Vikings partied in Scotland’s Shetland Islands on Tuesday in the annual “Up Helly Aa” festival, featuring a parade of men in suits of armour torching a wooden ship.
The event — which means “long winter’s end” in Old Norse — has taken place in the port of Lerwick, around 125 miles (200 kilometres) northwest of mainland Scotland, on the last Tuesday in January every year since the early 1890s to celebrate the region’s Viking heritage.
“It means a lot to Shetlanders and people in Lerwick that we can do this festival,” John Nicolson, one of the organisers, told AFP.
“It’s really steeped in Viking history here.”
The 48-year-old is the figurehead for this year’s festival — known as the “Guizer Jarl” — leading a “Jarl Squad” of dozens of Vikings for the day and hundreds of other dressed up “guizers”.
“There’s only been a few guys that have been (Guizer Jarl), so it’s a great privilege.”
The Jarl dons the same suit of armour — comprising helmet, breastplate, shield, axe, dagger and belt — each year.
But in a closely guarded secret, he chooses the design for his and his squad’s other garments, representing a different character from the Norse Sagas stories each time.
The festivities take place regardless of conditions on the far-flung islands — which sit in the North Atlantic Ocean on the same latitude as southern Greenland.
“There’s no postponement for weather,” said Nicolson.
“It’ll be what it’ll be, and we’ll just carry on.”