What is a bothy?
A bothy is a small stone building. We have lots of them in the Highlands. Some of them, at one time, provided primitive seasonal accommodation for itinerant land-workers. But the term is also used loosely, to describe more premanent homesteads. Whatever the former use, when depopulation in the 19th Century emptied the glens, the bothies remained to watch over a deserted landscape. Some were burned to ensure the people did not return. Of the remainder, many are now in a sad state of disrepair.
In recent years, however, they have acquired new life. Those bothies which are still habitable, provide welcome if very basic shelter for the current generation of backpackers and hillwalkers. More. The Mountain Bothy Association, by agreement with various estate owners, has restored and maintains a number in good repair and these (sometimes with restrictions on their use during the stalking season) are free for all.
You need a sleeping bag, an undermat of some kind to blunt the brutal severity of the stone floors, some dehydrated food supplies (there is seldom a shortage of water for the re-hydration process) and the means to cook a simple meal. With these things on your back and provided you know what you are about, respect other’s people’s property and don’t mind the occasional spell of bad weather, you can wander the hills and the wilderness tracks of Scotland with a freedom that is intoxicating.
Be warned however. Bothies are often to be found in the loneliest of places – the kind of place, and I speak from personal experience, where if you allow your imagination to wander, and if you happen to be quite alone, you may find uncomfortable thoughts creeping into your mind and the hairs on the back of your neck standing erect … read on …Copyright: Hugh Noble, December 1999