Thursday, 23 September 2010


The Diary has always set out to be very positive about life in Kilchoan but has to admit that, in all the joys of living in this beautiful place, there is the occasional down-side - and ticks are one. We walk miles every year across the wild and beautiful terrain that surrounds us without problems, but every now and then we come back with a passenger. The trouble with ticks is that they're tiny when they climb aboard, no bigger than a pinhead, and they manage to burrow through the smallest gap in clothing to secrete themselves in some very private places.

And they're clever. When they first hook themselves on and start the process of removing their meal, the unwitting carrier doesn't notice them. When the body does react it tells the fingers to start scratching, which is about the worst thing to do.

They're also quite selective about whom they bite. The Diary imagines that they view the passing human body in the same way as we eye up steak in the supermarket - there are better and worse cuts. The Diary doesn't suffer too much, but the Diary's wife is obviously a delicacy, as is one of its colleagues on HM Coastguard, who came back from a recent call-out with four new and very intimate friends.

There's plenty of advice on how to avoid them. They like hanging on bracken, where they're deposited by passing sheep and deer, but the better half collects them while picking raspberries in our back garden: we have no idea how the little wretches get there. Our cats carry round a menagerie of the blighters: being low-slung, they acquire them on their mousing expeditions.

Removing ticks isn't a problem - though it's best done sooner rather than later, as this Australian photo shows. We use the brutal approach, a pair of long fingernails or tweezers to pull them off, making very sure the whole of the head comes away, followed by a dab of antiseptic. We're aware that they can carry disease but the chances of contracting anything is so remote it doesn't bother us. For those that worry, there's plenty of advice here.

In general Ardnamurchan is wonderfully disease-free. We're off to Africa again shortly where disease is a big-time industry. Even nice people like Cheryl Cole get bitten there.

Deer tick photo (top) thanks to Stuart Meek on Wikimedia, here, and 'before and after' photo (bottom) thanks to Bjorn Christian Torrissen on Wikimedia, here.


  1. I didn't want to eat my lunch anyway!

  2. if you make Tobermory head to the chemist and get a tick twister- great wee device!

  3. Yuk, yuk and more yuk!
    Saw one of these on my son's dog the other year and it was disgusting!

  4. The main danger of simply withdrawing a tick is that it is very easy to leave part of the mouth piece in the wound, where it may cause infection. This is particularly easy to do when removing them from animals. To avoid damage, and any infection following, it is best to surround the tick in oil (olive or sunflower oil is ideal). This will prevent the tick from respiring and it will therefore die and either fall off of its own accord, or , if not, may be easily and safely removed the following day. A dead tick will not struggle to hang on to its prey!!

    1. I agree that there's risk of leaving part of the head or mouth/barb in but unless a tick is fully covered and pretty much submerged in oil, dish soap, Vaseline etc. it's not going to back itself out. One would have to apply whatever topical solution extremely thick, pretty much hold it on and then wait an hour or hours. I've tried several of these in several ways and never once has it worked. Otherwise I've removed hundreds if not thousands from my dog and myself over the years and have not once had any type of issue with left over parts causing infection.

      Tweezers. Grab as close to skin as possible and gently pull.

  5. i contracted lyme disease and it almost killed me even though i had immediate treatment in Denmark at the time, so visitors beware if you do not actally see what has bitten you or in my case never see the tick just a large swelling get it checked as it can have severe consequences - by the way love reading the diary and am looking forward to our 3rd year in Portuairk this summer

  6. My son contracted Lyme disease from a tick whilst on one of many happy family holidays in Portuairk, he was only 10 at the time and suffered for weeks before the GP did the tests I requested. He was fortunately treated and recovered, but if left untreated the disease can be quite debilitating and even fatal. Apparently, the risk is greater in spring as it is the nymph ticks that tend to carry the parasite, although I would advise daily tick inspections at all times of the year to be sure. We use the animal tick remover, purchased from our vet, which is so easy to use and thorough but do remove them as soon as you see them, even if very small. Look out for a 'bull's eye' rash, even if you haven't seen a tick as it could have dropped off after feeding or been where you couldn't see. Lyme disease is prevalent in many areas of the UK and Scotland and should be taken very seriously, please check on the internet for further info on this dreadful disease, thanks.