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
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 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.
You’ll often see photos of the Northern Lights at Malin Head (Inishowen) – the most northerly point in Ireland.
Places like the Mullet Peninsula, Downpatrick Head or any location along the north coast with little/no light pollution are all great vantage points.
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.
Aurora Borealis has also been seen from parts of County Tyrone as recent as March of 2023.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.