Sadly, they aren’t like the Loch Ness Monster – midges do exist in Scotland. They aren’t harmful, but they can be forceful. For those who are new to midges, they are small flying insects that thrive in the Scottish Highlands and other damp, marshy areas throughout the country. They are particularly prolific between May and September beside water and when there is little or no wind. Midges like to party at dawn and dusk and rest during the day, thankfully. So you can enjoy plenty of midgeless marvels along the likes of the West Highland Way and Great Glen Way for many hours in between. When you work out how to deal with midges in Scotland, you will see that they won’t ruin your adventures. You just need to be in the know to go with the flow.
Let’s get the creepy crawly bit out of the way. Like mosquitoes, midges are bloodsuckers and bite, but it doesn’t hurt when they do. They are pretty tiny, after all. If it makes you feel better, the female midges need a belly full of blood to lay their eggs, but you might not be feeling the love if you get bitten. You may not even feel yourself being bitten, but you will see the red bumps afterwards for sure. Midge bites don’t carry disease, however, they are just bugs with attitude.
Check your midge forecast
It’s important to note that the west of Scotland is worse for midges than the east. The wind is also on your side in the battle against midges, as they get blown off course by wind speeds of as little as 8km/h. There is an excellent Scottish midge forecast map, albeit run by a popular anti-midge spray company, Smidge. However, it is a Scottish brand, so you are supporting a local company by buying it. Created using data from weather stations and midge traps throughout the country, the map shows how bad the activity is over a certain period, as well as the east-west biter border. Click on a specific region to see a five-day forecast for that area.
“Although one of our customers described the midge nets as looking like a condom over your head – sometimes, if you want to have a good time, you just have to ‘get it on’!”
Choose your Scottish season
If you are worried about midges, and we don’t think you need to be at all, otherwise we wouldn’t be running tours during midge season, you can book a holiday in spring or autumn, especially if you are going to Scotland for the first time. Our West Highland Way holidays, for example, run between March and October, and our Great Glen Way holidays take place between April and September.
How to avoid midge bites
As well as the other tips mentioned above, you need to go shopping for a good insect repellent that is DEET-free. The top brand to prevent midge bites is Smidge, as mentioned above which you can buy in an array of Scottish outlets, with a store locator on their website. It claims to last eight hours. They also have an online shop but they don’t ship outside the UK. They are in lots of Scottish shops, however, so get shopping locally! Other leading DEET-free and Scottish brands are Beastie be Gone, which also has SPF15 in it and Cubby’s Salve, which is popular with Scottish picnickers who leave the lid off their tin to keep the biters at bay. The world-famous Avon’s Skin So Soft has also had a great reputation for years, even though it isn’t designed as a repellent but simply a body moisturiser. It’s important to also include antihistamines on your travel list in tablet and cream form, to ease the bites.
The midge net
Last but not least, the midge net. Trust us, if you’re walking in the west, when the wind is low, you won’t be alone in the net-wearing brigade. And if you wake up one morning covered in hundreds of red bites, you’ll wish you had packed one. You can buy them at most online general stores, and Smidge also sells them. Be sure to tuck it into whatever top you are wearing, because they aren’t called creepy crawlies for nothing. They’ll find a way in. Although one of our customers described the midge nets as looking like a condom over your head – sometimes, if you want to have a good time, you just have to ‘get it on’!
Tips on ticks
Ticks can also be a problem in Scotland, and they can be more dangerous so you do need to take precautions. Wear long sleeves and trousers, and tuck your trousers into hiking socks when possible. Lyme disease and Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE) are both tick-borne, so always check yourself fully after hiking and carry a tick remover with you too, so that you can catch them quickly. Symptoms include fever, headache, joint pains and body aches, often with a red rash.