Each year its hardy residents are forced to endure the darkest of winters in the entire British Isles.
But last night Shetland was lit up in a blaze of glory for the spectacular Up Helly Aa fire festival celebrating the islands’ Norse heritage.
This stunning image shows the replica Viking galley, surrounded by torches, in its final moments before being set alight as the dramatic climax to the annual event that went ahead in Lerwick, despite storm force winds.
Up Helly Aa features a band of latter-day Viking warriors, known as the Jarl Squad, and draws visitors from around the world.
And for those who could not be there, the Promote Shetland local tourist authority streamed the ceremony live online to thousands of viewers across the globe.
The annual fire festival – the largest in Europe – takes place on the last Tuesday in January.
Locals dress as Vikings to celebrate their Norse heritage and march through the streets of the Shetland town.
The evening culminates in a torch-lit procession and the burning of replica Viking galley ship, before parties and performances erupt across the town.
The tradition originates from the 1880s and has been cancelled just several times in its history – to mark the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, as well as during the First and Second World WarsThe tradition originates from the 1880s and has been cancelled just several times in its history – to mark the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, as well as during the First and Second World Wars.
The Guizer Jarl is the leader of the Jarl Squad, who dress as the Vikings on the day. The first up Helly Aa leader was elected in 1882 and was given the title of Worthy Chief Guizer. His role was so significant that in 1906 it was decided that a special Viking coat of arms would be purchased and that the chief from then onwards would be known as the Guizer Jarl.
A recent survey found that Shetlanders are among the happiest people in the whole of the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics, the islanders of Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles have the highest levels of life satisfaction, self-worth and happiness.