VOICES IN THE WIND

It’s marked on the map, but even so, finding this place was a surprise – and a very welcome surprise. When I stumbled upon it I was so disoriented and exhausted I didn’t fully appreciate my good fortune. Quite simply, this bothy saved my life.
Our maps have lots of these little black dots and usually they mark only where a bothy has once been – but is now no longer. All you find when you get there is a low rectangular clutter of boulders marking where its walls once stood. There will often be a section which is higher, rising above the bracken, a place where a chimney stack thickened and strengthened the gable end. In the centre of the rectangle you will find what remains of the roof structure – a crumbled mess of rotten timber and sheets of corrugated iron – buckled. and rusted through. If there is no sheet iron then the building pre-dates its introduction. Bracken thatch moulders over the years. What you will find usually, and in large quantities, is sheep dung.
But not here. This bothy is a palace among bothies. As I write these words – in this musty old logbook – I am sitting in a chair, under a sound roof of Ballachuilish slate, in front of a blazing fire. It is still a bit cold, but the chill that hangs about this place will surely be banished in due course. The floor is of ancient flag stones – a little spartan perhaps, but clean and servicable. There is a window which has no broken panes to admit the gale. Nothing can be seen through it. Outside there is a maelstrom of whirling snow, rendered invisible by impenertable darkness. But it can be heard.
It’s in the chimney – like a beast under torture. It clatters over the roof slates like an animal trying to gain entry. It gnaws against the window. I’ve never known such a blizzard. It has a wild and cruel sound, yet one which is strangely comforting when you are sitting before a fire like this.
A rocking chair! What perverse soul carried it such a distance to this spot? Admittedly the seat has gone but some thoughtful person has repaired it with thin logs laid across where the cushion should be. That’s good enough for me. Best of all – there is a fireplace – and a supply of kindling. My palatial bothy is small. Maybe twenty feet by fifteen on the outside. With the walls being about two feet thick it is even smaller inside. But I’m not complaining. That will make it easier to heat. This is indeed a palace among bothies.Copyright: Hugh Noble, December 1999

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