Avoid Midges in Scotland. Stay inside a lot
It is possible to avoid midges in Scotland. East coast, windy headlands, hill-tops and city-centres should be clear of these notorious biting insects.
Avoid midges in Scotland
Six places (or more) to go to stay clear of midges on your Scottish trip
Your trip to Scotland is fixed but you’ve heard stories about these little biting insects and how they might spoil your experience? Read this site’s wide-ranging midge page (link below) and you can tell I am in two minds about how much of a problem midges are. (And see also the blog piece - link near foot of page - about the incident when we were pursued by clouds of the little critturs.)
However, if you intend to visit Scotland, here is my list of the top places for a midge-free Scotland visit.
Cruachan - the Hollow Mountain, near Oban, Argyll
On the road to Oban, by Loch Awe, there's a visitor centre, shop and cafe, with easy parking. But - listen up - all this leads to a great cavern, the turbine hall (or Machine Hall), which is reached by a tunnel (with a roadway) and looks like a James Bond film set. It was (and is) Scotland’s first pumped storage hydro-electric scheme.
You can visit on a tour, going down a slope into the mountain on a wee bus for 1.1 km (getting on for three-quarters of a mile) to a viewing gallery. It's a guided tour and it's facscinating. And, I reckon, you should be safe from the villainous midge down there. (The tour takes half an hour.)
To be honest...from this point on, unless I include other underground experiences, I feel on less secure ground. No guarantees given, that’s for sure.
Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, Fraserburgh
Another visitor centre might be a good bet, so let’s nominate the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses at Fraserburgh - especially when you get to visit the actual lighthouse. It’s so breezy up there on the tower of the old Kinnaird Head Lighthouse and there is so much sea to east and north that it’s unlikely that any midge would get up enough flying speed to reach you.
Besides, they tend not to fly (or attack) more than 10ft (3 metres) above the ground. This is just one of the many facts you can learn on our unmissable main Scottish midge page. Anyway, more suggestions below...
Spey Bay, Moray
OK, I’m pretty confident that the top of a lighthouse on an exposed headland is far from good midge habitat. So let’s stay by the coast. About 60 miles / 96km west from the Moray Firth’s turning point at Kinnaird Head, Fraserburgh, the River Spey reaches the sea in a confusion of shingle-banks and reed-beds. It’s osprey and dolphin country.
But it’s these long stretches of shingle that might be of interest. You could scrunch down at low tide to the sea-edge, keeping an eye open for those elusive dolphins, of course. Watch terns dive in summer, maybe ospreys too. There should be fine views of the Caithness coast ‘way to the north.
And no biting midges, as a gentle breeze might be blowing. Yes, I think the shingle-banks at Spey Bay should be all right - just about. But don’t wander very far upriver on a calm evening without some deterrent…(even if it is the Speyside Way!)
Ashton Lane, Glasgow
It’s in the heart of Scotland’s largest city. There’s little or no standing water and soft peat for miles around, so you’re bound to be fine here. Wear perfume and aftershave without adding Smidge that Midge to the cocktail. (Though it's our recommended midge deterrent. The link goes to Amazon.)
Sit outside with impunity to watch the locals go by...Ashton Lane in Glasgow can safely be taken as a symbol of the inner-city places that should be OK, at least comparatively speaking. Rose Street in Edinburgh would also work. Think inner city, heavily built up, away from parkland etc. You’ll be fine.
The end of the pier at Berwick-upon-Tweed, England.
But, I hear you say, that isn’t in Scotland. All right, I know. But regular readers are probably already aware of our soft spot for this handsome little town in the far north of England, that has actually been in Scotland for part of its long history.
Now, Berwick-upon-Tweed has got impressive town walls, a good art exhibition centre and lots more - but it’s also got a very long pier. I suggest you stroll along to the end of it. Not a midge will you encounter. And there’s a fine view back towards the town.
St Andrews Castle, St Andrews, Fife
This castle is on the edge of the sea, it’s got a long history and a bottle dungeon from which escape is impossible (if the jailer has taken the ladder away). It even has a unique experience: a unique mine and counter-mine, left over from a 16th-century siege, that you can crawl through. It’s altogether a top Scottish historical experience.
And I’m pretty sure it probably hasn’t got midges - again because of the slightly exposed sea-edge location. The town of St Andrews, come to think of it, has a breezy, maritime air about it, and it feels a long way from the Highlands - so midge numbers must be low. Yet another reason for visiting. There are lots of nice places to stay in St Andrews too.
In conclusion - where to go to escape Scottish midges
From these examples of locations in Scotland where you might travel, enjoy, and sit outside in peace without being pestered by small biting flies, you can see a pattern emerging.
It’s quite simple: there’s a bias towards the east side of Scotland and also the coast. In other words: away from wet peaty soils to places that often enjoy a sea breeze. Another category could be added: mountain tops.
For example, and especially for the less able, take the Funicular Railway almost to the top of the mountain called Cairngorm, in the Cairngorms National Park. (Oh, no, wait, you can’t - at least not until late on in 2019, or even later. This concrete intrusion into the Cairngorm plateau has been closed to get its track-bed strengthened. Oops. More info about the Cairngorms railway here.)
Finally, the middle of cities are not normally associated with clouds of midges - so I’m confident on that one too.
So, I just remembered a couple more places where you can enjoy the views without scratching and slapping. But they are very much part of the theme - exposed and breezy! And here again is our main must-read midge page...taa-daa...
Thinking back over the years: I’ve been eaten alive on woodland walks west of Banchory, on Deeside, and driven to distraction further upriver, beyond the Linn of Dee. (See our blog, somewhat dramatically entitled 'Attack of the Killer Midges'.) In the west, Glen Torridon can be horrendous.
The path to the mountain Suilven from Inverkirkaig, the carpark at Stac Pollaidh, the island of Jura...round the point from Arisaig, all along the shore from Inverie in Knoydart - the list goes on...bad language on the sacred isle of Iona, endless scratching in the far-too-popular Glen Etive (thanks again, Mr Bond). And these are just a few of the occasions I could list.
In short, name me a Highland rural location by forest or loch, wet moor or peat-land on a still night in summer - and I'll recommend the Smidge that Midge or even the Avon Skin So-Soft. You're going to need it.