Many people in the UK believe they can’t see the Northern Lights in Scotland. But you don’t need to travel as far afield as Greenland and Alaska to see this amazing, luminous phenomenon – you can see it practically on our doorstep at Coastal Kippford in Dumfries & Galloway.
For those who like all the facts, the Northern Lights are also known as the Aurora Borealis. People agree the term was created from the name of the Goddess of Dawn in Roman mythology (Aurora) and the name given to one of the Greek wind Gods (Boreas). Some credit Galileo as creating the name in 1619, whereas other reports state that French scientist, Pierre Gassendi, was the first to use the term in 1621.
Regardless of who named them, the Northern Lights are a spectacular, must-add-to-your-bucket-list, natural exhibition that you really must see. They often start as a shimmering smudge of green light in the northern sky, which starts to undulate and dance across the skies. Depending on the meteorological conditions, you may see blues and purples, or even fiery oranges and reds lighting up the sky.
The Northern Lights in Scotland are affectionately known as the merry dancers, or “Mirrie Dancers” because they provide a unique and uplifting experience and many spectators are left speechless if they’ve been lucky enough to see them.
Unsurprisingly, over the centuries many myths have built up around them. Some say the lights are the torches of Spirits seeking the souls of those who have recently died, to guide them to their final resting place. Others believe they are the spirits of children yet to be born, playing in Heaven.
In southern Europe it’s rare to see the Northern Lights and they can only be seen if there is intense solar activity – which normally results in red Auroras. History states that these rare sightings used to terrify the locals, who assumed it was a bad omen about doom and gloom to come. Rare sightings of auroras in ancient China are also thought, by some, to be the origin of early Chinese legends about dragons: the play of lights was seen to be a celestial dragon battle.
If all of this information makes you desperate to see the Northern Lights in Scotland, make sure you plan a visit to the Dark Sky Park at Galloway Forest Park on your next trip to Dumfries & Galloway. It is the first of its kind in the UK, Europe’s second Dark Sky Park, and the fourth in the world!
The Park boasts limited light pollution which makes it a fabulous place to spot the Northern Lights. Put it this way, if you live in a big city centre, your Sky Quality Meter reading (aka amount of darkness) would be around 8 out of 25. A photographer’s dark room would measure around 24. The Forest Park has a Sky Quality Meter reading of around 22 – practically pitch black and ideal for viewing the skies without pesky light pollution.
Of course the Park can’t guarantee a sighting of the Northern Lights, even when weather conditions appear great and the night skies are clear. Normally the best seasons to catch them are Autumn and Winter. But if the Aurora Borealis are being elusive, take your binoculars and examine the dark night time skies for constellations and planets. There are information points at the Park visitor centres and panoramic viewing points to enable you to get the very best views.
If you want back-up options in case the Northern Lights don’t come out to play during your visit to Dumfries & Galloway, book a holiday at Coastal Kippford because there are so many other things to do locally.
So if you want to see the Northern Lights in Scotland, the Galloway Forest Park is definitely one of the best places to try. And if you do get to see them, please share your experiences with us on our Facebook page – we’d love to know how you found them.