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Where to see the Northern Lights in Scotland

When electrically charged particles, released from the sun and gaseous particles within the Earth’s atmosphere, collide — an amazing show of light occurs at both of the Earth’s Polar regions. In the South Pole, this is known as Aurora Australis and in the North Pole, this is known as the Aurora Borealis. Both events are a spectacular site to be seen, though most people witness the Aurora Borealis since people tend not to live far enough South in order experience the Aurora Australis. Being that the Aurora Borealis occurs in the North (Northern Lights) Pole region, it is possible to witness this from many areas of the Northern Hemisphere. The countries where one is most likely to witness the show are Arctic regions such as Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Northern Canada, Alaska; Scotland is also very far North, which means it is an ideal place to witness the Aurora Borealis. Within Scotland itself there are some places where the chances of seeing the show are much more likely, due to the fact that there is little in the way of population and thus few street lights to hide it.  Where are the best places to witness the Aurora Borealis in Scotland?

Scotland has vast empty spaces, from the wild Highlands to the most remote of islands — these make for the best places to see the aurora.  Aurora Watch UK says that the best places to see them are:

  • Shetland
  • Orkney
  • The Moray Coast
  • The Aberdeenshire Coast
  • Cairngorm Mountains
  • Lewis and Harris

These are all very far North, Shetland and Orkney in particular. Other regions of the North are also great, such as Caithness and Sutherland.

Aurora Watch has an alert colour code, which goes as follows:

Green – The aurora will unlikely be visible to the naked eye

Yellow – The aurora might be visible to the eye in Scotland and parts of Northern England and Northern Ireland

Amber – Aurora likely to be visible in Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland.

Red – Aurora likely to be visible all over the UK.

The red alert means it may be possible to see the aurora in places such as Calton Hill in Edinburgh thus one does not necessarily need to travel North but the general rule is, the further North you go, the much better your chances are of seeing them.  And when you do, you’ll be in complete and utter awe at the spectacle. Imagine just how our ancestors must have felt, hundreds and thousands of years ago when there was no true scientific explanation for such events? It is said that to our Gaelic ancestors, the aurora was thought to be the scenes of fights between sky warriors — or fallen angels – in Gaelic, they are called  Na Fir Chlis, which means ‘the nimble men.’ They’re also referred to as ‘the merry dancers’ and continue to be so, even today.


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