Shetland is an archaeologists dream come true. Wherever you go in the islands you can see evidence of the people who lived there previously. Some of the earliest and best archaeological sites are right next to the modern shoreline. The only complete broch– an Iron Age drystone hollow-walled structure – in the world is on the uninhabited island of Mousa, while the well preserved Clickimin Broch stands by a lock in the middle of Lerwick. Two of the best sites are right next to Sumburgh Airport: the recent archaeological dig at Old Scatness has turned up some amazing finds, including entire buildings overwhelmed by a sandstorm, and the famous Jarlshof, a multi-period settlement.
Shetland plays host to the largest fire festival in Europe –Up Helly Aa. There are many local smaller country festivals between February and March each year but the largest is held annually in Lerwick on the last Tuesday in January. After a torch-light procession of up to a thousand guizersthrough the streets of Lerwick a full-size replica Viking longship is ceremonially burned. The guizers and onlookers then retreat to local halls for a night of revelry, dancing and partying. Summer visitors can get a flavour of this mid-winter extravaganza at the Up Helly Aa exhibition in Lerwick where the regalia, props, costumes and a replica longship are on display.
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