You don’t have to venture to the Arctic if you want to witness the dazzling Northern Lights. The UK offers multiple locations where the northern lights grace British skies.
The UK provides avid aurora chasers and stargazers a unique opportunity to observe the dancing aurora borealis.
Now is the best time to download an Aurora Forecast app and to get ready to hop into a car and prepare to see dazzling displays of green, yellow, purple and even red lights.
Cairngorms National Park, Scotland
Cairngorms’ claim to fame lies in its designation as a Dark Sky Park, ensuring minimal light pollution and optimal conditions for stargazing, including the elusive Northern Lights.
From late September to early April, when snow falls and the nights are the longest, the aurora often dances across the heavens in a mesmerizing display of vivid colours.
For the best chance of witnessing this ethereal phenomenon, head to iconic locations like Loch Morlich or Glenlivet, where the clear, unpolluted skies enhance the aurora’s brilliance.
Ynys Enlli, Wales
Off the coast of North Wales, Ynys Enlli’s remote location and limited light pollution make it an excellent spot for Northern Lights sightings. The island is one of only 14 Dark Sky Sanctuaries worldwide and the only one in Europe, making it an important protected area.
To enjoy the island’s night skies, you’ll need to book a stay at one of the houses run by the Bardsey Island Trust and be quick because these stays are necessarily limited each year to preserve the island’s natural and cultural heritage.
Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, England
Northumberland’s National Park reportedly has the darkest skies in the UK and is a brilliant spot for viewing the Northern Lights. At nearly 580sq miles, the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park is Europe’s largest Gold Tier Dark Sky Park area of the protected night sky
It’s said to be the darkest in England. The first of its kind in England and one of the world’s largest, Kielder joins Death Valley and Big Bend Dark Sky Parks in the USA.
Shetland Islands, Scotland
Remote Shetland offers one of the best chances to witness this natural spectacle, situated closer to the Arctic Circle than any other part of mainland Scotland.
The Shetland Islands’ allure lies in its isolation and minimal light pollution, creating ideal conditions for Northern Lights viewing. The aurora often graces these skies from late September to early April with its ethereal dance of green, pink, and purple hues.
Lake District, England
While the Lake District in England is renowned for its picturesque landscapes and serene lakes, it’s also a peaceful spot to try and witness the northern lights. Far from the Arctic Circle, this National Park occasionally offers a glimpse of the aurora, depending on conditions.
From late September to early April, the aurora may grace the skies with its presence when the nights grow long and dark. For your best chances, venture to remote valleys and tarns, where the absence of urban centres enhances the celestial show.
Cambrian Mountains, Wales
The Cambrian Mountains’ appeal lies in their tranquillity and limited light pollution, creating favourable conditions for Northern Lights sightings. The best time to visit is winter, when the nights are the longest, and the skies are darkest.
While sightings are not as frequent as in northern latitudes, the sense of discovery and the pristine landscapes add a unique allure to the experience. To maximize your aurora chances, head to Elan Valley or Lake Vyrnwy, known for its dark skies and beautiful scenery.
North York Moors National Park, England
In the heart of northern England, the North York Moors National Park emerges as an unexpected celestial theatre for witnessing the Northern Lights. Renowned for its captivating moorlands and ancient woodlands, this national park offers a unique opportunity to see the aurora borealis in a tranquil setting.
Between late September and early April, when the nights grow long and dark, the conditions become ripe for aurora sightings. The park’s Dark Sky Discovery Sites, including Roseberry Topping and Sutton Bank, provide optimal vantage points.
Donegal, Northern Ireland
There are a few spots to see the Northern Lights dancing in the night skies above Donegal in northern Ireland. As the most northerly point in Ireland, Malin Head in Inishowen is undoubtedly the best place in Northern Ireland to see the northern lights.
Due to the low light pollution, Dunree, Mamore Gap and Ballyliffin are prime locations to get the perfect photograph. However, other locations in the north of the County, with little light pollution, like Fanad Peninsula, are also ideal to watch the skies.
Snowdonia International Dark Sky Reserve, Wales
Snowdonia National Park is another area in Wales to be designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve. The mountainous national park covers 2,100km of wild landscapes and has several spots where you can try and see the Northern Lights.
Visitors can chase the elusive Aurora in the Clwydian Range, Dee Valley ANOB, Llynnau Cregennen, and Llyn y Dywarchen. Between late September and early April, when the nights are at their longest and darkest, the conditions become more favourable for northern lights viewing.
Orkney Islands, Scotland
A celestial marvel awaits the Northern Lights in Scotland’s remote and enchanting Orkney Islands. While Orkney’s name might not be synonymous with this natural wonder, its pristine landscapes, lochs, waterfalls and northern latitude provide an exquisite canvas for the aurora’s dance.
From late September to early April, the Northern Lights occasionally grace Orkney’s skies as the nights grow longer and darker.
The islands’ low light pollution and proximity to the Arctic Circle enhance your chances of witnessing this ethereal spectacle. To increase your odds of a sighting, venture to iconic locations like the ancient Ring of Brodgar or the wild cliffs of Yesnaby.
Portia has spent years traversing the globe and having many misadventures. She now works as a freelance travel journalist, editor of Pip and the City and hosts the Travel Goals Podcast. She specialises in adventure travel, destination guides and city breaks. Her work has appeared in The Times, National Geographic and Lonely Planet. She can normally be found hiking, swimming outdoors in icy waters, or drinking coffee in bougie cafes.