Midges are reckoned to cost Scotland’s tourist industry billions and I can see why. When you first pitch up a beautiful lochside campsite, with neatly manicured grass and warm sunshine, you will be delighted to see that you have the whole place to yourself. Nobody is about, and you quickly find out why.
From about the beginning of May to the end of September, the Scottish countryside is infested with midges. Like slugs, these microscopic mites don’t actually carry disease, but in many ways it’s a shame they don’t. If they carried malaria or the plague or something, then an eradication programme would probably have been started to get rid of them.
But they aren’t and there hasn’t been, so you just have to live with them. They cause intense pain through their bites – and because they live in swarms and are attracted to the carbon dioxide you exhale, you can quickly accumulate hundreds of bites, which feels a bit like being boiled in vinegar (well that’s what I think being boiled in vinegar would feel like).
There are literally hundreds of remedies for the midge plague but they fall roughly into four categories: chemicals which kill them when they land on you, oils which prevent them sticking to you or drown them when they do, airborne treatments like citronella candles to repel them, and physical barriers to keep them off your skin.
I’m not particularly keen on soaking myself in N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, nor on rubbing slimy oil on my skin (which gets on your clothes and sleeping bag and which can dissolve the tent fabric if you’re not careful). And carrying lots of candles wasn’t really practical (though I did have a nightlight but never used it for fear of setting the tent on fire).
So I adopted the barrier method (yes really) and wore a midge net over my head, then overtrousers, gloves, and cagoule to keep them off everywhere else. This was OK in the evenings for pottering round the campsite, but pretty unpleasant (from a sweatiness point of view) when walking hard. Fortunately, though, during the daytime, in high wind, or on the tops of mountains, the midges were dispelled so as I was walking, they only really became a problem if i stopped in a sheltered warm spot. But oh yes, at every campsite north of Milarrochy on Loch Lomond,there was no evening escape other than to shut myself in my tent, or go to the pub.
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