How and where to see the northern lights in Ireland: all you need to know

While in Ireland, take your chance to come and see one of the world’s most unique natural phenomenons. Be sure to see the northern lights in Ireland.

As a standalone island cast off the western coast of Europe and hugging the shorelines of the Atlantic Ocean, the Emerald Isle is saturated with stunning landscapes, gold coastlines, and marauding forest parks.

As if this wasn’t enough, Ireland is in the perfect location to grab a sight of the world-famous northern lights, one of the world’s most unique natural phenomenons.

What are the northern lights?

The northern lights are made up of electrically charged particles entering the earth's atmosphere.

Known as ‘Aurora Borealis’, the northern lights are formed due to collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. They can be seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres.

The lights come in many forms, such as in patches, arcs, scattered clouds, or even shooting rays, filling the sky with their pale green or pink colours.

Where can I see the northern lights in Ireland?

The northern lights is an amazing natural sight, truly remarkable.

Ireland is located between the 52nd and 55th latitudes which makes the country the perfect place to catch a glimpse of the shimmering lights on its northern coastlines.

The most popular place to see the northern lights in Ireland is in County Donegal, owing to its fortuitous location and its rural heartlands.

The best places in Donegal to see the lights would be Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point and a vital plank of the Wild Atlantic Way, or the towering Slieve League cliffs, another crown in the coastal journey’s jewel.

Other hotspots would be above the Tra na Rossan beach, above the picturesque Fanad Head Lighthouse, Dooey Beach, the Rosguil Peninsula, Glencolmcille, and the stunning Inishowen Peninsula.

When is the best time to see the lights?

The best time of the year see the northern lights is through September to March.

The best time of the year to see the northern lights is reportedly in September and March, due to the earth’s axial tilt and the way the atmosphere encounters solar wind.

The cold winter months from October to February also offer a good chance of seeing the light, for if the sky is dark and solar conditions right, the lights can make an appearance.

The opportune time of the day to view the northern lights would be at nighttime. You will need a clear view northwards to get the best look, away from the blinding street and building lights.

So, we would advise you to get away from the towns and cities and go as northward as you possibly can so the conditions to see the lights are at their very best. Take a pick from any of the locations we mentioned above.

Keep an eye on the weather

For catching the northern lights in Ireland there needs to be good weather.

Before you plan your trip to the north coast to view the northern lights, you will need to cast your eye over two weather systems to ensure you won’t miss the phenomenon.

The lights are caused by geometric storms and are ranked from G1 (smallest) to G5 (largest). The main reports will display the storm in “Kp”, the conversion from G can be found here: G1 = Kp5, G2 = Kp6, G3 = Kp7, G4 = Kp8, and G5 = Kp9.

For the lights to be visible in Ireland, the KP index would need to reach at least six, and even then it would most likely be strictly limited to the north of Ireland. If it is seven or above, then it raises the chances of seeing the lights from any of Ireland’s 32 counties.

Stay on track

When looking for the northern lights in Ireland, be sure to gauge how likely you are to catch a sight.

To help you gauge the best time to see the lights, the website at aurora-service.eu is a good source for live updates on the matter.

Better still, you can download the ‘My Aurora & Forecast Alerts” app from the app store as it takes note of your location and lets you know the premier destination nearby to see the famous lights.

Make sure to wrap up

When looking to see the northern lights in Ireland, be sure to wrap up warm.

As always in Ireland, the weather is quite unpredictable, and, seeing that a stronger storm raises the chance of seeing the lights, you might want to wrap up warm for the evening. Donegal can be cold even at the best of times!

Where else in Ireland are the lights visible?

While your best bet is probably Donegal, other counties also report sightings. These are Kerry in the south, Mayo on the west coast, and Sligo,  a neighbouring land to Donegal.

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Note: our travel articles should be used only to plan future trips. Please stay at home until the government has advised otherwise.

Dan O'Muirigh is a keen travel writer from Belfast, County Antrim. He is a passionate sports man who plays Gaelic football for Naomh Gall GAC. He recently graduated with a degree in Law but instead wants to pursue a career in writing. He loves Ireland and believes the island offers something for everyone. He has immersed himself into the country by playing Irish sports, taking part in the culture and learning the Irish language.