#818. Four days in the Shetlands for Up Hele Aa

By paulperton | Travel Photography

Feb 07

From the official Web site:

 

Up Helly Aa, which takes place in Lerwick, Shetland, on the last Tuesday in January every year. Up Hele Aa involves a series of marches and visitations, culminating in a torch-lit procession and the burning of a galley. 

 

The following Wednesday is a public holiday in Lerwick to allow for recovery.

 

No surprise there – this is (the very far north of) Scotland after all.

 

The longboat and the start of the torch-lit procession
The longboat and the start of the torch-lit procession

 

Torchlight, the Jarl
Torchlight, the Jarl

 

Street procession - the Jarl
Street procession – the Jarl

 

The Jarl
The Jarl

 

From Cape Town this was quite a trek; fly (via Dubai) to Glasgow, an overnight there, then the next afternoon a scheduled Loganair twin prop to Sumburgh on the southern tip of the main Shetland island, hoping praying the weather was going to be OK. Thankfully, it was, leaving only the car hire and the 35km drive into Lerwick to negotiate.

 

The longboat and the torch-lit procession
The longboat and the torch-lit procession

 

Street procession - the Jarl
Street procession – the Jarl

 

The Guizer and his Jarl
The Guizer and his Jarl

 

Street procession - the band
Street procession – the band

 

Street procession without the pipes? Not likely
Street procession without the pipes? Not likely

 

From here, the photographs can tell the story. Up Hele Aa is absolutely well worth a visit, but make sure you are well rested, you have plenty of warm clothing and camera(s) that can deal with not only the elements, but deliver competently in the semi-dark conditions. It’s also worth remembering that this far north – abreast of Bergen in Norway – the sun only rises around 08:30 and disappears just eight hours later at 16:30.

 

View from the lighthouse at Eshaness
View from the lighthouse at Eshaness

 

Near Eshaness
Near Eshaness

 

Near Lerwick
Near Lerwick

 

Winter in the Shetlands
Winter in the Shetlands

 

The ferry from Bressay to Lerwick
The ferry from Bressay to Lerwick

 

Winter in the Shetlands
Winter in the Shetlands

 

Lerwick
Lerwick

 

Lerwick
Lerwick

 

And yes, it snowed, rained and sleeted and was damned cold. I recommend liberal doses of Scottish Communion Wine to ease the pain.

 

Lerwick visitors
Lerwick visitors

 

Lerwick
Lerwick

 

Lerwick
Lerwick

 

Winter in the Shetlands
Winter in the Shetlands

 

Winter in the Shetlands
Winter in the Shetlands

 

Winter sunset in the Shetlands
Winter sunset in the Shetlands
  • Neil Risk says:

    Hope you enjoyed Shetland. its good in the summer too with almost 24 hours of daylight and amazing wildlife. I would upload a couple of photos from Up Helly aa but don’t know how to do that. The black and white photos of the Jarl Squad are v good as are the landscapes. I guess you might have used flash at the procession. Quite a spectacle.
    Come back again to see what else Shetland has to offer.

    • paulperton says:

      Thanks Neil. No, no flash at all – just my Fuji X100F or iPhone for a couple of shots.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Neil, if you send them to me, I’ll add them to your comment ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Neil Risk says:

        Pete, the absence of women in the Lerwick Up Helly aa has been somewhat controversial of late. The #metoo movement have been flexing their muscles here in Shetland. There are 6 other Up Helly aa festivals throughout the island in which women take part. Shetlanders like to party!
        They are meant to represent the return of the sun and have Scandinavian roots allegedly. All good fun.

        • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

          Yikes – “their” idea of fun, clearly. I couldn’t imagine having fun with any women who looked like that!

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Is the absence of women from these photos an indication that they are envious of the males – because they can’t grow great bushy beards to protect their faces from the cold weather?

    While you photos are great, Paul, they remind me of being told that my scottish ancestors (yes, I have some of those, too!) were so glad to find some blue sky and sunshine, after they came to Australia, that NONE of them ever went back to Scotland.

    And for everyone’s amusement, one of them laughed at me one day, telling me I’d never even met any of the ones who still spoke with that famous scottish brogue – they’d all died long before I was born. Yet (she said) I still cannot pronounce the word “Scotland” as the english do – I cannot put a “t” in the middle – I always say “Sco’land” instead.

    She was vastly amused by this – ended up telling me it must be some kind of genetic disorder!

    As they say in the south of France – “raรงa raceja!” – you cannot escape from your ancestry!

  • Cliff Whittaker says:

    Excellent photos, Paul. Really liked the available light parade pics. Thank you for letting us share your Shetland adventure.
    Cliff

  • Rudi says:

    Closest I’ll get to this beautiful place are these fine images and the TV series Shetland which we love. Thank you for these super images.

  • Dave Hollis says:

    I like this set a lot. After looking at them I seriously am thinking of going there myself.

    Getting good photos in the dark in grey of winter is certainly no mean feat. I like the atmosphere and also like the fact that they illustrate just how many cultural influences there are to be seen in these photos. For instance, the word Jarl in Danish is the word Earl in English …

    The weather doesn’t look too inhospitable? I suspect it was a few degrees under zero at most with a damp cold.

    When is the photo book being published? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • paulperton says:

      Hi Dave. No photo book – not enough substance from this trip, but if I go back next year or whenever, I’ll be better prepared and maybe think of one then. The weather was cold, but quite pleasant and around 0C. I suspect it could have been much more challenging.

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