Taking the train for a bothy walk

Bothies, bothies, glorious bothies

July 2012 - 

Bothies lend themselves to adventures. They are perfect for a night in the wilds, the fire a welcome retreat when the stargazing is done. Their isolation is a large part of the attraction for many – a welcome shelter after a day’s hard walking.

Writing the bothy book by the fire

The Mountain Bothies Association is a charity which maintains about 100 shelters in some of the remoter parts of the UK. With the permission and support of the owners, these shelters are unlocked and are available for anyone to use. Most of the MBA bothies are in Scotland with others in England and Wales and maintenance activities are carried out by volunteers.

For further information about the Mountain Bothy Association, their work and the bothies themselves, visit their website.

Bothies are varied in size and are generally basic in terms of facilities, being weather tight, often having some sort of sleeping platform and a fireplace or burner for added warmth - although you should never rely on fuel being available - and are usually situated close to a fresh water source. Then there's the traditional bothy shovel for 'taking the spade for a walk', or doing what bears do in the woods . . .

Driving up to the nearest parking spot, with a boot crammed with half the contents of a supermarket takes away a lot of the mystery. Letting the train take the strain can make the full journey part of the adventure too, and should help you arrive and depart the hills at a pace more suited to the natural landscapes you come to admire. Whilst many bothies are quite remote, a fair few of them are accessible as a day walk from a railway station.

So here are our top ten car-free bothies, in no particular order:

- Dulyn from Dolgarrog

North England and Borders
- Cross Fell (Greg’s Hut) from Appleby-in-Westmorland

Eastern Highlands
- Ruigh Aiteachain from Kingussie

Central Highlands
- Ben Alder Cottage from Corrrour
- Meanach from Corrour, Spean Bridge or Fort William

Southwest Highlands and Islands
- Essan from Lochailort

Western Highlands
- Gleann Dubh-lighe from Glenfinnan

Northwest Highlands and Islands
- Easan Dorcha (the Teahouse) from Achnashellach
- Coire Fionnaraich from Strathcarron

Northern Highlands
- Croft House from Forsinard


Words by Gary Shipp, Photograph by Alastair Robb Photography www.alastairrobb.com