Mountain bothies are small buildings that can be used by hikers and backpackers as shelters or a place to get out of bad weather and warm up. Many are old buildings on hunting estates that the owners have set aside for use by walkers and are maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association, an organization that restores and maintains the bothies in England and Scotland for public use.
Mountain bothies are simple shelters that come in all sizes and shapes. Some are old stone buildings with an upstaires and a downstairs and others are 1 room wooden shelters. There are some basic rules of ettiquette for bothy users, just like trail shelters in the United States involving crowding, human waste disposal, and rubbish which most people adhere to because these buildings are such a valuable resource to hillwalkers and backcountry adventurers.
I came across the bothie at Coire Fionnarich while walking from the tiny hamlet of Strathcarron to Torridon a few days before the start of the 2013 TGO Challenge. Strathcarron had the nearest train station to my start-point in Torridon, so I figured I’d walk cross-country to get there instead of trying to find someone to drive me to from Inverness to Torridon. It was about a 12 mile walk and a good warmup hike before I started backpacking across Scotland from the west coast to the east coast.
The bothie at Coire Fionnarich is quite luxurious with four rooms, two floors and a first floor stove. There wasn’t anyone in when I popped in for a visit, but someone had left kindling for the next visitor which is somewhat remarkable because there aren’t any trees and shrubs nearby for miles.
The first thing I noticed when I entered the bothie were two cans of baked beans. This brought back a flood a memories about my 2010 TGO Challenge crossing when I had nearly run out of food, only to find 2 cans of beans in another bothie called Shielin of Mark which sustained me for another day before I could resupply. I couldn’t help but wonder if someone is leaving cans of beans in bothies as emergency rations for people who need a warm meal. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit!
After signing the bothie log book, I wandered around the place to check it out. The other first floor room and the two upstairs bedrooms were clean and tidy and could fit quite a few people for the night. My curiosity sated, I filled up a water bottle at stream next to the bothie and headed down the trail toward Torridon.
Here are a few of the other bothies I came across this year on the 2013 TGO Challenge.
That Strathcarron bothy looks incredibly tidy, sadly some bothies are used and abused and the state of them depends upon whether or not the last users were sensible and considerate.
My best ‘find’ in a bothy was a four pack of beer and a note inviting them to be taken and drunk. I took two and enjoyed them on a high camp on Ben Alder. The bothy was Ben Alder bothy, reputedly haunted by a poltergeist – I didn’t stick around to find out!
Its always good patter to leave a fire kindled and anything non-perishable for the next folk who come along – booze, tinned food, teabags, candles and anything else that might be useful. Almost all of the bothies (the singular of which is bothy) are in Scotland and most of these are well looked after. Many of the sporting estates also have open bothies which are not run by the MBA and whose location is not widely known. They are all incredibly useful in the winter and sometimes when the midges are out in force during summer. They are very popular in the summer months but all but deserted in the winter. they can range in size from the tiny Corrour bothy in the Lairig Ghru which can squeeze in 4 or 5, to places like Culra (Ben Alder) which could accommodate a couple of dozen at least.
This book is a useful intro to Scottish hill culture, bothies, dosses and howffs. A real classic https://www.luath.co.uk/mountain-days-bothy-nights.html!
The tins of beans. The idea is you always leave something at bothy, kindling , beer, saves carrying it out too. Always give it a good sweep too. Love the blog