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January - Up-Helly-Aa, Scotland

UNITED KINGDOM | Friday, 17 December 2010 | Views [1444]

Location: Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

Dates: Last Tuesday in January

Level of Participation: 2 – most Up-Helly-Aa parties are private, but a couple are open to visitors


If these are your friends, who needs enemies? Under Norse rule until 1469, the Shetland Islands choose to honour their heritage each year by setting fire to a replica Viking longship. In the early evening, hundreds of wannabe Vikings (or ‘guizers’), dressed in their finest Asterix hats, parade towards the galley with lit torches, pitching them aboard and burning the ship to ashes. Job done, they head off to let down their Scandinavian hair. Through the night (and well into the morning) the guizers visit parties at around a dozen halls – in each one they’re obliged to dance with at least one lady and drink a dram, so that by morning their heads are more sore than Thor. If the torching of a ship seems an odd way to honour your heritage, there’s a historic rationale: in Norse times, Vikings celebrated the rebirth of the sun at Yule by torching a longship.

Essentials: There are flights to Lerwick from major Scottish cities, and ferries operate from Aberdeen. The average maximum temperature in Lerwick in January is around 3˚C, so come rugged up or splurge on some Shetland sweaters once you arrive.

Local Attractions: Lerwick has surprising energy for a small town and the Shetlands’ landscape is a picture unto itself: mighty, wind-ravaged islands, deep glens and imposing coastal cliffs.

More Info: VisitShetland ( +4...; www.visitshetland.com)

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Information provided courtesy of Lonely Planet
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Tags: scotland, up-helly-aa, world festivals

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