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Bonkers about Bothies?

Written by George Fisher

Image for article Bonkers about Bothies?

If you are unfamiliar with bothies, they are small buildings in remote settings, scattered throughout the upland regions of Britain, but mostly concentrated in Scotland. Often former shepherds huts or crofts, they are simple buildings, perhaps of only one room. They are left open for the use of anyone wanting to find shelter, either as a stop during the day or overnight. Facilities vary inside, with some having several rooms, simple bunk beds, furniture and fire places. While others are closer to a leaky garden shed!

The Book of the Bothy by Phoebe Smith has been recently published by Cicerone. It describes 26 of the author’s favourite wilderness shelters, but some say that these refuges should remain hidden.

If you are planning to stay in one, it is a good idea to join the Mountain Bothies Association, the volunteer organisation that co-ordinates the upkeep of these buildings. Your membership fee and donations, ensure that bothies can continue their protection from the weather for many years to come. As most bothies are actually owned by the local landowner, it is vital that they are used with courtesy and respect. Follow The Bothy Code, so that you don’t compromise the MBA’s good work.

One of the advantages of a bothy is the prospect of a warm fire to warm you through and dry you out. Some bothies may have dead wood nearby that can be used as a fuel source, but often you will have to carry in your own. A dry bag or two, is ideal to keep some coal spare from the rest of your gear, and can be used to carry out any rubbish that you are unable to burn.
Of course there is no electricity in these bothies either, so lighting is an issue. We all carry head torches, but there are a few pieces of gear that can make the Bothy much more practical and cosy.

The first is the LuminAid Packlite 16 Solar Lantern. A lightweight LED lantern, encased inside a small, robust, inflatable bag. Inflating the bag, diffuses the light in to a lovely, ambient glow, rather than the normal beam you would get from a bulb or LED. This is great for lighting up a whole room, rather than just illuminating part of it. Best of all it’s weather proof solar panel, allows you to charge the lantern on the outside of your pack during the day, so you’ll never run out of batteries.

A nice alternative to the LuminAid, is the UCO Candle Lantern. This houses a candle that will burn for up to nine hours. The Lantern’s glass protects the candle from draughts, whilst protecting everything else from the flame. A spring positioned below the candle, keeps the flame positioned behind the protective glass, which slides back in to the rest of the lamp for storage.
Remember that other people may often be sharing the bothy with you. Taking a ‘wee dram’ with you is a great idea to while away long nights, and build friendships. Placing your tipple in a Nalgene Bottle ensures the cargo arrives safely. The downside to this, is that it makes snoring only the more likely. Ear Plugs are your best bet!

If you would like more inspiration, why not read these classic tales of bothying in “Mountain Days, Bothy Nights”. Or have a watch of the wonderful documentary “Bothy Life” on the BBC iPlayer (available until late 2015).