Shetland Up Helly Aa Trip – January 2019
This was the first ABC Rallying trip away that didn’t involve any rallying. As Brian has been the regular driver taking the Fiddle band from Shetland between their accommodation and Edinburgh Castle at the Tattoo for the past 4 years he has been invited to visit Shetland. For Up Helly Aa 2019 Brian decided to make the trip and asked the rest of the team to join him.
Gordon, Ian, Brian and David left from Edinburgh Airport heading for Sumburgh on Sunday 27th Jan. It was a decent flight with only a few bumps as the plane descended into Sumburgh.
We were picked up at the airport by Jade who was a regular visitor to the Tattoo and had kindly agreed to give us a lift into Lerwick. We were staying at the Glen Orchy Hotel and after checking in we headed out to see the pubs in Lerwick. First up was The Lounge and after a few drinks we then moved on to the Grand Hotel where more of Brian’s friends were. Margaret was playing that night and Kriss was also there. The Grand bar shut at 11:00 and we moved on to the Marlex until it closed at 1:00.
Monday 28th January
Monday morning and we were up bright and early for breakfast. The plan for today was to go for some shopping and have a look round Lerwick to get our bearings. We walked into town using the scenic route and made a visit to the tourist information office.
After that we went to Tesco to get what we needed for Tuesday night, some beer, whisky and plastic glasses :-). It had started snowing really heavily while we were in Tesco but don’t panic, we made it back safely with the beer.
Once the shopping had been dropped off at the hotel we had a good walk round Lerwick and went for a Chinese in the Golden Coach which would become a regular haunt in the days to come. Back out in the evening and were joined by Jade. We met Margaret and Kriss again in the Grand Hotel later on.
Tuesday 29th – Up Helly Aa Day
Finally Up Helly Aa day had arrived. The plan was to see the procession in the morning, go for a few drinks and then have some lunch then get a few hours sleep before coming back out to see the procession and the burning at night before heading to the hall for the rest of the night.
We headed into town and took up position just above the Bressay ferry terminal as the Jarl squad would be stopping there for some official photos.
After the procession we went back to The Lounge where Margaret was playing and we had a few drinks before lunch.
After lunch we went back to the hotel and managed to get a few hours sleep before getting ready to head out for the evening procession and the burning of the galley.
We were down about an hour early and managed to get a spot next to the wall at the park where the galley would be burned. The full procession walked past us and the sheer number of guizers was hugely impressive to see. The main event was when the galley is set on fire and gets burned in the park. Its quite extraordinary to see almost 1000 guizers throwing their burning torch onto the boat to set it alight.
After watching the conclusion of the burning we headed across to the hall at Sound school where Kriss had been kind enough to arrange to get us an invite for the evening.
This started at 9:00pm on the Tuesday and would run till 8:00am on the Wednesday. We weren’t sure how it would go as visitors very rarely make it past 3:00am. What an incredible night with music and dancing. Each of the 47 squads that make up teh Up Helly Aa procession make a visit to each hall and put on a performance. The definite highlight was squad number 1, the Jarl squad who arrived about 4 in the morning.
There were rumours one of the group fell asleep for a few seconds but we can neither confirm or deny if this actually happened 🙂
The last squad turned up at ten to eight and the party ended at about 5 past eight. We walked back to hotel and got there at half eight just in time to order breakfast before the kitchen closed.
Wednesday 30th January – Hop Day
After breakfast we went to bed for a few hours and were back up and about just after one o’ clock. We went for a walk and enjoyed a leisurely stroll in and around Lerwick taking in some of the scenery.
We then went for lunch, again at the Golden Coach.
Then time for more drinks. The Lounge didn’t open till 6 so we had one in Captain Flints in the meantime.
Then at 6 we went to the Lounge and met up with Jade and Inga. There was live music on later in the night so that was us until closing time at 1:00.
Thursday 31st January
Last day on Shetland. We had to check out of the room by ten so got that sorted first then went for a walk into town and headed up to the ferry terminal for the Aberdeen ferry as we hadn’t been in that part of Lerwick all week. Next up was lunch and we were going to try the Steakhouse but it wasn’t open for lunch so back to the Golden Coach it was for the fourth day running.
After that we went to Sumburgh head near the airport to kill some time before the flight was due. Jade was driving having kindly volunteered to take us back to the airport.
After looking round the lighthouse we got dropped off at the airport to discover the flight was delayed by 3 hours. The previous flight couldn’t get into Edinburgh due to fog so it was diverted to Glasgow. The crew had run out of flying time so they had to swap with the replacement crew. Unfortunately the crew were in Edinburgh and the plane was in Glasgow, hence the delay. Once we got going it was a quick flight with no dramas.
It was a fantastic week and Up Helly Aa was just amazing, highly recommended to anyone who is thinking about going to see it.
We said that it would probably be a once in a lifetime experience and we wouldn’t do it again but after such an amazing week we’ve changed our minds and would definitely like to visit again although probably not next year as it will take longer than that to recover 🙂