Tag Archive: sun

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.


Resting that extra day was a brilliant decision as we both got up feeling much better. We didn’t quite make it up in time for breakfast, but we did resolve to did pop to a local Supermarche and buy some bread, cheese, tomatoes, etc to have later for brunch.

I wanted to aim for a small town called Chateauroux. Why Chateauroux I hear you ask? Well, some years ago, (it’s actually over 15 years ago now that I think about it, mmmm doesn’t time fly!) I organised a trip to the Dordogne region of France for a dozen or so members of a bike club that I was involved with at the time. We overnighted there and stayed at a small independant hotel called Le Boischaut, which is a short walk from the town centre. They were friendly, cheap and provided secure garages for us to put the bikes in overnight. I had previously checked the internet and had been pleasantly surprised to find their website. So, following a quick discussion with Sarah, a decision was made. I rang them and booked us a double room and garage for that night!

Excellent. We had set ourselves a goal, which felt really good because it gave us a specific focus, and I was glad to be leaving the sickness and illness behind.

By the time that we were organised, (Tony & Sarah time strikes again!) with the bikes packed and ready to go it was close to 1pm, so we chose to ride bigger roads as we had about 350 km (220 miles) to cover that afternoon. We set off into brilliant sunshine with smiles on our faces, and one Supermarche provisions and petrol stop later we were properly on our way.

Lunch was a fantasic picnic at an Aire (French motorway service area). We picked one that just had a toilet block and wooden tables and benches in the trees. The Brie and Tomatoes on a Baguette brought back so many memories to us both and we really began to feel that we were in France.

The little V7’s were running really well but the fuel consumption had dropped from the 65/70 mpg, that we were getting riding normally and without panniers or luggage, to 52/53 mpg. It just shows how much difference that panniers, luggage and French motorway speeds can make.

The ride to Chateauroux was relaxed and suited how we both felt. The levels of traffic were much lower that I am used to in the Midlands and it was a pleasure.

Le Boischaut had changed hands but was essentially the same friendly place with a red rubber ceiling in the reception and bar. We settled in and walked into town in search of something to eat. The excellent Restaurant La Gare had closed down but some questioning of the locals produced recommendations to go to La Rue Grand. Apparently this was where the majority of bars and restaurants were now situated. We walked off in search of La Rue Grand and as we got closer we could hear live Jazz music being played. A little further on we stumbled upon a four piece band playing in the street. The road had been closed to traffic, the nearby bars and restaurants had filled the street with tables and chairs, and they were doing a roaring trade. We got a table near the front and had a superb evening. Some considerable time later we walked/weaved (delete as appropriate) our way back to Le Boischaut and slept like logs.

The view in the morning from our window

The following morning the sun rose in a cloudless sky and we decided that we would head for the Dordogne region of France. So a couple of hours later, having had our continental breakfast and the nicest croisants that I have eaten in a long time (and our first since reaching France) we were ready for the off.

The receptionist filled our water bottles with cold water from the fridge and let me fill our back pack water carriers at the sink in the bar. I thought that mine was taking rather a long time to fill when, to my horror, I realised that the drinking spout had dropped down and was busying itself by syphoning cold water onto the bar room floor. Ooops! Thankfully the receptionist saw the funny side and, after muttering something that I didn’t quite catch about Les Anglais as she mopped the floor, then turned up with a load of ice cubes to keep the water in our back packs cool.
So, after appologies and thanks to the staff, and having taken out both the thermal and the waterproof linings to our jackets, we were off heading south into the sunshine and feeling good 🙂