11 pictures as thousands gather at Up Helly Aa fire festival in Shetland

Thousands of people have gathered for the main Up Helly Aa fire festival in Shetland, with women taking part in the squads for the first time.

The event, which attracts visitors from around the globe, sees people dressed as Vikings march through the streets of Lerwick to recreate its ancient Viking past, in a tradition dating back to the 19th century.

Shetland and neighbouring Orkney were ruled by the Norse for about 500 years until they became part of Scotland in 1468.

The festival stems from the 1870s when a group of young local men wanted to put new ideas into Shetland’s Christmas celebrations.