Shetland’s ancient capital hosts the first of Shetland's annual fire festivals.

12 Jan 2024

What are the origins of Scalloway Fire Festival?

The fire festival tradition begins at the turn of the last century, when the event was held on Christmas Day. A ‘grand procession and bonfire’ were held, sometimes involving the burning of a galley – once, a model croft house – before the event moved to the days in between Christmas and New Year.

These early traditions continued throughout the 20th century, until 1979 when the festival officially became known as the Scalloway Fire Festival. In 1984 the date was moved to the second Friday in January, where it has remained.

What happens at the Scalloway Fire Festival?

During the day, the Jarl squad visits local schools before preparing for the evening festivities. Following the evening’s torchlit procession through the village, from Lovers Loan to Port Arthur and taking in Main Street and the West Shore, the galley is burnt at Scalloway Boating Club and set to sea once alight. Squads then visit five local halls: Bridge End, Hamnavoe, Tingwall, Scalloway Hall, Scalloway Legion and Scalloway Boating Club, for a night of acts, dancing, and fun.

Men and women take part in the Scalloway Fire Festival procession. There are no mixed squads, and women don’t take part in the Jarl Squad, but there are Viking Princesses in the Jarl Squad.