Guide to seeing the Northern Lights in Scotland

It’s easy to forget just how far north Scotland and its islands really are. With its close proximity to the Arctic Circle and famously dark skies, Scotland is the best place in the UK to spot the Northern Lights.

The Northern Lights are caused by solar wind from the sun colliding with magnetic particles in Earth’s atmosphere, creating streaks of green, purple, pink and red across the sky.

You’d be forgiven for thinking you need to head to the likes of Norway or Iceland to see this phenomenon. But Scotland is equally magnificent. Your best bet is to head up to the north of Scotland, around the Caithness coast. The Orkney Isles, The Outer Hebrides are also prime aurora-spotting territory. The best time to see the lights is January, but the autumn/winter months also offer spectacular displays.

Firstly, you need almost total darkness. Scotland’s remote villages on the north coast are perfect, with no light pollution obstructing views of the aurora. Websites such as AuroraWatchUK are well worth keeping an eye on, as they provide regular updates on any geomagnetic activity.

Set up camp outside as soon as it gets dark. It’s likely that if the activity is weak, you may not notice the faint colour and movement at first. Adjust your eyes to the night sky and keep watch. Don’t be disappointed if you only see a faint glimmer of colour. If you have a camera, set it to a long exposure (at least 30 seconds) as the camera will let in more light and colour. When photographing the aurora, be sure to have a subject in the foreground to focus on. Shine a torch on the subject to focus your camera before taking the photo.

Need a base for your Northern Lights adventure? We’ve got you covered.

Macaulay Lodge, Stornoway, Outer Hebrides

Macaulay Lodge is set in the grounds of a rural, working farm. On the outskirts of Stornoway, the property’s remote location makes it a prime spot for watching the night skies. Head to the coast and set up your camera for a dramatic shot.

Lower Midgarth, Orkney

Lower Midgarth is a beautiful single-storey cottage on the north east side of Orkney’s West Mainland. Close to the coast, venture out to catch a glimpse of the aurora dancing over spectacular cliffs, sandy bays and moorland.

Ca Na Each, Lochinver

Ca Na Each is a cosy cottage with stunning sea and island views. With the Northern Lights having already been spotted from the cottage this month, this is a tried and tested location to catch a glimpse of the phenomenon. Simply step outside and watch the skies.

Inchard Gull Cottage, Kinlochbervie

Set in the remote harbour village of Kinlochnbervie, Inchard Gull Cottage is an idyllic period cottage. Its elevated position overlooking Loch Inchard on the North West coast is perfect for watching the Northern Lights.

Glen Ridge, Scourie

With magnificent views out to sea towards the Outer Hebrides, Glen Ridge has all the makings of a perfect aurora-watching retreat. Close to the coast, you’re in a great spot to venture out towards the sea for an open view.

See our other blogs about the far north of Scotland and the islands here.

Posted by Dawn on 20th November 2015