Recently, strong solar wind activity has allowed us to get a glimpse of nature’s greatest show - the Aurora Borealis.
Ireland has some of the greatest, most unspoilt natural beauty not only in Western Europe but in the world, and it offers an awe-inspiring backdrop to viewing, if you’re lucky, the wonder of the shimmering northern lights. Here are the best 10 places to see them in Ireland.
The West and North coast of Ireland offer incredible views and a lack of light pollution means you’re well placed to get a peak of the Aurora Borealis. The trick is being in the right place at the right time and while you’re never guaranteed to see them, chasing the ‘lights’ is an adventure all in itself.
You can sign up for Aurora alerts with Astronomy Ireland or check Aurora Service forecast, as well as follow @Aurora_ireland or @DonegalSkies on Twitter for updates on when you might have a chance to view the Northern Lights.
Malin Head Co. Donegal
Located on the Inishowen peninsula Malin Head, Co. Donegal, is, as Ireland’s most northerly point the place where you are most likely to view the northern lights. Head up to Banba’s Crown, the very northern tip of the head on a night when solar wind activity is strong and if the sky is clear you might catch a glimpse of nature’s most wondrous spectacle. Nearby are the raised beaches of Ballyhillion where you can watch the skies and listen to the boom of the Atlantic waves rolling in. Bring a flask of tea.
Moville, Inishowen, Co. Donegal
If the wilds of Malin Head are too much for you, you can find sanctuary on the eastern side of the Inishowen peninsula at Moville. A picturesque jewel of a town overlooking Lough Foyle. The large seaside Victorian Park has bandstands and other sheltered spots where you can shelter from the elements, but still be perfectly placed to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights should they choose to appear.
Tory Island, Donegal
One of Ireland’s most unspoilt places retains its mystery and rugged beauty. Steeped in historical and mythological significance, Tory can be difficult to reach. It can be equally difficult to leave due to unpredictable weather and seas. Take a ferry from the picturesque harbours of Bunbeg and Magheroarty when there’s a fine spell. If you do get a chance to see the Northern Lights over Dún Bhaloir and sheer cliffs on three sides, it might be one of the most spectacular things you will ever experience.
Rossinver on the southern shore of Lough Melvin is a tranquil desdtination known for its world class fishing. Follow the nature trails up the Glenaniff River stopping at one of its beautiful waterfalls and you'll be in a secluded piece of paradise for a magical night of sky watching. There's A 9th Century Grave slab lies in Rossinver Church yard and Lisdarush Iron Age Fort and abbey are nearby, which could also prove perfect locations to set your camera on long exposure.
Donegal’s largest inhabited island has plenty of life for such an isolated, unique destination. Ferries run from Burtonpoint and it is generally easy to access. Stay in one of the many towns on the relatively sheltered south side of the island like Leabgarrow, Ballintra, Fallagowan or the wonderfully named Pollawaddy.
Forever linked with John Millington Synge who wrote Playboy of the Western World based on his experience in Belmullet the town has two bays, Blacksod Bay and Broadhaven Bay over which you can cast your eye in the hope of a northern light show. The town has just enough life to keep you entertained while it’s a great vantage point to explore the countless sandy beaches, towering cliffs and even get in a spot of golfing if that’s your thing.
About seven miles north from Buncrana Dunree has a wonderful strand, but the area is best known for Dunree Fort, a decommissioned costal fortress that is now a military museum. The views from the fort are long and clear and it’s a great place to look north-east if the Northern Lights are threatening to show themselves. The fort itself can offer great shelter from the elements, is easy to reach there are plenty of nature walks nearby if you get there in daylight hours.
Famed as the home of some of the best big wave surfing in the world the Mullaghmore peninsula has towering cliffs with spectacular western views characterised by the monolithic presence of Sligo’s Ben Bulben. The surfing community are present year round and add a touch of youth culture in an otherwise powerfully beautiful landscape. Atop the cliffs with the wind sweeping in and the Atlantic lashing the rocks below, you might catch a light show if you look north.
Mamore Gap, Donegal
The Gap of Mamore in the area of Urris offers total black out and a good panorama of northeast to northwest views. The sheltered Gap is slightly off coast so it’s a good place to park the car during the night to await the show. You’re also well placed to explore the area, which as the location of Ireland’s oldest Neolithic campsite has a rich history and the outstanding natural beauty of Donegal. The Holy Well at Mamore would be the perfect place to pitch up for the evening and under the northern lights would prove a mystical experience.
Dunaff, Co. Donegal
Dunaff Head at the Lough Swilly estuary is a stunning location with beautiful coastline, beaches and mountains to climb. The nearby towns of Claggan and Leehan offer all amenities, with plenty of accommodation, and pubs for Irish coffees to warm the bones after your excursion.
While the permanent population of the once busy island of Inishturk continues to dwindle, it remains one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful places in all of Ireland. Stay on the more sheltered eastern side of the island at Ballyheer and Garranty from where you can easily access the centre of the island or the west coast for star-gazing and hunting the Northern Lights.
Disclaimer: Images are not representative of the locations featured
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