A bothy is idenitified as a basic shelter, usually located in remote countryside that had previously been used by farmers, hillwalkers and climbers, with many now being used as a place to stay or for a lunch stop. We've taken a look at some of the best bothies in some beautiful hidden locations, so get out there and find them!
If you're not sure where the bothy tradition began, a new book, written by Geoff Allan titled 'The Scottish Bothy Bible' may be able to offer some helpful information. The book offers a complete guide to Scotland’s bothies as well as giving some tips on how to reach them. We've spoken with Munro Bagger, Fiona Outdoors & Author Geoff Alan and put together a list of the top bothies in scotland.
The Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) describes a bothy as “a simple shelter in remote country for the use of all those who love being in wild and lonely places”. In fact, the word bothy comes from the Gaelic “bothan”, meaning hut, which was originally used to describe basic accommodation provided by land owners for bachelor estate workers. In more recent times, many bothies are used as a temporary shelter in the UK that is freely available for anyone to stay in overnight, for a short rest or to shelter from the typically difficult and changing Scottish weather.
Bothying as a recreation dates from the 1930s, when increasing numbers of people from the towns and cities started to go walking and climbing in the nearby countryside. The walkers, usually men at that time, began to use a number of partly derelict cottages to meet and sleep in, making the trips a little easier for them when the weather got wild. This leisure pursuit grew after World War II and bothies became even more popular, as more and more people were experiencing the benefits of regular exersice.
However, by the 1960s, many of the shelters were falling further into disrepair due to lack of maintenance. It took a clever idea from an English cyclist, Bernhard Heath, to come up with an idea to find a more formal way to maintain the bothies, but still allow them to be used freely. The Mountain Bothies Association was founded with the aim of formalising the refurbishment and upkeep of the wider network of stone-built shelters. Many estate owners were happy for the shelters to be maintained and used, so long as people were respectful of the environment and their surroundings. You can help the Mountain Bothies Association by donating your time or funds by becoming a member. Supporting the MBA by becoming a member is a great way to help preserve these unique shelters for the future. Members’ subscriptions provide the main funding for our maintenance work.
For many decades, the exact location of the MBA bothies, 80 of which are in Scotland, was revealed only to members. There are also a number of bothies that are not looked after by the MBA, known mainly through word of mouth. Many walkers and cyclists were delighted when, in 2009, the MBA decided to publish the first on-line guide to the bothies, giving a new generation of adventurers the chance to explore more of scoland throughout the year.
Bothying requires you to reach a bothy under your own steam, whether on foot or by bike. Because bothies are basic shelters, offering protection from the wind and rain and little else, you need to take all your own equipment and supplies. If you plan to use a bothy for an overnight, your bothying list may include items like, a sleeping mat and bag, food and water. You might want to take a small tent, too, because you can’t book a bothy and so you have no idea of knowing if it will be full of sleeping people or not when you arrive!
It’s recommended that you take your own fuel as well, such as coal, or collect fallen wood nearby. Although there are no formal rules for using bothies, the MBA has compiled a simple code of conduct, adopted by many to suggest that people should respect each other and the environment. They should leave the bothy clean and tidy as they have found it and if there is no toilet, human waste must be buried out of sight. All litter must be taken from the bothy after use and groups of more than six people are not allowed to use a bothy or camp nearby without seeking the permission from the owner.
Anyone who stays in a bothy is asked to sign a logbook as a record of thier stay so that the experiences and details of anyone staying there can be read by the next guests. If you want to head out there and start bothying, check out our list of the top locations across the country.
Best for the Coast :
Walk in: 3½ miles on a stalkers path.
Grid ref: NM 712 805
The bothy takes the form of a cottage built in the mid-19th century and forms part of a line of ruined ‘black’ houses. It has a stunning location above a beach on the rugged headland of Arnish on Scotland's west coast. The views take in Ardnamurchan and Eigg.
Best for Families:
Gelder Sheil Stables
Walk in: 3 miles on a track.
Grid ref: NO 257 900
Set directly across from a royal hunting lodge commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1865 on the Balmoral Estate, the bothy lies beside the Gelder Burn on the path leading up to Lochnagar's impressive coire. The bothy has enjoyed a major renovation and now offers beautiful accommodation. The Ballater Chiels, a charitable group of local tradespeople and business owners, funded and carried out the refurbishment, and it was officially opened by Prince Charles.
Best for Wildlife:
Walk in: 4 miles on a track.
Grid ref: NM 617 372
Located in the heart of Mull’s fabulous landscape, the bothy is a great place to stay if you like to spot wildlife. In the quiet valley, you may well see buzzards, peregrines and short-eared owls. There is also an Eagle Watch centre in Glen Seilisdeir and otters and seals can often be spotted from the harbor at the nearby village of Salen.
Best for Solitude:
Walk in: 3½ miles on a straightforward track and boggy path.
Grid ref: NC 347 612
Strathan is situated on the edge of the remote Parph, an uninhabited 100-square-mile sweep of alluvial moorland, topped with peat and heather, stretching between Kinlochbervie, Cape Wrath and Durness. Once a shepherd’s cottage, it is now a much-loved retreat from the world. You can easily reach the fabulous beach of Sandwood Bay, owned and maintained by the John Muir Trust, from the bothy.
Best for Spectacular Scenery:
Walk in: 4½ miles on a straightforward track and boggy path.
Grid ref: NH 066 810
A flagship MBA bothy, Shenavall is one Scotland's best-known open shelters and a visit is the perfect introduction to the delights of bothying. It is spectacularly located on the edge of the Fisherfield Forest, south of Ullapool, in an area known as the Great Wilderness.
Best for the Islands:
Walk in: 4 miles on a path and vague trails that can be quite tough.
Grid ref: NR566 829
Sitting above the tide line on Jura in one of Loch Tarbert's numerous hidden coves, Cruib Lodge is a fabulous find. The bothy once served as accommodation for the estate’s stalker and pony man, the stables, as well as a larder where deer carcasses and game birds were hung. Discover secret caves, raised beaches and basalt dykes along the coast of the island, or follow the stream above the bothy to a wild swimming spot in a waterfall plunge pool.
Walk in: 5 miles on a mix of straightforward and challenging paths. There is a serious river crossing if in spate.
Grid ref: NM 393 927
The bothy is another island gem, this time on Rùm’s coastline. Dibidil was built in 1848 to house a shepherd and his family when sheep were introduced after the Clearances and when most of the population was forced to emigrate to Nova Scotia. It was occupied for just 40 years before the island was turned into a sporting estate. The building was rescued from ruin by the MBA in 1968 and the renovation was challenging because of the location.
Best for Munros:
Walk in: From Linn of Dee is miles on a track and well-defined path.
Grid ref: NO 981 958
Corrour itself can only be reached on foot or by bike - the closest town being Braemar. The bothy was built as a deer watcher’s hut in the 1870s and stands beneath the steep slabs of The Devil's Point in the strath of the meandering River Dee, Corrour Bothy is one of the most famous and popular of Scotland's shelters. This part of the Cairngorm's National Park is wonderful walking and climbing country, and the round of Munros to the NW: Cairn Toul (1291m), Braeriach (1296m) and local summit Devil’s Point (1004m) is a classic adventure. A simpler objective is a stroll to the Garbe Coire refuge below the NE ridge of Angel's Peak (Sgòr an Lochan Uaine).
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Images Courtesy Of Geoff Allan