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, or aurora borealis, one of the world’s most unique natural phenomenons.
What are the northern lights? – also known as the aurora borealis
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?
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 County 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, Tory Island, Dunree Head, the Rosguil Peninsula, Glencolmcille, and the stunning Inishowen Peninsula.
The rugged coast of the Wild Atlantic Way provides the perfect location from which to view this geomagnetic activity from the northern hemisphere. Spots, such as Downpatrick Head in County Mayo are also a must for the bucket list.
Aside from Donegal and the Wild Atlantic Way, there are plenty of places throughout Northern Ireland, particularly along the Causeway Coast, to catch this natural phenomenon.
When is the best time to see the lights?
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
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
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
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. County Donegal can be cold even at the best of times!
Where else in Ireland are the lights visible?
While your best bet is probably County Donegal and the northern headlands, other counties also report sightings. These are County Kerry in the south, County Mayo on the west coast, and County Sligo, a neighbouring land to Donegal along the Wild Atlantic Way.
There are also some great places in Northern Ireland to see this solar activity light up the night skies. This amazing display can sometimes be seen at stunning spots like Rathlin Island and Mussenden Temple.
FAQs about the Northern Lights in Ireland
Is Ireland a good place to see the Northern Lights?
Yes! The Northern Lights may not appear as often in Ireland as they do in some other northern countries. However, you can still spot them when the conditions are right.
The northern headlands of County Donegal, such as the Rosguil Peninsula, Malin Head, and Tra na Rossan Beach are some of the best places to catch the Northern Lights. However, you may also be lucky to spot them in County Sligo, County Kerry, County Mayo, and Northern Ireland.
What is the best time of year to see Northern Lights in Ireland?
The months of September and October, as well as March and April, are the best times of the year to see the Northern Lights in Ireland.