So what is the simmer dim, anyway? And why would anyone name a bike rally after it?
Firstly it’s worth remembering just how far North the Shetland Islands are. If you’re anything like me you’ll have mostly seen them shown in a little box just off the cost of north of Scotland. This is about as true to life as the topological London Underground map, and in reality the islands are at a latitude not dissimilar to Bergen, Norway and mid Hudson Bay, Canada.
Whilst this means that they are not quite in the lands of the midnight sun, it does mean that at midsummer, it never gets completely dark. The sun dips below the horizon for around 5 hours, and the time in between is a surreal twilight known in Shetland as the “simmer dim”.
Bike rallies are often named after the events that inspire them, and as the rally is held over the closest weekend to the Summer Solstice at the time of the simmer dim, I guess the name seemed self-evident.
After the gloomy start to the Thursday of the rally, the weather improved considerably, gifting us with a beautifully clear night. One of our new friends, Stenton, had nipped out to go to the loo at around 1am, then came back in and grabbed us both to drag us outside. “You’ve got to see this” he shouted, and pointed across the field of tents to the simply stunning sight of the full moon hovering over the horizon in the simmer dim sky.
The next day was rather amazingly warm and sunny, so we took advantage and went for exploratory ride with Stenton. The scenery was stunning, with a strange kind of bleak beauty. We didn’t cover many miles as we stopped so often to take in the views, along with a ramble through the lovely little Tangwick Haa Museum that we stumbled upon just off the road to Eshaness.
After enjoying the cliffs at Eshaness lighthouse, we rode back through the wonderfully named Mavis Grind to Brae, where we scoffed a lovely fish and chip supper at the UK’s most Northerly Chippy.
I had wondered when I packed for the trip north if I was being a little optimistic including the sun cream, but was pleasantly surprised when the sun decided to keep us company for the majority of our time on Shetland – thank you weather gods!
Other highlights of the rally included a visit by local Jarl Squads, who serenaded us with such surreal Country and Western delights as “Coward of the County”, and the rather more appropriate “Bring Me Sunshine” of Morecombe and Wise fame.
It was nice to see them again at the Lerwick Carnival on Saturday afternoon, though without the singing this time.