Up Helly Aa, Scotland

Up Helly Aa, aka the Shetland Fire Festival in Lerwick, Scotland © Douglas Baird

We know the Scots are a fiery lot. And we know the Vikings were fond of setting blaze to pretty much anything in their way. So mix the two peoples and you have one seriously big, and boozy, fire festival. The biggest in Europe, in fact.

Every year, the Shetlands Fire Festival, known locally as Up Helly Aa, sees fiery parades marching through the streets of Lerwick in fancy dress. It culminates in the torching of a lovingly made, life-size replica of a Viking longboat complete with dragon’s head prow.

The festivities date back to the 1880s but their roots go back over a thousand years, to when Vikings terrorised and settled the Shetland Islands.

Up Helly Aa takes place, come rain or snow (both highly likely) on the last Tuesday in January, when the extra warmth and liquor are well appreciated.

Written by - Photo by Douglas Baird

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