Up Helly Aa 2023 by Air – Shetland’s Winter Festival
Up Helly Aa 2023
*March 2022 Update* – This tour is currently at full capacity. To be added to a waiting list, Call 01334 657155 quoting DC094
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4 Day package – departs 30 January 2023 – from £1,195pp
A wander through the streets of Lerwick is normally a quiet, peaceful experience, but take a walk there at the end of January and it’s quite likely that you will bump into a squad of very large, very bearded Vikings, resplendent in gleaming chain-mail and winged helmets.
Later, the Vikings and their fancy-dressed followers fill the narrow streets, their flaming torches illuminating the dark winter skies, their boisterous songs filling the air.
A 30-foot Viking longship is carried aloft before it is set alight with a thousand blazing brands. As the sky over Lerwick shimmers with heat and light, fireworks explode, brass 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 knees-up. It’s run by Shetlanders for Shetlanders, but that’s not to say visitors aren’t welcome and the island hospitality will be as warm as ever.
Shetland is a beguiling 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.
- Return flights from Aberdeen or Edinburgh
- Fire festival of Up Helly Aa
- 3000 years of archaeological history at Jarlshof
- Stunning seacliffs at Eshaness
- Bobby’s bus shelter in Baltasound – surely the most famous in the world!
- Coach travel on Shetland
- Accommodation with dinner, bed and breakfast at the Brae Hotel, Shetland
- Services of a professional Tour Manager
4 DAY TOUR ITINERARY
We depart this morning on an early morning flight to Sumburgh. On arrival we will head north and begin our scenic excursion of 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.
We will then continue to our accommodation at the Brae Hotel, where dinner will be served in the evening.
After breakfast today we will head for Lerwick, where 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 hotel.
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 40 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.
We shall drive north to Baltasound for a 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.
We return to our hotel where dinner will be served this evening.
This morning following breakfast we check out of the hotel and depart on a 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 site of a lighthouse that is still functioning remotely, but incorporates museum aspects of its earlier operation as a manned station. In season, thousands of puffins, kittiwakes and razorbills nest here, but in January/February they will still be out at sea.
We then return to Sumburgh Airport in time for our return flight.
Terms & Conditions
Organised by Brightwater Holidays ABTOT 5001; ATOL 4498. Single room supplements apply. Subject to availability. The price was correct at the time of publishing and while very effort is made to ensure these are as accurate as possible , they can fluctuate suddenly due to demand. Select featured Imagery Credit: Kenny Elrick