridge my dynamic crew enjoyed an excellent cycle path separated from the busy A91  by a wall and hedge which hugs the edge of the famous St Andrews golf courses – past the landmark Old Course hotel – right to the sea front … where the sun appeared again, as if on cue! The only thing that was missing was a vineyard for a wine tasting along the way! Oh how my crew are missing France! 

Selfie time! My dynamic crew arrived in St Andrews as the sun came out right on cue!

As you know It’s all about the Smiles not the miles for Team MatildasMusings! So when we arrived in St Andrews my dynamic crew found themselves with the backdrop of the magnificent West Sands Beach where the iconic slow-motion running sequence for the brilliant Chariots of Fire movie was filmed. Naturally my dynamic crew decided they had to film a short remake! You can view the 7 second remake here!:

After my dynamic crew had attracted attention from foreign tourists wondering why on earth the “old git” was doing slow-motion running at the edge of the beach, it was time to get the required photo at the historic Old Course at St Andrews – the recognised home of golf.

Me and the “old git” and “old gal” at the historic Old Course – the home of golf.

St Andrews, being a mecca for golfers from across the world, plays host to the British Golf Museum – which houses the largest collection of golf memorabilia in Europe.

St Andrews – as the home of golf – is home to the British Golf Museum.

After the exertions of making a remake of Chariots of Fire and visiting the golf landmarks, my crew were feeling a bit peckish and headed up into the town where the “old git’s” research yet again paid off as they enjoyed a memorable lunch at a wonderful fish restaurant called Tailend, which has just won the Best Restaurant in Scotland award!

It seems the multi-faceted business has their own fishing boats and then has premises in both St Andrews and Dundee which have a wet fish shop, a fish and chip takeaway, and a luxurious sit in restaurant. From sea to table in one operation – and the freshness of the fish was obvious in my dynamic crew’s sampling of the menu. They enjoyed some battered tiger prawns with chilli; seared scallops with haggis; and a traditional fish and chips – before an indulgence of chocolate brownie and salted caramel ice cream Yum! And the gorgeous food was washed down with a Tail Royale cocktail – made from locally produced Eden Mill gin topped with prosecco!

My dynamic crew just had to sample a Tailend gin and prosecco cocktail!

Refuelled by lunch it was time to start the return journey and with a rain shower forecast my dynamic crew picked up pace and headed out along the coast towards Guardbridge. As we pedalled past Leuchars the rain started, but fortunately didn’t get too heavy – and soon we had the protection of the trees of  Tentsmuir Forest to protect us.

As the rain stopped, we came across the welcome oasis of The Crepe Shack where we had a memorable stop with Pablo who made as an amazing apple, cinnamon, caramel and Lotus biscuit crepe! A fabulous crepe in a fabulous location – right bang in the middle of the forest! Brilliant!

My dynamic crew loved the amazing Crepe Shack in the middle of Tenstmuir Forest.

Energy levels replenished by a crepe, the “old git and “old gal” pedalled on along the path thru the forest – stopping briefly at an old ice house which dates back to the 19th Century and was used to keep locally caught salmon fresh. It is now an important artificial bat roost.

The ice house where fishermen used to store their catch after dragging it up from the sea.

Emerging from the forest we tandemed back along the coast thru Tayport and back to the car park at the Tay Bridge – with me being loaded into Matilda Transport in record time to beat a heavy shower which started as soon as we began the drive home.

On return to Matildas Rest my dynamic crew had time to check out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 34 personal bests! I will repeat that … 34 personal bests! However this seems to be a change in the Strava app which now gives you a personal best for the first time you do a new route – as a kind of benchmark! But a personal best is a personal best!

Strava showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 34.1 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 38 minutes. Average speed was 9.4 mph and the elevation was a 1028  feet. The maximum speed was 19.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1733 calories and produce an average power output of 119 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

All in all some much needed smiles on a great new route on NCR1 for me and my dynamic crew! We’ll certainly be back!