Arran: ‘Scotland in miniature’
1 July 2013, 5 days from £385pp (was £435pp)
Scenic Scottish Railways
12 July 2013, 4 days from £335pp (was 385pp)
A Taste of Orkney
12 July 2013, 4 days from £375pp (was £425pp)
The Isle of Barra
17 August 2013, 4 days from £385pp (was £425pp)
Scotland’s Royal Castles
24 June 2013, 4 days from £299pp (was £355pp)
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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.
Not included (per person)
Departure points and times:
|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.
A superb holiday - thanks Trish the Tour Manager was very helpful and knowledgeable - the free day was a great idea.Mr and Mrs Somerville
Pauline our Tour Manager was a wee star, her personality and knowledge make the Highlands come alive.Mrs Wilson
Jimmy the driver was impeccable and fun - his driving skills gave us great confidence on the narrow roads through Royal Deeside.Bob Guthrie, Broughty Ferry