England,  Europe,  Scotland,  United Kingdom

Aurora Alert: 7 Proven Tips to Witness the Northern Lights in the UK [2024]

Temperatures have plummeted this week and although the days are getting longer it looks like winter is here to stay. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. This year, in 2024, the Northern Lights are expected to reach a peak, offering a spectacular display of ethereal colours dancing across the night sky. Increased solar activity means that the polar lights will be increasingly frequent, more vibrant, and seen further south than they have been for the last twenty years. In this guide, we’ll share our top tips to catch the Northern Lights in the UK this winter.

Many associate the Aurora Borealis with the icy landscapes of  Scandinavia, Alaska, and parts of Canada. Therefore, it might come as a surprise that witnessing this awe-inspiring phenomenon is also possible right here in the United Kingdom, especially in 2024. This winter, the Northern Lights have already been seen as far south as Stonehenge, and the show is only just getting started. Ready to see the Northern Lights in the UK in 2024? Let’s go!

The Northern Lights as far south as Treorchy, Wales



The first and foremost tip for catching the Northern Lights in the UK is to be aware of the optimal timing. Whilst the Aurora Borealis is likely to be more frequent this year, that doesn’t mean it’ll happen every night. Keep an eye on solar activity forecasts and choose nights with clear skies for the best visibility.

My top tip would be to download an app (I use AuroraWatch UK) for real-time notifications when the lights are likely to be visible in your location. You’ll want to set this to notify you for an orange or red alert. Set an alert to chime, vibrate, whatever you need to get yourself outside. And scope out some good viewing points in advance, so you have a plan for where to head when that alert goes off. 


While the Northern Lights can be visible throughout the UK, certain locations offer better chances due to lower light pollution. Head to remote areas or dark sky reserves like Galloway Forest Park in Scotland or the Yorkshire Dales National Park in England to maximise your chances. 

Don’t worry if you can’t escape the light pollution of your city or town. Get up high if you can; Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh are great examples of city vantage points. Coastal areas also provide a clearer view towards the north, reducing interference from city lights. I took some of the photos in this post at Portobello Beach in Edinburgh, 10 minutes by bicycle from the city. 

Oh, and you’ll want to be facing north. That’s really important. 


Isn’t life ironic? The week that I booked a trip to Iceland to fulfil a childhood dream of seeing the Northern Lights was the same week we were lucky enough to see them, completely unexpected, near our home in Edinburgh! And if our views were spectacular, I can’t imagine what they were like further north in Scotland.

For unrivalled views of the Northern Lights in the UK, why not consider travelling to the northern parts of the UK for a winter staycation. Scotland, with its vast landscapes and minimal light pollution, is particularly well-suited for Northern Lights viewing. The Shetland and Orkney Islands, being closer to the magnetic pole, often experience more frequent and intense displays. 

There are so many reasons to visit Scotland in winter. You’ll avoid the crowds, save yourself from the annoyingly small biting midges, and skip being stuck in a  slow-moving camper convoy from Edinburgh to Skye! There’s so much to do, from hillwalking to good Scottish skiing, to cosying up in a bookshop in Edinburgh or St Andrews. If you can work remotely, why not consider hunkering down in a cosy cabin on one of the many Scottish Islands for a few weeks this winter? We’re sure you won’t regret it!

If you’re making a trip to the north of the UK, choose accommodations strategically to maximise your chances of witnessing the auroras. Opt for hotels, cabins, or B&Bs in areas with minimal light pollution and unobstructed views of the northern horizon. Again, the Scottish Highlands and Islands are perfect for this. 

I took this on my iPhone at Portobello Beach, 10-mins from my flat in Edinburgh


Clear skies are essential for observing the Northern Lights in the UK, or anywhere really. As they are so high up, you won’t see anything if there’s cloud cover. Check weather forecasts and plan your trip on nights when the sky is expected to be cloud-free. Cold, crisp winter nights, typical of the northern UK, also contribute to better visibility.

Dress warmly and be prepared for chilly temperatures, especially during extended periods of stargazing. I like to bring a hot water bottle to shove down my jacket and a flask of tea or hot chocolate when I go looking for the Northern Lights in the UK. Snacks and something to sit on are also a good shout. 


Seeing the Northern Lights is a waiting game. Be patient and allow yourself ample time for observation. Settle into a comfortable spot, away from artificial lights, and let your eyes adjust to the darkness. 

It’s also important to have realistic expectations. Sometimes, the auroras may start as faint grey-greenish hues before intensifying into vibrant displays, so patience is key to witnessing the full spectacle.


Bring along a good quality camera with manual settings if you want to capture the beauty of the Northern Lights. A tripod is essential for long-exposure shots, and a wide-angle lens can help capture the expansive sky. Practice beforehand to ensure you’re ready to snap those breathtaking shots when the lights make their appearance. That said, I took the beach photos in this post on my smartphone, and I think they turned out great!

Remember, the vibrant photos of the Northern Lights are usually taken with a long-exposure camera. They won’t always look so bright and colourful to the naked eye. Unless they are particularly strong, you may only witness a grey flicker tinged with a green or red hue, especially further south in the UK.


Utilize technology to enhance your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. Apps like Star Walk and SkyView can help you identify constellations and locate the North Star, assisting in orienting yourself to face north for optimal aurora visibility. Keep an eye on the news, if there are particularly strong solar flares expected, many newspapers will report on this. Aurora Watch UK will predict the chances of you seeing the Northern Lights in the next 30 minutes. Additionally, there are numerous online communities and forums where enthusiasts share real-time updates and sightings, offering valuable insights for your Northern Lights adventure.

Another city photo from Portobello Beach, Edinburgh


In a world increasingly conscious of its environmental impact, consider the sustainability of your travel choices. Witnessing the Northern Lights in the UK eliminates the need for international flights, reducing your carbon footprint. By exploring local destinations, you contribute to the preservation of the environment and support local economies.

If sustainability doesn’t convince you to consider Aurora hunting in the UK, your bank account might!  While the allure of Scandinavian countries for Northern Lights experiences is undeniable, it often comes with a hefty price tag. Countries such as Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland aren’t exactly known for being budget-friendly options. 

Keeping an eye out for the Northern Lights in the UK is easy. You don’t need to make any special plans, or spend any additional money. Just download a couple of apps, keep an eye on the news, and be ready to drive somewhere dark if there are predictions of strong solar activity. Opting for a UK-based adventure not only reduces travel costs but also opens doors to exploring the rich cultural and natural diversity of your own country. You don’t always have to travel far to discover something new and exciting. 


As the Northern Lights grace the winter skies of the UK in 2024, seize the opportunity to witness one of nature’s most enchanting displays. With careful planning, patience, and a touch of technology, you can create lasting memories without the need to travel abroad. Embracing sustainability and exploring budget-friendly alternatives not only enriches your travel experience but also contributes to a more conscious and responsible approach to tourism. So, wrap up warm, head to the northern reaches of the UK, and keep an eye on the skies. You might get lucky, and see the magic of the Northern Lights unfold before your eyes.

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Alice is a UK travel blogger who advocates sustainable travel and being more eco-conscious on a budget. She loves coffee, her houseplants and summiting mountains.

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