Why Now Is The Time To See The Northern Lights In Britain

Caravan supplies - Camping Caravan in Swedish forest

If you like staying in a caravan, it may be that the time you normally think about getting some supplies in is ahead of the summer, But this year provides a very special reason to do so in the next couple of months.

People might normally think that seeing the Northern Lights, or, to give them their proper name, the Aurora Borealis, requires a trip to somewhere like Scandinavia or Iceland. But they can often be seen in northerly parts of the UK, like the Scottish Highlands.

The lights are produced by particles emitted by the sun that interact with the Earth’s magnetic field in the polar regions to produce the spectacle. However, when the sun is near the peak of activity in its 11-year cycle, the number of major ejections of particles increases, which means more spectacular displays that can be seen further south.

Late in 2023, there were displays seen as far south as Cornwall, but 2024 is when the cycle is expected to peak.

A caravan trip can be a great way to see them, because the first priority is to find somewhere away from towns and cities to avoid light pollution. The best places to go for this are one of Britain’s dark sky areas, such as Snowdonia, Northumbria, or Galloway.

While it makes sense to go a long way north, it also helps to have a clear, flat horizon, which is why sea views can be very useful, such as on the Yorkshire coast or even the north coast of Norfolk.

Some apps can tell you if Aurora is likely, but this is seldom known more than a few days in advance and even then it is not certain.

However, the time when the aurora is most common, which makes it a very good time to book a trip, is around the spring equinox, which falls on March 20th. This is because of the way the Earth’s magnetic field acts when the axial tilt is at or near zero.

It will be too light to see them in summer, but if you miss out in March, you can try again at the September equinox.