The Scottish Bothy Bible is the first complete guide to Scotland's bothies. With in depth knowledge accumulated from over thirty five years roaming the hills, Geoff navigates you across wild moorland, bogs and burns, taking you to highland homesteads, remote cottages and island hideaways. Detailed entries weave together captivating histories, concise route descriptions, practical hill-craft, and stunning photography, to provide an authoritative reference book which sits which happily sits alongside Donald Bennet's The Munros and Hamish Haswell-Smith's, The Scottish Islands. Featuring descriptions or over 100 mountain bothies, this is your essential guide to wild adventure living.
Scattered across the country's most beautiful landscapes lies a unique and often hidden network of open bothies, completely free to use, with no booking system or wardens. The majority are abandoned crofts, saved from ruin and renovated, and found in some fantastic out of the way locations, varying in size from little more than a wooden cabin to beautiful stone-built cottages with several rooms. The accomodation is pretty basic, there are no facilities (gas, electricity or a tap) but usually a fire place or multi-fuel stove, and a stream nearby to collect water. As a bare minimum there'll also be a table and a couple of chairs and in most cases a sleeping platform, or attic dormitory. Many of the most popular bothies are maintained by the Mountain Bothy Association (MBA), a volunteer charity that ensures the buildings are wind and watertight, and liaise with the landowners who generously allow access to their properties. 10% of the proceeds from the book go to the MBA for the continued upkeep of the bothies in their protection.
Winner of the Travel Media Awards Guidebook of the Year 2017
Lunch at Glen Dubh-lighe Bothy, Western Highlands
Scottish Bothy walks is the eagerly awaited follow-up to best-selling The Scottish Bothy Bible. This beautifully illustrated walking companion describes 28 sensational walking adventures, visiting Scotland's finest bothies. Choosing his favourite haunts as a focal point, Geoff guides the reader on a mix of day walks and multi-day adventures, highlighting the incredible wildlife, geography, history and culture that you will find along the way.
Combining beautiful photos, detailed route descriptions and clear, concise maps, this is the ultimate companion for bothy-lovers, and those exploring Scotland's spectacular wilderness areas, written by Scotland's premier bothy expert.
Walking into Shenavall Bothy, Northern Highlands
Bothies and Bothying
A simple shelter in remote country for the use and benefit of all who love being in wild and lonely places’.
Definition from the MBA members’ handbook
Scotland's bothies are a loose collection of shepherd’s cottages, estate houses and abandoned crofts that have been saved from ruin and renovated. They form a network of basic shelters located throughout the country's most remote and uninhabited regions. Freely available for anyone to use as a lunch stop, or to stay in overnight, bothies have been used by mountaineers and stravaigers for well over a hundred years and have become integral to Scotland's outdoor culture.
Dibidil Bothy, Rùm
In very simple terms, there are many derelict properties scattered across the Scottish landscape because of the waves of depopulation that began in the mid- to late 18th century and did not ease until after World War II. The initial driving force behind the exodus was a process of forced evictions known as the 'Highland Clearances'. People then continued to abandon their communities when harvest failures led to illness and famine, with many leaving for the industrial heartland that grew rapidly in lowland Scotland through the Victorian era.
The term bothy derives from the Gaelic bothan (via the Old Irish both) meaning hut, and originally described rough and ready accommodation provided by landowners for farm labourers or estate workers. More recently the term has become synonymous with an idea of sanctuary and shelter. This cultural transition began in the 1930s, with the rise in popularity of hill-walking among the urban populations of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Short of money, but with more leisure time on their hands, groups of mainly young men used these partly derelict cottages as places to congregate and sleep for free during hard-earned weekends. In some cases this practice was clandestine, but increasingly, various estates gave their tacit consent.
Camban Bothy, North West Highlands
By the 1960s, however, the fabric of many properties began to suffer through misuse and lack of maintenance. A few were cared for by climbing clubs, but the remainder received little attention. The bothy tradition in its current form would not have survived without the invention of MBA (Mountain Bothies Association), which came into existence in 1965. During the next five decades the MBA has extended its renovation work across the country. Today there are over 80 MBA bothies in Scotland as well as 21 in England and Wales. In 2015, when the organisation celebrated its 50th anniversary, it received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the highest accolade for a voluntary group in the UK.
Evidence of an MBA Work Party - Uisinis Bothy, South Uist, Western Isles
What to Expect
Bothies come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common configuration is the classic two-roomed cottage referred to by its Scots term, but and ben. The but referring to the kitchen and living room, and the ben the bedroom. Accommodation is very rudimentary, and in almost all cases there is no gas, electricity, tap, or toilet. You should expect only a wind- and waterproof building that offers somewhere dry to sleep. If you are staying overnight, you will need to carry in all the equipment you would normally take camping, plus candles, and if there is a fireplace, fuel to burn. As a bare minimum, bothies will have a table and a couple of chairs, but many also have sleeping platforms and stoves. Water comes from a nearby stream, and although some bothies have latrines or loos, answering calls of nature will involve a walk and the use of a spade.
Communal room, Shenavall Bothy
Bothies can look romantic, but in reality they can be cold, dusty, damp, and pretty dark. Yet in the evening, with the fire blazing, candles burning, hot food on the table and a glass of wine at your elbow, the place is transformed. Some (myself included) just like to go ‘bothying’ – setting off for the weekend without any other objective in mind – and many bothies have been adopted as a home from home. Evenings can be peaceful or convivial, so respect other users as well as the bothy itself. Each shelter has at least one dedicated MBA maintenance officer who volunteers their services to look after the fabric of the building, and, when major renovations are required, the MBA organises work parties. I would wholeheartedly recommend joining the MBA to support all their good work.
Bothies differ from other systems of mountain huts and refuges around the world in a number of subtle and distinctive ways. Because only a very small number have been purpose built, the location of the majority is fairly random. They are not necessarily close to a particular peak or spaced at equal distances along a recognised long-distance walk. Neither are they tied to any specific national park. They are found right across the country, some in very remote places that are rarely visited. Another intriguing element is the past reticence about advertising the network. Except in a very few cases, the word bothy has not been printed on any OS maps; only the name of the building. And on the ground there are few signposts to point the way.
The Secret Howff
I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) for their fine work maintaining bothies throughout the UK, and the dedicated volunteers who carry out repair work. They are the unsung heroes. I would encourage anyone interested in putting a little bit back into bothy culture to join the organisation.
Luib Chonnal Bothy