Thousands expected on Shetland for Up Helly Aa fire festival

Thousands of people are gathering for the world-famous Up Helly Aa fire festival on Shetland.

The event, which attracts visitors from around the globe, takes place in Lerwick on the last Tuesday of January each year.

People dressed as Vikings march through the streets of the town to recreate its ancient Viking past, in a tradition dating back to the 19th century.

The walk is led by the Guizer Jarl, or chief guizer, and culminates in a torch-lit procession and a replica longboat being set alight.

Up Helly Aa Viking festival
The procession culminates with the galley being set alight in the evening (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Volunteers are responsible for the building of the galley boat and the production of more than 1,000 torches.

Those taking part in the festival spend the night visiting a host of celebrations in halls around the town.

Shetland and neighbouring Orkney were ruled by the Norse for about 500 years until they became part of Scotland in 1468.

The festival stems from the 1870s when a group of young local men wanted to put new ideas into Shetland’s Christmas celebrations.

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