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Simmer Dim Rally, Shetlands, 2011

By andywhit -

Touring & travel

 14 November 2011 18:02

Saturday 11 June 2011
Finally left Durham around 11:00am in glorious sunshine. Everything was going fine till the Gateshead Western Bypass, when a lunatic with Dutch registration plates decided it was a good plan to come down a slip road and turn right!

Just managed to avoid him, her? and the central reservation barrier. By Morpeth we were in a layby putting on our waterproofs. The rain was hammering down. Holidays, bollocks, I want to go home.

Then followed the wettest 5 hours of our lives as we limped to the Abbey Inn in Newburgh. Pub was very welcoming. No lock up for bikes, but outdoor yard at back of the pub.

Lovely warm bedroom, and they let us hang our gear in a drying room. Abbey does no food in the evening, but found another pub down the road that does. Back to the Abbey Inn, good juke box, but 3 plays for £1 is a bit steep.

As the next day was an easy one we had a good evenings drinking with the locals. They seemed very friendly, but not sure really, as I couldn't understand most of what they were saying!

Sunday 12 June 2011
Sunshine and blue sky, hurrah, but would it last. Stonking great breakfast, then on our way in sunshine. Great road up to Dundee, no traffic and long sweeping bends. This is the life. Over Tay Bridge.

Good views of Dundee, but no where to stop and take a photo. Then followed the A92 coast road. The A92 is listed as a great ride in magazines, but until you get north of Arbroath it is disappointing with lots of speed restrictions and cameras. Stopped off at Dunnottar Castle.

Very impressive ruin on headland, but we nearly melted plodding around in biker gear on what was the hottest day of the year. Rode on into Aberdeen, and arrived at the ferry terminal in plenty of time. Local police had set up a speed camera about half a mile before the ferry terminal. Nice and helpful for those who are late or cannot find the terminal. Ridiculous check in for ferry. You had to supply photo ID.

After much rummaging in pockets we found our driving licences, and then it gets better. We were not asked to remove our helmets, even Barbara, who had a tinted visor. It's true the lunatics have taken over the asylum! Onto the ferry. Nice hot shower, maybe the last for some time. Had a decent meal and a few beers. Both knackered so an early night. Shetlands tomorrow.

Monday 13 June 2011
Very smooth crossing, like going on the lake in Saltwell Park. Another sunny day, and great views of the Shetlands. Disembarked around 7:30am at Lerwick, and headed straight to the local campsite, only about 2 miles from the ferry terminal. Campsite was behind sports centre so decent facilities and cafe open from 9:00am till 7:00pm, and a drying room.

Pitched the gear and talked to 3 guys from Rugby, who were also going to the Simmer Dim. Then walked into Lerwick. Around mid-day it started to rain and a gale from the north east. Force 6 with gusts to force 8 according to the forcast. Tied tent to the bikes, some how it stayed up. Finally calmed down around 8:00pm. Sod the expense, we got a taxi into Lerwick. Taxi driver recommended the Fort Cafe. Spot on, excellent fish & chips followed by a few beers, and plodded back to the camp site.

Tuesday 14 June 2011
Awakened at 4:00am by a gust of wind that nearly flattened the tent. The pole had flexed so much it had hit me on the head. Another gale, this time from the north west, and more rain. Bloody hell!

Tent just about managed to stay up, and weather calmed down at 10:00am. Then the sun came out, so we road down to Sumburgh Head. Millions of birds including puffins. Also went around Jarlshof, a prehistoric settlement. Found best set of traffic lights ever. One direction the road, the other direction the airport runway.

They may have been on green but I still looked both ways, just in case some pilot fancied jumping the lights. Evening in Lerwick at the Douglas Arms, listening to traditional music: fiddles, flutes etc, and became acquainted to Simmer Dim beer brewed in the Valhalla Brewery. One of the musicians was from the camp site. A scouser who played the fiddle. I'm surprised he did not deck me for laughing so much.

Wednesday 15 June 2011
A sunny day thank goodness. Being the great romantic got Babs a breakfast in bed - a bag of prawn crackers, which had come back with us from a Chinese restaurant! We decided to ride up to the northern top of the Shetlands.

This involved catching ferries from the Shetland mainland to Yell, and then a ferry to Unst. Fantastic roads with sweeping roads through valleys and over mountains, past beautiful sandy bays. No hedges or walls along the side of the roads, so you can see miles ahead down the roads, magic.

Only problem were sheep, which we are used to on the Durham moors, and Shetland ponies. The ponies are a different matter. You get around a dozen of them, and they don't get out of way. Just look at you, and continue to wander down the road. Engine revving and horn tooting just makes them more bloody minded! Got to the top of the Shetlands, called Skaw, I think. Sun bathed on the beach in full biker gear.

Watched black and white ducks play in the waves on the sea. Babs advises they are Eider ducks. Certainly tougher than ducks back home. Only other person we saw was a hiker, who was attacked by the birds at the far end of the beach. He gave up and came back.

Rode back to Lerwick, what a great ride out. Went into the town in the evening with the guys from Rugby. Unfortunately went to a crap pub with rubbish beer and rubbish music.

Thursday 16 June 2011
Not a good day. Pissing down with rain, and we should have packed up to go to the Simmer Dim Rally. Watched the 3 guys from Rugby pack up in the rain, and decided it was not for us. Needed a new gas bottle for the stove.

Plodded around Lerwick, found an example of every type of gas bottle on earth, except one that fitted our stove. Eventually got one in a motorbike shop, we had only gone in to mooch about.

Spent all afternoon in Sports Centre cafe reading MCN, newspapers etc. In evening went back into Lerwick. Great shepherds pie, chips and veg at Grand Hotel, plus excellent beer. At last something went right.

Friday 17 June 2011
Beautiful sunny day - the climate up here is nuts! Packed up and rode up to the Simmer Dim Rally. Booked in, and pitched up next to the guys from Rugby, who in turn were next to a load of Yorkies.

At around 2:00pm we started a drinking session, which as it turned out was the heaviest for many a year. As I can remember sweet F.A. I will let Babs continue todays events!

Friday booked in and got our T-shirts and drinking vouchers. Decided to start asap as we were a day behind everyone else. Lovely beer and doubles on spirits. No money involved, just hand over the voucher.

Andy was legless - literally - as after a fair few beers he fell off the bench he was sitting on. Lost that pint as it went everywhere, but no worries, off to the bar for another one. Leaning against the bar he slowly slid towards the floor, but the beer remained in the mug!

After some 'dancing' with much arm waving he again met the ground. Finally deciding to call it a night around 1:30am he staggered off to the tent saying "I'm alright. I know where I'm going" He did too!

Although the last 20 yards through the mud was on hands and knees. Saturday "Do I know him?" was the question Andy asked me many times as we walked through the camp and into the hall for breakfast.

All the helpful fellas who had picked him up for me (many times) greeted us with a smile that day.

Saturday 18 June 2011
Woke up around 11:00am with a serious headache. Was covered in mud, a cut ear, mega bruise on arm. Memory blank. What a state I'm in. Went for a slow walk, but gave up when I came to a hill.

Picked up a bit in the evening, but only had 4 pints of lager, something in the back of my head said no more Simmer Dim Ale from the Valhalla Brewery. Went to bed around 10:30pm, boring old git.

Missed prize giving, which took place around midnight. Apparently guys from Rugby were gutted, as they thought they had the longest journey in the bag. Was won by an old guy, well about my age, who had travelled all the way up from Watford, near London, in 2 days on a 1948 BSA.

Sunday 19 June 2011
Woke up feeling fine. Last day on Shetlands, sob, sob. Weather cloudy and a gentle mizzle. Packed up gear, and as ferry was not until the afternoon, decided to ride towards the west coast. Disappointing scenery. Flat, and road was narrow with passing places, so concentration needed all the time. On way back to Lerwick passed a pub on top of a mountain called Westings Inn. Had a campsite in the garden, and fantastic views.

Most disappointed as pub was shut, as I fancied a proper Sunday lunch. Ended up in a burger bar in Lerwick. Sensibly Northlink Ferries were loading bikes up 4 hours before sailing time, but then did not allow you to stay on the boat. Eventually allowed on the boat. Had a long hot shower, and put on some clean clothes. The simple things in life are the best! Boat sailed from Lerwick and headed north. This was rather disconcerting as Scotland is to the south.

Everyone was asking "what the f?!k. Crew member advised the Captain had to increase mileage to keep his licence, so he kept going on mystery tours! Anyway we passed some tremendous cliffs with millions of sea birds. Eventually headed south towards Scotland. Whoah, only had 2 pints and staggering. I'm off to bed!

Monday 20 June 2011
Planned to get home in 1 day, so dual carriageway all the way, when possible. We fuelled up in Aberdeen, and had a sarny at Kinross. Then bugger me, going around the Edinburgh bypass we passed the guy from Watford on his BSA. How he got so far ahead I just don't know. Stopped at Scotland - England border. Was so knackered I just lay down and fell asleep. Must have been a good holiday, I need to go home for a rest.

Summary: Shetland weather is nuts. You get everything, but when it blows and rains it is really does it with a vengeance.

People are brilliant. They wave at you as you ride by, and it's not 2 fingers.

Rally ticket is £60. This seems expensive, but you get a book of drink vouchers, and I did not use all mine, and I really tried; a free meal everyday. In addition there are trays of meat pies to eat any time; and a free metal rally badge.

Main Shetland roads are fantastic. No trees, hedges, walls etc, so you sweep up and down mountains, but beware of the ponies.

Will I return? Definitely yes, but if I go for more than a few days I would plan on more than just camping.