For those visiting Shetland in February who are disappointed to find they missed Up Helly Aa in Lerwick during January, never worry! The months of February (and March) are dominated by rural Up Helly Aa Celebrations! These smaller fire festivals all have a friendly atmosphere and slightly different customs though all involve Vikings and the setting of a Viking Galley on fire!
Nesting and Girlsta Up Helly Aa take place 10 days after the Lerwick event on Friday 7th February. The squads meet at the South Nesting Hall at 1900 and at 1930 a flare is set off and the torches are lit. The torchlit procession moves through Nesting towards the burning site (opposite the Old School). The squads form a circle around the galley and throw their torches into it, singing and then dispersing to the South Nesting Public Hall, the North Nesting Public Hall and the Whiteness and Weisdale Public Hall for an all-night ceilidh!
Uyeasound Up Helly Aa (on Unst) is held on the second Friday of February (14th February 2014) Guizars meet at the Uyeasound Galley Shed before moving off in a procession of fiery torches to the burning site on the beach opposite Easter Loch. Later on the Guizers entertain revellers in Uyeasound Public Hall.
Northmavine Up Helly Aa is held on the third Friday of February (21st February 2014) and is the most northerly mainland fire festival. The Squads of Guizars form a procession of firelit torches which travels from the Hillswick Hall along the main road to the loch at Urafirth. The Up Helly Aa songs are accompanied by a brass band and the galley is left ablaze on the water. Celebrations continue for the rest of the night at Hillswick Hall, Sullom and Gunnister Hall, Ollaberry Hall, North Roe Hall and Lochend Halls!
Bressay Up Helly Aa takes place on the last Friday of February (28th February 2014) and on Bressay they have two galleys! One is pulled around the isle and the second is burned. Festivities carry on late into the night in the Bressay Hall.
Finally Cullivoe Up Helly Aa takes place on the same date (28th February 2014) and begins at the Cullivoe Hall from 1900 with the light-up at 1930. The Guizers, led by the Jarl’s Squad, march the galley from the hall to the marina, before setting her alight and floating her out to sea alongside the Cullivoe breakwater. Celebrations continue until the early hours at Cullivoe Hall!
Hailed by The Guardian for his exquisite guitar playing, Eduardo Niebla will be in Concert playing flamenco jazz in the Hillswick Hall, Northmavine on Tuesday 4th February 2014. In Mareel on Thursday 6th February two of the best folk musicians around – Ross Ainslie and Jarlath Henderson – will be playing new and original compositions along with traditional tunes.
If you’re looking for somewhere to visit in February, why not try Clickimin Broch? Sitting on the outskirts of Lerwick next to Clickimin Loch this restored Iron Age broch is large and well preserved. Here are some interesting facts about Clickmin Broch you maybe weren’t aware of!
- Clickimin Broch was built on an island in Clickimin Loch and was approached by a stone causeway. The water level of the loch was reduced in 1874 leaving the broch high and dry!
- The broch was occupied from 1,000BC to 600AD. It began life as a small bronze-age farmhouse before being developed into an defensive Broch around 100BC.
- Clickmin Broch was originally up to 12-15m high and provided accommodation and shelter for a significant number of people.
- There is a slab of stone with two footprints carved into it on the causeway leading to the broch. The meaning of this is unknown.
- Unusual for a broch – a blockhouse was built inside the only gate as additional defences. Originally much taller than it is today, it was never finished.
Clickmin Broch has free entry and is easy to get to, on foot or by car – it’s right across the road from a supermarket! When you’re in the area take a look along the coastline here as seals and otters can often be spotted! There’s always plenty to see and do in Shetland – even in February!