Bothies – a few thoughts, comments welcome.

I have seen a bit of a “stramash” on the media forums about problems in the Mountain Bothies. Some of the discussions have been very heated as more is written about these wonderful places. They are unique to this country and so many have enjoyed them. A few books have been written recently giving full details where Bothies are etc.

Many years ago it was by word of mouth and you had to join the MBA to get locations and information. Nowadays there is so much information available through the media that so many more are now aware of the Bothies. This should be a good thing as they are for all to use?

Early information on the Bothies late 70,s ?

I am so lucky to have used Bothies since my very early days on the mountains. My first bothy was Back Hill of the Bush in Galloway. I will never forget as we came over the Silver Flow getting to that bothy after a 2 day expedition. I was about 12 and added to the group to ensure they had the 4 for the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

1974 Back Hill Galloway.

Just to get into that place of refuge and get a fire going was the first of so many memories. Cooking and sleeping there and hearing the stories from others was a great introduction to Bothying. Sadly I am sure Back Hill was closed by the forestry after it was vandalised.

During my big walks across Scotland in the early 70’s we never met anyone in the three week journeys staying in Bothies all over Scotland. The bothy books inside were a great source of information when completed by visitors. We read about trips by people like Hamish Brown and others who were also frequent visitors. It was a small group then that looked after and maintained them.

Over the years I have used the Bothies a lot and rarely had any trouble. We did some long days and only once had to sort out a wild group after a winter ascent of the Fisherfield 6 now 5 Munro’s. One of the boys was exhausted and myself and the dog went of to get a brew on it was about 8 pm on a winter night. I was told by a big group fairly drunk that they had booked the bothy and there was no room!

I was a bit wilder then and there was plenty of room in the bothy once I “moved” some bags down the stairs. I was threatened by them but they did not realise I had a big Alsatian with me who looked frightening in the bothy gloom. They soon backed away as I stood my ground.


Once my mates arrived they never bothered us and even offered us a drink.

This was the only problem I had bothying over the years.It has always been at the landowners permission the MBA was allowed to use the Bothies and look after them. It takes years of working together to get a good relationship with the landowner and the users. It can be easily upset just by a few daft folk.

Sadly the media that we all use can make things far more accessible to others: is this a bad thing if we all act responsibly.

Books and advice on the Bothies sell well and I have noticed a huge interest in them by many folk. In my time in the RAF we got the helicopter to take us training to remote Bothies and collect rubbish and other horrors left after winter. Health and Safety stopped that but we still had access in our wagons and brought lots of rubbish home.

The MBA do wonderful work keeping these places maintained and liaise with landowners never easy. I was invited to give a talk at there MBA AGM in Newtonmore a few years ago. It was great to meet these stalwarts who maintain these Bothies. They are good folk who do so much to keep the tradition going.

Nothing stays the same but I still get a buzz about visiting a bothy and need another stay overnight this winter. I still get the same joy as I did when I enter them whether on a walk or overnight stay. I want others who visit for the first time to get this same feeling that I enjoy. We must look after these places they are our heritage as lovers of the Wild places.

How do we do this in these ever changing days?

As always comments welcome.

The Ultimate Bothy – no location given

The journey to Shenavall

Cars fly by as you cross the road, to another world,

Then silence, the traitor’s gate.

The track wynds through the trees,

the river breaks the silence,

The glaciated slabs hide the cliffs, then:

Views of An Teallach open at every turn.

Midges and clegs abound here but not today,

 too cold, its winter.

Cross the river, is that bridge in the wrong place?

 Muddy and wet, back on track,

Steep hill, upwards towards the top,

the wee cairn, stop, no rush, drink it all in.

An Teallach. Snow plastered, familiar, foreboding.

Open moor, contour round and round, special views,

Every corrie on that great hill has a particular thought. Memories

Fisherfield, these great hills, the light changing, to the West

 Youthful  memories of companions, some now gone.

Epic days, trying to impress?

Pushing it and nearly, losing it?

Descent to Shenevall, steep, slippy and wet,

Eroded now by so many feet.

Collect some wood. The bothy, the deer,

they are still there; Sheneval.

It never changes, only the seasons.

Fire on, primeval.

Tea in hand,

alone with thoughts.

The Deer rattle the door, time for sleep.

Memories ­­

Thanks to the MBA!

Heavy Feb 2013 FOR YVETTE

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Books, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Poems, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bothies – a few thoughts, comments welcome.

  1. peterraikmanpeterraikman says:

    Hi H. You mention Achnegeie – it comes into a book “Miss MacKenzie couldn’t see the wind”, written by David Urquhart who was born at Shenavall, and whose family moved around the area including at one point staying at Achnegie.
    BTW If I did sometimes walk out via Achnegie, I used to ignore the track, but head straight up the hill through the heather, joining it again just before the top.
    Another route going out, was from the rough path, around the ‘slabby rocks’ area, to head off left and down through the heather, eventually crossing the burn by a wee footbridge near the massive ancient alder tree which has a younger tree growing out of its bole. The book mentions the Shenavall telephone, and you may find remains of the old wire by going this route.
    I use to like the slabby rocks, and remember one year going in with the ground frosted and a bit snowy, so was making good progress. Then it grew very dark and the snow came on again. Hmm, if I go down, I may not get up again. So, instead, I went up. I knew the lie of the land, and knew that at any point I could just turn tail and get myself down and out. I was quite proud of doing something sensible, and though I didn’t make the bothy, well there’s always another time.

    Liked by 1 person

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