5 days

From £1,045

Activity Level:

Summary

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. During our stay we will take in the prehistoric and Norse settlement of Jarlshof to the south, and tour as far as the islands of Yell and Unst to the north. Up Helly Aa itself is on the Tuesday, when we will have the day free to enjoy the various events in Lerwick, culminating in the torchlight procession and boat burning ceremony in the evening, the highlight of an unusual and uplifting winter break.

We offer a choice of two hotels. The Busta House Hotel, situated at Busta Voe, north of Lerwick, dates back to 1588, with a colourful history that includes tales of family feuds, secret marriages and tragic events. Today, the hotel offers all modern conveniences and comfortable, individually decorated bedrooms. The bar features a selection of around 160 malt whiskies and an open peat fire, just the place to relax in the evening. Please note the hotel does not have a lift or ground floor rooms and may not be suitable for those with limited mobility.

In contrast, the Shetland Hotel is located opposite the ferry terminal in Lerwick, within walking distance of the town centre, making it the ideal base for those who wish to enjoy the Up Helly Aa festivities to the full. This modern, purpose-built hotel is notable for its spacious, comfortable rooms (supplement applies).

Tour highlights:

  • The fiery festival of Up Helly Aa
  • 3000 years of archaeological history at Jarlshof
  • Comfortable overnight sailings with Northlink Ferries
  • The dramatic, rugged scenery of Yell & Unst
  • The picturesque village of Scalloway

Departure Routes

Location Depart Return
Glasgow
Bus stop on North Hanover Street, opposite Queens Street Station
09.30 14.20
Edinburgh
Outside Reception at the Marriott Hotel, Glasgow Road
10.45 13.05
Dunfermline
Halbeath Park & Ride, Jct 3, M90
11.20 12.40
Kinross
Moto Services on M90
11.45 12.15
Perth
Broxden Park & Ride, A93
12.15 11.45
Dundee
Outside Discovery Point
13.30 10.30
Forfar
Bus stop off the A90, near McDonalds
13.50 10.10
Stonehaven
Market Square
14.30 09.30
Aberdeen (Northlink)
Northlink Ferry Terminal
15.00 09.00

Please note that all timings are approximate and subject to change. Final timings and pick-up points will be confirmed with your joining instructions approximately 10 days prior to departure.

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Your Departure date

Today's Price
£1,045

Deposit: £100 Single supplement: £295

Meet your Experts

Peter Yeoman

Tour Manager

Peter Yeoman was, until recently, Head of Cultural Heritage at Historic Scotland, with responsibility for the archaeology and the knowledge base for the estate of 345 properties in their care.

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Tour dates & prices

Included in your cost:

  • Accommodation
  • Services of a professional tour manager
  • Comfortable coach travel throughout
  • Meals - as per the itinerary
  • Ferry crossings
Tour Departure Tour ID Departure date Return Date Guided by Price Deposit Single supplement Availability
29 January 2023 BUHF230129 29 January 2023 (Sunday) 2 February 2023 (Thursday) Peter Yeoman £1,045
(ex. flights)
£100 £295 Call for availability
28 January 2024 BUHF240128 28 January 2024 (Sunday) 1 February 2024 (Thursday) £1,095
(ex. flights)
£125 £325 Call for availability
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