If you’re planning a visit to Scotland you might have heard about some small irritating bugs that can make or break a trip here – yes, highland midges (also known as Scottish midges).
Perhaps you’re wondering about the best time to visit Scotland to avoid midges and escape the biting? Or maybe your plans involve the peak midge season and now you’re worried. Don’t worry, I’ve got you.
I grew up in central Scotland where midges weren’t always a terrible problem but I still vividly remember the huge black clouds of insects.
As an adult I started exploring the west coast of Scotland and the islands more and oh my, that was an experience! It’s definitely different to what I was used to and I understood the horror stories more.
If you’re wanting to visit Scotland but are concerned about midges, then read on to find out the best times to come and even how you can get away from them! It doesn’t all have to be horror stories!!
Our Top Pick
Need midge repellent just in case?
If you do travel to Scotland in midge season you’ll want some of this – Avon’s Skin So Soft. This is what locals swear by (and even the Army!) to keep midges away. It sounds crazy but it does really work!
I recommend getting a spray top for the bottle for easy application!
Midges can certainly be an unpleasant part of this wonderful country, and especially in areas where tourists love to visit and in the season when it’s busiest. It’s no wonder then that they have a bit of a negative name for themselves!
Let’s take a look at these biting insects, from the safety of our home, and I’ll share some of the ways to avoid them and the best time to visit to avoid midges.
Best time to visit Scotland to avoid midges – when is midge season?
Midges are most prevalent in late spring to early autumn in Scotland and their peak time is the summer. Ironically this is the exact time when Scotland’s weather can be the best!
Similarly, the kind of weather that they love best is still, warm days. Not quite fair huh?
If you want to avoid midges in Scotland season completely then visit in from late September until May. So you’re looking at early spring, late autumn and winter as the best times to visit Scotland to miss midges.
What are midges?
Perhaps you’re wondering what they are and have just heard that you should avoid them – here’s the scoop on Scotland’s biting insects:
Midges are really tiny flying insects that are found in many areas of the world and there are quite a lot in various parts of Scotland. (you can also find them in England and Wales too but they are much more prevalent in Scotland)
Although only small, about the size of a pin head, midges fly in swarms which make them quite unpleasant to encounter. The worst thing is that they bite and can leave you scratching and itching after and for a few days afterwards.
Some people can get especially bad reactions to the bites too – if you suffer you might like to keep some anti histamines on hand.
Midges like still weather that isn’t too cold so anywhere where you’re walking and it’s sheltered you might find them. They also like water, from rivers to lochs and the sea (specifically shallow pools of water) so you’ll find them there too.
Where are midges a problem in Scotland?
If you’re visiting in high midge season then the next question on your lips is probably about where they are a problem. Thankfully they aren’t a problem all over the country.
You’ll find that the worst places in Scotland for midges are:
- Highlands – particularly on the west coast, not so much on the east near Inverness
- the West coast – all along the west coast from the very north to the south in Dumfries and Galloway suffer.
- Islands – many of Scotland’s islands are on the west coast and suffer badly from midges. The Isle of Rum is apparently the worst place in Scotland for midges – I’ve been a few times and had mixed experiences – thankfully it’s not always as bad as you might think! From the Outer Hebrides down to Arran the islands are definitely somewhere you’ll encounter midges!
- Lochs, rivers and canals– midges like water so inland lochs, especially where it’s a bit sheltered or rivers where it’s shallow can be heaven for Scottish midges
They can be out at all times of the day but early mornings and dusk can also bring them out in force.
Best places in Scotland that don’t have midges
You might be wondering if it’s worth visiting Scotland in the summer months at all now and pondering your plans. Definitely don’t cancel – Scotland is amazing despite the army of insects and there are ways to cope with them.
Since Scotland isn’t covered in midges all over the country you have some options on where to visit. There are plenty of places that are midge free and where you won’t need to worry at all about being bitten.
If you really want to avoid midges on a trip to Scotland and you’re traveling in peak season then your best options are to stick to the cities, like Glasgow and Edinburgh, towns or explore the East coast.
Other ways to avoid midges in Scotland
If you’re travelling to to an area that is well known for midges and it’s the peak season for them there are still some ways that you can avoid them or make life a lot nicer. Don’t feel like you should not visit at all, yes they can be irritating but you might not suffer much and you can miss so much of beautiful Scotland by worrying about them!
Midges don’t like windy weather so coastal or hill walks when there is a breeze might be fine for you. They’ll still hang around in areas where they are sheltered though so be aware that you’ll possibly not avoid them completely.
There are some insect repellents that are useful for if you’re in Scotland. Many locals swear by a moisturiser called Skin So Soft by Avon so if you can get some of that it’s worth bringing it along! You can get it on Amazon and lots of local shops will sell it too since it’s so popular and works.
While they might look a bit crazy, midge nets that come down over your face will help if you’re visiting somewhere that could be quite midge heavy. Camping in the west coast of Scotland where you’re not moving all the time would be one situation where it might be worth having on hand. I have personal experience of this!
FAQ about Midges in Scotland
When is Midge Season in Scotland
Scotland’s midge season runs in the warmer months – you’ll see them from Late May to early September. The peak time is July and August.
Where are midges worst in Scotland?
Midges tend to like sheltered areas near water so loch and riverside can be bad. Boggy areas, sheltered footpaths and even in some wooded areas can be where midges like to hang out.
Midges tend to be found on the West coast of Scotland, throughout the islands such as Skye and in the Highlands too.
Where are midge free areas in Scotland?
Cities and towns don’t tend to get midges in Scotland and the East coast is less affected by them than the west.
How to avoid midges?
You can either travel to areas that aren’t affected as much by the midges or you can wear midge repellent and live with them.
Since Scotland’s midges like to to gather in the most popular spots, going for the midge repellent tends to be a good plan!
Do Scottish Midges bite?
Unfortunately yes. This is where the become a real irritant as they will bite people and some can get nasty reactions to their bites.
What time of day do midges bite?
Midges are out and biting from early morning to early evening. They are most active at dawn and dusk but depending on the weather they can be more active at other times too. For example if it’s still and overcast they will love it.
What should I wear to avoid midges?
Long sleeve tops and long, lightweight trousers are recommended to cover your skin. Some say they are attracted to dark clothing so try wearing light colors.
A midge repellent is best to try and keep the bugs away from you. They are attracted to your smell so this can throw them off a bit!
Why are there no midges in England?
You do get midges in England, specifically the more rural locations such as the Lake district, the Peak District and even as far south as Cornwall.
Is Skye bad for midges?
How to treat midge bites?
Treating midge bites is fairly simple.
If you are affected by biting midges it’s worth trying to get some anti histamine tablets – you can get them from local chemists and supermarkets. Smaller local grocery stores may stock them as well. This should lessen the redness and itching.
Get some bite cream as well which might numb the pain and stop you scratching them!
When to visit Scotland to avoid midge season – conclusion
As you can see, the tricky part of visiting Scotland is that the best months to come also coincide with the worst times for midges. You need to make a decision and decide whether they are make or break for you.
There are ways around them though by taking precautions, wearing sensible clothes and repellent. You can also choose to visit some of the less affected areas which are all wonderful in their own right!
No matter what you choose, Scotland is a joy to explore, biting insects included!
🏴 Scotland Travel FAQ 🏴
Do I need insurance for traveling to Scotland?
YES! I always recommend people take travel insurance when exploring the world!
Check Travel Insurance Master for quote comparisons from different providers.
Do I need a car for visiting Scotland?
YES – If you’re wanting to explore Scotland fully then a car is worthwhile. It will get you to all the best sights and on your own timetable
I recommend DiscoverCars to compare car rental prices in Scotland
How to book accommodation in Scotland?
For hotels I recommend Booking.com
For apartments and cottages check out VRBO
Will my phone work in Scotland?
Perhaps – it depends if you have roaming enabled and beware this can be an expensive way to use your phone.
What to pack for Scotland
Keep yourself dry be prepared for any weather is my motto for Scotland! A rain jacket and comfy shoes are a must.
See my post about what to pack for Scotland
Do I need midge spray for Scotland?
YES – if you’re traveling in the summer months to any of the west coast, highlands, islands or lochs it’s recommended.
Locals swear by Avon’s Skin So Soft!
If you’re sticking to the cities or traveling in winter, early spring or late fall then you likely won’t need it.
What’s the best guidebook for Scotland?
I really like the Lonely Planet Guidebooks
Where to get flights for Scotland
Skyscanner is my first port of call for finding cheap flights to Scotland.
Do I need a visa for Scotland?
Many countries don’t need a visa for visiting Scotland as tourists (USA, Canada, Aus, NZ and Europe) – it’s always best to check first though.