Southern Upland Way

Hiking Scotland
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Scottish Loch

As we walked around the small seaside town of Portpatrick, Scotland, we kept hearing the same thing:

"Doing the Southern Uplands Way, are ye? You should have been here last week. It was beautiful weather last week, so t'was...." The tone implied, "...and in another year, t'will be good weather again."

"The rain's not all bad," someone else pointed out, fifty miles later. After three and a half days of being constantly wet, we begged to differ, but the shopkeeper insisted."It keeps the midges away," she explained


"Ay, the midges of Loch Trool are world famous. Flying teeth, they are."

I have been a number of places where more sensible souls warned me about various and sundry dangers. About annoyances and difficulties including but not limited to snowstorms, grizzly bears, elephants, buffalo, mosquitoes, snow blindness, dehydration, rattlesnakes, altitude sickness, hantavirus, and the ill-tempered hiker occupying the lean-to just ahead.

But I had never been to Loch Trool
What exactly were midges? And when would I see one?
Well, you don't see them, exactly.
You feel them.
And yelp.

Midges are to Scotland what blackflies are to Maine: the stuff of backwoods legends, miniature monsters that make grown men want to give up logging and hunting and other real-man-of-the-backwoods activities in favor of joining an accounting firm in Cincinnati. My dictionary defines midges as gnat-like flies, and that's as good a description as any. But it omits the fact that they have teeth that are 12 feet long, sharpened each day on files made from human bones that according to an anguished entry in the hiker notebook found in one of the bothies, or shelters, along the way.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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