Ultimate Guide to Northern Lights in Ireland

Chasing Aurora: Your Guide to Northern Lights in Ireland

Fan of the Northern Lights? Did you know that its captivating patterns result from the interplay of charged particles and magnetic fields?

And great news—Ireland offers a chance to witness the mesmerising Northern Lights. This is due to its scenic Atlantic landscapes and strategic location on Europe’s western coast!

Get to know where and how to spot the Northern Lights in Ireland below.

What’s the best place to see Ireland’s Northern Lights?

County Donegal, particularly Malin Head, is the top spot in Ireland for catching the Northern Lights. As the northernmost point on the Wild Atlantic Way, Malin Head offers a prime location to witness this mesmerising phenomenon.

And don’t miss out on the stunning Slieve League cliffs along this coastal journey. They offer a jaw-dropping view of the lights, adding an extra touch of magic to the experience.

Now, if you’re into more options, consider Dooey Beach, Dunree Head, Fanad Head, Glencolmcille, Inishowen Peninsula, Mamore Gap, Rosguil Peninsula, and even Tory Island.

Each of these places has its own unique charm for aurora viewing, whether it’s limited light pollution or stunning coastal vistas. 

Still, we think Malin Head steals the show as the ultimate destination to witness the magic of the Northern Lights in all of Ireland.

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

When is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Ireland
Photo by Matt Houghton on Unsplash

If you’re keen on catching the Northern Lights in Ireland, the sweet spot is between September and March. That’s when the earth’s tilt and solar wind play nicely for optimal viewing.

The colder months from October to February are pretty good too, especially when the night sky is dark and the solar vibes are just right. For the best show, make it a nighttime gig, ideally between midnight and 2 AM.

Just head out to spots away from the hustle and bustle of towns where you can get a clear view up north. That way, you’re giving yourself the best shot at soaking in the magic of the Northern Lights.

Where else can you see the Northern Lights in Ireland?

County Mayo

County Mayo is a cool spot if you’re up for chasing the Northern Lights in Ireland beyond Donegal. Achill Island, especially Minaun Heights, and the North Mayo Coast are solid picks.

For some fantastic views with minimal light pollution, you may also consider checking out the Mullet Peninsula or Downpatrick Head along the north coast.

The Mullet Peninsula, tied to Belmullet, boasts a lengthy coastline with broad northern sky views and little light pollution. Meanwhile, Downpatrick Head, up in the county’s tip-top, offers clear north views, reaching all the way to the Arctic Circle.

County Sligo

County Sligo is another spot you can check out for the Northern Lights in Ireland, especially if you’ve already explored Donegal. Down south, the views might not be as mind-blowing, especially along the coast.

But hey, if you’re in Sligo and not feeling a long drive to Donegal, Mullaghmore is the go-to spot. It’s this cool little peninsula with direct north-facing views, and folks have been spotting the Northern Lights there pretty regularly in recent years.

Sure, you might catch a bit of light pollution from Donegal up north. But for a more local option, Mullaghmore in County Sligo is also worth a shot.

County Kerry

County Kerry
Image from Irish Independent

County Kerry might not be the first place that comes to mind for Northern Lights hunting in Ireland, but it’s a more accessible option, especially if you’re making the trip from Dublin.

The star of the show here is Kerry Dark Sky Park, certified as one of the darkest and least light-polluted spots in Ireland. If you’re up for chasing the aurora in Kerry, consider bunking down in Ballinskelligs for the weekend.

Just hit up the west or north-facing coastline, and Valentia Island is a wonderful option for catching the Northern Lights low on the horizon.

While sightings have been a bit rare, there have been glimpses in recent years, especially within the Dark Sky Reserve and facing north from Valentia Island, where light pollution is practically a no-show.

County Dublin, Galway, and Cork

Rare sightings of the Northern Lights in Ireland extend beyond Dublin, Galway, and West Cork. 

Dublin doesn’t see them often, but there was a buzz in early 2023 when folks on flights to the UK from Dublin snapped some cool pics of the illuminated sky.

Next up, Galway is a bit hit or miss. But if you’re around Connemara, Spiddal, Moycullen, or the Mutton Island Causeway, you might just catch a glimpse, as seen in recent years. 

And hey, West Cork, including Cloughduv near Cork City, got lucky in 2023 with a dazzling display. So, while it’s not an everyday thing, the Northern Lights do make surprise appearances in various parts of Ireland, beyond the usual suspects.

What are some tips for spotting Northern Lights in Ireland?

Stay Weather-Wise

The key to catching the magic of the Northern Lights is all about understanding those geomagnetic storms. They’re ranked on the Kp index, and for Ireland sightings, we’re looking at a Kp of at least 6, mainly up north.

Want a show across all 32 counties? It’s best to aim for a Kp of 7 or higher.

You can keep up with the cosmic drama on aurora-service.eu. Or better yet, snag the ‘My Aurora & Forecast Alerts’ app—it’s like having a personal stargazing assistant that guides you to the sweet spots!

Keep Track with Technology

Keep track of technology to see the Northern Lights. Use websites and apps that tell you where and when they appear.

Technology can help you find the best places and times for the Northern Lights. You can get real-time updates and alerts from aurora-service.eu and the ‘My Aurora & Forecast Alerts’ app.

Choose an Appropriate Outfit

Choose an Appropriate Outfit
Image by Alesia Kaz on Unsplash

Irish weather’s unpredictability, especially during storms, means that when spotting the Northern Lights in Ireland, dress appropriately and be ready for changing conditions.

So, it’s wise to pack layers and ensure you have waterproofs. County Donegal, in particular, can be surprisingly chilly even on its more favourable days.

Check Essential Gear

Check Essential Gear
Image by Landon Martin on Unsplash

Now, let’s talk gear:

  • Camera and Tripod: Capture the magic with a trusty camera and tripod. Your future self will thank you for those stunning pics against Ireland’s natural wonders!
  • Light Source: In the Irish darkness, a torch or a fully charged phone with a torch function is your hero. Safety first, folks!
  • Warm Threads: Embrace the cold nights with layered and waterproof clothing. Nature’s show won’t wait for perfect weather, so it’s best to come prepared.

Snap Happy with Your Camera

Getting that perfect Northern Lights shot is all about strategy! Before the stars take the stage, scope out your spot during the day and find those killer angles that scream, ‘Wow!’

And here’s the secret sauce: grab a tripod or find a stable surface to keep things steady. Go for the long exposure and throw in a cable release—it’s like turning your shots into visual poetry, capturing the enchantment of the dancing auroras.