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Community / Up Helly Aa features on Lonely Planet’s ultimate UK travel list

Lerwick Up Helly Aa 2019. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

FOLLOWING excitement earlier this summer when Shetland made it into the top 10 of Lonely Planet’s European travel destinations in 2019, Up Helly Aa has now featured on a new list published by the celebrated travel guide book publisher.

“Play[ing] with fire at Up Helly Aa on Shetland”, ranked at number 109, is the only local event that made it on to the British top 500 of “unmissable experiences and hidden gems” which was published today (Tuesday).

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which is taking place just now, tops Lonely Planet’s ultimate United Kingdom ‘travelist’.

Ever since live webcasts of the Lerwick event began about a decade ago, the Lerwick Up Helly Aa festival has become something of a global phenomenonwith tens of thousands of people able to follow the torch-lit procession and burning of the galley on the internet.

Instrumental in bringing the event to a wider audience, Andy Steven of Shetland Webcams – and formerly of Promote Shetland – said he and his team were proud to be playing “apart in taking the best of Shetland to the world”.

He added:“We’ve upped our technological game year and year, and the feeds we produce are used by global media organisations.

“Last year we were able to extend our Up Helly Aa coverage to SMUHA, the South Mainland Up Helly Aa, and we hope to bring bigger and better webcasts of Shetland’s Up Helly Aa season in the years to come.”

VisitScotland development manager for Shetland, Steve Mathieson, said he was delighted that Up Helly Aa had been included in the list.

“Up Helly Aa is indeed an unmissable experience which attracts thousands of visitors each year, but it is just one of the many reasons why people visit these beautiful islands, including our unique culture, heritage and archaeological offering, our nature and wildlife, delicious local food and drink and our attractions, including Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement, Sumburgh Head, Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve, the Broch of Mousa, Scalloway Museum and Shetland Museum and Archives,” Mathieson said.

Lonely Planet said the top 500 list was created through a comprehensive system of voting by authors and staff at the publishers’ UK head office. A total of 67 Scottish entries made the list, including Orkney’s Skara Brae at number 22.