Viking Festival kick-starts historical year for Scotland

Press release   •   Feb 01, 2017 12:27 GMT

Over 800 Vikings, a huge dragon ship set ablaze by flying torches and a crowd of five thousand spectators – for 24 hours, on the last Tuesday of January, the town of Lerwick on the Scottish archipelago of Shetland goes more than a little wild. The annual Up Helly Aa festival is a unique celebration of Shetland’s Viking past that you have to see to believe. And it is only the first of many exciting ways to relive the past in Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017.

With over one third of visitors drawn to Scotland for its history and culture, VisitScotland has hailed the 2017 themed year as an exciting opportunity to experience Scotland’s fascinating heritage through a range of events and activities.

A Great Roman Bake-Off, large scale projections of Viking imagery, a live archaeological dig of St Kilda in Minecraft and a festival to celebrate the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, are just a few of the events lined up to make history in 2017. On World Herritage Day 2017, Scotland will celebrate its six iconic World Heritage Sites with six unique events from dawn to dusk (Scotland in Six). And in September, the Vikings will conquer Shetland once again for the Follow the Vikings Roadshow & Festival.The Nordic warriors will excite audiences with fire breathing, fierce re-enactments and beach raids. Visitors can step aboard the actual long ships used in the popular Vikings TV series, see inside the newly reconstructed long house and even dine at a Viking banquet.

The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology Signature Event Programme:

Spectra9-12 Feb 2017Aberdeen
Edinburgh Georgian Shadows23 Feb – 26 March 2017Edinburgh
Scotland in Six18 April 2017(World Heritage Day)Scotland-wide
Tradfest Edinburgh26 Apr –7 May 2017Edinburgh
Paisley’s International Festival of Weaving1 & 2 July 2017Paisley
PurvaiAugust 2017Stornoway
Follow the Vikings Roadshow & Festival2& 3 September 20178& 9 September 2017Shetland
Horsepower9 September 2017Falkirk
Mary Queen of Scots FestivalSeptember 2017Kinross and Loch Leven
Shining LivesAutumn 2017 New Lanark World Heritage Site

The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017 began on 1 January 2017 and will end on 31 December 2017. For more information, please visit or watch our 30 second video here:

The hashtag for the year is #HHA2017

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Notes to Editors

2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology

  • 2017 is the year to delve into the past and discover Scotland’s fascinating stories through a wide-ranging variety of new and existing activity to drive the nation’s tourism and events sector, boosting tourism across Scotland.
  • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology begins on 1 January 2017 and will end on 31 December 2017. It will build on the momentum generated by previous themed years in Scotland including the 2015 Year of Food and Drink, Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.
  • Scotland will be celebrating a number of significant anniversaries through the historical year including the 70th anniversary of Edinburgh as a world leading festival city, the 20th anniversary of Scottish Crannog Centre, 250th anniversary of Edinburgh New Town Plan, 30th anniversary of Beltane Fire Society and the 400th anniversary of the General Register of Sasines – the oldest public land register in the world.
  • For more information visit or join the conversation at #HHA2017

About VisitScotland

  • VisitScotland launched its global Spirit of Scotland campaign in 2016. To find out more go to or join the conversation by using #ScotSpirit
  • Spirit of Scotland PR activity is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund Programme 2014 to 2020. The Scottish Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme.
  • VisitScotland’s Community site was set up for the Scottish public to help, engage and enthuse potential visitors about the country. To get involved go to:
  • For holiday information on Scotland go to
  • For VisitScotland’s press releases go to, for tourism statistics and frequently asked questions go to


This copy was correct at the time of going to press. VisitScotland cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information and accepts no responsibility for any error or misrepresentation. All liability for loss, disappointment, negligence or other damage caused by the reliance on the information contained herewith, or in the event of any company, individual or firm ceasing to trade, is hereby excluded.