Stargazing and the Northern Lights in the Scottish Highlands

When the sun sets and the sky turns dark, something special happens in the Scottish Highlands. There are no bright city lights here, just a dark sky full of stars. If you’re lucky, you might even see the Northern Lights, a magical display of colour dancing in the sky. At Mackays Hotel in Wick, you can experience this amazing sight for yourself. From October to March the nights get longer, giving you more time to enjoy the night sky. It’s the perfect time for stargazing adventures in the Highlands.

What are the Northern Lights?

What creates the Northern Lights? It’s all about particles charged by the sun crashing into Earth’s upper atmosphere along magnetic lines. This collision creates a colourful show in the sky, with shades of green, purple and red. It’s a cosmic dance performance that leaves everyone amazed and in awe of mother nature!

The northern lights scotland
The majority of auroral displays are predominantly green.

Chasing the Aurora

While the Northern Lights are as unpredictable as they are mesmerising, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of seeing this natural phenomenon. Checking the Aurora forecast with websites like AuroraWatch UK and SpaceWeatherLive providing real time updates on aurora activity.
Once you’ve secured a promising forecast, don’t forget to wrap up. The North Highlands can be very cold, especially during the winter months when the Northern Lights are most active. Layering up with a warm coat, hat, gloves and sturdy boots ensures you stay cosy while you wait for the lights to appear in the sky. When you return from exploring, warm up with a whisky in our bar.

Northern Lights Over Scottish Highlands
The Northern Lights over the Scottish Highlands.

Finding the Perfect Spot

Finding a dark location away from light pollution is crucial for stargazing and seeing the Northern Lights. The Wick area offers remote spots, such as Noss Head, where you can see only the night sky. Away from the city lights, the stars shine brighter and the Northern Lights viewing is even clearer.
The Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon and it can be unpredictable. Even with the best forecast and dark location, there’s no guarantee that you’ll see the Northern Lights. It’s essential to be patient and keep an eye on the sky. The best time to see Aurora Borealis in the Highlands is between October and March. Remember to make sure you set your camera in the correct settings to capture the Northern Lights.

A panorama view of the wild Caithness coast and the Noss Head Lighthouse
Noss Head Lighthouse is a great spot to see the Northern Lights near Wick.

Stargazing in the Highlands

The best time to see the Milky Way is when there is a new moon or thin crescent moon. That’s because there is lower light coming from the moon during these phases, making the sky darker. Please check the Moon Calendar to see the phase of the moon during your visit. If the moon is dominant in the sky, you will experience brighter stars, constellations and the moon itself.

Silhouette of a group of friends stargazing
Remember to track the moon calendar to see the best stargazing.

So book your stay in the Scottish Highlands to stargaze and follow the Aurora with us at Mackays Hotel in Wick.

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