It’s Northern Lights season and we continue with our series of where to watch them with the spectacularly beautiful Isle of Skye in western Scotland.
The Isle of Skye and the Mirrie Dancers
Northern Scotland lies at the same latitude as Stavanger in Norway and Nunivak Island in Alaska and provides an excellent opportunity to view the Northern Lights, or, the Mirrie Dancers as they are known locally.
The Isle of Skye in the north west of the country has some of Scotland’s most recognisable landscapes, with awe inspiring mountain ranges, miles of dramatic coastline, pre-historic settlements, castles, along with set locations from the film Prometheus like the Old Man of Storr.
Enjoying one of the darkest skies in Europe, the Isle of Skye offers the amateur astronomer some of the best views of the Milky Way you can get anywhere. There are nine unique locations on the island that are perfect for viewing the night sky and are marked out on this map here. If the Northern Lights are on the horizon, then the best place to view them would be from the north west of the island looking out over the North Atlantic.
Skye is drive-able from Dublin in just under 12 hours if you get the ferry from Larne in Antrim to Cairnryan. The drive from Cairnryan will bring you through Scotland’s stunning Western Highlands and will take about 7 ½ hours. Considering the length of the journey and the abundance of breath taking scenery on offer, it’s definitely worth spending a good long weekend to a week on this trip.
Where can I stay?
There is no shortage of accommodation on the Isle of Skye to suit everyone’s needs, but why not check out the Cowshed Boutique Bunkhouse near the fabulously named village of Uig? It’s in the north of the island and Uig has its own brewery. A so-called ‘new style of hostel’, the Cowshed offers shared dorms, private dorms of 4 to 6 beds and luxury pods that would suit a family of 4 or 3 adults.
Can I drive in Scotland?
So long as you have a full driver’s license you can drive in the UK. Liberty Insurance covers people to drive in EU countries in their own car for up to 90 days. Considering the length of the drive to Skye, it is well worth your while adding another driver onto your insurance if possible. We’re not in Brexit yet.
Will I really be able to see the lights?
You can, but will you? Obviously, you need a clear night, but unfortunately, the Aurora Borealis are dependent on the solar winds – so while Earth conditions may be perfect, Solar conditions may not. This UK forecaster offers some predictions of when and where the lights will occur.
What else can I do when I’m there?
It’s a case of what not to do. It’s a given you’ll be sky watching at night, but how many fiords can you explore during the day? Add in a loch or two and a couple of mountain ranges and what time will you have left for whale or seal watching?… let alone eagle or buzzard spotting? Or leave the car at base and take a tour to Talisker Distillery and find your favourite Malt Whisky.
Don’t be a light polluter?
Be aware of other Aurora seekers and turn your lights off outside and inside your car. It’s not uncommon for people to leave their car engine running so they can shelter from the wind. Keep the use of torches to a minimum and dim the illumination on your phone so your eyes can adjust more easily to the natural light. If you need to use your torchlight use one with a red filter. A sweet wrapper can double up as a filter.
Don’t forget, with Liberty Insurance you can get a car insurance quote online in as little as two minutes. Terms and conditions apply.