Thought you’d have to travel to Iceland to see the magnificent Northern Lights? Think again! Read on to find out how to see the Northern Lights in Ireland.
Witnessing the Aurora Borealis, also known as the polar or northern lights, is at the top of the travel bucket list for many. The stunning cosmic display is the result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by solar wind, leading to an array of colour floating across our skies.
Most people think they can only see the Northern Lights in Iceland, where the nights are longer and the skies darker. But did you know that you can witness the spectacle without leaving the Emerald Isle?
Read on to find out how and where to see the Northern Lights in Ireland.
Where can I see the Northern Lights in Ireland? – the prime locations
As can be gathered by its name, the Northern Lights are most visible from the northern regions of the world. If you want to increase your chances of catching them, you’ll need to head to the north of Ireland, in County Donegal.
This part of the Emerald Isle is a huge tourist spot in its own right, but due to its low population density and light pollution, there’s no better place to set up shop and enjoy the show.
Within the county itself, we recommend you head to Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point. Other ideal locations are Dunree Head, Fanad Head, the Rosguil Penisula, Glencolmcille and Sliabh Liag.
When is the best time to see the lights? – the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Ireland
The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, and therefore aren’t exactly predictable. Even in Iceland, the most popular place to spot them, there is no guarantee you will get the opportunity.
However, there are certain factors that can increase your chances of witnessing the spectacle. One of these is the time of year you are looking. The optimal conditions for seeing the lights are when the sky is darkest and clearest, so the winter months will naturally improve your chances of seeing the show.
Reportedly, the best time to see the Northern Lights in Ireland is between September and March, due to the axial tilt of the earth and the manner in which the atmosphere encounters solar wind.
What other conditions/factors should I be aware of? – time to get technical
Time to get technical: bear with us. The geometric storms that the Aurora is caused by are ranked from G1 (smallest) to G5 (largest). The larger the storm is, the more likely it will be that the lights will be visible to us. There are many websites and apps that can give you real time information on this, but they will usually display the storm in “Kp”.
The conversion from “G” to “Kp” is:
G1 = Kp5
G2 = Kp6
G3 = Kp7
G4 = Kp8
G5 = Kp9
If you want to see the lights from the northern parts of Ireland, the KP index will have to reach least 6. If it’s any more than this, there’s a chance you could see them from other parts of the country as well.
Another thing to consider is that you’ll need to stay warm. Even during the summer in Ireland, the temperatures at the darkest points of the night can get pretty low. As the best time to see the the Northern Lights in Ireland is during the winter months, it’s even more important that you dress warmly.
Scarves, gloves and coats are highly recommended. A pair of good walking boots would also be a good shout, as well as fold up chairs to relax on while you witness the spectacle. Make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks to keep you going during the night too.
Keep in mind that it takes quite a while for the human eyes to adjust to complete darkness, and this is the point when celestial events are clearest to us. Any form of light, such as that from a phone or a torch, will disrupt this process and your vision will have to adjust all over again.
You also have a responsibility to keep yourself safe. The lights are most visible in rural areas in the dark, so it goes without saying that you should take somebody with you on your trip. This is the general advice for any kind of space/stargazing activity. Stay on designated pathways and bring appropriate equipment, such as a first-aid kit.
Most importantly, have fun! And keep that camera at the ready, to help ensure you remember this spectacular natural moment forever.