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Northern Lights

Hello RS Community,
I am considering a trip to Scotland this winter to explore Scotland and (hopefully) see the Northern Lights. Has anyone gone on a similar trip? If so, do you have any tips?
Thank you in advance!

Posted by
6113 posts

You need to be somewhere miles from any city lights, so a car will be essential to get away from light pollution.

You need a night with no cloud, so the general advice is to spend a week trying to see the aurora. Scotland isn't the best country to see the aurora as ideally you need to be further north. I think that January and February are the most likely months.

Posted by
449 posts

It is my experience that seeing the Northern Lights is partly dependent upon luck. Many years ago I was at the Canada Olympic Park outside of Calgary in November for sports training and saw a beautiful display of the Northern Lights. In April 2016 I was in Iceland for a week. Two of the guests of the hotel where I was staying went on a Northern Lights tour and said that they could not see the lights with the unaided eye - they had to use some type of electro-optical device to see them, and they were still faint. As someone posted you might have to give it a try over a period of days to see them.

Good luck and good viewing.


Posted by
7624 posts

If you want to get away from any city lights, go to remote Sandness on remote Shetland Island, at the far north of Scotland. We stayed at the fabulous Kalfordhame B&B -- well worth the trip, even though it was August 2014, so Northern Lights weren't going to be a possibility that time of year. Our hostess said one night in winter, the Lights went on all night, and everybody sat outside with bottles of wine, watching the entire sky light up with unusual reds (greens are more typical) until daylight.

On our trip to Iceland a few months later, in late Spring 2016, it was so cloudy on land the night we'd made our reservation for a Northern Lights bus tour to a mountain park, away from any manmade lights, that it was cancelled by the tour organizer. It was overcast every other night that week, too. We heard that some folks who'd taken a boat tour out to sea got away from the clouds, so land versus water made a difference for them. As said before, luck plays a big part of seeing the lights, and weather can be a factor. Northerness and remoteness will give you the best opportunities for viewing.

Posted by
2127 posts

Saw them from the plane in the early morning (before sunrise) approaching Iceland just a few weeks ago. HUGE and red with yellow actively running them them. I wasn't sure what I had seen, as I always thought they were just green, blue, or purplish.

But, as I was departing the plane, I overheard other passengers talking about seeing the Northern Lights. When I got home I Googled "Red Northern Lights" and apparently, yes, they also be red :) Lots of on-line photos very similar to what I had seen from the plane window.

But, what's so funny is that we were in Iceland and Greenland (ship for Greenland portion), and I really thought Greenland was where we would see them. The ship did an alert at something like 1:30 in the morning once to say they had been spotted, and that very they were faint. Threw the heavy jacket/pants on and rushed up topside. White-ish and small, and as others said, looked much like the MilkyWay, but different. Naturalist/guide on board said the photos should show the Northern Lights as blue/green/purple only with a really long exposure camera. I'd never heard that, but I would have easily misunderstood being half-asleep and jumping from bed into the cold at 1:30 to stare at the sky and wait....LOL.

If anyone can weigh in re: what I MIGHT have heard re: the lights looking different with a long exposure camera, I'd love to learn.

Posted by
1664 posts

Typically the Northern Lights in Scotland are associated with the north, The Northern Lights of Aberdeen is a popular folk song. It is unusual though up there.

Posted by
5382 posts

There have been reported to have been good displays the last couple of nights in northern Scotland ... all hit and miss really.

Posted by
2650 posts

seemingly very good last night in the Edinburgh area which is very unusual, I missed them but a friend got some good pictures.