The Scottish Traditional Boat Festival is welcoming Norse visitors to its shores – in defiance of a veto that prevents Vikings from visiting the North-east coast.
Festival organisers wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron urging him to intervene after an historic law banning Vikings from arriving on Scottish shores was brought to their attention.
In the absence of a response from the PM – who has been at the height of the campaign to see Britain remain in the EU – the festival is taking its own steps to show Viking visitors that they are very much welcome.
Today the red carpet has rolled out and Aberdeenshire Provost Hamish Vernal has greeted Norsemen who sailed into the harbour in preparation for this weekend’s maritime event.
Festival chairman Roger Goodyear said: “This year we have a special connection with visitors from the North, in keeping with our festival’s theme ‘The Vikings Are Coming’.
“When we discovered there was an ancient law banning Vikings from our area we contacted the Prime Minister and asked for his help in revoking the law. It seems our plea has been overshadowed by the EU Referendum but we want to publicly demonstrate to our Norse neighbours that they are our friends not our foes so have prepared a special welcome for them.
“The festival is attended by people from all over the world, and closer to home, and all visitors can be assured of a warm and friendly welcome and the very best of Scottish hospitality.
“We are proud to proclaim that the Vikings are coming!”
Vikings from Shetland are among the billed attractions at this year’s festival with members of the famed Up Helly Aa Jarl Squad attending to share tales of the annual winter celebration in which crew build and set fire to a traditional Viking Longship, at the Harbourside Marquee, supported by NorthLink Ferries.
There will be a Viking treasure hunt and the chance every hour during the festival to win a return trip on one of NorthLink Ferries’ regular sailings from Aberdeen to Orkney or Shetland, following historic Viking routes.
Stuart Garrett, Managing Director at NorthLink Ferries, says: “We are looking forward to being part of this year’s Scottish Traditional Boat Festival and bringing some of Orkney and Shetland’s rich history to the local area.
“The marquee will have lots of activities for the whole family to enjoy and offer the chance to meet members of the Jarl Squad through until early Sunday afternoon. It’ll really bring to life the islands’ fascinating past and provide a glimpse into how people lived and worked at sea.”
The UK’s longest, safest and most fun water slide – called the Valkyries Slide – will be set up at Loch Soy Adventure Park, the first time the 100m long slide has been seen in the north. The North-east’s largest fleet of Segways will be gathered at the festival and there’s also zorbing, climbing wall, street sports and cycle track.
Historic and traditional boats from all over the UK and beyond will congregate in Portsoy’s 17th Century harbour. Visitors will be able to learn how to sail a coracle, climb aboard restored fishing vessels, and see the crews of the St Ayles Skiffs battle it out on the open seas in the hotly contested annual regatta. Also, join a team of enthusiastic volunteers who will be officially naming their hand built traditional wooden salmon coble – the vessel’s name is a closely guarded secret until then!
The music line up this year brings together musicians and performers from the local area and from around the world. Norwegian singer Rudi Myntevik has connections with Banffshire as his grandmother hailed from Portsoy. Tonight (Friday) the Gig at the Green will bring together Scottish singer songwriter Amy Baillie, Scots fiddler Paul Anderson, Bothy Ballad Champion Shona Donaldson and Dundee’s lively The Graham Brown Band.
Tomorrow (Saturday) night features Urang Matang, whose band member Jim Paterson, of Dexy’s Midnight Runners fame, comes from Portsoy. This Scottish five piece band specialise in their own blend of Ska and Reggae. They will be joined by Festival favourites, Dutch band De Kinkels and Portsoy’s own Jack Skye for a night of music not to be missed.
The ACE Winches Scottish Traditional Boat Festival on Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26 showcases the best in Scotland’s maritime, crafts, food, drink, music and dance.
One of the most popular events in Scotland’s tourism calendar, the event attracts more than 18,000 people to Portsoy in Aberdeenshire every year with around 12% of the visitors attending from overseas.