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Getting back on the trail (Sutherland cont.)


Sutherland, the far empty corner of the northwest, is Scotland at it’s most remote.

It’s wild, bare and beautiful but in mid summer it can also be catastrophically itchy because it’s home to the meanest, most prolific midges on the planet. And for the next few days we’re going to run the gauntlet.

It’s been 15 months since we had to pull out of the long-distance Sutherland Trail just half way through when the weather closed in with rain, snow and sleet – and the prospect of another three or four days in the hills with no shelter was just too grim.

We’ll be taking the train tomorrow from Inverness back to Lairg then transferring to a minibus to the tiny village of Achfary to pick up where we left off,  wild camping on the isolated tracks through glens and hillsides that should be starting to turn purple with heather in full bloom. The only niggling worry is that it’s peak season for the notorious midges so, unless there’s a wind to keep them at bay, we’ll be in trouble.

This adventure has been a long time in the planning but my rucksack is packed (and ominously heavy) for four days of walking, my new boots are about to face their first serious test and the weather is looking good.

All we need now is a strong Sutherland breeze to keep the beasties at bay.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. May the wind always be at your back…

    July 21, 2014
  2. You’re braver than I. We have black flies and I can barely stand it to walk around the pasture. Be safe and best of luck.

    July 16, 2014
    • Thanks Margaret. Is there any country that doesn’t have its own evil biting insect? At least midges don’t kill!

      July 16, 2014
  3. Doug Buchanan #

    Hi Nancy only solution is to treat the itch and ignore the midgie, forget all the repellents and take a non drowsy anti histamine tablet. This works on midgies also Aussie and NZ sand flies. Good luck on your walk. By the way my son is getting married in Huntley early next year. Hope to see you in Santiago de Compestela

    July 15, 2014
    • Fab news about Huntly – what a great excuse for a trip to Scotland! And I’ll bear the antihistamine advice in mind for future hikes. I’d never considered it before.

      July 16, 2014
  4. Wishing you beneficial breezes as well. We have plenty to send your way.

    July 14, 2014
    • Thanks Gunta. It’s the only saviour at this time of year.

      July 16, 2014
  5. Well then I had better wish you a breezy Buen Camino and lots of luck with the legendary midges. Would be interested to know what purpose midges serve in the scheme of things?

    July 14, 2014
    • You’re not the first to ask that question Scott. They’d certainly thin out the Camino a bit if they were a hazard on the route. Hope you’re doing well my friend.

      July 16, 2014
  6. Best of luck for your walk Nancy. PS it appears that you haven’t been introduced to the sand flies at Milford Sound!

    July 14, 2014
    • Oh yes I have, Lloyd – and I’m sure I bear the physical and mental scars! Milford Sound, Lake Wakatipu and Greymouth are the most memorable venues and the memories still make me scratch.

      July 16, 2014
  7. Sounds fun. Best of luck

    July 14, 2014
    • Thanks. All the planning is part of the pleasure – and going back to finish this hike was on my mind all winter.

      July 16, 2014
  8. Hope all goes well with the walk – I don’t think I could face all those midges – good luck

    July 14, 2014
    • Ah but you’re prepared to face bedbugs on the Camino – and they’re worse!

      July 16, 2014
  9. Slather on as much insect repellent as you can without killing yourself and you’ll have a perfect time.

    July 14, 2014
    • It’s packed, along with the antihistamine cream. Fingers crossed.

      July 14, 2014

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