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Scotland and Scandinavia’s cultural heritage celebrated at Viking Congress in Shetland

7 August 2013

Scotland and Scandinavia share a vibrant cultural DNA through their Viking heritage, as well as their geographical proximity, and that shared heritage was celebrated today at the 17th Viking Congress, which is taking place in Lerwick. The first Viking Congress took place in Shetland 63 years ago, and the last time it was hosted in Scotland was in 1989, when it was held in Caithness and Orkney.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, addressed members of the Congress this morning, highlighting the traditions, arts, culture and heritage shared by Scotland and Scandinavia and stating that the Scottish Government aims to increase engagement and build new links with the Nordic countries across a range of areas.

During her visit to the Congress, Fiona Hyslop also met with costumed members of the Junior Jarl Squad at Jarlshof prehistoric and Norse settlement. Famously, the Jarl Squad dress as Vikings for the annual Up Helly Aa fire festival, and the Junior Jarl Squad was created to introduce young people to Norse culture and prepare them for participating in the festival.

Held every four years, the Viking Congress brings together leading researchers in Viking Age studies from Scandinavia, the Nordic countries, Britain and Ireland. A prestigious international academic event, which has this year been organised by Shetland Amenity Trust, its aim is to enhance communication and collaboration between scholars from across the Viking world.

Fiona Hyslop said: “The Viking Congress is a great opportunity for us to celebrate and further explore the common cultural heritage we share with the Nordic countries. From arts and crafts to place names and dialects, it is important that Scotland continues to value the cultural DNA it shares with Scandinavia and uses that to nurture key links with the Nordic countries. The Northern Isles are home to a number of fantastic Norse sites, while Up Helly Aa is a world-famous annual celebration of Viking culture in Shetland. These are just two examples of the impact Viking culture has had on Shetland and on Scotland as a whole. I am delighted that the Viking Congress is being held in Scotland for the first time in more than 20 years, giving us a great opportunity to celebrate that culture and to strengthen the many ties between Scotland and Scandinavia.”

Looking forward, Ms Hyslop said it was important to renew our relations  building on our continuing shared maritime interests in the North Atlantic: “Scotland and the Nordic countries have a common interest in the stewardship of the North Atlantic. As we look ahead to the economic and environmental challenges and opportunities facing our maritime neighbourhood, including the Arctic, we need to work together to build a sustainable future for our young people and secure the future of our northern and island communities.”

Images of Fiona Hyslop meeting members of the Junior Jarl Squad will be available this afternoon.

Notes for editors:

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.
  • The Viking Congress takes place every four years, bringing together leading researchers in Viking Age studies from Scandinavia, the Nordic countries, Britain and Ireland. The Congress is being organised by the Shetland Amenity Trust. For more information visit
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  • 2013 is the Year of Natural Scotland, inspiring our people and our visitors to celebrate Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty, landscapes and biodiversity as Scotland prepares to welcome the world in 2014 and beyond. Find out more about Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty at

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Alice Wyllie
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