Bothy-bagging: Scotland’s best-kept secrets revealed – BBC News

Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible

Bothies – remote shelters in the wilderness where baby-walkers can invest the night free of charge – have long been one of Scotland’s best-kept secrets. A new journal has discovered the place of 80 of the mountain huts.

For more than 50 years the Mountain Bothies Association( MBA ) has maintained an eclectic network of shelters across the wilderness areas of Scotland.

Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible

The vast majority are single-storey crofts or huts for shepherds which have long since been abandoned.

The secluded hideouts became favourite with ramblers and hillwalkers but numerous were falling into ruin before a group of climbers and baby-walkers structured the MBA to take on their upkeep, with the permission of the owners of the immense estates on which they sit.

The bothy network has never been advertised to tourists and report was always spread by word of mouth between those in the know.

But long-time bothy lover Geoff Allan decided five years ago that the time was right to grow the definitive navigate to Scotland’s bothies.

Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible

The author of the Scottish Bothy Bible told BBC Scotland: “Part of the reason it took so long was that I only went out in condition openings to get all the photography in good condition.

“In Scotland that takes quite a bit of time.”

Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible

Mr Allan, 47, originally from Suffolk, has been based in Edinburgh since he was at university in the city.

He says he joined the mountaineering club at Edinburgh University and soon started to use the bothy network.

Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible

“I come from a youth hostelling background, ” he says.

“So free accommodation out on the hills caught my resource.

“Basically I have never truly had any fund. I would have had many more weeks in self-catering adaptation but it ever seemed to have been bothies.”

Mr Allan, who was a surveyor but who now labor as a photographer and imaginative master, says: “I had a car when I was planning the bothy study but it get scrapped because I could not afford to run it so I have been to all the bothies by motorcycle and public transport.”

The Mountain Bothy Association( MBA ), which does not own the buildings it continues, told you so “havent had” input into Mr Allan’s book but that the author was acting as an “ambassador” for the movement.

Neil Stewart, a trustee of the MBA, told you so had published the grid references of the bothies online in 2009 so the “genie was out of the bottle”.

He said he was happy for Mr Allan to promote the work of the bothy flow as long as people who utilized the shelters deposited to the strict code of “respect for the buildings, for the environmental issues and other people applying the bothy”.


Geoff Allan spotlights some of best available bothies


HIGHEST – Hutchison Memorial Hut

Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible
Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible

One of the few purpose-built shelters on the directory is built in remember of Dr Arthur Gilbertson Hutchison, a keen outdoor addict from Aberdeen who died in a clambering accident in 1949. It is pinpointed high on the north flank of Derry Cairngorm.


REMOTE – Maol Bhuidhe

Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible
Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible

East of Plockton there is almost 40 miles of wilderness all the way to Cannich. Maol Bhuidhe lies within this area.

It is a remote roadless arena between Glen Carron and Glen Shiel.

The cottage was resided by shepherds until it was abandoned in 1914. It fell into disrepair and for the coming decade “theres only” used by tramps and vagabonds, people who took to “stravaigin” the country during the mass unemployment of the 20 s and 30 s.

The Bothy Bible gives two roads to the bothy, both challenging moves of more than 10 miles which would take upwards of four hours.

Geoff Allan says: “There are three flows so when it is bad weather you can get stuck quite easily make you were supposed to wade the rivers to go out and there are no trails or guides. You genuinely need to know what you are doing.”


STRANGEST – Strathchailleach

Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible
Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible

This battered old owned cabin sits on the enormous empty moorland south of Cape Wrath in the far northward of Scotland.

It is where hermit James MacRory-Smith lived until as recently as 1996.

Inside the shack, it is just as he left it 20 years ago, with the murals he decorated still on the walls.

Geoff Allan says: “It is truly spooky when you are in there because it feels like he’s still here.

“It is like a living museum and because it is so far north and so few people become, it hasn’t been vandalised or anything. It has been left, a bit like the Marie Celeste.”


SMALLEST – The Tea House Easan Dorcha

Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible

“It is basically a exalted garden-variety molted, ” says Geoff Allan. He says “its more” of a lunch stop than an overnight end.

Inside there is a small table and chair and a long wooden terrace that is not really wide enough to lie on.

There is room on the storey for three beings to sleep very closely together.

The cabin sits in woodland in Wester Ross.


‘BEST’ – for first timers/ houses – Peanmeanach

Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible

“If I was to recommend a bothy to person in the saloon I’d say ‘go to Peanmeanach’, ” says Geoff Allan.

If you take the Mallaig road from Fort William you will pass the Ardnish peninsula.

Peanmeanach is located on a caused beach on a rugged headland.

“It is relatively easy to get to, ” says the author.

“It’s in its own little developed beach. There is just something about it.

“It has all of the best western coast occult. There is very little to do other than just go to the bothy so you merely tune out and escape.”


MOST POPULAR – Shenavall

Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible
Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible

This is one of the most famous bothies examined after by the MBA.

It lies south of An Teallach, one of “the worlds largest” well-known Munros in an area of mountains announced “The Great Wilderness”.

It sits on the edge of Fisherfield Forest. “It is stunning view, ” says Geoff Allan. “It is busy during the summer. Good to take a tent, just in case.”


OLDEST – Guirdil on the Isle of Rum

Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible

Lots of the bothies have long biographies. So Geoff Allan has chosen the oldest settlement.

There was a crofting township which was cleared in the 1700 s and there was a shepherd’s shack built in the 1840 s.

“Before all that there was an archaeological probe nearby which dated the rules of procedure and evidence back 7,500 years, to the Middle Stone age, ” says Geoff Allan.

“There is a seam of jade close to the bothy called Bloodstone and people would come and mine it make it into gilds and tools. It is one of the oldest accommodations in Scotland.”


MUSICAL INSPIRATION – Cadderlie

Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible

East of Oban, high above on Loch Etive’s west shoring, there is a bothy that stimulated one of Scottish folk singer Dougie Maclean’s songs.

Geoff Allan says Maclean’s grandfather was brought up in the cottage.

The songwriter wrote the melodics: “Standing here on Cadderlie, between the burn and the swerving ocean,

“I gaze across at these golden mounds, I’m searching all the way to eternity.”

Until the 1700 s there was a good-sized crofting community here but it lessened following the Highland Clearances.

The current bothy is probably not much more than 100 years old and was used to house shepherds and their families.


SOLITUDE – Greensykes

Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible

This bothy is still in Scottish Borders , not commonly thought of as a bothy sphere. It is located in Eskdalemuir, close to the Samye Ling Tibetan monastery.

“It is very peaceful, ” says Geoff Allan.


ROMANTIC – An Cladach on Islay

Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible
Image copyright Geoff Allan/ Bothy Bible

An obvious “Romantic” place is An Cladach, says Geoff Allan.

“There is Islay and there is whisky. There is a wee bothy.

“Only half of it was rebuilt. It is just 20 grounds from the Sound of Jura. It has got two doubled bunk beds. It is very well equipped with a library and a hearth.

“If you get that to yourself it is a very romantic spot.

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