Scotland is expected to witness the best Northern Lights displays in 20 years this winter, scientists believe. 

The sun is set to reach its "solar maximum" from January to October 2024, creating powerful Aurora Borealis light shows across our skies. 

Njål Gulbrandsen, a space physics researcher at the Arctic University of Norway, told the Guardian: "I expect there to be more aurora activity than there’s been in the last 20 years.

"There is another factor – that the last solar cycle was a weak one – so it might be that activity now is almost the strongest it’s been in almost 20 years. We have to go far back to see this level of activity."

Read more: Northern Lights Scotland: Aurora Borealis lights up skies, in pictures

Spectacular displays are expected in the traditional locations where the Northern Lights have been seen most before, but they are also likely to be seen further south than normal due to the strength of solar activity predicted. 

Created by highly-charged particles known as solar winds which collide with the Earth's magnetic field, the Northern Lights are best seen in weather conditions when the sky is dark and cloudless.

They are most vibrant when away from any light pollution, known as dark sky locations, and along north-facing coasts. The best time to see them is often late into the night and at the wee hours of the morning.  

The phenomenon is most active during the Equinox and Solstice, according to the Met Office, which take place in March/April and September/October respectively each year. 

Under the right conditions, the Northern Lights can be seen almost anywhere in Scotland. But here are the locations with the best chance of seeing the aurora at its most striking. 

The Outer Hebrides

The northern islands in the Outer Hebrides, such as Lewis and Harris, are among the best places in Scotland to see the Northern Lights. 

With little light pollution, the islands have some of the darkest skies in the UK. And, due to their northerly location, in winter the days go dark in late afternoon, giving a longer opportunity to see the lights.

The Aurora Watch Western Isles Facebook page provides frequent updates on Northern Lights sightings and when the next display is expected. 

Shetland and Orkney

Scotland's most northerly isles, Shetland and Orkney are less populated than the mainland and experience less light pollution and unobstructed views. 

Known as the 'merry dancers' in Orkney, there are countless myths and legends about their origin. Some of the best places to see the aurora there are the Broch of Gurness, Inganess Bay and Wideford Hill. 

Northern Lights hunters can check out the Orkney Aurora Group on Facebook.


The isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides has experienced spectacular Northern Lights displays, particularly at its northern coast. 

The island is home to nine dark sky discovery sites, making it one of the best places in Scotland for aurora hunting and stargazing. 


The northernmost point of the Scottish mainland, Caithness and Sutherland offers spectacular Northern Lights displays. 

Caithness Astronomy Group holds stargazing sessions at the Castlehill Heritage Centre, a recognised dark sky location. 

The beaches here are remote and north-facing, bringing some of the best conditions to witness the aurora.

The Cairngorms National Park

Home to five of the UK's six highest mountains and 55 munros, the Cairngorms National Park is an epic place to see the Northern Lights. 

The area has low levels of light pollution and is home to the Cairngorms Dark Sky Park in Glenlivet and Tomintoul which has been awarded international status. 


With vast natural landscapes and low levels of light pollution, Aberdeenshire has some extraordinary locations to spot the aurora. 

Fraserburgh, the area's most northerly point, frequently offers striking coastal views of the phenomenon. While Rattray Head, with its striking lighthouse, is another unique place to stargaze.

There are also dark sky spots at Fyvie loch and around Bennachie. 

Galloway Forest Park 

Found in the south-west, Galloway Forest Park is the only dark sky park in Scotland – and just the fourth in the entire world. It is also the UK's largest forest park. 

The nights are particularly clear here because it is an underpopulated area which is committed to controlling light pollution. 

Found in 300 square miles of forest and hills, it has been named a Gold Tier park for its "breathtaking" and rare stargazing conditions where more than 7,000 stars and planets are visible to the naked eye. 

  • For more information and updates about the next sightings of the Northern Lights, visit Aurora Watch UK