Up Helly Aa

Since the 1880’s, every year, Lerwick comes alive with Up Helly Aa – Europe’s largest fire festival.

(these photos are from a previous year)


This annual winter celebration takes place in the streets of Shetland’s capital, Lerwick, on the last Tuesday of January (i.e., tonight!)


Planned over the years, a torch procession of almost 1,000 men march with a traditional Norse galley to the burning site.


The men are in Squads with the main one being called the Jarl Squad, headed by their Guizer Jarl (leader).


The crowds gather to watch the singing and cheers of the Squads, the torches are thrown into the galley and everyone stands back to watch it burns. The Lerwick Brass Band play The Up-Helly-Aa song and the Galley song.

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After the burning of the galley, there is a night of performing acts and dancing in the halls throughout Lerwick that finish in the  small hours of the next morning.


The next day is a Bank Holiday!


You can watch it live – the fire procession starts at 19.00 – on this link – http://uphellyaa.com

I made a film a few years ago of the fire procession.  It was my first attempt so there is room for improvement.

Tonight, again, there is a gale forecast but Up Helly Aa is not weather dependant and will go ahead, no matter what.




3 thoughts on “Up Helly Aa

  1. Mandy

    I saw this on the Shetland news (I always read your Shetland news on what used to be Ceefax!) and meant to ask if you are going! Be careful!!


  2. Nicky Callam

    I loved the film – but were there really guys in shorts? (we have postmen down here in the soft south who do that but most people think they are barking!) And I am sure I saw people in Mexican dress. What was that all about?


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