Up Helly Aa Shetland’s fire festival in pictures

Up Helly Aa Shetland’s fire festival in pictures

This winter festival brings the heat—literally. Up Helly Aa, Europe’s largest fire festival, is about more than just flames; it’s a cultural celebration of Nordic heritage and ritual.

Every year a Viking long ship is built for Shetland’s fire festival, Up Helly Aa, in Lerwick. The Telegraph magazine this year got exclusive access, following events from the morning procession, to the ritual burning of the longs hip – and then following the locals to the notorious round of after parties and performances.

Shetland’s famous annual Up Helly Aa fire festival has been held.

A band of latter-day Viking warriors known as the Jarl Squad marched through the town, recreating its history.

Hundreds processed with flaming torches which were thrown into a longship that had been dragged through Lerwick.

Volunteers had built the boat and produced more than 1,000 torches, with preparations for the event beginning in October.

The Shetlands, Scotland’s northernmost islands, have long been an ideal target for Vikings, but today their only invaders are festival-goers. The last Tuesday of every January, Lerwick, the islands’ capital, is overtaken by costumed warriors bearing torches, which they use to set a traditional longboat aflame.

Up Helly Aa Shetland's fire festival in pictures

Up Helly Aa Shetland’s fire festival in pictures

Up Helly Aa Shetland's fire festival in pictures

Up Helly Aa Shetland’s fire festival in pictures

Up Helly Aa Shetland's fire festival in pictures

Up Helly Aa Shetland’s fire festival in pictures

Up Helly Aa Shetland's fire festival in pictures

Up Helly Aa Shetland’s fire festival in pictures

Up Helly Aa Shetland's fire festival in pictures

Up Helly Aa Shetland’s fire festival in pictures

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