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The Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights are nature's own gigantic light show. The phenomenon occurs when electrically charged particles from the Sun are driven against the Earth by solar winds at roughly 11-year intervals. When the particles enter the Earth's upper atmosphere, they are drawn by the Earth's magnetic field to the polar region in the northern hemisphere. Here the particles react with gases in the atmosphere and begin to glow in bands of various colours - red, green, blue and violet - thus creating a beautiful aerial blaze.
The Aurora is most visible at latitudes higher than 65 degrees north. In Scotland, this would be the most northerly points on the mainland, as well as in Orkney and Shetland. There have, however, been many smaller 'light showers' in various areas around Scotland, including some southerly parts of the country. These generally occur in the intervening years between its 11-year cycle, and are most frequent in the autumn, winter and spring.
It is best seen on a crisp, clear evening, when the nights are longer and darker. Country areas are best since if you are in urban areas, you will have to contend with the glow of the streetlights, which can diminish the spectacle. The Aurora can occur in the summer as well.
As the Aurora Borealis are now at the end of their current 11-year cycle, the next best time to view the 'Northern Lights' will be during 2012/2013.
The Outer Hebrides of Scotland has some of the most diverse landscapes in Europe and has been recognised internationally for its importance. For such a compact geographical area, the range of habitat types is huge, which means there is also a massive diversity of flora and fauna.
As one of the last great wilderness regions in the UK, the Hebrides is an important region for conservation and includes in its honours a World Heritage Site, 53 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, three National Scenic Areas, four National Nature Reserves and many other designations.
The unique beauty of the Hebrides lies in their diversity. This section of the Wildlife Hebrides gives you an overview of the main types of habitats that you can find in Hebrides today.
The West Coast of Scotland etched with sea lochs, glens and mountains ranges such as Torridon. Wide open spaces. Golden beaches. Sparsely populated. Off the Sottish mainland coast the Hebrides. Touristy, but still beautiful Skye, and Mull. Off Mull are the Treshnish Isles, one of the best places in Britain to get really close to Puffins
The Island of Mull, part of the Inner Hebrides. Tobermory , the Island's Capital, pastel coloured houses along the gentle curve of the harbour, nestling in a wooded bay. A delight. Popular with visiting yachtsmen. Legend has it there is sunken Spanish Galleon in the Bay. Even a distillery . The isles of Mull and Iona lie off the west coast of Scotland. With a population of just under 3000 on an island fifty miles from North to South, the Mull is one of the largest Hebridean islands, but like them all, sparsely populated. The main population centre is Tobermory, where nearly 1,000 people live and work. The Isle of Mull is deservedly well known as a holiday island, with superb walking, fishing and outdoor pursuits amid spectacular scenery. There is abundant wildlife on land, in the surrounding seas and in the air – elements of a rare natural environment that bring many people to visit and to live.
Offshore Islands, such as Iona the home of Christianity, and one of the few places you can still find corncrake. The Treshnish Isles with the puffin colonies of Lunga. They are so inquisitive they have been known to tug at visitors shoelaces. The guillemots of Harp Rock.
Smaller islands, such as Bac Mor, or The Dutchmens Cap, all with Gaelic names unpronounceable to an Englishman. . Staffa and the weird columnar basalt rock formations and Fingals Cave.