Best Destinations to Observe the Aurora Borealis Around Ireland
Updated On: November 08, 2023
It has always been a popular notion that the Aurora Borealis, or the northern lights, are amazing features of the Arctic Circle. But, have you ever known that these splendid dancing lights make appearance in other countries outside the Arctic Circle? Unfortunately, many people have no idea.
While this magical wonder is popular in Norway, Alaska, and Canada, it also has its way through the Irish skies. Northern Ireland has reported observing several nights of aurora activity for many years. However, we must say that these nights are not as many as those that happen in the northern part of the planet.
The conditions for the aurora borealis to come into vision are no different in Northern Ireland. It takes the right weather and atmospheric conditions for them to happen. To be more precise, the northern lights can be seen from almost around every spot in the northern hemisphere. If you understand what these lights exactly are, you will be sure of that.
The aurora borealis is a result of reaction between forces of nature. When the sun emits charged particles and they hit the atmosphere of the planet, the aurora comes to life. Thus, this phenomenon can literally happen in so many places and not just the Arctic circle.
The conditions for the northern lights to happen require extreme darkness. That’s why it’s always suggested that you chase this phenomenal wonder during the winter months when the sky is utterly dark. So, if we’re speaking of Northern Ireland, September through March should be your best picks.
Here are some of the best destinations to consider if you’re keen to observe the spectral aurora borealis.
There are several counties in Northern Ireland where you can chase the aurora borealis. Yet, nothing can ever beat County Donegal. Its strategic location has made it a perfect platform for the aurora to come dancing through its skies.
If you’re in Northern Ireland to see the lights, then County Donegal should be your top destination. Here’s a list of the spots in Donegal from which you can observe the spectral aurora borealis.
Slieve League (Sliabh Liag)
Slieve League is a fascinating mountain in County Donegal. It overlooks the Atlantic Coast and has some of Europe’s highest sea cliffs. This spot is considered perfect when it comes to hunting the aurora borealis. That’s due to the harsh winter that brutally hits this part, and when this happens, it means utter darkness. This leaves room for the lights to become visible and clear in the sky.
Meanwhile, you can have a tour around the area in the morning to get accustomed to the place. It has several walking trails where you get to trek besides the amazing sea. The blend of the turquoise water, the snow-capped mountain, and som greenery spots are to die for.
There’s a reason behind the naming of the northern lights, and it’s easy to guess. Well, yes, because they mostly happen in the far northern part of the planet. Malin Head is a peninsula that sits in the northernmost part of Northern Ireland. This makes it an excellent base to watch the phenomenal aurora borealis weaving through the dark skies.
Tory Island restfully sits off the northern shore of the country. You will need to ride in a ferry in order to get there. It sits too far from any crowded city, limiting any sources of artificial light.
Apparently, its seclusion is one of the factors that aid in making the aurora borealis shine brightly in the sky.
Seeing the aurora borealis twirling in the skies is one thing, but seeing them above the waters is another. The Dooey Beach is here to give us the best sights we could ever see. It’s one of the most popular spots in Donegal to chase after the lights thanks to its limited light pollution. What could be better than watching the spectral waves whirling in the skies while reflecting in the waters!
Mamore Gap is a fascinating steep road that passes through the superb Urris Hill. It offers spectacular sceneries of the Atlantic Ocean from its summit. Moreover, it’s deemed one of the best bases to speculate the aurora borealis to show up. Although the hill isn’t that high, it still offers a reasonable elevation where light pollution is at its minimum.
Just like Malin Head and Mamore Gap, Dunree Head is located on the Inishowen Peninsula, which makes a perfect base to see the aurora borealis. This spot has several landmarks that you can explore during the day. Dunree Fort happens to be the highlight of this area, given its military museum. Thus, you have a lot to discover before the night falls and the lights hunting begins.
Apparently, Donegal is home to several northerly peninsulas and Rosguill is no exception. It’s another one that lies along the fascinating coastline. This has actually made it a hot destination to watch the aurora borealis from. Rosguill Peninsula is a pristine destination that light pollution hadn’t made its way to. Nonetheless, it possesses some of Ireland’s mesmerizing views and unmatched splendor.
Glencolmcille falls on the western side of Donegal and is one of the county’s best places to spot the aurora borealis. Since the lights only come into sight during the night, you can keep yourself occupied through the day. Luckily, Glencolmcille can grant you an enjoyable stay from visiting the Assaranca Waterfall to venturing into Maghera caves.
Fanad Head Lighthouse
Fanad Head happens to be one of the most beautiful lighthouses around the world. It became a tourist hotspot in no time thanks to the dramatic views it offers. You can learn so much about history and heritage at that splendid spot. But the best part is catching the aurora borealis as it provides 270° views to the north. Your chances of missing the unearthly lights are quite slim.
County Sligo is located near Donegal. It’s situated south of County Donegal, to be more precise. Sligo happens to be another great destination to observe the aurora borealis. Many aurora hunters head to Sligo to increase their chances of seeing this unearthly phenomenon although it only has one destination in which you can get lucky, Mullaghmore.
Sligo isn’t home to many mesmerizing landscapes or seascapes as its counterpart, Donegal. Yet, it embraces several landmarks that you will enjoy exploring, especially Craggy Ben Bulben. It’s still home to many outdoor activities that you can have fun discovering before the lights come to life.
When it comes to seeing the aurora borealis in County Sligo, Mullaghmore is your go-to. Mullaghmore is a small town that sits on a peninsula of the same name. It’s always been a great holiday destination for many tourists. Although it has some light pollution, it has north-facing views, so you can spot the northern lights flickering through the dark skies.
Whether you’re after the northern lights or not, you should add County Mayo to your list when your visit Ireland. This place is famous for its scenic views that you won’t find elsewhere around Ireland. County Mayo is a real beauty that you should experience yourself and explore all its delightful gems.
Another feature that beautify Mayo is being a great base to see the northern lights. It has a few spots at which you can get lucky, given its location near the Arctic Circle.
Downpatrick Head is a great destination in County Mayo to see the northern lights. It’s a small peninsula that face the north with nothing to hinder the views. Besides, its location makes if facing the Arctic Circle, the main land where the aurora borealis make their show.
Another peninsula in Mayo Co. to chase the aurora borealis is Mullet Peninsula. This destination is considered a little inhabitant given its undeveloped state. Consequently, you’ll barely be obstructed by any light pollution. It also has several spots that offer an expansive sky view, leaving room for a clearer observation of the fancy lights.
County Kerry is situated in the southern part of Northern Ireland. Apparently, its location doesn’t make it the best destination to observe the aurora borealis. However, being situated near Dublin makes it quite accessible to most visitors. Many tourists, especially first-time visitors, stay in Dublin, thus, they find Kerry an easy access.
Moreover, there are two different destinations in Kerry that make for great bases to see the northern lights. Check them out:
Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve
While in Kerry, you should head to its popular Kerry Dark Sky Reserve. It has been certified as one of the darkest skies in Ireland with the least light pollution. Thus, it’s a great place to wait for the northern lights to start showing up. Moreover, the utterly dark skies allow for stargazing activities to take place. You can observe planets and star constellations while waiting for the aurora to come around.
Valentia Island is situated off the Iveragh Peninsula at the most westerly points of Northern Ireland. This spot is known to have better odds of observing the aurora borealis. Moreover, Valentia Island offers a lot to its visitors. It is home to hypnotizing sceneries as well as rich culture and history.