There are a number of reasons to stay in one of Anderson’s Harbour Cottages in autumn and winter, since they are so snuggly, warm and cosy, while you watch the sea from them – and on some days doing wild and exciting things!

Another reason is that the autumns and winter accommodation rates are a fraction of the usual summer rates.  But the best reason … is to have the privilege of seeing the Northern Lights.  Below is an extract from Visit Orkney telling you about this spectacular treat you can indulge in over the romantic, good for the soul months in winter …right on the sea.

Autumn and winter is time for the awe-inspiring Aurora Borealis to light up the sky! Orkney is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights thanks to our location and lack of light pollution – all you need are clear skies, a good view north…and plenty of warm clothing!

The phenomenon, known as the ‘Merry Dancers’ locally, is caused by solar wind from the sun colliding with magnetic particles in the Earth’s atmosphere.

When everything aligns perfectly, people on the ground can be treated to beautiful displays of green, purple and red light, dancing across the night sky.

Take a look at our video of previous northern lights displays in Orkney, captured using timelapse images from local photographers

So how can you make sure you see the Northern Lights in all their glory during your time in Orkney? Unfortunately, we can’t provide a timetable (can you imagine how many tickets we could sell if we could?!), but here are some helpful tips on how to make sure you’re in the right place, at the right time:

Check the weather forecast – if it’s going to be a cloudy night then you won’t see anything, irrespective of the strength of the Aurora.

Do your research – it can be a complicated business, especially if your experience of predicting the perfect solar conditions isn’t entirely up to scratch! That’s why you can let the experts do it for you. Join the excellent Orkney Aurora Group on Facebook for advice and early warning of potential displays. Members post regular updates, as well as some beautiful images and videos.

Other options are available too. You can visit the Space Weather Live website, or sign up for alerts from Aurorawatch UK.

Pack your bags – if you’re going to take your Aurora hunting seriously, you might be out and about for a while! It’s very much an outdoor activity, so we’d recommend plenty of layers and a good, warm hat. A flask with a hot drink is advisable, and some supplies to keep your energy up are vital – especially if it’s one of those nights when the Dancers don’t dim until the early hours of the morning!

Set your camera – sometimes what you can see with the naked eye can vary massively from the colours your camera can pick up. Sometimes a dull, green glow in the distance can be a beautiful display of colour on your camera’s viewfinder. Getting to grips with your settings is the hard part – luckily the Orkney Aurora Group has provided this handy guide.

Pick your location – there are so many perfect places to watch the Northern Lights in Orkney. How about one of our famous ancient sites? Or from a stunning beach, with the rolling waves as a soundtrack to the show? Orkney’s north isles are perhaps the ideal locations, with very little light pollution and low-lying landscapes, giving uninterrupted views.

Have a look at some of these images for location inspiration…

Northern Lights from Ness Beach, Shapinsay, Orkney - image by Callum Orr

Aurora above Kirbister Loch in Orphir - image by John Wishart

Mirrie Dancers above the Standing Stones of Stenness, Orkney - image by John Wishart

The Italian Chapel, Orkney - image by Pawel Kuzma

Aurora at Hammars Hill, Orkney - image by Mark Ferguson

Aurora over Deerness, Orkney - image by Premysl Fojtu

Other popular places include: the Brough of Birsay, the Broch of Gurness, Inganess Bay, the Ring of Brodgar and Wideford Hill. All of these locations have clear views north and nearby parking. Pick your spot, cross your fingers and then sit back and enjoy the beautiful northern lights during our cold, clear northern nights.