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Scottish midges - is it worth it?

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Me and my partner have next week off and heading up to Scotland is on the cards. I've read other threads and been warned how bad it can get, obviously all depends on weather.

I'm just wondering from experience if anyone thinks it's worth the journey up or we're better of heading down to the west country?

We've got the head nets if that makes any difference!

 Graeme G 13 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

All depends on the weather and where you go. I’ve just returned from a week near Gairloch. A couple of bites but nothing desperate. And they usually drive me nuts. However, we avoided all the places where we knew they would be lurking, or did activities that meant we could avoid them.

 coldfell 13 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

I think it can depend on whether you are camping/vanning or staying in accommodation, where it is much easier to avoid them, as they are usually at their worst at breakfast and evening time. Personally I can't tolerate them, vanning in summer, although the outer Hebrides seemed to have enough breeze, most of the time. We just try to go in spring or winter, although we have just had a few days in Galloway and that was fine too. The highlands - it's a lottery with the stakes weighed against you!

In reply to coldfell:

I agree, the answer is to avoid camping. To be fair camping is a poor option for Scotland period. If the midges don't get you, the weather will. 

 Graeme G 13 Jul 2021
In reply to Graeme G:

That said I also recently did a walk in Glen Affric and it was a huge risk just to stop for a breather or a bite to eat. Even at 1100m, they were hellish.

In reply to Graeme G:

We'll be wanting to head to the classic mountain crags on the west coast, which from my limited knowledge is a typical breading ground!

 elsewhere 13 Jul 2021
In reply to Graeme G:

> That said I also recently did a walk in Glen Affric and it was a huge risk just to stop for a breather or a bite to eat. Even at 1100m, they were hellish.

I was just about to helpfully suggest at high level if camping.

Maybe not

In reply to coldfell:

We'll be in the van, got nets on the windows/roof vents but I'm questioning if the mesh is small enough!

I'd risk it if we were closer but a 12hr drive is a long way to get eaten alive!

 Graeme G 13 Jul 2021
In reply to elsewhere:

> I was just about to helpfully suggest at high level if camping.

> Maybe not

High camping can be brilliant. I’ve always found it to be windy enough to keep them away. But if it’s windless, they can be hell.

 Toccata 13 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

No. Scottish season ends first week in May and starts again after the first frost.

 Mike-W-99 13 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

Midge are the usual nuisance however the hot weather has brought out the clegs instead.

 John1458 13 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

I think it all depends which area of Scotland. I don't know if we got really lucky, but 3 weeks ago we spent a week on Lewis in the outer Hebrides camping at Ardoil beach and climbing mostly on the Uig sea cliffs and didn't encounter any midges at all. So definitely possible to avoid them! 

In reply to Salm0n:

Just spent most of June in Scotland without a single midge bite (quite a few ticks though, plenty of wind and a bit of rain!) 

https://rockaroundtheworld.co.uk/category/uk/scotland/

Top tips include favouring the east coast and sticking to seacliffs (which still allows for some fabulous climbing). Seek sunny, dry (OK - I know it's Scotland!) and breezy crags. Also keep an eye on the midge forecast.

Good luck! Cheers, Dom 

 TJMGray 13 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

I'm just back from a holiday up in the north west of scotland. Reiff/fisherfields/gairloch. Midges were fine. Few bites no big deal!

As Graeme has said depends where you go. Torridon campsite for example is famously grime.

It's probably worth taking some insect repellent too (preferably something non-deet based. Not nice damaging ropes/jackets etc.) for when (shock) weather is nice and you want to wear shorts/short sleeves and there is no wind!

Hope you enjoy you're holiday wherever you wind up going.

 Lankyman 13 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

> from my limited knowledge is a typical breading ground!

No crumbs of comfort but Flourdale might be OK

 peter.herd 13 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

Not as bad as folk have made out here. For sure, camping can be tricky but you just need to use the forecasts to find a breeze and sunshine.. often present on sea cliffs and mountain crags.   I'd definitely encourage you to go. Keep an open mind in terms of venue and be willing to do some driving. 

In reply to Salm0n:

Put on plenty of repellent at the first hint of, or, better, in anticipation of them and they won't bite. Keep it close to hand at a times. A swarm of them can, once you have confidence in the repellent, be pretty much ignored. 

 elsewhere 13 Jul 2021
 Lankyman 13 Jul 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Put on plenty of repellent at the first hint of, or, better, in anticipation of them and they won't bite. Keep it close to hand at a times. A swarm of them can, once you have confidence in the repellent, be pretty much ignored. 

I haven't had a full on, E9 midge incident for a few years now but the memories still haunt me. Last year, I was car camping round the North Pennines and the worst night was near Dufton but it was minimal compared to some in the past. I absolutely hate the greasy feel of repellant and the experience of stinging sweat getting in my eyes, not to mention the overwhelming hordes swirling around everything. The best option by far for me was to expose as little flesh as possible and to wear a net. They won't bite my hands anyway. I've been on the North West coast in August before and it's been fine, usually breezy enough to keep them down. But if that breeze drops ....

In reply to Salm0n:

Went up there a couple years ago all kitted out ready for them, and there wasn't a midge to be seen. Got tw*tted by the horseflies though.

But, that said, just park up behind a campervan and have someone rock your car gently for a week. You'll have the same experience as a trip to Scotland and it'll save you loads of fuel.

 DaveHK 13 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

I once camped near the Gaick pass on a bike tour. The midgies weren't too bad so I went for a wash in the stream. I was standing naked in the burn when the wind fell, the midgies came out and two other cyclists came round the corner. The sight of me jumping around slapping various bits of my anatomy must have been a sight to behold.

 Ciro 13 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

> We'll be in the van, got nets on the windows/roof vents but I'm questioning if the mesh is small enough!

> I'd risk it if we were closer but a 12hr drive is a long way to get eaten alive!

Don't bank on being able to keep them out of the van - get a second net covering your bed.

In reply to TJMGray:

> It's probably worth taking some insect repellent too (preferably something non-deet based. Not nice damaging ropes/jackets etc.)

Deet has no effect on Nylon. It may damage synthetic clothing but will have no effect on ropes.

 spenser 13 Jul 2021
In reply to DaveHK:

That's bloomin' hilarious, largely as I have narrowly avoided such circumstances myself in the past!

In reply to Lankyman:

> The best option by far for me was to expose as little flesh as possible and to wear a net. 

I hate the claustrophobic feel of a net - far prefer repellent.

In reply to Presley Whippet:

> I agree, the answer is to avoid camping. To be fair camping is a poor option for Scotland period. If the midges don't get you, the weather will. 

What absolute nonsense!

In reply to Robert Durran:

I will give you the month of May Robert, but otherwise I stand by my view. 

In reply to Presley Whippet:

> I will give you the month of May Robert, but otherwise I stand by my view. 

To be fair, Scotland could do with a lot more people sharing your misguided view.

 OwenM 14 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

If you're campervaning get a fan, the type that run off the fag lighter socket. Midgies don't like a breeze, make your own breeze and keep them out.

 peppermill 14 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

It's Scotland, it's summer, unless there's a breeze they'll be about. If you're not up for putting up with them I'm not meaning to sound harsh but the West Country might be the better option!

Get a headnet and fcktonnes of Smidge. The midges are merely annoying, if you're camping or staying in one spot I'd be far more concerned about cleggs (one friend ended up on ABs after a bite that was still spreading 3 days later and have heard similar stories from others..) and ticks with all their well publicised nasties.

Appreciate it's not the good news you're looking for but hope that helps!

 peppermill 14 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

As an aside, the thread made me think of a trip to the states a few years ago that made me realise how much Scotland had desensitised me to wee flying beasties.

Sat at the campsite and most of the party (From London or Southern England) started going on and on about how bad the mosquitoes were. I just went "Oh right" and carried on with my dinner. Couple of hours later a few of them lose it and retreat to the tents because the mossies were "Unbearable"

At this point i realised that I **Hadn't noticed the cloud of mosquitoes around us in the slightest**

Hopefully that demonstrates how bad it can be on a bad day....;p

Post edited at 08:58
In reply to peppermill:

I'd prefer to head up to Scotland around May anyway, and when we have 2+ weeks to explore. Don't want to rush and leave out places in fear we'll be eaten alive. Not like its going anywhere anyway.

At the roaches the other month and couldn't stand them, us southern softies aren't used to it!

 coldfell 15 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

It's just not fun shutting yourself inside the van ,even with nets, we found - it's light until10pm and you just want to be outside! as for midge repellant - ugh!  As I said - Galloway, Eastern Scotland or outer Hebrides are the best bet for Scotland. Cumbria or Yorkshire are usually fine - if you choose campsite carefully. Enjoy your holiday, wherever you end up - that's the beauty of a van!

 JohnnyW 15 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

Definitely DON'T be talked into a back-packing walk into the Alder region, next weekend.

Definitely.

Even if those nightmares of Fisherfield have subsided.

Ish.

Hang on..........

 henwardian 16 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

I'm sure others have said this already but basically you need to pay attention to the weather and know enough about the crags.

If you want to avoid midges, be prepared to drive to the right crag. Pick the part of Scotland with a wind/breeze. Pick the crag that faces the sun if it's sunny. Pick the sea cliff with a rocky top area if it's calm and cloudy. Avoid the sheltered crags, the crags in forests, etc. etc.

Some places like the Aberdeen and Moray coasts and Reiff are basically never midgy so good as a backup when nothing else seems to have the right weather.

It helps to have a wide familiarity with Scottish crags but even just a guidebook with exposure directions, altitudes and photos of the crag will tell you a lot about what weather conditions you will need to visit them.

In reply to coldfell:

> It's just not fun shutting yourself inside the van ,even with nets, we found - it's light until10pm and you just want to be outside! as for midge repellant - ugh! 

I am baffled at the number of people who complain about the midges bit then refuse to make proper use of repellant. Just put it on - it works.

As I said - Galloway, Eastern Scotland or outer Hebrides are the best bet for Scotland. Cumbria or Yorkshire are usually fine - if you choose campsite carefully. 

Most places can be fine if you choose carefully. Some of the worst midges I've known have been in Cumbria. It is misleading to think of midges as a particularly Scottish issue.

 deepsoup 16 Jul 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I am baffled at the number of people who complain about the midges bit then refuse to make proper use of repellant. Just put it on - it works.

It does work to stop them biting, but it doesn't put a stop to the claustrophobia of being enveloped in a cloud of the little bastards. 

DEET genuinely is quite unpleasant to use though (oh but so worth it when you need to bring out the big guns!).  Perhaps the refusniks haven't tried Smidge and don't realise that (almost as) effective repellent doesn't have to smell and feel awful and melt the face of your wristwatch.

Post edited at 08:27
 deepsoup 16 Jul 2021
In reply to peppermill:

> At this point i realised that I **Hadn't noticed the cloud of mosquitoes around us in the slightest**

Do you not react to mossie bites?  Lucky.  A mossie bite usually causes me more distress, and for much longer, than a dozen or more midge bites. 

I'm quite used to midges but find the mere idea of a whole cloud of mosquitoes absolutely terrifying.

In reply to deepsoup:

> It does work to stop them biting, but it doesn't put a stop to the claustrophobia of being enveloped in a cloud of the little bastards. 

Yes, but that is a trivial issue compared with biting and itching.

> DEET genuinely is quite unpleasant to use though (oh but so worth it when you need to bring out the big guns!).  Perhaps the refusniks haven't tried Smidge and don't realise that (almost as) effective repellent doesn't have to smell and feel awful and melt the face of your wristwatch.

Yes, smidge works and is far more pleasant than deet.

In reply to deepsoup:

> Do you not react to mossie bites?  Lucky.  A mossie bite usually causes me more distress, and for much longer, than a dozen or more midge bites. 

Yes, but a cloud of mosquitos will have far fewer than a twelth of the insects in a cloud of midges. Again, repellent works.

 deepsoup 16 Jul 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Yes, but a cloud of mosquitos will have far fewer than a twelth of the insects in a cloud of midges.

I know you love a good mathematical model and that in your world numbers are much more important than mere sensory experiences, but you've really rather oversimplified this one.

I don't think you can quantify the misery contained in a cloud of biting insects by just 'n'.  The sense of doom does not come from counting them, perhaps you would do better to consider the total mass of the insects in the cloud than their number?  Or their cross-sectional surface area and therefore the degree to which they block out the light?

Anyway, once there are enough to sink their vile little proboscises/proboscides/whatever into every inch of exposed skin the remainder of the cloud is redundant.

Also you quantified my "dozen or more" as exactly twelve.  It isn't necessarily twelve, it's a number somewhere between twelve and infinity.

Finally, how about not trying to tell me that my own lived experience is incorrect?  I said I find the idea of a cloud of mosquitoes *much* more unpleasant than the idea of a cloud of midges.  It's really quite irritating to be told that actually I don't.

In reply to deepsoup:

> Finally, how about not trying to tell me that my own lived experience is incorrect?  I said I find the idea of a cloud of mosquitoes *much* more unpleasant than the idea of a cloud of midges.  It's really quite irritating to be told that actually I don't.

Apologies, but I'm not in any way doubting your lived experience and fears; I am just trying to take a rational take on things. With repellant, I don't think there is any more to fear from a cloud of mosquitos than from a cloud of midges. The fact that others find the reverse perhaps supports this. My point is that repellant nullifies both threats. Whether a lion or a tiger is more dangerous in the open is neither here nor there if both are behind bars.

Post edited at 09:15
In reply to deepsoup:

> Perhaps the refusniks haven't tried Smidge and don't realise that (almost as) effective repellent doesn't have to smell and feel awful and melt the face of your wristwatch.

Smidge does absolutely nothing for me. DEET all the way.


In reply to planetmarshall:

> Smidge does absolutely nothing for me. DEET all the way.

That's interesting. I wonder how that works? Skin So Soft does nothing for me despite the hype. I assumed it was just hype, but maybe it works for some people.

 Offwidth 16 Jul 2021
In reply to deepsoup:

I've been on Reiff when midges were a big problem (and they were terrible on the nearest  campsite). Being usually much better than most places is not the same as always being OK.

On another point from someone else Deet can trash some plastics, notably the inner lining on rucksacks.

In reply to Offwidth:

> I've been on Reiff when midges were a big problem (and they were terrible on the nearest  campsite). Being usually much better than most places is not the same as always being OK.

Yes, I've been midged several times climbing at Reiff and the "new" campsite can be horrendous (unlike the wonderful "old" campsite🙁

 PaulJepson 16 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

It's a gamble.

2 days on Arran last summer. First day we did SRD in the sun with no wind and I didn't see a single midge. One of my best ever climbing days. The next day we did SWS and Labyrinth in similar conditions but a bit duller and we were in a cloud of midges a lot of the time. In those kind of conditions I'd rather be somewhere else as they drive me to madness.

On a summer climbing trip to Skye once I was desperate for it to rain, they were so bad. 

 Fat Bumbly2 16 Jul 2021
In reply to PaulJepson:

Just back from three weeks on West coast. Midges well down on usual due to dry conditions but still annoying. Had several outdoor evenings and some lovely camping. However it is currently cleggeddon in Morvern 

In reply to PaulJepson:

> It's a gamble.

> On a summer climbing trip to Skye once I was desperate for it to rain, they were so bad. 

On a summer climbing trip to Skye in 1984, camping at Glen Brittle, I had two weeks of sun and no midges. See below. 

Five years before that, on the shore of Loch Linnhe, they were just unbearable in the evenings without nets.

I'd love to go to Scotland with my wife, but she comes out in big blotches from any kind of insect bite (thinking, just camping by the river at Heidelberg, just leaving the window open at night in Ghent, built long ago on a marsh, and many other examples). This thread is pointing the needle elsewhere, sadly.

Post edited at 13:12

 fatboyslimfast 16 Jul 2021
In reply to Salm0n:

Just been up working for a week down on Kintyre all way up to Inverness and had a jaunt up curving ridge last night, got a cleg bite on way up to the Buckle but that it, seems the weather has not been great for them so far!!! this year

 peppermill 16 Jul 2021
In reply to deepsoup:

No, not really.

You watch, i'll not have a problem for years with flying beasties and then I'll end up with full blown Malaria or rabies from a vampire bat or something haha.

Tbh the there's only been once I've reacted badly to midge bites and that was in Torridon. Partly they don't seem to bite and I actually find Smidge very effective as long as I spray a fckload on my neck, which I think is how it's supposed to be used to mask carbon dioxide. 

Don't ffs sake follow this advice without consulting whoever but during summer I take an antihistamine daily as I find the migraines come thick and fast in pollen season, so I'd imagine this would reduce how much I react to them.

 peppermill 16 Jul 2021
In reply to planetmarshall:

> Smidge does absolutely nothing for me. DEET all the way.

Daft question but how are you using it?

It only works for me if I slaver my neck in loads of it, as i understand it (Happy to be corrected), masking any exhaled carbon dioxide. 

Headnet all the way though, especially if you're sat on a shady multipitch belay!

Post edited at 14:55
 deepsoup 16 Jul 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Apologies,

Mine too.  Rough morning and I was even more tetchy than usual, sorry.

> With repellant, I don't think there is any more to fear from a cloud of mosquitos than from a cloud of midges.

For you perhaps, I envy you that.

Whatever the species of nasty, I find repellent is often not 100% effective and the odd one gets through.  Maybe I just always miss a bit.  One midge bite is a bit itchy for a day or two but no big deal.  One mossie bite for me can either be a bit worse, or much much worse.

It's more a question of a docile old lion who can't really be arsed and a psychotic tiger off its tits on PCP that absolutely wants you dead, both behind bars but you're not entirely sure the door of the cage is properly shut.

 deepsoup 16 Jul 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> That's interesting. I wonder how that works? Skin So Soft does nothing for me despite the hype. I assumed it was just hype, but maybe it works for some people.

We all seem to get bitten more or less by different species, and to react to the bites in different ways, maybe there's something in our sweat or sebum that affects how well different formulations work.

I'm sure there's also quite a strong placebo effect, confirmation bias etc. when we come to evaluate how well these things work.  My theory is that's why people swear by Skin So Soft in the first place - placebo.  There have been many different recipes over the years, sometimes several on the market at once.  Apparently some versions even had a little DEET added after Avon got wind of how it was being used.

The difference between Smidge and (non-DEET) Skin So Soft is that Smidge does contain a properly evaluated and proven active ingredient instead of DEET.  (Icaridin aka picaridin.)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icaridin

 deepsoup 16 Jul 2021
In reply to Offwidth:

> On another point from someone else Deet can trash some plastics, notably the inner lining on rucksacks.

I didn't know about the rucksack thing, but apart from hard plastics the other thing DEET will damage if you're not careful is the Goretex (or similar) membrane in a breathable waterproof.  It won't usually hurt the fabric on the outside or the lining, so a bit on your hands is fine but if it's spilled and it seeps through that can be very bad news.

 PaulJepson 16 Jul 2021
In reply to deepsoup:

I had some 100% DEET that leaked slightly into my Sea to Summit Kitchen sink. I believe it is constructed of nylon with a waterproof polyurethane internal lining. It completely ate through the internal lining in dramatic style (like it was melting) but seemed to leave the outer material alone. I wouldn't like it near any of my gear really. Not to mention that it's toxic and has given lab mice cancer.   

 deepsoup 16 Jul 2021
In reply to PaulJepson:

> It completely ate through the internal lining in dramatic style (like it was melting) but seemed to leave the outer material alone. I wouldn't like it near any of my gear really.

Yes, it's quite understandable that people are paranoid about it but nylon, dyneema and polyester are all unaffected by the stuff so there's really no need to worry about getting a bit of it on a rope or a sling.

It does eat Lycra though, so it's probably a good job we're not all wearing those tights any more.

Post edited at 16:19
In reply to PaulJepson:

> I had some 100% DEET that leaked slightly into my Sea to Summit Kitchen sink. I believe it is constructed of nylon with a waterproof polyurethane internal lining. It completely ate through the internal lining in dramatic style.

I once accidentally squirted 100% deet directly into my eye (it was dark and I thought I was pointing it at my hand). I really thought my eyeball might be going to melt having seen how it could destroy other stuff. It stung a lot, but after prolonged rinsing it turned out no permanent harm was done.


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