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Experience the Northern Lights in Scotland

See the wondrous colours gracing Scotland’s night skies.
The Northern Lights at a lighthouse on Orkney
© Sarah White

During dark wintry nights, something quite incredible happens in Scotland – a humbling display of dancing ribbons of green, red and purple graces our skies. Witnessing the Aurora Borealis, one of nature’s many mind-reeling spells, is a truly one-of-a-kind and memorable experiences in life.

Commonly known as the Northern Lights, or ‘Mirrie Dancers’ if you’re from the Shetland Islands, this luminous spectrum of colour blankets the skies when the sun’s solar wind collides with the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field. It can come in all colours, shapes and patterns, and the playful streaks that snake across the night sky evolve and change constantly and can last minutes or merely seconds.

You might have not known this, but northern Scotland, including the north Highlands, Orkney and Shetland islands, and the Outer Hebrides, actually lies at the same latitude as Stavanger in Norway and Nunivak Island in Alaska which means that they are Aurora Borealis hotspots and you’re in with a good chance of spotting this phenomenal spectacle! If an aurora is really strong, it can occasionally be seen as far down as in the capital city of Edinburgh and beyond.

Autumn and winter seasons, with their long periods of darkness and the frequency of clear nights, are probably the best time of 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.

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Orkney
Orkney Islands

Orkney

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