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The Infamous Scottish ‘Midge’

Scottish Midgies

The Infamous Scottish ‘Midge’

It is often said, at least amongst those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the west of Scotland, that this would be heaven if only the midge was not around to remind us that on calm warm summer evenings, sitting outside is not entirely ‘heavenly’.  That said, the reputation that this wee beastie has garnered is, for the most part, overstated.


Now while we all like to extol the merits of our natural environment and the opportunity to witness first hand each or all of the ‘big five’ (red deer, red squirrel, eagle, otter and seal on Arran) there are circumstances where the presence of Culicoides impunctatus – just plain ‘midgies’ as we know them locally - is hard to ignore.  So, what are these circumstances and what lessons for visitors?


The midge is tiny and where present, which is pretty much everywhere in Northern Europe in wet and boggy ground, can rise in very significant numbers when conditions allow: typically muggy, still, mornings and evenings at which point half of their number - the female half, take the opportunity to seek out warm blooded hosts.  This they do by tracking heightened concentrations of carbon dioxide, ideally from mammalian breath.  (This is a pretty nifty evolutionary trick given that their target is the blood which transports O2 and CO2 as essential parts of the mammalian metabolism; follow the CO2 and hopefully find the blood bearing mammal).


Thinking through our ‘how best to avoid questions’ there are several clear pointers.  Firstly, they don’t do well in any sort of breeze; being unable to fly more than 3 or 4 mph, even the slightest breeze will keep them at bay.  And on still days when walking, they won’t be of any trouble while you are walking (unless you are walking very very slowly). And if a breeze picks up then that might be the opportunity to have a lunch/snack stop or whatever. People do ask about ‘technical interventions’ and there are potions (we recommend ‘smidge’) and headgear (‘midgie-hoods’) that can be procured from many outlets around the island; these are useful if the visitor plans on remaining static e.g. birdwatching, for an extended period, on a still and humid day.


The other consideration relates to sleeping arrangements which if camping can be challenging.  However, guests at our B&B are provided with a fan for warmer nights where windows might be left open, and the midge can be kept at bay by a gentle fan induced breeze greater than the midgie’s maximum flying speed.


In summary our midgies can be an annoying but should not spoil any visit if understood.


Cruickshanks is a luxury 5-Star Boutique B&B based on Arran and has been awarded the AA Scottish Guest Accommodation of the Year. We are happy to provide help and advice on whatever itinerary takes your fancy; we also have storage and drying facilities available to all of our B&B guests.

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