Up Helly Aa

Up Helly Aa is the biggest of the fire festivals that take place in the winter months in Shetland. This Viking themed fire festival takes place in Lerwick on the last Tuesday of January – this year Tuesday 28th January 2020. The day involves a series of marches and visitations and in the evening is the most famous part – the torch-lit procession and Galley burning.

“On the stroke of 19:30, a rocket fired into the sky is the signal for them to light up their torches. Then the blazing procession begins, with almost a thousand men marching, led by a large squad of Vikings; the Jarl Squad. “

Lighting up the torches at Up Helly Aa

At 18:50, the men, known as Guizers (because they are in disguise), will gather to receive their torches. On the stroke of 19:30, a rocket fired into the sky is the signal for them to light up their torches. Then the blazing procession begins, with almost a thousand men marching, led by a large squad of Vikings; the Jarl Squad. The Jarl Squad march, pulling a Viking Galley with their leader – the Guizer Jarl – standing on top. When the Galley reaches the burning site, the torchbearers form a circle round it and sing the traditional Up Helly Aa song. Another rocket is fired and the Guizer Jarl leaves the ship. A bugle call sounds, and the torches are hurled into the galley! The burning galley and the flames in the January winds are quite as sight to see!

Dates for all Shetland Fire festivals are as follows –

  • Scalloway Fire Festival – (Second Friday of January) Cancelled for 2021
  • Lerwick Up Helly Aa – (Last Tuesday of January) Cancelled for 2021
  • Lerwick Junior Up Helly Aa – (Last Tuesday of January) Cancelled for 2021
  • Nesting & Girlsta Up Helly Aa – (10 days after Lerwick festival) Cancelled for 2021
  • Uyeasound Up Helly Aa – (Second Friday of February) Cancelled for 2021
  • Northmavine Up Helly Aa – (Third Friday of February) Cancelled for 2021
  • Bressay Up Helly Aa – (Last Friday of February) Cancelled for 2021
  • Cullivoe Up Helly Aa – (Last Friday of February) Cancelled for 2021
  • Norwick Up Helly Aa – (Last Saturday of February) Cancelled for 2021
  • Walls Junior Up Helly Aa – (First Friday of March) TBC
  • South Mainland Up Helly Aa – (Second Friday of March) Friday 12th March 2021
  • Delting Up Helly Aa – (Usually Third Friday of March) Cancelled for 2021