A couple of months ago, I went on a delayed weekend break to Iceland. I was meant to visit earlier in the year on a walking holiday, but did my back in and couldn't go.

As it turned out, I swapped three days of hiking in the pouring rain for an evening watch the Northern Lights, a sight that I'll never forget.

I must confess that I almost didn't see them. On the first night in Reykjavik, my girlfriend and I had finished a meal in a restaurant and had headed up to look at Hallgrimskirkja, the imposing Luther church that looks out over the city.

But as stunning as the church is, it was overtaken by events above it. Flicking across the sky, back and forth, was a remarkable ribbon of green light, flexing and shapeshifting over the cityscape.

Usually, as the name suggests, the Northern lights are a northern phenomenon. They're normally seen in the winter months in places like Iceland and Norway, but even there a sighting isn't a given.

You need clear skies to see them and be watching away from the light pollution of most cities.

Having enjoyed them on day one of my Iceland trip, the clouds came over and I didn't witness them again (one friend, who has been to Iceland seven times, is yet to see them at all).

This weekend, however, it was the Northern lights that were doing the travelling, with sightings in Dorset, Wiltshire, the Isle of Wight and looking particularly spectacular over Stonehenge.

If you didn't catch them this time, the good news is that there are expected to be many more sightings over the coming months.

The Northern lights, or aurora borealis, are generated by solar winds (they were named by Galileo after Aurora, goddess of dawn and Boreas, god of the North Wind).

The winds create streams of charged particles that are mainly deflected by the earth's magnetic fields some slip through around the poles, where these fields are weakest.

These then collide with gas particles in the atmosphere, releasing different photons of light depending on the altitude: green at the highest, red-purple at the lowest.

The stronger the solar winds, the further south you can see them. At the moment, we're nearing the peak of an eleven-year cycle of solar activity, meaning that this winter we've got the best chance of seeing them for over a decade.

You could be like me and see them by chance, heading out into the darkness of our amazing countryside on a clear night and hoping for the best.

Alternatively, apps like AuroraWatch UK will give you aurora forecasts and send you alerts when a light show is likely.