Tourism Ireland

Up Helly Aa Festival

by Benjamin Kerns

Dec 25, 2016

Up Helly Aa, Ledwick, Scotland © Mlynarikovazdenka | Dreamstime

Trends / Unique Itineraries & Tours

They say it’s dangerous to play with fire, but in Scotland, it’s one of the favorite pastimes. Each year on the second Tuesday in January, folks from around the country gather in Ledwick to celebrate life through fire-lit processions and parties, culminating in the lighting of a large galley.


Tourists will relish the opportunity to enjoy the festivities, which include parties, musical festivals and torch-lit processions full of locals dressed in fanciful garb.


Outsiders are happily permitted to engage in the fun. You’ll interact with the Jarls, a form of modern-day Vikings. Truthfully, it’s just locals dressing up playing the part, but they do a fantastic job of making you believe it’s real.


At the end of the night you’ll gather with the local Scotsmen and watch the burning of the Galley, a giant vessel in the water crafted each year specifically for the festival.


Up Helly Aa occurs all throughout the countryside, but the main celebration you’ll want to experience is in the heart of Ledwick, so be sure to make the trip if you can. Frankly, we think it’s a festival Americans should really learn to get behind.



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