Best time to visit Scotland to avoid midges in 2023 and where to go to miss them

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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? Read on to find out how you can get away from them!

Growing up in Scotland I would always see black clouds of insects when out playing and strive to get away from them as quickly as possible! I grew up in central Scotland where it wasn’t always a terrible problem but I vividly remember them.

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 a different story to what I was used to.

Recommended to take on your Scotland trip:

  • Skin So Soft (sounds crazy but us locals swear by it!)
  • Midge nets (at least they pack small and you’ll hopefully not need it!)
cloud of midges in Scotland
You can see the midges here, protected from any wind by the foliage

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.

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.

view over Scottish Highlands

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 midge season completely then early spring, late autumn and winter are the best times to visit Scotland.

island of rum on Scotland's west coast
The Isle of Rum on Scotland’s west coast is notorious for midges

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!
  • 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, 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!

Book your Scotland Vacation:

Check flights: Skyscanner
Book Car Rental: DiscoverCars
Book hotels:
Book Vacation Rentals:

And don’t forget to pick up a guide book!

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Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for 10 of those. She loves to help people explore her favourite places in Scotland, England and beyond. She cannot stay away from historical sites.

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