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Chasing the "Mirrie Dancers"

Date published: 02 February 2019

The Northern Lights have entranced mankind for millennia and there are few places better to see this breathtaking festival of shine and shadow than Scotland. To help you witness nature's most spectacular light show, we’ve pulled together a guide to the best spots to witness the Aurora Borealis - and undertake some #LegendarySailing at the same time!

So take a look at our guide, set sail, grab your cosiest blanket, stock up on coffee (or something a wee bit stronger) and settle in for the performance of a lifetime as the ‘Mirrie Dancers’ birl across the heavens!

Create your own unforgettable moments as you sail Scotland and make sure you share them with us on social media by tagging them with #LegendarySailing or uploading them to our gallery!

What causes the Aurora Borealis?

Our sun is 93 million miles away, but its effects extend far beyond its visible surface. Great storms on the sun send gusts of charged solar particles hurtling across space. If Earth is in the path of the particle stream, our planet’s magnetic field and atmosphere react.

When the charged particles from the sun strike atoms and molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, they excite those atoms, causing them to light up and treat us to one of the most spectacular sights to be found in nature.

Throughout history, countless myths and legends have been used to explain the otherworldly sight of a huge array of colours, shapes and patterns setting the night sky alight. In Norse mythology, the Northern Lights were the reflections of the shields of Valkyries racing to Valhalla. In Scottish Gaelic folklore, the Northern Lights are known as the Na Fir Chlis – “the Nimble Men” – as well as the “Mirrie (or Merry) Dancers” in the Shetlands.

Whatever you call them, seeing them snake across the heavens is an unforgettable experience!

When to see the Northern Lights?

Autumn and winter seasons, when it’s cold, clear and dark, are the best times of year to witness the ‘Mirrie Dancers.’ Staying up until the wee small hours of the morning also helps!

Where to spot them?

While the aurora can be seen anywhere in Scotland when the right conditions are met and where the light pollution is at a minimum, there are a few spots where you have more chance of taking a birl with the ‘Mirrie Dancers.’

Make your way to Shetland; Orkney; Moray Coast; Harris and Lewis; Galloway; Skye; Applecross; or St Andrews and get ready for a light show that’s heavenly in every sense of the word! 

Shetland Isles

Isle of Mull

Skye

Applecross (c) VisitScotland

Barns Ness Lighthouse, Dunbar (c) D3RX

Harris

Callanais Stones, Lewis