Meander to Muthill in brilliant Perthshire sunshine!

Basking in the sunshine at the medieval kirkyard at Muthill.

Basking in the sunshine at the medieval kirkyard at Muthill.

Check out our route on Strava here – and then make sure you click on the map to get the full data and statistics!

Strava MuthillSeems to be getting a habit, a ride out on a Sunday. But then the “old git” is a man on a mission – to get himself and the “old gal” fit again ahead of the big Tour de France later in the year.

And of course there is the little matter of helping the Hay Plan weight loss programme that my dynamic duo are currently embracing – and it is obviously working. Yesterday’s weigh in saw them having lost a combined total of 2 stones in just 5 weeks. I am most impressed, and it certainly reduces the strain on my ageing frame!

So with an encouraging weather forecast showing lots of sunshine and the temperature set to hit 11C – the plan was to hit the road mid morning. The”old git” had researched a 15 mile route from Matildas Rest around more of Perthshire’s quiet country roads to Muthill – which (whisper it) involved a bit of “uphill” training!

Now as you know neither me nor the “old gal” are fans of hills – but these were more of the steady slow inclines rather than the north face of Everest variety! At least that’s what the “old git” promised us!

But the plan for a morning departure hit a snag! The central heating system at Matildas Rest decided to fail late on Saturday and we were promised a visit form an engineer on Sunday morning. The engineer duly arrived, but an immediate fix wasn’t possible as the circuit board had burned itself out, and it looks like two or three days for the part to arrive. The “old gal” – who feels the cold more than the “old git” – is just grateful for the milder forecast!

So it was early afternoon before I was wheeled out of the garage – with water bottles filled and a flask of coffee in my bag – into brilliant sunshine. The hills beyond Matildas Rest – Craig Rossie and the Ochils looked resplendent in the rays. So much so that we had to have a photo before we set off!

Team Matilda about to depart in brilliant sunshine - and what a view from our front door!

Team Matilda about to depart in brilliant sunshine – and what a view from our front door!

And of course the “old gal” had her new responsibility of setting the Strava app on her mobile to record our ride. Everyone was in buoyant spirits as we headed off heading along Hunter Street and out into the countryside heading along an undulating route towards the Kinkell Bridge.

I am please to report there is still some life in this “old lady” yet as we whizzed along on a downhill stretch reaching the giddy heights of just under 30mph – 29.8 mph precisely according to Strava! – before the “old gal” was heard to shout “Slow down”. But for me it was quite a thrill to be going so fast!

Mind you the momentum was soon lost on the next incline! The “old git” had decided to use one gear higher than normal in order to give my dynamic duo a bit of a work out. But I have to say that the “old git’s” explanation to the “old gal” that “We will benefit from it in the future” wasn’t really cutting it!

In what seemed like no time we arrived at the historic Kinkell Bridge which is a grand four-arch bridge across the River Earn and dates back to 1793.

On the approach to the magnificent four-arch Kinkell Bridge.

On the approach to the magnificent four-arch Kinkell Bridge.

The area around the bridge is a renowned salmon and trout fishing spot making it highly popular with anglers.

Back on the saddles for my dynamic duo who had spotted a couple of small aircraft circling overhead and then groups of parachutists jumping. That was because we were near to Strathallan airfield which is the base for Skydive Strathallan – which is the oldest skydiving centre in Scotland, and also the largest.

Here I am at Skydive Strathallan - I thought they wanted tandems for their parachuting!

Here I am at Skydive Strathallan – I thought they wanted tandems for their parachuting!

I was getting quite excited as I had heard that one of the popular things they offer is tandem parachute jumps. Now I thought this would be an excellent activity for me as a classic tandem to get involved in! In fact I had to be restrained at the entrance to the site!

The “old gal” had to explain to me that in fact tandem parachute jumps are not actually for tandem bikes but it is a training method using a dual-harness system where humans jump attached to a highly experienced instructor who controls the free fall, parachute opening and the landing.

Watching the plane with the next load of intrepid parachutists taking off.

Watching the plane with the next load of intrepid parachutists taking off.

I have to say it still looked quite spectacular and we stood and watched for a bit as a few tandems – parachutists not bikes! –  sailed down descending from the clear blue sky. The “old gal” even had to watch out when one of the aircraft took off from the grass air strip just in front of her.

Both the “old git” and the “old gal” were able to tell me that they had both done a parachute jump in their past lives. The “old git’s” was a considerable time ago when he was a member of the Air Training Corps and completed two solo jumps. The scary part it seems was he had to pack his own parachute. Bet you he paid attention to that lesson!

As for the “old gal” she did her jump here at Strathallan – more than ten years ago. It was part of a tandem jump raising funds for charity. Well I never – the things you learn about my dynamic duo on a day out!

Pedaling on, a few tractors  with trailers loaded with potatoes and turnips passed us as this is prime Perthshire agricultural land. The “old git” was heard to say “It is a bit different to cycling in France where it was grapes being harvested!” The “old gal” could only agree as she reminisced about our trips through the world-famous vineyards in Burgundy and Bordeaux … and the wine tastings en route!

This year Team Tandem Ecosse – which is the name for Team Matilda on our French trips – are heading for the Loire Valley. And yes, you’ve guessed it, there are lots of famous vineyards there too! I must admit it will be nice to feel the warmth of the French sun on my frame again!

A couple more miles and we were in the ancient village of Muthill – which is another village steeped in history. For a start there are over a hundred listed buildings in the small village. In its time it was also an important religious centre.

The kirkyard at the centre of the small town contains the ruins of an important 15th-century parish church, which incorporates an 11th-century bell-tower. It is comparable – though on a smaller scale – to that incorporated into the famous cathedral in the nearby larger town of Dunblane.

The ruined medieval churchyard in the centre of Muthill with its impressive bell tower.

The ruined medieval churchyard in the centre of Muthill with its impressive bell tower.

The “old git” and the “old gal” had a wander through the old gravestones before the “old gal” admitted that she had never been in the churchyard, despite it being only a few miles from Auchterarder – where she had lived most of her life.

The "old gal" was paying her first ever visit to the ancient churchyard at Muthill.

The “old gal” was paying her first ever visit to the ancient churchyard at Muthill.

A welcome cup of coffee was enjoyed from the flask as they perused the information board which informed them that the church had also served for a time as a seat of the Bishops of Strathearn (later Dunblane) before the building of the cathedral at Dunblane in the 13th century.

One disappointing aspect of Muthill is that the revered Birdhouse Bakery cafe has unfortunately closed. They used to serve the best carrot cake for miles around. It was even deemed the best in Britain by a tv series called Britain’s Best Bakery.

But alas it is no more – and the “old git” will no longer be able to use the carrot (cake) as a persuasive stick technique on the “old gal” in the future! But the “old gal” did manage to get a copy of the recipe before the bakery closed – and is promising to make it – but obviously only after my dynamic duo have reached their target on the Hay Plan!

So back on the saddles for the return journey back to Auchterarder. And I have to say I was impressed with the fitness levels of the “old git” and the “old gal” as we fair cycled along – moving freely up and down the gears.

The only real obstacle was one very steep hill which required de-tandeming (good word there!) and me being pushed up the hill.

But we were soon underway again and one of the last stretches involved a long slow climb for over a mile. Neither of my dynamic duo thought we would make it to the top without stopping – but make it we did. And we all had a great triumphant feeling as a result.

The reward was a lovely downhill stretch back down the high street of Auchterarder, right back to my nice garage at Matildas Rest.

So 15 miles covered, with a cycling time of 1 hour 48 mins meaning we managed to clock up a respectable average speed of 8.4 mph.

All in all, a great ride out to get ahead of my dynamic duo taking me for an Easter Sunday trip around scenic Loch Rannoch – with them indulging themselves in a stay over at the amazing Moor of Rannoch hotel. The “old gal” says she can’t wait!

And if you’ve got this far and haven’t checked out my route to Muthill on Strava you can do so here.

Finally, don’t forget to keep all your fingers and toes crossed for my blog – which is a finalist in the Most Innovative category of the UK Blog Awards 2016. Not only is Matildas Musings the only blog ‘written’ by a classic Jack Taylor tandem, but it is the only Scottish finalist. The results will be announced at a glitzy awards presentation evening at the Park Plaza Hotel in London at the end of April. In the words of the song: “I’m so excited!”

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Jolly jaunt around Gleneagles on my first Strava recorded ride!

The artwork on a roundabout to mark the Ryder Cup being held at Gleneagles in 2014.

The artwork on a roundabout to mark the Ryder Cup being held at Gleneagles in 2014.

Sunday morning dawned with Matildas Rest bathed in bright sunshine. The forecast was for the thermometer to reach a balmy 10C, so the “old git” was in his element as the plans for a ride out – only our second of the year – fell into place. We were on for some much needed exercise and fresh air between my spokes!

The “old gal” was still a bit worried about rustiness – but the “old git” had thought out a new circular route on some of the quiet and scenic Perthshire back roads around the famous Gleneagles hotel estate. Anyway my dynamic duo’s combined weight loss on the Hay healthy eating plan has now reached 24 pounds so they were feeling much healthier.

And to add to the excitement of getting out on the roads again around Matildas Rest, the “old git” had persuaded the “old gal” that we should use Strava – the cycling GPS tracker which you can operate via an app on a mobile phone. So this classic tandem is moving into the digital age. Forget that rubbish that you are too old to learn new skills and tricks!

Essentially it tracks the journey from start to finish – including pausing when I am stopped – and then gives a highly detailed report on the ride. This incorporates a terrain map showing the journey and lots of statistics like distance covered, moving time, total time, elevation, average speed and top speed. You can compare segments of the ride against other cyclists – and also against our own time when we repeat a route. Which all sounds like fun, unless the “old git” becomes a Strava bore!

My dynamic duo were recommended to use it by Jane and John Taylor who live in Hampshire and are frequent tandemers on their  Pino semi-recumbent  called Bluebird. The “old git” and the “old gal” have become friends with Bluebird’s crew after starting to chat on social networks including The Tandem Club UK Facebook page. And, what’s more, I understand they are avid fans of my blog – so they must be good people!

In fact I am most excited as I am due to meet Bluebird when she brings her crew up to Perthshire in August for a holiday. The plan is that me and Bluebird will be going out for some of the most scenic rides around the area – so I am looking forward to having a tandem pal for some ride outs. I am sure Bluebird and I can get up to mischief while the two tandem crews are indulging in a few glasses of wine when having picnics or when we stop at local hostelries!

So back to the ride and we set off in calm conditions and were soon the “old git” and the “old gal” were in perfect synchronicity (well that’s what the old git likes to believe anyway!) as they pedalled up Auchterarder high street and headed out of the town, continuing up hill towards Gleneagles hotel – the playground of the rich and famous!

We headed up the road towards Blackford and Braco with my crew buoyant to be out in the mild Spring day – despite further long slow climbs past the back entrance to the hotel. In fact we were moving faster and smoother than both I and the “old gal” would have dared imagine at this stage in the season, soaking in the picturesque Perthshire countryside and wonderful fresh air.

Here I am on the edge of the famous King's Course at Gleneagles with the Ochil hills as a backdrop.

Here I am on the edge of the famous King’s Course at Gleneagles with the Ochil hills as a backdrop.

The first point of interest was cycling along the edge of the King’s  golf course – renowned as being one of the most beautiful and exhilarating places to play golf in the world. Opened in 1919, the King’s course is regarded as a masterpiece of golf course design, which has tested the aristocracy of golf, both professional and amateur. A quick photo stop allowed us to take in the views with the Ochil hills giving a dramatic backdrop to the perfectly manicured fairways.

Pedalling on we soon picked up speed on a nice downhill stretch and reaching the heady heights of 24.8 mph – albeit only for less than 100 yards – before abruptly slowing down again as we faced the next incline.

It was a wonderful day to be out tandeming – proving the old adage that “it’s always better tandeming together” – which was showing Perthshire off at its best. We soon turned sharply to the left taking the road to Blackford – passing the ghost-like golf course of the gWest complex belonging to Ochil Developments. On its website it is described as being “Scotland’s best kept secret” – and it truly is.

The golf course has been there for a few years – but the first steps towards a luxury new  resort to rival its neighbour Gleneagles have now been launched. The first 26 residential plots are now available, providing potential buyers the chance to design their very own bespoke, multi million pound home on an average of 1.25 acres of land with extraordinary views across one of Scotland’s finest landscapes.

The level crossing at Blackford - on the main rail route north to Aberdeen and Inverness.

The level crossing at Blackford – on the main rail route north to Aberdeen and Inverness.

On down towards the village of Blackford, crossing the main Glasgow to Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness railway line. It is the line the “old git” commutes each weekday on to get to Glasgow, so it was interesting to see the level crossing from a  different perspective. We headed past the sprawling Highland Spring water factory – home of one of Perthshire’s most iconic brands – before cycling through the village and past the Tullibardine Highland single malt whisky distillery which is expanding its visitor centre.

The next stage was to cross the busy A9 dual carriageway – on foot rather than pedalling – and turning into the much quieter and remote road around Bardrill. Before departure the “old git” had one of his (few) bright ideas and packed a flask with some freshly brewed coffee in it, as he was aware there were no cafes on today’s route. So after the adrenalin-fuelled activity of dodging the fast moving cars and trucks on the main route north to Inverness the “old gal” was ready for a very welcome coffee.

Smile for the selfie - practicing using the self-timer!

Smile for the selfie – practicing at coffee stop using the self-timer!

As my dynamic duo enjoyed a quick pit stop, and practicing taking a few selfies on the self-timer camera on the mobile phone, the “old gal” was even heard to praise the “old git” for his forward thinking in organising the flask of coffee! And that doesn’t happen very often – the praise I mean!

With the sunshine having made a disappearing act behind some heavy cloud we were soon on the move again, with the three of us enjoying the flat cycling on the farm roads around Bardrill. This is a good road for practicing gear changes as there are straight stretches followed by downhills and inclines all in quick succession. All was going well until a cry of “stop pedalling” was heard from the “old gal.” In her position as stoker on the rear, she gets a good view of my chain and it had slipped off the gear mechanism following a rapid change down the gears.

Fortunately the “old git” immediately stopped moving my pedals so the chain didn’t get jammed, and the “old gal” used her skills in her other role as chief engineer to hook my chain back into position and we were soon moving again.

We turned out on to the Glendevon road and paused to admire the roundabout with some huge golf clubs as an art work commemorating the Ryder Cup golf match being held at Gleneagles in September 2014 – when Europe famously beat the US 16½ to 11½.

At the main entrance to Gleneagles - the playground for the rich and famous.

At the main entrance to Gleneagles – the playground for the rich and famous.

We headed back towards Matildas rest tandeming past the posh front entrance to Gleneagles – stopping for another photo opportunity – before a nice downhill stretch back into Auchterarder. My dynamic duo decided on a stop at at the cafe at Synergy Cycles.  They both enjoyed a slice of caramel shortcake – one of the best in the area according to the “old gal”, and who would argue with her! – washed down by a nice warming coffee.

Back to Matildas Rest and a wonderful day was made even more perfect by watching Scotland beat France at Murrayfield in the Six Nations Rugby International – the first such victory for a decade! There was even time for a celebratory gin and tonic!

You can check out our route on Strava here – and make sure you click on the map to get the full data and statistics!

Strava GleneaglesI am proud to say that we are even registered as Team Matilda – what else?! – on Strava and are now a member of the the Tandem Club on the site. You will see that we were ranked 52nd out of 54 tandems registered when judged on distance covered in the past week. But I have to say we have no ambitions to top the table. Now if there was a ranking for fun quotient we would definitely be near the top – as for the three of us that’s what tandeming is all about. And we wholeheartedly agree with the Tandem Club UK website that tandeming is really twice the fun!

Tandem club twice the fun logoAnd finally – don’t forget to keep all your fingers and toes crossed for my blog – which is a finalist in the Most Innovative category of the UK Blog Awards 2016. Not only is Matildas Musings the only blog ‘written’ by a classic Jack Taylor tandem, but it is the only Scottish finalist. The results will be announced at a glitzy awards presentation evening at the Park Plaza Hotel in London at the end of April.

I have my my brake cables crossed until then in the hope that I will win the award! Although I am a bit worried as to where the “old git” would attach the trophy to my delicate frame?!

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My pedals get to turn for the first time in 2016 at scenic Loch Leven!

Beautiful February Sunshine at the pier at Loch Leven.

Beautiful February Sunshine at the pier at Loch Leven.

At last all those storms with silly names seem to have passed and from midweek the excitement was mounting at Matildas Rest as the weather forecast was finally showing a lovely weather window for Sunday – an almost unheard of phenomenon recently … a sunny day with virtually no wind.

At last it seemed I was going to be able to get back out on the road and get some fresh air between my spokes after languishing in my garage. I mean the excitement of my blog being named as a finalist in the UK Blog Awards 2016 was a nice diversion – but as all tandemers know there is nothing like the real think of getting your pedals turning again!

The “old gal” and the “old git” have admittedly missed the regular exercise of outings on me. And whisper it, but they have put on a few extra pounds over the winter – especially the “old git”! – so I am a little worried about the extra weight!

However they tell me they are now on a healthy eating regime to lose weight and to give them energy – known as the Hay Plan – and it seems to be working as in the first two weeks they lost a combined 16 pounds!  Phew – just in time!

The “old gal” was also a bit worried about being a bit rusty on the bike and demanded that we start off somewhere flat for the first trip of the year. The “old git” did as he was told – unusually so! – and selected nearby Loch Leven as the destination. It really is a jewel in Perthshire’s crown and the scenery would be enchanting in the February sunshine.

So Sunday morning dawned and excitement reached fever as the blinds were opened to reveal glorious sunshine. The “old git” was deliriously happy and the ski thermals were donned – as it was still going to be cold – before we all found ourselves bundled into Matilda Transporter for the short half hour drive to Kinross pier.

Matilda Transport - this is the glamorous way I travel!

Matilda Transport – this is the glamorous way I travel!

As you can see from the picture, Matildas Transport may not be the most glamorous way to travel for this “old lady” – but it is highly effective. The “old git” an the “old gal” even have to sit in tandem – one driving and the other in the spare passenger seat in the rear – to ensure we all fit in. But fit in we do!

The challenge for the first ride out of 2016 was to complete cycle route round the whole of Loch Leven – an easy 13 miles.

The trail has opened two years ago at a cost of £3 million and is known as the Loch Leven Heritage Trail and it links 30 natural and cultural heritage sites. Take a look at the map of the whole of the Loch Leven route here.

The "old git" and the "old gal" ready for the off - first tandem trip of 2016!

The “old git” and the “old gal” ready for the off – first tandem trip of 2016!

So it was with a little trepidation that we set off – and admittedly we were a bit shaky at first … but my dynamic duo soon got the hang of it again and we got into our stride, settling into a nice easy pace given the first outing of the year.

The “old git” had given his word to the “old gal” that if there was any dangers ahead that he would slow down or come to a stop – so they could walk a bit before getting back on. And he kept to his word.

He even stopped at the couple of right angle bends that there are in the first few miles of the route – as he has now (thankfully) learned that an “old lady” like me doesn’t bend in the middle and tight bends are therefore an extreme hazard!

Another less dangerous hazard was the number of walkers with dogs who were out for the day! The sunshine had brought them out like ants! The “old gal” came up with the idea that as we approached each group from behind, that the “old git” would give a friendly ‘parp’ on my horn to warn them.

This was a success, and there was much friendly exchange of greetings as we cycled past. I have to say, though, the “old gal” was getting a little annoyed at the number of times walkers said to us: “She’s not pedalling on the back” as we cycled past them. A quick retort of “Oh that’s the tenth time I have heard that today” seemed to silence them however!

It was amazing to be out in such beautiful countryside – with hardly a breath of wind. Both the “old git” and the “old gal” had big smiles on their faces as they remembered just how good it was to be tandeming together.

I was in my element of course as everyone turned to look at me as I was the only tandem on the route – and caused quite a stir as I cycled past other groups.  A few kids where heard to say to their parents: “Is that a double bike?!”

One of the key attractions of the Loch Leven circular route is the RSPB Loch Leven Nature Reserve which is 7.5 miles round the circuit at Vane Farm so we headed for the RSPB visitor centre which has  a lovely appealing cafe overlooking the loch.

At the RSPB Loch Leven nature reserve

Blue skies at the RSPB Loch Leven nature reserve.

The “old git” had one of his (rare) good ideas and suggested some warming soup at the cafe – so the pair enjoyed a steaming bowl of homemade tomato and pepper soup with crusty bread. Very welcoming it was too! And good to see the cafe so busy.

My dynamic due were slightly less than dynamic on the restart – with their legs having seized up a bit over the lunch break. But they soon got into the rhythm again as we headed back to Kinross.

The "old gal" enjoying the (almost) warm sunshine at Loch Leven.

The “old gal” enjoying the (almost) warm sunshine at Loch Leven.

Hats off to all those involved, because the cycle path is very smooth surface. And apart from a few muddy stretches – which can be excused because of the extremely wet weather we have had – it really was a joy to cycle on. Highly recommended.

We were soon back at the start point of Kinross pier and time for a few photos as the loch was looking serenely calm with the sky a very unseasonable shade of blue.

In the middle of the loch is Loch Leven castle which was the setting for the most traumatic year in the life of Mary Queen of Scots. It was here in 1567 that she was imprisoned and forced to abdicate before her dramatic escape a year later.

You can see why it was easy to imprison her here as you clearly need a boat to get to the island from the pier. But as it was off-season none were running.

The departure point for the small boat ferry to Loch Leven Castle.

The departure point for the small boat ferry to Loch Leven Castle.

With temperatures beginning to drop I was quickly loaded back into Matilda Transport and we headed off to a nearby Costa to enjoy some welcome hot coffee and reflect on the trip.

The verdict was that my first ride out of 2016 was a resounding success and my dynamic duo had rosy cheeks as a result of their (much needed) exercise. And we all vowed that there would be lots more trips in the weeks ahead.

My first ride out of 2016 - in beautiful sunshine - got the thumbs up from the "old git."

My first ride out of 2016 – in beautiful sunshine – got the thumbs up from the “old git.”

Finally, an update on the UK Blog Awards 2016. As regular readers will be well aware, Matildas Musings became a finalist in the Most Innovative category of the awards – reaching the final 10 out of over 2000 entries. I am seriously chuffed as not only is my blog achieving UK recognition for being the only blog ‘written’ by a classic tandem, but it is also the only Scottish finalist.

And not just that, but my blog has caught the imagination of the local media – with several big articles appearing in newspapers – including this front page story in the Strathallan Times and also this feature in the Perthshire Advertiser.

Media coverage of reaching the finals of the UK Blog Awards 2016.

Media coverage of reaching the finals of the UK Blog Awards 2016.

The organisers say that judging has taken place – in top secret – and the results will be announced at a glitzy UK Blog Awards 2016 presentation evening at the Park Plaza Hotel in London at the end of April.

So I have my brake cables crossed until then in the hope that I my blog will win the overall award!

In the meantime I am basking in the glory of being able to say I am a UK Blog Awards 2016 finalist!

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Scottish-Yukon link up for Tour de Loire Valley

So with the awful weather brought in with all the storms with fancy names – incidentally don’t you think there should be a Storm Matilda … that would be fun! – I have been confined to the garage at Matilda’s Rest.

The “old git” optimistically looks at the weekend weather forecast diligently each midweek, only to have plans for a ride-out with the “old gal” thwarted by a wintry cocktail of storm force winds, rain, ice and snow.

We really are all getting cabin fever and want to get back out on the road – if nothing else to stop the “old git” moaning about the weather and to stop the expansion of his waist line!

Even all the excitement of my blog being named as a finalist in the UK Blog Awards 2016 – down to the final 10 in the “Most Innovative” category from an entry of 2000 blogs – is nothing compared to being out and getting fresh air between my spokes! And at my tender age, this “old lady” tandem is getting a bit worried that my pedals will seize up if we don’t get out soon!

The “old git” is already looking to the advance forecast to see what next Sunday is going to be like – thinking it would be romantic to have a ride-out on Valentine’s Day while singing along to the classic “On a Bicycle Built For Two” song!

So with no prospect of getting out this weekend, thoughts turned to cycling in warm sunshine and Team Tandem Ecosse’s annual September Tour de France du Tandem holiday. So after amazing tours of Burgundy in 2014 and then Bordeaux in 2015 where to go for 2016? (If you haven’t read those adventures and want to find them quickly, all you have to do is type in Burgundy or Bordeaux into the ‘Search Matildas Musings’ box and you will see the postings.)

Two pre-requisites for these tours seem to be fairly flat cycling – as regular readers know we don’t do hills – and some fabulous vineyards – as regular readers know we definitely do do wine!

After much consideration, and a few recommendations, we selected the Loire Valley. And apart from its world-famous vineyards, there are numerous stunning chateaux to be explored en-route.

LV Cyclomundo logoThen we chose a French-based company Cyclomundo to book our self-guided tour with as they seem to know the area inside out. The seven day tour we have chosen is called: Fairytale Castles along the Loire River which covers nearly 230 miles from Blois to Angers. You can see the full itinerary and view the map of the route by clicking here.

But the big news is that it is not going to be just Team Tandem Ecosse on the Tour de Loire – we are teaming up with Team Yukon! Yes we are going to be meeting up with friends Nancy and John who we met in Burgundy during our week long tour there in 2014.

We had such a good time when our paths crossed – including a memorable dinner and some lovely wines – that we decided it would be fun to do the Loire Valley trip together. They don’t have a tandem, but are keen solo cyclists. And they also have a love for good French food and wine and a similar dislike for hills as my dynamic duo – so it should be a good match!

Nancy +John on siolo bikes at Prince Edward Island

Nancy and John on solo bikes enjoying a ride at Prince Edward Island in Canada.

Now why are they known as Team Yukon? Well they happen to live in Whitehorse, which is the capital of the remote Yukon territory in northern Canada – which is a mere 3,930 miles (or 6,319 kilometres) away from our base in Perthshire! (You can find out more about Whitehorse and the Yukon here and here.)

Logistically that seems a trifle mad, but with electronic communications distance doesn’t matter. So all four of us are booked and in September they will fly from Yukon to France and hire bikes as we drive to France in Matilda Transporter to enjoy the tour together.

This “old lady” of a tandem is so looking forward to having company on the trip and I know Nancy and John are really looking forward to it – and to the Scottish-Yukon link up. So much so that I asked them to contribute some words to my blog as to how this long-distance friendship came about! Here’s what Nancy said:

Little did we know what adventures lay ahead when we spotted Matilda trying to hide amongst the regular bicycles carefully parked for the night at Hotel des Remparts in Beaune in September 2014.

To say that she stood out among the hybrids and road bikes is an understatement. I foolishly tried lifting her – and while it’s not polite to reveal a lady’s weight against her wishes, suffice to say that Colin and Diane (aka the “old git” and the “old gal”) start out every bike ride with a significant disadvantage!

Yet in that great week as we explored the Burgundy countryside, John and I had the pleasure of crossing paths with Matilda et al many times so she obviously can keep pace, broken spokes and all.

Selfie time with Nancy and John in Burgundy in 2014.

Selfie time with Nancy and John in Burgundy in 2014.

Through (good) wines and food and (bad) hills we forged a friendship with Matilda’s people that will now take us all through the Loire together this September. We look forward to saying hello to the “old lady” again and savouring the best that a bike ride can offer.”

So Nancy and John will be featuring regularly in my blog postings this year – including how John’s training regime is going!

In the meantime Team Matilda can only keep their fingers and spokes crossed for an improvement in the weather to get back out on the road!

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Matildas Musings is a finalist in UK Blog Awards 2016

UKBA finalist_facebookGreat excitement at Matildas Rest and I am bouncing on my tyres with some amazing news! I can proudly reveal that my blog has become a finalist in the UK Blog Awards 2016.

I will say that again – as it sounds good – Matildas Musings is a finalist in the blogging Oscars!

So firstly a huge thanks to each and everyone of you who is a believer, and who took the time to vote to ensure I came out tops in the public vote. And to those who doubted I would become a finalist – well obviously you were outnumbered!

I can’t quite believe that out of more than 2,000 blogs who were nominated by the blogging community and entered into the awards, that my blog – the only blog to be written by a classic Jack Taylor tandem – has become one of the select final 10 receive such recognition in my category.

And I am more than chuffed to reveal that the category in which Matildas Musings is a finalist is the Most Innovative – which probably comes down to the fact that not many blog are written by a tandem!

I of course have to thank my esteemed ‘Team Tandem Ecosse’ crew for helping me achieve this sought after accolade – as I simply couldn’t have done it without my dynamic duo of the “old git” and “the old gal.”

You see, they give me so much opportunity and ammunition to use in my quest to be amusing! But they are secretly delighted at being listed as a finalist!

Particularly the “old git” who has been known to write a thing or two of his own in his work-life, and who I think is just a tad jealous! And the “old gal” is basking in the fame!

So what happens now I hear you ask?

Well the “old git” got an email telling us that the finalists are now all considered by a judging panel – specialists in each category.

It seems judging starts immediately and will be carried out remotely until Friday 19 February.

And the UK Blog Awards 2016 are encouraging finalists to connect with the judges via social media – on Twitter and Facebook – during the judging process. In the meantime I can wear my badge with pride across my social media channels.

For those who are interested in the competition I face to win the coveted award, you can read a synopsis of all ten finalists in the Most Innovative category here.

I have had a look and I am among a real cross-section of innovative blogs to reach the final. Others include blogs in the final include subjects such as guinea pigs, wildlife gadgets, duff Christmas films, heavy metal music, how to be thrifty, and even a blog about the adventures of a travelling mouse!

Just what the judges will make of all the finalists will be – to say the least – interesting!

After the judging process, the results will be revealed at the glitzy UK Blog Awards 2016 presentation evening being held at the end of April at the Park Plaza Hotel in Westminster, London.

The good news, no matter what happens at the awards evening, is that I can now proudly refer to Matildas Musings as a UK Blog Award finalist – quite an honour indeed.

I just wonder if the “old git” can get a special tandem badge made up so people would know my fame when they see me!

You’ll excuse me if we all go now and have a wee glass of fizz to celebrate!

Thanks again for all your support!

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Vote for Matildas Musings in the UK Blog Awards 2016!

votenow_odeon_facebookThe start of a New Year and lots of excitement at Matildas Rest as voting is now open for the UK Blog Awards 2016.

You may remember in December this “old lady” was delighted when the “old git” received an email saying that my blog – yes Matildas Musings – had received recognition from the blogging community and had been nominated in the UK Blog Awards 2016.

And believe it or not it has been nominated in two separate categories – travel and most innovative. (Not sure what is innovative about the blog … other than the fact that a tandem is writing it … but I suppose that is fairly unusual in itself!)

So now that voting is open, I need to encourage all you lovely readers of my musings – fellow tandemers or just friends and interested parties – to vote for my blog! We need as many votes as we can!

I have just been reading over all the rules and to vote all you do is simply click here to record your vote in the blog awards

That takes you direct to the Matildas Musings page on the UK Blog Awards 2016 website where you can read all about the blog and why it is nominated.

Click on the “vote now” image and you will be directed to a short form where you will be asked for your name and email address.

In the select category section there is a drop down arrow which reveals the categories that Matildas Musings is nominated under. Please click on the one which says Travel + Most Innovative as that means you vote in both categories at the same time!

You will receive a confirmation email once your vote has been registered.

The rules state that you can vote once every day until the closing date of Monday 25 January. Therefore, you may vote using the same email address more than once, but on separate days.

So please get voting – simply click here to record your vote in the blog awards.

And feel free to vote for Matildas Musings as many times as you can! Put in your daily planners until Monday 25 January. Remember every vote counts!

You will be making this “old lady” classic Jack Taylor tandem – and my crew of the “old git” and the “old gal” – very happy as we see all the votes being registered.

Thanks for your support!

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