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Northern Lights Scotland – The best way to view them

Posted on Dec 02, 2015 by Mary Lawless

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 creates an ethereal glow and dancing lights in the sky.

When can you see the northern lights in 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 generally your best chance of catching them. Here are our top tips for your chance to catch of glimpse:

  • Planning is the best way to increase your chances of seeing the northern lights. Follow @Aurora_Alerts and @aurorawatchuk for Twitter alerts.
  • Our favourite website gives you the detail of when to expect the biggest magnetic storms.
  • 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.

Where is the best place to watch the northern lights?

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 northerly locations: Caithness, the North West Highlands, the Outer Hebrides, Shetland, Orkney, the Moray Coast and the Isle of Skye are all good spots to view the northern lights.
  • Aim to get to an elevated position, well away from city lights and light pollution.

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Where should you position yourself?

Once you’ve checked everything out and got into position it’s a case of waiting and watching. Certainly the best time to see northern lights in Scotland is during long, clear, winter nights.

  • Take a compass with you and point north, or look for the North Star (Polaris) and point in that direction.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • It’s likely to be chilly so wrap up warm. Pack warm clothes, hat, gloves, insulated jacket and waterproof trousers. Oh, and remember to take a torch.
  • 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 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 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. Take a look at some of our shots.

If you have any to share then post them to our Facebook or Twitter pages. And good luck with your own photos and northern lights spotting.

Come to Scotland in Autumn

If you have the hunger to explore Scotland and are keen to see the northern lights as part of a tour, then have a look at the tours we offer below. Obviously there’s no guarantee of seeing the aurora but you’ve got to be in it to win it and our autumn tours offer the best chance of doing just that.

Click on the links in the table below to take you straight through to the tours.

Trip Date Name Price Availability Book
18th Oct - 22nd Oct 2017 Wilderness Walking - Autumn Highlands £9951 place(s) leftBook Now

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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