Northern lights are apparently visible in Scotland according to numerous websites. While locations do vary, most seem to say that northern lights are visible pretty much anywhere in the country. What they do not say is how often are they visible.

Suppose I am looking to visit Scotland 6-7 weeks after the fall equinox to coincide with the November new moon, what are the chances that northern lights would be visible some nights from Scotland? I will gladly adjust my location within the country accordingly, if some places are more likely to see this phenomenon.

Thus the question is: How likely is one to see the northern lights in Scotland between the end of October and mid November? Also, where within Scotland would the likelihood be greater?

  • 2
    Not to sound like "that guy" but you need to be in the north to see them. Aberdeen, possibly. Glasgow/Edinburgh, never. Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 23:59
  • I've seen them in Ripon, North Yorkshire, but very faint down near the horizon. Apparently a common sight. Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 9:58
  • Please read Northern Lights Scotland – The best way to view them. Remember that Orkney and Shetland are in Scotland too. Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 16:07
  • @LaconicDroid I'm south of London in latitude and we get aurora borealis here often enough that it's not amazing to see it, although the probabilities of seeing them on any given multi-day or -week stay are not great. Southern Scotland absolutely gets them... but the far north is where the odds will of course be best. Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 22:24
  • Note that you would most likely be dissapointed even if you do see it: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/102946/…
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 23:48

4 Answers 4


The thing you need to understand is that the Aurora Borealis tends to occur in an oval over the North Pole. Based on how strong is the aurora (KP number), the further south the aurora will be visible.

Take a look at a KP number chart, such as here, you will see that a fairly strong aurora, KP-5, is required to see the aurora in the northernmost UK, while a much weaker KP-2 aurora will be visible in Iceland, where they are fairly common in winter.

This means that auroras in Scotland will be fairly rare and unimpressive. You really need to be as far north as possible and get fairly lucky. You will have much better luck in Iceland or northern Scandinavia.

Last winter, I saw the aurora in Alaska here in the USA. We were in an about comparable viewing situation as Iceland. We were there for 4 nights, which were KP-1 and 2 and we were able to see the aurora only one of those nights. Those same nights, you would have seen nothing in the UK.

  • Interesting about the KP numbers. Is it actually possible to see an Aurora as far down as France? Or is the scale just theoretical?
    – Itai
    Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 15:59
  • 1
    Some of Scandinavia is at the same latitude as Scotland (Copenhagen, for example).
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 16:45
  • During the Carrington event of the 1850s aurora were seen in Cuba and even further south, it's possible to see them in France yes but it's a question of likely hood. Its something that happens one night every several years rather than something you can reliably see. To have a good chance of seeing them go as far north a possible as has already been said.
    – Sarriesfan
    Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 16:51
  • @Itai aurora borealis has been visible as far south as Florida (~30 N latitude), but it's a once-in-a-lifetime-or-two event. Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 22:26

Go as far north as possible, to a remote location away from city lights. Wait for a period of strong solar activity and a clear night (neither predictable more than a few days in advance, unfortunately), and expect to see only a faint coloured haze above the horizon. If you want to see the ribbons of light arcing through the sky you need to be north of the Arctic Circle.

  • I've seen ribbons lof light in southern Saskatchewan (lat. 50.5 N where I sit) but it's every few years, not every few weeks. Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 22:25
  • Yeah, I've seen them in Algonquin Park which I believe is south of London. If the Arctic Circle rule is Europe specific it should be clarified. Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 22:55

I've spent many years looking at the sky in the UK and never seen even a hint of green on the horizon. Often there's a report of a high KP number but the sky will be overcast. Scottish weather is notoriously prone to cloud

One way you can improve your chances is to take an aurora-spotting flight. These are fairly regular in the UK and fly north of the mainland, above the cloud. One company offering these is Aurora Flights, Omega Breaks also offer them - never been on one so I'd check with Trip Advisor before booking


There is an old Scottish folk song by Kenneth McKellar called The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen:


The northern lights of auld Aberdeen, Mean home sweet home tae me, The northern lights of Aberdeen, Are all I long to see. I've been a wanderer all of my life, And many a sight I've seen, God speed the day when I'm on my way To my home in Aberdeen. When I was a lad, a tiny wee lad, My mother said to me, Come see the northern lights my boy, They're bright as they can be. She called them the heavenly dancers, They danced up in the sky, I'll never forget that wonderful sight, Find more lyrics at ※ Mojim.com They made the heavens bright. The northern lights of auld Aberdeen, Mean home sweet home tae me, The northern lights of Aberdeen, Are all I long to see. I've been a wanderer all of my life, And many a sight I've seen, God speed the day when I'm on my way To my home in Aberdeen. God speed the day when I'm on my way To my home in Aberdeen.

I personally am from Edinburgh, Scotland, and whilst I have been to Aberdeen I can't say that I have ever witnessed any aurora. However according to Aberdeen Live, this is what the Aberdeen aurora looks like.

Aberdeen Live Aberdeen aurora

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