For Honor – Vikings Gather For Up Helly Aa Festival In Shetland Islands


Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Few have heard of it, let alone been. Our destination is Shetland in the far north of Scotland, where one of the most incredible festivals in Europe is held. On the last Tuesday of January, the town of Lerwick goes more than a little mad. Up Helly Aa is a lot more than a sub-arctic bonfire and booze-up. It’s a superb spectacle, a celebration of Shetland’s history and a triumphant demonstration of the islanders’ skills and spirit. Fifty helmeted Vikings and a burning Norse galley. Unmissable!

More info: Up Helly Aa (h/t: theguardian)

Participants dressed as Vikings eat breakfast as they prepare to participate in the annual Up Helly Aa festival:

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Members of the Jarl Squad before the start of the parade through the streets in Lerwick:

Jane Barlow/PA

The Guizer Jarl is the main character in the celebration, and the Jarl Squad comprises supporters:

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

A good breakfast is important:

Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

A boy waits for the rest of the squad:

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

And they are off on the march:

Jane Barlow/PA

The Guizer Jarl and his squad. A person must be on a special committee for 15 years before they can be a Jarl – and each year just one person is elected to it:

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A replica galley – a type of ship – is built every year for the festival:

Jane Barlow/PA

Children march through the streets of Lerwick:

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The Jarl Squad marching:

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The squad stand on the galley after the march:

Jane Barlow/PA

When the sun sets, it’s time for the procession …

Jane Barlow/PA

… which is when the galley is dragged through the streets:

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Torchbearers are all the various squads’ members, and are led by the Jarl Squad:

Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

Following the procession, the torchbearers form a circle around the galley and sing a traditional song …

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

… before throwing their torches on to the replica ship:

Jane Barlow/PA

The burning of the galley marks the end of the celebration …

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

… but the festivities continue long in to the night:

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

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