Ticks are tiny invertebrates (barely 1mm or 2mm across) that feed on the blood of sheep, deer and, occasionally, humans. They lurk amid vegetation and clamber on as you brush past; then they find a spot of bare flesh and tuck in. Their bites are painless and, for the most part, harmless (they will drop off once full). But a small percentage of ticks are known to transmit Lyme disease, a potentially serious infection.
Ticks occur all over Scotland in woodlands, moorlands and long grass, but mainly in the wetter areas of the western Highlands. They are active mainly between March and October. Tips for avoiding ticks include sticking to paths, wearing long trousers tucked into socks, and using insect repellent. Check yourself (and your children and pets) for ticks after hiking, especially around the hairline, in the navel, groin and armpits, and between the toes, behind the ears and behind the knees. Outdoor shops sell plastic tick-removal tools.
More information: https://www.mountaineering.scot/safety-and-skills/health-and-hygiene/ticks.
If you've never been to the Scottish Highlands and islands before, be prepared for an encounter with the dreaded midge. These tiny, 2mm-long blood-sucking flies appear in huge swarms in summer, and can completely ruin a holiday if you're not prepared to deal with them.
They proliferate from late May to mid-September, but especially mid-June to mid-August – which unfortunately coincides with the main tourist season – and are most common in the western and northern Highlands. Midges are at their worst during the twilight hours, and on still, overcast days – strong winds and bright sunshine tend to discourage them.
The only way to combat them is to cover up, particularly in the evening. Wear long-sleeved, light-coloured clothing (midges are attracted to dark colours) and, most importantly, use a reliable insect repellent.