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Northern Lights Scotland – The best way to view them

Posted on Dec 02, 2015 by Mary Lawless

What are the Northern Lights?

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Northern Lights or Auroras Borealis take place when electrically charged particles from the sun travel in solar winds and interact with the magnetic fields of the Earth’s atmosphere. This causes the wonderful glow and dancing of lights in the sky that so many of us wish to see.

When to see the Northern Lights Scotland?

Autumn and winter are the best times of year to see the Northern Lights in Scotland as the nights are the darkest, late at night or the early hours of the morning are best.

Nasa has predicted this winter will be the peak of solar activity resulting in the most intense period of activity for more than a decade. So it offers the best possible chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Scotland.

With the crisp winter nights rolling in and the northern light displays set to be the most dramatic, we’ve pulled together our 10 tips for your chance to catch of glimpse.

  1. Planning is the best way to increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights.Follow @Aurora_Alerts and @aurorawatchuk on Twitter to get alerts of when it’s on. Our favourite website is: http://www.softservenews.com/Aurora.htm as this gives you the detail of when to expect the biggest magnetic storms.
  2. Don’t let a cloudy night ruin your chances of seeing something so spectacular. Check the weather for clear skies near where you are, or prepare to drive to a location where clear skies are possible.

Northern Lights Scotland - 10 Tips for seeing the aurora in Scotland.

Best Place to See the Northern Lights in Scotland?

  1. Did you know Scotland is renowned as one of the top places in the world to view northern lights? We are on the same latitude as Stavanger in Norway and Nunivak Island in Alaska, so we’re in with a good chance of spotting the lights.The best place in the UK are understandably the most northern locations;Caithness, the North West Highlands and the Outer Hebrides make great places to increase your chances, as do Shetland, Orkney and the Moray Coast. We hope to catch a glimpse of them on our winter walking trip: The Winter Highlands
  2. Recci the best location to view the Northern Lights from. As the Northern Lights are first visible on the horizon in the UK you should aim to get to an elevated position, well away from city lights and light pollution.

When it’s on

  1. If it’s looking likely and you’ve got the planning right then it should just be a case of waiting and watching. Take a compass with you and point north, or look for the North Star (polaris) and point in that direction. Certainly the best time to see northern lights in Scotland is during long, clear, winter nights. You need to do your homework with the tips we’ve given you so that you’re in the right place at the right time.
  2. To find the north star look for The Plough and line up the outer edge and draw a line towards the edge of the Little Plough. The brightest star in the little plough is the North Star.
  3. If you’re into photography and have seen the stunning photos of the Northern Lights then take your SLR camera and tripod and make sure you open up the aperture and set the shutter speed to around 30 seconds. If you see the lights then snap away. Here you’ll find a map of the best UK sites for aurora photography: http://aurorawatch.lancs.ac.uk/photo_sites
  4. It’s going to be chilly so you’ll need to wrap up warm. Pack warm clothes, hat, gloves, insulated jacket and waterproof trousers. Oh and take a torch.
  5. If you see the Northern Lights in Scotland then don’t forget to tell your friends. Share your pictures and videos on Facebook, they’ll be just as stoked as you that you’ve seen them, it’s on a lot of people’s wish lists.
  6. Don’t forget to breathe…it’s an incredible and awe-inspiring sight that lights up the magic of the universe. Cuddle your loved ones and enjoy the show.

Our Pictures of the Northern Lights Scotland

The Northern Lights above Meall a Bhuachaille in the Cairngorms

The Northern Lights above Meall a Bhuachaille in the Cairngorms

The Milky Way camping in Scotland.

The Milky Way camping in Scotland.

Northern Lights and Milky Way extravagansa.

The Northern Lights Scotland and Milky Way from the door of a tent.

A lone pine stands silhouetted against the Northern Lights Scotland.

A lone pine stands silhouetted against the Northern Lights Scotland.

Share Your Own Images With Us.

Admittedly we’d love the time to take more photos of the Northern Lights in Scotland as they are such beautiful images. If you have any to share then post them in the comments section below. And good luck with your own photos and northern lights spotting.

About the author

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Mary Lawless

Mary grew up on the west coast of Ireland and after spending some time travelling around the world found herself studying for a masters in Tourism at Strathclyde University. Each season she hears herself saying ‘This is my favourite season’.

Read more articles by Mary


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