Up Helly Aa: Shetland Islands prepare for Viking festival

This years Up the Helly Aa festival is set to kick off with a man following his father's footsteps to lead a hoard of Vikings.

Vikings take part in the Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles. Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Stewart Jamieson, 46, was just nine years old when his dad Harry was the Guizer Jarl in 1981 on the Shetland Islands.

Through inspiration by his father, in October 2004 he joined the events committee hoping that one day he will get the opportunity to lead the world-famous Viking fire festival.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

After 14 years, Mr Jamieson finally takes on the “immense privilege” of leading Up Helly Aa as the 2018 Guizer Jarl on Tuesday.

Read More

Read More
Shetland island on sale for half the price of a two-bed London flat

Mr Jamieson said: “I’ve been brought up with Up Helly Aa ever since I was young.

“My earliest memories of it are watching my father and the procession, and seeing the torches light up the galley.

Vikings take part in the Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles. Danny Lawson/PA Wire

“I joined when I was 13 as a fiddle box carrier and, when I was 16, I came into the full squad, and it has been a huge part of my life ever since.

“It is an immense privilege to be the Guizer Jarl, this whole week of preparations has been amazing.”

Mr Jamieson’s father died a few years ago, but it is believed that his memory will live on tomorrow.

Vikings take part in the Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles. Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Hundreds of men will march through Shetland town to hurl blazing torches onto a specially-built Viking galley, the centrepiece of the festival.

Mr Jamieson is excited to wear his traditional armour which took a year to carefully construct.

His wife Elaine, alongside his two sons Shane, 26 and Haydn, 22, will look on with pride as he leads the march of around 1,000 costumed torchbearers.

Mr Jamieson hopes the weather this year for the event “will be nice” as last year it was bitterly cold and windy.

He added: “The excitement is really building up, and we are enjoying every moment.

“Hopefully, we will wake up on Tuesday morning and the weather will be nice.”

Up Helly Aa celebrates the end of the darkest days of winter and attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world to Shetland every year.