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In Pictures: Vikings storm streets of Lerwick as Up Helly Aa festival returns

Up Helly Aa made a roaring comeback to the streets of Lerwick as thousands gathered to watch the world-famous fire festival.

Up Helly Aa festival
Guizer Jarl Richard Moar leads the Jarl Squad through Lerwick (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Up Helly Aa festival
Originating in the 1880s, the festival celebrates Shetland’s Norse heritage (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Up Helly Aa festival
The event attracts visitors from across the world and sees participants dress as Vikings to march through the streets of Lerwick (Andrew Milligan/PA)

This year’s event made history after women were invited to join the Jarl Squad for the first time since the festival began in the 1870s.

Up Helly Aa festival
This year, women were allowed to join the Jarl Squad at the festival for the first time (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Up Helly Aa festival
Jen Moar, the daughter of Guizer Jarl Richard Moar, was one of the first female participants in this year’s Jarl Squad (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Up Helly Aa festival
The march is traditionally led by the Guizer Jarl, or Viking chief, who leads his Jarl Squad on the march which culminates in the evening with a torch-lit procession and a replica longboat being set alight (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Up Helly Aa aims to celebrate Shetland’s Norse heritage and begins with a morning parade culminating in a torch-lit procession and a replica longboat being set alight.

Up Helly Aa festival
A member of the Jarl Squad has a drink in the Legion as they pass through Lerwick (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Up Helly Aa festival
Shetland and neighbouring Orkney were ruled by the Norse for about 500 years until they became part of Scotland in 1468 (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Up Helly Aa festival
The festival dates back to the 1870s when a group of young local men wanted to put new ideas into Shetland’s Christmas celebrations (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Up Helly Aa festival
Guizers must be aged 16 or older and have lived in Shetland continuously for five years to lead the Jarl Squad (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Up Helly Aa festival
Guizer Jarl Richard Moar and his family pose for a photograph on the galley (Andrew Milligan/PA)

All good things come to an end and the galley was put to the torch after a fiery procession.

Up Helly Aa festival
The galley with revellers (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Up Helly Aa festival
A galley is burnt as youngsters take part (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Up Helly Aa festival
Squad members take part in the torch procession (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Up Helly Aa festival
The Jarl Squad set light to the galley (Andrew Milligan/PA)