A list of things to bring with you to Scotland
• Rain jacket
• Rain pants
• Appropriate footwear
• Favorite midge spray
The list wasn’t a long one and it seemed easy enough to pack for a month in the northern highlands and Isle of Skye. With one exception, of course- the midge spray. And our favourite one at that! A little research into the midge might have prepared me, but my pre-trip concerns ventured more toward clothing, appropriate and otherwise, to fit into 3 carry-on size suitcases and a small day pack, for a week in England, 4 weeks in Scotland and 2 weeks in Israel. The midge did not hit my radar. Not until I met the mighty midge head-on! And when I did, they attacked me like B52 dive bombers, coming in under the radar again and again for a hit!
The second evening at Kyle House in the upper-most region of the Scottish mainland, the sun made an appearance, after a day mostly of clouds and rain. Chuck was taking a nap upstairs and I, excited by the break in the weather, and the very late-setting sun, grabbed my laptop and journal to sit outside, inspired by the exquisite scenery. The sun felt so good on my exposed neck, after all the rain, I just had to bare more flesh to the wild highland sea and sky, removing my long sleeved top, boots and socks. The most scenic place to sit was on the rustic wood tree trunks placed as stools around the huge ready-to-go bonfire, where the clearest view of the spectacular Kyle of Tongue could be viewed as the tide slowly waded to and fro. I lit the fire, proud of myself for managing to get the wood logs burning after all the rain. Inspired by the nature and magnificence of the wildness around me, not to mention the inspiration coming from the chilled bubbly Italian Prosecco I was sipping , I began to wax lyrical on my word document, in between sighs of joy at having discovered such a magnificent place to stay. Heaven couldn’t beat this.
“Hello.” A large man appeared out of the heather and thistle, shocking me out of my heavenly state. My mouth agape at the huge apparition before me, I knocked over my glass of Prosecco as I jumped up from the wooden log stool. “Sorry to startle you.” I think was what he said, or something like that. It’s difficult to understand Scottish, particularly when you are least suspecting of anyone talking to you, especially in a brogue. . “I’m Ian.” He thrust his hand out at me. “The games keeper.” I shook his hand, mostly to make sure that he was real, and not an apparition. His hands were rough, and his large hand covered mine like a mitten as he shook my hand firmly. He was dressed in tartan from head to feet; tammy, waistcoat, knickerbockers and knee-high socks ,all in the same tan and brown patterned tweed. He looked like he had stepped out of a screen shot from ‘Braveheart’.
“Umm…can I offer you something to drink,” I was at a loss for any other words. He looked over at my tilted wine glass and frowned. “ I have whiskey. Um, my husband has whiskey. He’s asleep upstairs. I’ll go and get him. Whiskey?”
“I never turn down a wee dram.” He nodded.
“Chuck, wake up. There’s a man here who says he’s the games keeper or something like that. I’m getting him a whiskey. Which one should I pour? Langevullen, Maccallum, Dalwhinnie, Auchentochen?” I know to check before I just pour, some being more revered by Chuck than others. Chuck joined us outside at the bonfire which was now hugely ablaze.
“You poured a stiff one.” Ian downed the mega large dram of Maccallum in one gulp, then said, with a look of fear in his eyes, “I will stop by tomorrow.” He handed me his empty whiskey glass. “The midgies.” And with that he was gone, like a fast moving deer through the heather and thistle, as if they were ferns brushing up against his woolen tweed., rather than prickly thistle.
“Wonder what his rush was?” I asked Chuck, as I held my hands out towards the bonfire. Chuck had followed suit of the games keeper and was already inside.
“Why did you rush inside?” I asked Chuck as I ventured in an hour later.
“No reason. I just didn’t want to be outside.” Chuck was seated in the large blue velvet couch, whiskey in hand.
“That games keeper rushed off in such a hurry. Wonder why?”
That night, I knew. I woke up at 3:30am with the sun just rising, my body, covered in huge inflamed bites, from head to toe. And if only I knew……trust me, to know thine enemy, the mighty midgie. I’ve been paying every since that evening with welts, scratching my way through Scotland.
‘Midges are tiny flying insects with a wingspan of only 2-3mm. There are over 35 different species of biting midge in Scotland, but it is Culicoides impunctatus, otherwise known as the Highland Midge that earns its place as Scotland’s most ferocious foe.’