Tantallon Castle © Sarah White

Landscapes and nature

Northern Lights in Scotland

A natural wonder that has fascinated mankind for millennia, the Northern Lights (also called the Aurora Borealis) are nature’s very own theatrical performance.

It may be a surprise to you, but northern Scotland actually lies at the same latitude as Stavanger in Norway and Nunivak Island in Alaska which means that you’re in with a good chance of spotting the ‘Mirrie Dancers’ on a trip to Scotland without breaking the bank!

When to see the Northern Lights?

Autumn and winter seasons, with their long periods of darkness and the frequency of clear nights, are probably the best time of the year to experience the auroral displays. Nights need to be cold and the sky clear of clouds, with limited light pollution and increased solar activity. Staying up until the wee hours of the morning may also help.

Where to spot them in Scotland?

While the northern reaches of Scotland offer better chances of spotting the ‘Mirrie Dancers’, the aurora can be seen anywhere in Scotland when the right conditions are met and where the light pollution is at a minimum. Here’s a list of some of the best places to see this marvel:

What causes the Aurora Borealis?

Named after Aurora (the Roman goddess of dawn) and Boreas (the Greek name for north wind), this amazing spectacle is caused by charged particles accelerated into the Earth's upper atmosphere along magnetic field lines. The energy to drive this display is provided by the sun, in the form of a 'solar wind'. The sun may be millions and millions of miles away, but it is the reason we see this extraordinary sight.

Aurorae come in all colours, shapes and patterns, setting the night sky alive with rainbows of light. The variations in colour are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding, from yellowish-greens, blues and purples, to fiery reds and oranges. The playful streaks that snake across the night sky evolve and change constantly, and can last minutes or merely seconds. One thing is for certain, the end result is always truly spectacular.

Experience this amazing phenomenon and share your snaps using #northernlights and #visitscotland!