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Weekend winter getaways: the Shetland Islands.

If someone quips ‘Up Helly Aa’, to you at the office coffee machine, refrain from throwing your drink in their face. It’s not an insult, it’s a Viking-themed fire festival in the Shetland Islands and it’s booking up fast, reports the Daily Telegraph.

While ‘those that can’ fly off for a winter trip to the Caribbean, for sun, sand and sea, mere mortals tend to look for something closer to home. And if you think winter temperatures in the eighties and lounging in warm water is for namby pambies, let a cold water ferry trip from Aberdeen to Lerwick bring out the hardy Viking in you.

Book a round trip for two people with car through North Link Ferries (www.northlinkferries.co.uk) departing on January 22 and returning on January 27, for £284 or £410 with overnight cabin, and catch the 24-hour bonanza on the 25th of January, when a replica Norse galley is set alight.

More than a sub-arctic bonfire and booze-up, the Up Helly Aa dates back 12 centuries. Four months of painstaking work by the galley builders goes up in flames as the crowd sings 'The Norseman's Home', guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye of the hardiest Viking. The festival is held whatever the weather; dancing until dawn goes ahead, come gale, sleet or snow.

Most lodgings in Lerwick are already booked, but try the Busta House Hotel (www.bustahouse.com), a 40-minute drive to the north, or search under Delting, Lunnasting and Nesting on the Shetland Tourist office website (www.visitshetland.org)

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