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West Highland Way

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| |-+  West Highland Way, from near Glasgow to Fort William, Scotland
| | |-+  Midge query (late June/early July)

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Author Topic: Midge query (late June/early July)  (Read 21809 times)
Posts: 2

« on: March 10, 2009, 06:22:03 pm »

My wife and I will be in England and maybe Scotland in late June and early July, and we have time for two walks of about 5 days each.  We are considering the West Highland Way, but I am concerned about the midges.  We will be camping, not staying in B&Bs. 

We are accustomed to mosquitoes, and can deal with them through use of permethrin and covering up, but we have no experience with midges.  Is it possible they could be so bad that it would be best to consider some other place?  By "bad" I mean the midges getting into food you are trying to eat, getting into the tent, and in general making you wish you were elsewhere.  Thank you.
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Posts: 225

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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2009, 09:40:26 am »

Hi there, and sympathies
If there is a midge anywhere in Scotland, it seeks me out.  I've been bitten in March (and in October) so I am wary of all midge generalisations Huh  That said, although June/July is midge season, the environs, wind level and time of day are more important than the month: in still weather, around sunrise or sunset, near water and vegetation (which campsites in Scotland tend to be) midges can be infuriating and will drive me indoors.  But if you go wild camping on higher ground, and there is a breeze, you might have no problems.  If it's raining hard, the midges probably won't bother you, but the rain might Smiley

Repellents and protection: Avon "Skin so soft" works, despite its soppy name, as the Royal Marines have proved!  So does bog myrtle, which grows wild and is worth learning to recognise.  A hat with midge netting that tucks in around your neck excludes them from face and ears, which is a big help.

I hadn't heard of permethrin before, so I went looking on the web and was fairly horrified by what I found: according to this source it's
a neurotoxin. Symptoms include tremors, incoordination, elevated body temperature, increased aggressive behavior, and disruption of learning. Laboratory tests suggest that permethrin is more acutely toxic to children than to adults ... in insects and mammals it causes repetitive nerve impulses.

More worrying still, from the same source, which I appreciate derives from the Journal for Pesticide Reform and may have an agenda, but it does seem well-supported by clinical research:
Permethrin affects both male and female reproductive systems. It binds to receptors for androgen, a male sex hormone, in skin cells from human males, causing researchers to “advise protection from any form of contact or ingestion of the pyrethroids.”   Permethrin also binds to a different receptor, called the peripheral benzodiazepine receptor, that stimulates production of the male sex hormone testosterone.  In addition, permethrin caused reduced testes weights in a long-term feeding study of mice. In females, permethrin exposure has caused embryo loss in pregnant rabbits24 and in pregnant rats.

Wouldn't it be safer to cover up and use bog myrtle??

Final thought: most people would look at six days as being the sensible minimum for West Highland Way – partly because it's 153 km but also because of where accommodation is easily found.  It's possible in four but only if you are partly jogging, and enjoyable over seven or even eight days.  But Scotland has many shorter walks, and several, such as the Speyside Way, Rob Roy Way and Cateran Trai, in less midge-ridden areas than the Western Highlands: worth considering? Huh

Jacquetta Megarry, publisher of Rucksack Readers and forum moderator
Posts: 2

« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2009, 12:44:31 pm »

Thank you for the advice.  The West Highland Way does sound too long.  We are looking for a trip of 3-5 days fairly easy walking, preferably with free or pay camping every 12 to 16 km or so.  We will be carrying our camping gear.  The trail has to be accessible by public transportation from the London area, and it would be great if the scenery were varied and the trail not overrun with people.   Does the Speyside, Rob Roy, or Cateran meet those specifications?  Also, if you know England, can you recommend a trip there with the same specifications?  We are from the U.S., and are looking forward to walking in Great Britain.   Also, using bog myrtle sounds like the way to go.  Thank you so much.
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Posts: 47

« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2009, 07:08:27 pm »

Two suggested alternatives:
- Borders Abbey Way - a circular route in south Scotland which starts and ends in a Borders town each day.
- Cumbria Way - a nice walk through the Lake District in NW England.
Both have good websites. I am not a camper but would be most surprised if there is not an adequate supply of good camping sites available. I am sure you will find the necessary info on the respective website. Having walked both, there would appear to be plenty of opportunities for wild camping but again I am not a camper and don't know the rules.

Good luck
Energetic Member
Posts: 23

« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2009, 09:16:01 am »

Hello there
For starters, 5 days on the WHW is rather tight - 6 days is comfortable for all but marathon enthusiasts.  Secondly, by early July the midge season is in full swing, and you'd need the full battery of (preferably) non-chemical defences - midge net over your hat, mesh inner for the tent and a natural repellant based on bog myrtle.

You might like to look at the long distance routes mentioned elsewhere, plus the Fife Coastal Path – though camping might not be so convenient.  There's also the eastern half of the Southern Upland Way in the Borders, say from Melrose to the coast.

Best wishes
Sandra Bardwell
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