Video: Up-Helly-Aa festival lights up Shetland

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SHETLAND was a sea of fire last night as visitors flocked to the annual Up-Helly-Aa festival.

Since 1880, local people have marked the turning of the year and their Viking heritage with a torch-lit march through the island capital, culminating in up to 1,000 torchbearers throwing their firebrands into a specially built replica Viking longship, the centrepiece of a spectacular bonfire.

The Up Helly Aa Viking festival. Picture: Getty

The Up Helly Aa Viking festival. Picture: Getty

Up-Helly-Aa is always held on the last Tuesday of January, though it has occasionally been postponed – first for two weeks when Queen Victoria died in 1901, and the last time for a fortnight in 1965 after Sir Winston Churchill died.

After the festival, Shetlanders and an increasing number of tourist visitors to the islands can enjoy another customary annual event, a Wednesday off to recover from the excesses of the night before.

Video: Guilherme Sarmento


• The annual Shetland Up-Helly-Aa festival celebrates the islands’ Norse heritage through an intoxicating mix of primal fire and tribal loyalties