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Guizer Jarl Einar of Gullberuvik's junior Viking squad cheer during the Up Helly Aa procession - part of the Up Helly Aa Fire Festival, Lerwick, Shetland.PIC: DOUG HOUGHTON/SCOTTISH VIEWPOINT Tel: +44 (0) 131 622 7174 Fax: +44 (0) 131 622 7175 E-Mail : This photograph cannot be used without prior permission from Scottish Viewpoint.

Ferocious Vikings prowl the streets of Lerwick and the night sky is set ablaze – welcome to Up Helly Aa!

At the end of January every year the streets of Lerwick in the Shetland Isles are filled with squads of fierce-looking bearded Vikings, resplendent in gleaming chain-mail and winged helmets. Later, the Vikings and their followers, dressed in all manner of costumes, fill the narrow streets, their flaming torches illuminating the dark winter skies and their boisterous songs filling the air. A 30-foot Viking longship is borne aloft before it is set alight with a thousand fiery brands. As the sky over Lerwick shimmers with heat and light, fireworks explode, bands play and the gloom of winter is lifted for another year.

This is Up Helly Aa, the annual winter festival of Shetland, which celebrates the lengthening of the days and the coming of another year, not to mention the chance of a good old party. It’s run by and for the local people, but that’s not to say visitors aren’t welcome and the island hospitality will be as warm as ever.

Shetland is a fascinating place to visit at any time but in the short winter days the islands take on a special character with steely grey seas and dramatic skies. During our stay we will take in the prehistoric and Norse settlement of Jarlshof to the south, and tour as far as the islands of Yell and Unst to the north. Up Helly Aa itself is on the Tuesday, when we will have the day free to enjoy the various events in Lerwick, culminating in the torchlight procession and boat burning ceremony in the evening, the highlight of an uplifting and unusual winter break.

Available departure dates and prices


The gloomy days of winter are banished in spectacular fashion in this boisterous festival of hearty northern spirits.

Saturday 23 January 2016

We depart from our designated departure points and travel to Aberdeen where we will join the Serco Northlink ferry (Hrossey or Hjaltland) for the 1700 hrs overnight sailing to Lerwick. Accommodation is provided in comfortable 2-berth cabins with en-suite facilities. Dinner is served on board in the evening.

Sunday 24 January 2016

We arrive early in the morning at Lerwick and after our full Scottish breakfast on board we will depart on a full day tour which begins with a visit to Scalloway, the original capital of Shetland. The castle built by Earl Patrick Stewart (not a man you would want to have crossed) still dominates the skyline. More recently Scalloway was the secret base for the heroes of the Norwegian Resistance and the wartime exploits of the ‘Shetland Bus’ form a courageous memoir. Later we head for the south of Mainland Shetland, where we visit the outstanding Prehistoric and Norse Settlement of Jarlshof, with over 3 acres of remains, spanning 3000 years since the days of the Stone Age, including oval shaped bronze age houses, iron age broch and wheel houses, Viking long houses and medieval farmhouses. We continue to Sumburgh Head, the southern tip of mainland Shetland, which is an RSPB reserve and home to thousands of nesting birds, including puffins, kittiwakes and razorbills.

From here we transfer to our accommodation. Dinner is served in the evening.

Monday 25 January 2016

After breakfast this morning we depart on a scenic excursion to the north mainland of Shetland. Our route will take us over the Mavis Grind, an isthmus just 100 yards wide, and through a stark landscape of hills, moors and lochans. We will stop for a walk (weather permitting) along the spectacular sea cliffs at Eshaness, which offer spectacular views over the many skerries, islets and offshore rocks. There are also many caverns and sea caves, one of which was recently declared the largest in the Britain. Look out too for the lighthouse which was built by David Alan Stevenson, one of the famous 'lighthouse' Stevensons, between 1925 and 1929.

Dinner is served in the evening.

Tuesday 26 January 2016

After breakfast this morning we depart for Lerwick, which you are free to explore at your leisure and view the various activities associated with the Up Helly Aa festival which takes place today. Keep an eye out for the various ‘squads’ of ‘guizers’ – groups of about 20 men who choose a theme and dress up as whatever takes their fancy each year. Only one squad, a different one every year, is allowed to dress up as Vikings and are known as ‘jarls’, the Viking term for Earl. As darkness falls (mid-afternoon at this time of year) the squads begin to assemble for the torchlight parade and eventually a procession of 1,000 men snakes its way through the streets carrying aloft flaming brands of paraffin-soaked hessian and carrying the superbly crafted galley which will then be ceremoniously burned in the spectacular finale to the day’s events.

Dinner this evening will be served in a local restaurant. At an agreed time we will be transferred back to our hotels in the evening.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

After breakfast today we enjoy another scenic excursion to the west mainland of Shetland, which will take us to Walls, terminus for the ferry service to the island of Foula, and the headland at Sandness, overlooking the island of Papa Stour.

Dinner is served in the evening.

Thursday 28 January 2016

After a leisurely breakfast we depart for a full day tour which, weather permitting, will take us to the northern isles of Yell and Unst. We travel north through Tingwall and Girlsta and past the oil terminal at Sullom Voe, which has transformed life in Shetland over the last 25 years, before arriving at Toft, where the ferry departs for the island of Yell. After a 15-minute crossing we travel across Yell to Gutcher at the north end of the island. After a refreshment stop we make another short ferry crossing to the island of Unst. Here we visit Muness Castle before driving north to Baltasound, our lunch stop. After lunch (not included) we continue northwards again, (about as far north as it is possible to travel by coach in the British Isles) and enjoy the marvellous views from Saxavord Hill. Our return route takes us via East Yell and Burravoe. Back at Lerwick we will re-join our ship, which sails at 1730 hrs forAberdeen.  Dinner is served on board.

Friday 29 January 2016

After breakfast on board we will disembark in Aberdeen at around 0900 hours.  We will then return to the original pick up points, where we anticipate arriving late morning/early afternoon.

Included in the price

  • 4 nights’ dinner, bed and full breakfast at the Sumburgh Hotel, Sumburgh*. All rooms have private facilities
  • 2 nights’ accommodation in 2-berth cabins on Serco Northlink Ferries Hrossey or Hjaltland with dinner and full breakfast. All cabins have private facilities. Outside cabins are available on request for a small supplement
  • Comfortable coaching throughout
  • Four full day guided coach tours of mainland Shetland and the islands of Yell and Unst, including all ferries (weather permitting) and entrance to Jarlshof
  • Free day in Lerwick to enjoy the events of Up Helly Aa

Not included (per person)

  • Outside cabin supplement                                 £25.00
  • Single room/cabin                                             On request
  • Insurance
  • Rail/air travel and overnight accommodation before or after the tour available on request

Departure points and times:


Depart Return
Glasgow (Millennium Hotel, George Square) 1015 1300
Edinburgh Marriott Hotel, Glasgow Road) 1130 1200
Dunfermline (outside Fife College) 1145 1145
Kinross (Kinross Services) 1200 1130
Perth (Bus stop on Canal Street, Tay Street end) 1215 1100
Dundee (outside Discovery Point) 1330 1030
Arbroath (Railway Station) 1350 1010
Montrose (Railway Station) 1410 0950
Aberdeen (Ferry Terminal) 1500 0900


Please note pick-up points are subject to minimum numbers and all timings are approximate and may be changed. They will be confirmed when the joining instructions are sent out, approximately ten days prior to departure.

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The staff at our hotel on Islay were young and keen, very pleasant and helpful indeed.

Mr and Mrs Turner

We thoroughly enjoyed the archaeological tour to the Outer Hebrides, the driver and guide made the holiday a great success

Mr and Mrs Sutherland, Dundee

A superb holiday - thanks Trish the Tour Manager was very helpful and knowledgeable - the free day was a great idea.

Mr and Mrs Somerville
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