The Viking side of the Shetland Islands

The Viking side of the Shetland Islands

2 minutes to read

This is a call for those people who are into Viking history, festivals, and the amazing land of Scotland and its islands like me! Scotland is full of amazing landscapes, huge and impressive cliffs and stunning islands such as the famous Island of Skye, but on this occasion, I am going to write about the magical Shetland Islands and why it is such an unique place. 

Cover picture credtis @ HelenL100 - In the cover picture you can see the burning of Blaze Away, the Viking long-ship at Up Helly Aa in 2018.

The Shetland Islands are not very similar to other parts of Scotland, since they are closer to Norway than Edinburgh. These islands were conquered by the Vikings 1200 ago and were part of Norway until the 15th Century. Even though they are part of Scotland nowadays and its people are Scottish, you can still feel and notice the Viking heritage, which is very well expressed in the famous 'Festival of Fire' called Up Helly Aa, celebrated in the Shetland Islands. 

Picture credits @ sdbower
Picture credits @ sdbower

Fire and Vikings in Up Helly Aa...

As you can imagine, plenty of Shetlanders have Norwegian DNA, and the dialect is full of Nordic words, since the territory was occupied by Norse people for lots of years. As a result, The Shetland Islands are also full of Viking heritage and history, including around 60 Viking farms that still remain on the islands. I think lots of people don’t know about the British Isles and the Viking influence and how interesting its history full of different layers is here - it is really incredible to see how the Viking heritage has survived in Shetland Islands, that is very well represented throughout the cool Up Helly Aa festival. 

This festival happens in different forms from January to March across the different islands and villages in Shetland, and the biggest one is celebrated in the capital of the islands, Lerwick. It is also the biggest fire festival in Europe. During this celebration, there is a procession of people dressed up as Vikings and a replica Viking long ship that is ready to be burned in less than an hour by the end of the day. As you can expect too, there is lots of preparation and excitement that goes into this day, since there are lots of artisans that work to build the ships as well as the Viking armour that people wear for the parades – all this to celebrate their Norwegian heritage in a way. After the burning, people go to party, and the entire city prepares different halls for people to go, dance, and have some food and drinks.

The Up Helly Aa Guizer Jarl of 2011 - Picture credits @ AndrewJShearer
The Up Helly Aa Guizer Jarl of 2011 - Picture credits @ AndrewJShearer

If you want to feel like you're in the amazing series Vikings which I love, then visit these Shetland landscapes which are very similar to places from the series. You can enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of the Shetland Islands and tick it off your bucket list! 

Up Helly Aa in Lerwick
Up Helly Aa in Lerwick
Islesburgh Complex,, King Harald St, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0EQ, Reino Unido

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The author

Helena Guerrero Gonzalez

Helena Guerrero Gonzalez

I’m a seeker of energy and life, currently living in Spain, although I have lived in the UK too. Travelling, exploring, making new friends along the way and sharing my personal experiences are essential parts of my life.

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