NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Annual Up Helly Aa Viking festival under way in Shetland

Up Helly Aa Image copyright PA

People dressed as Vikings have taken to the streets of Lerwick as part of the annual Up Helly Aa festival.

The festival of fire, held on the last Tuesday in January, remembers the Vikings who used to rule the Shetland islands 1,000 years ago.

Warriors parade through the streets by torchlight as visitors from across the world gather to watch the spectacle.

The day culminates with the dramatic burning of a replica Viking long ship at King George V Playing Fields.

Up Helly Aa Image copyright BBC/Marc Ellison

In recognition of the island's heritage, a band of latter-day Viking warriors known as the Jarl Squad lead the procession towards the burning site.

Up Helly Aa

Preparations begin as early as February to design and produce the Viking outfits for the Guizer Jarl (Chief Guizer) and his squad.

Local volunteers have built the boat and produced more than 1,000 torches.

The community event is funded by the donations from local businesses and run by volunteers.

Up Helly Aa Image copyright PA
Up Helly Aa Image copyright PA
Up Helly Aa Image copyright PA

The event is one of 10 fire festivals held across Shetland.

Following the day-long celebration, Wednesday is a public holiday throughout Shetland.

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Media captionFrom the archive - Up Helly Aa in 1927
Up Helly Aa Image copyright PA
Up Helly Aa Image copyright PA
Up Helly Aa Image copyright PA
Up Helly Aa Image copyright PA
Up Helly Aa Image copyright PA
The procession leading to the burning site of the Viking long ship Image copyright PA
Image caption The day will culminate with the burning of a replica Viking long ship

All images copyrighted.

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