Shetland’s most northerly Up Helly Aa festival takes place in Norwick, Unst.

February 2023

While the area has known Viking occupation since the 8th century, the festival began much more recently, in 1985. It takes place on a Saturday towards the end of February each year.

Situated in the far north of the island, Norwick provides a truly spectacular backdrop for the procession of the Guizer Jarl and his squad and other guizers, who make their way down the old Floggie road to the burning site at the head of Norwick beach.

The Jarl Squad is always a family affair. In 2018, five young shield maidens led the way into “battle” for the Jarl and the rest of his squad on their community visitations throughout the day, and in the procession.

The procession is made up of on average upwards of 100 guizers, and squads are made up of both men and women.

After the procession, squads return to entertain a packed North Unst Public Hall with a variety of satirical and comical skits acted out on the stage. This is followed by a supper dance.

The committee have said that informality, camaraderie and, above all, a sense of fun were its founding principles, and these continue to the present day.