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Price is per person based on two people sharing. Single room supplement on request

Outside Cabins are available at a supplement

Tours ~ Tour Details

Up Helly Aa

4 Nightsfrom £795.00 pp

The gloomy days of winter are banished in spectacular fashion in this boisterous festival of hearty northern spirits.

Tour Overview

Fight off the lingering gloom of winter with blazing torch and bone-rattling cry, and see warm island hospitality and unabashed merrymaking come together in a festival unlike any other. This is Up Helly Aa, a once-yearly invocation of flame and festivity when Vikings take over the sleepy Shetlands — sure to put fire in the belly.

There is one night of the year — the last Tuesday in January, to be exact — when the ordinarily sleepy town of Lerwick undergoes an uncanny transformation. The darkened streets are lit up by the warm flicker of flaming torches as hordes of armour-clad Vikings pass through, singing uproariously. The reason? Up Helly Aa, a festival of fire held to mark the end of the yule season and usher in the just-dawning new year.

Join us on a five-day experience — of which the celebration is just the start — taking in startlingly beautiful landscapes, wonderful wildlife, and a whole host of historical sites. Explore the home of thousands of nesting birds — including puffins, kittiwakes and razorbills — at the Sumburgh Head RSPB reserve, explore the maritime town of Lerwick in the calm before the Up Helly Aa storm, and take a series of scenic ferry rides that offer a breathtaking perspective on the Shetland Islands. We travel through Tingwall and Girlsta, enjoy the panoramic views at Saxa Vord on Unst, and admire the utilitarian grandeur of the Sullom Voe Terminal.

All in all, between the affable hospitality of the Shetlanders, fascinating sites, and the flickering torches and rousing songs of the festival itself, there’s no better way to warm up from a long winter.

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 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).
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Tour Itinerary Back to top of page

Sunday 28 January 2018
We depart from our designated departure points and travel to Aberdeen where we will join the Serco Northlink ferry (Hrossey or Hjaltland) for the 1700 hrs overnight sailing to Lerwick. Accommodation is provided in comfortable 2-berth cabins with en-suite facilities. Dinner is served on board in the evening.

Monday 29 January 2018
We arrive early in the morning at Lerwick and after our full Scottish breakfast on board we will depart on a full day tour which begins with a visit to Scalloway, the original capital of Shetland. The castle built by Earl Patrick Stewart (not a man you would want to have crossed) still dominates the skyline. More recently Scalloway was the secret base for the heroes of the Norwegian Resistance and the wartime exploits of the ‘Shetland Bus’ form a courageous memoir. Later we head for the south of Mainland Shetland, where we visit the outstanding Prehistoric and Norse Settlement of Jarlshof, with over 3 acres of remains, spanning 3000 years since the days of the Stone Age, including oval shaped bronze age houses, iron age broch and wheel houses, Viking long houses and medieval farmhouses. We continue to Sumburgh Head, the southern tip of mainland Shetland, which is an RSPB reserve and home to thousands of nesting birds, including puffins, kittiwakes and razorbills.

From here we transfer to our accommodation. Dinner is served in the evening.

Tuesday 30 January 2018
After breakfast this morning we depart for Lerwick, which you are free to explore at your leisure and view the various activities associated with the Up Helly Aa festival which takes place today. Keep an eye out for the various ‘squads’ of ‘guizers’ – groups of about 20 men who choose a theme and dress up as whatever takes their fancy each year. Only one squad, a different one every year, is allowed to dress up as Vikings and are known as ‘jarls’, the Viking term for Earl. As darkness falls (mid-afternoon at this time of year) the squads begin to assemble for the torchlight parade and eventually a procession of 1,000 men snakes its way through the streets carrying aloft flaming brands of paraffin-soaked hessian and carrying the superbly crafted galley which will then be ceremoniously burned in the spectacular finale to the day’s events.

Dinner this evening will be served in a local restaurant. At an agreed time we will be transferred back to our hotels in the evening.

Wednesday 31 January 2018
After a leisurely breakfast we depart for a full day tour which, weather permitting, will take us to the northern isles of Yell and Unst. We travel north through Tingwall and Girlsta and past the oil terminal at Sullom Voe, which has transformed life in Shetland over the last 25 years, before arriving at Toft, where the ferry departs for the island of Yell. After a 15-minute crossing we travel across Yell to Gutcher at the north end of the island. After a refreshment stop we make another short ferry crossing to the island of Unst and drive north to Baltasound, our lunch stop. After lunch (not included) we continue northwards again, (about as far north as it is possible to travel by coach in the British Isles) and enjoy the marvellous views from Saxa Vord Hill. Our return route takes us via East Yell and Burravoe. Back at Lerwick we will re-join our ship, which sails at 1730 hrs for Aberdeen.  Dinner is served on board.

Thursday 1 February 2018
After breakfast on board we will disembark in Aberdeen at around 0900 hours.  We will then return to the original pick up points, where we anticipate arriving late morning/early afternoon.

What's Included Back to top of page

  • 2 nights’ dinner, bed and full breakfast at the Busta House Hotel, Busta Voe. All rooms have private facilities.  Upgrades available to the Shetland Hotel.
  • 2 nights’ accommodation in 2-berth cabins on Serco Northlink Ferries Hrossey or Hjaltland with dinner and full breakfast. All cabins have private facilities. Outside cabins are available on request for a small supplement
  • Comfortable coaching throughout
  • Two full day guided coach tours of mainland Shetland and the islands of Yell and Unst, including all ferries (weather permitting) and entrance to Jarlshof
  • Free day in Lerwick to enjoy the events of Up Helly Aa

Supplements Per Person Back to top of page

•    Supplement for Shetland Hotel            £80.00
•    Outside cabin supplement                    £25.00
•    Single room/cabin                                On request
•    Insurance                                              On request                   
•    Rail/air travel and overnight accommodation before or after the tour available on request

Departure Points Back to top of page


Departure Point           



Glasgow (Millennium Hotel, George Square)



Edinburgh (Marriott Hotel, Glasgow Road)



Dunfermline (outside Carnegie College)



Kinross (Moto Services, M90)



Perth (Bus stop on Canal Street, Tay Street end)



Dundee (Discovery Point)



Arbroath (Railway Station



Montrose (Railway Station



Aberdeen (Ferry Terminal)



Please note pick-up points are subject to minimum numbers and all timings are approximate and may be changed. They will be confirmed when the joining instructions are sent out, approximately ten days prior to departure.

Click here to print a brochure
Click here to make an online reservation

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