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How To See The Northern Lights In Ireland 2024

How To See The Northern Lights In Ireland 2024

Yes, you can see the Northern Lights in Ireland, but several factors need to fall into place for them to be visible.

The Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis have been fascinating people in Ireland and beyond for centuries.

In recent years, likely thanks to social media coverage, sightings of this natural wonder seem to be more common.

You’re most likely to see Aurora Borealis in Ireland during certain months and in very specific parts of the country, as you’ll discover below.

Some quick need-to-knows about seeing the Northern Lights in Ireland

Seeing the Northern Lights in Ireland is a bucket list item for many. Let’s get you up-to-speed on the need-to-knows first:

1. How they form

The Northern Lights are formed when charged particles collide with the earth’s magnetic field causing the release of energy in the form of light. The light varies in colour depending on the type of particles. For example, oxygen molecules deliver a greeny/yellow colour.

2. When is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Ireland?

The best time to see the Northern Lights in Ireland is between October and April. Aurora activity requires specific conditions to take place along with clear skies. Peak time for the Northern Lights is between 00:00 and 02:00.

3. Where to see them

The most common places to see the Northern Lights in Ireland are from the west and north coast in areas with little to no light pollution. Places like the Inishowen Peninsula (Donegal), the Mullet Peninsula (Mayo) and the Causeway Coast (Antrim).

4. Monitoring their visibility

There are several ways to know if you can see the Northern Lights in Ireland tonight. The first is by proactively monitoring the swpc.noaa.gov website. You can also use a free or paid alert service (info below).

How to know when Aurora Borealis is visible in Ireland

ireland aurora borealis

You can buy beautiful prints of these photos from Gareth Wray here

More often than not, people trying to see the Northern Lights in Northern Ireland and the Republic are left disappointed.

However, on those special occasions when the conditions are just right, an experience like no other takes place.

Here’s a quick checklist that explains very clearly how to know when the Northern Lights in Ireland are visible.

1. The right solar conditions are key

In order to be able to see Aurora Borealis in Ireland, geomagnetic activity needs to reach a certain level.

This level is measured on a scale of 0 to 9 with a Kp number. In a nutshell, the higher the Kp number is, the larger the Aurora is.

A very handy resource is the swpc.noaa.gov website. The have a scale that’ll show you how likely it is that Aurora will be visible.

2. Clear skies are essential

Let’s just say there’s the right solar conditions for seeing the Northern Lights in Ireland tonight.

Don’t get too excited just yet. Clouds can (and often do) hamper many quests to see Aurora Borealis in Ireland.

It’s worth checking this page (it’s updated every 15 minutes) on the Irish National Meteorological Service’s website as it shows very clearly what the cloud cover is like.

3. Get to an area with low light pollution after midnight

The final step, once conditions are right, to seeing the Aurora Borealis in Ireland is to get to an area facing northward with very little light pollution.

I’ve stuck a map of the locations below (scroll down a bit) but arguably the best place to see the Northern Lights in Ireland is the west and north coast.

4. Use an alert service

There are a number of different ways that you can get notified when the Northern Lights are visible in Ireland.

If you use Twitter, there’s the Aurora Alerts Ireland. This is an active account dedicated to providing updates. Another good Twitter account is Alan O’Reilly’s Carlow Weather.

If you aren’t on Twitter, this monitoring app allows you to select your location and see how likely it is that Aurora will be visible.

Where to see Northern Lights in Ireland

We get emails constantly asking what is the best place to see the Northern Lights in Ireland. The map above will give you an insight into the places that Aurora Borealis is most frequently visible from.

Counties Donegal, Antrim, Sligo and Mayo are the key areas, however, the lights have been visible from many other places in Ireland, as you’ll see below.

County Donegal

You can see the Northern Lights in Donegal reasonably frequently. Some of the most common places they can be seen are from the Fanad Peninsula, the Inishowen Peninsula and the Rosguil Peninsula.

You’ll often see photos of the Northern Lights at Malin Head (Inishowen) – the most northerly point in Ireland.

County Mayo

If you’re looking to see the Northern Lights in Mayo, your best bet is to head to either Achill Island (Minaun Heights, in Particular) or to the North Mayo Coast.

Places like the Mullet Peninsula, Downpatrick Head or any location along the north coast with little/no light pollution are all great vantage points.

County Sligo

There have been regular sightings of the Northern Lights in Sligo in recent years, most frequently from the Mullaghmore Peninsula.

Mullaghmore is a little peninsula a short drive from Sligo Town with some great viewpoints facing northwards.

Northern Ireland

You tend to see the Northern Lights in Northern Ireland from the Antrim Coast (Dunluce Castle, the Giant’s Causeway and Whiterocks Beach, in particular).

Aurora Borealis has also been seen from parts of County Tyrone as recent as March of 2023.

County Dublin

It’s very, very rare that you’ll see any trace of the Northern Lights in Dublin, however, some news outlets online would lead you to believe otherwise.

The most recent sighting of Aurora Borealis in Dublin was in early 2023, with travellers aboard flights from Dublin to the UK posting photos of the sky above the capital alight.

County Kerry

Although rare, it has been possible to see the Northern Lights in Kerry in recent years. Ideally, you’d want to be in the Dark Sky Reserve and facing north.

Another possible location would be from Valentia Island where light pollution is very low.

County Galway

Although it’s reasonably rare to see the Northern Lights in Galway, it can be visible there at certain times, usually from parts of Connemara.

In recent years, it was visible in Spiddal, Moycullen and the Mutton Island Causeway.

County Cork

In 2023 those lucky enough to live in parts of West Cork were treated to an eyeful of the Northern Lights.

It was also visible from Cloughduv, not far from Cork City.

FAQs about seeing the Northern Lights from Ireland

We originally published this article back in 2017. Since then, we’ve been getting emails each week from people looking to see Northern Lights in Northern Ireland and beyond.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that we’ve received (shout if you have one we haven’t answered.

What month can you see the Northern Lights in Ireland?

You are most likely to see Aurora Borealis in Ireland between October and April when geomagnetic activity hits 4 or above. Keep in mind that the skies need to be clear for the lights to be visible.

What is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Ireland?

When solar conditions are as required and the skies are clear, Aurora Borealis most likely to be visible between midnight and 02:00.

What is the best place to see the Northern Lights in Ireland?

Some of the most common places to see Aurora Borealis in Ireland is Donegal, the North Mayo Coast, Achill Island and the Mullaghmore Peninsula. The most common place to see the Northern Lights in Northern Ireland is the Antrim Coast.

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Tammy

Monday 28th of September 2020

I’ve read in the news that the Aurora will be showing itself from tonight for three nights. I really do hope i get to see the magic. Where is the ideal place to be in Malin Head to see it? Is there an exact time for it? It’s about an hour and a half drive from where I’m at to Malin.

Mark O'Brien

Sunday 7th of June 2020

The Northern Lights would be spectacular but just to see the magnificence of The Milky Way gives me goose bumps. To think that my grandmother, her siblings, parents and countless generations of Donegal ancestors would have seen that gives me a feeling of awe and deep seated connection to them!

Peter

Saturday 7th of March 2020

As someone who lives in Donegal and likes to photograph the Northern lights here, I would like to advise on a couple of things this.

First, the northern lights will not look as spectacular as you see on the pictures, the camera will pick the colours up brighter and far more vibrant. Having said that I have witnessed decent displays in the past by eye.

Also be careful when using KP index as an indicator for seeing the aurora, sometimes it can be high but you might not see anything at all, a good app to check is something called Glendale skye auroras which give live aurora reports.

Mik Hoskin

Saturday 18th of January 2020

Have just returned from Iceland after attempting to see the northern lights but failed, will be trying Ireland next

Viv Lewis

Thursday 16th of January 2020

Saw the Northern Lights several years ago travelling back from Waterford to Wexford early hours of the morning. They seemed to follow us for miles lighting up the sky. Spectacular.

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