Northern lights

Dancing spirits in the sky or forewarning of doom. The aurora (lights) borealis (north) have fascinated, thrilled and frightened people through time.

(c) Stewart Watt - Northern Lights

Of course science tells us that the aurora borealis is caused by ions emitted from the sun (solar wind) colliding with gases in the atmosphere to produce colours which can be seen in the northern regions but this makes them no less spectacular.

In recent years the northern lights have been more ellusive as the solar cycle waned. Now the solar activity looks increasingly good for aurora watchers and the next few years (from end 2021) may be a god bet if you wish to see them. However we always advise against visiting Caithness with the sole intention of seeing the Northern Lights, there are other dark sky treats and of course lovely scenery. For example this website gives meteor shower times.

You can never guarantee to see the Northern Lights but the further north the better so Alaska, Northern Canada, Iceland, and Northern Norway/Finland are your best bet.

However Caithness is still the best place on mainland Britain to see the Northern Lights.  We are the furthest north and we have excellent dark skies.

If you are interested in seeing the Northern Lights I suggest that you get someone to help you and have a good quality camera that can take long exposures.  Our local Astronomy Group are very helpful, run a number of events and also give alerts.

There are a number of very good photographers in Caithness (the photos shown here were taken by Stewart Watt) and I sometimes post good sightings on my Facebook page.

These are some of the timelapse videos created by local photographer Maciej Winiarczyk. They are superb.

(c) Stewart Watt

Pentland Lodge House has a telescope which you are welcome to use.  We are happy to serve breakfast late and give you suggestions for places to go.