Lerwick Harbour in Shetland has begun to welcome a fleet of international ships as it prepares to kick off a four day international culture and music festival.

The festival, running from Wednesday 26 - Saturday 29 July, is part of the Tall Ships Races’ - an international ship racing festival organised by Sail Training International which gets young people out on the waters of northern Europe learning the ropes. 

Tickets for the event are completely sold out, with the only way to get a glimpse of the action now being by tuning into The Herald's live stream of the event. 

Read more: Watch the 2023 Tall Ships Races in Shetland live

Lerwick marks the end of the ‘Cruise in Company’ leg of the race, the sole non-competitive leg of the four, with boats arriving in from Fredrikstad in Norway. The fleet will set off again from Shetland for the final leg in a race to cross the finish line in Arendal, once again in Norway.

The first two vessels arrived in Shetland yesterday, two days before the festivities officially kick off. A Norwegian Class B ship called Loyal and Bima Suci, the newest and largest ship of the Indonesian Navy, were the first to complete the sail over from Norway.

The rest of the 37 ships are currently playing out a staggered arrival into Shetland, with the last of the ships expected to be docked in Lerwick Harbour in time for the first day of the festival on Wednesday. 

The fleet will be steered by 100 young trainees, recruited by the Sail Training International charity. 

Read more: Tall Ships Races in Shetland - Everything you need to know

The ships will be docked in Shetland from Wednesday through to Saturday for sailors and visitors alike to enjoy the four day international festival, which includes headline music performances from bands including Barrowland sell-out act Tidelines, as well as renowned trad band the Peatbog Faeries, as well as family entertainment. Behind the scenes footage from this and exclusive interviews can be enjoyed on The Herald’s live stream. 

At 11am on Saturday, the ships will set off on the final leg, with a colourful spectacle known as the Parade of Sail seeing them off. 

Lerwick Port Authority Chief Executive, Captain Calum Grains, said: “It has been an increasingly hectic planning and preparation period over four years which has been impacted by the Covid pandemic. With the big day finally here, we are proud to be a host port for the Races for the third time.

“It is our privilege to join with the community in welcoming crews and trainees, thousands of visitors and, of course, HRH The Princess Royal.”

The captain continued: ““Our ability to cope with routine operations and a busy cruise season – including six cruise vessels during the event – plus Tall Ships, is a visible demonstration of the port’s capacity and versatility. Sincere thanks go to all staff and those who have worked alongside us to make the occasion possible, including Shetland Tall Ships Ltd, organisers of the islands’ involvement.”