The best places to see the Northern Lights in Scotland

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Forget the Artic Circle because you can see the Aurora Borealis in bonny Scotland...

Northern Lights

© Getty - Handbag

Norway, Sweden and Iceland are all great places to see the atmospheric phenomenon known as the Northern Lights, but there are parts of the UK that offer great viewing spots too.

When conditions are right it's possible to see the Aurora Borealis in Scotland and capture it on film if you're lucky.

Don't be downhearted if you travel a long way and don't see anything, because really that's the magic of the Northern Lights - sometimes they're there and sometimes they're not.

You just have to be in the perfect place at the perfect time.

If you want to try your luck this year, here's our guide to seeing the Lights in Scotland. Just don't forget to take your thermal underwear...

The Facts

The Northern Lights are cause by solar particles hitting the Earth's atmosphere, so if there's been a solar storm in the last few days you could be in for a treat. The strength of the displays are measured using the KP scale, so a prediction of 6-9KP means you're likely to see something.

Some years are more active than others (Luckily, 2012/13 is shaping up to be a cracking year for the Aurora Borealis) and you'll need clear skies and almost total darkness, which means remote parts of the Scottish highlands and Northern territories are the best bet.

The Locations

The Shetland Isles

This is the most northerly tip of Scotland (roughly 70 miles from the mainland) so it's a pretty obvious place to start. Make the town of Lerwick your base camp, and don't forget to make the most of the local's advice.

Aim to stay for a week to ensure that you get one night of decent weather, but be warned - the Isles are storm ravaged in the winter so you could be in for a bumpy ride.


Situated right at the Northern tip of the mainland, Durness is a small village that provides an ideal spot for Northern Light watchers.

Because it's such a small area there's very little light pollution to compromise your view, plus there are lots of B&Bs and great daytime attractions to keep you entertained.

The Isle of Lewis

This tiny island just off the west coast of mainland Scotland is only 20 miles away and boasts incredible wildlife and scenery for true adventurers.

Stornoway is the largest town on the island and provides a good place to stay for a long weekend. To see the lights hot foot it to Port Of Ness, the most northerly tip of the Island.

The Northern Lights

© Flickr gudi&cris' photostream

The Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is the largest and most northerly island in the Inner Hebrides, which makes it the perfect location for spotting the elusive Aurora. Most thrill seekers stop at Skye Backpackers, an affordable hostel located in the pretty fishing village of Kyleakin.

There's shared and private accommodation and plenty of fun places to visit during the day, like ancient castle ruins and Lord of the Rings style mountains.


This mainland city has its own airport so it's probably the easiest to get to. To see the lights drive out of the city (where light pollution affects your view) to Fraserburgh, a north facing area on the coast that is protected from harsh storms because of its easterly location.

This way you'll be able to experience a city break by day and an adventure holiday by night. The perfect combination!

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