Exploring Bothies In Scotland

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I recently took a weeks holiday to go and discover the Scottish Highlands. Although I’ve lived in Edinburgh for the last 4 years, I have never travelled to the West of Scotland, or up North towards Aviemore and Inverness. That all changed when I took part in Maggie’s Monster Bike and Hike in May, and I decided to explore some more of the Scottish wilderness.

Simon hiking in Scotland, 2008

Key to the plan for our week of walking was to stay in various bothies in Scotland, which are usually found in the middle of nowhere.

So what is a bothy? A bothy is a basic shelter usually formed from old farm buildings or ruins that have been restored to a simple standard, with maybe two or three rooms and a roof made from corrugated iron. Most bothies once provided shelter to farmers and shepherds when looking after livestock.

A bothy next to a river in Scotland
Outside the Staoineag bothy

A bothy is usually waterproof and windproof and provides simple accommodation. There are no beds or mattresses provided, no tap water and no toilet. Staying in a bothy means you go back to nature.

Bothies usually contain candles, a spade (shouldn’t need explaining), a fireplace and maybe leftover dried pasta and a pack of cards from previous guests.

The view from the Staoineag bothy, Scotland
The view from the Staoineag bothy, Scotland

We decided to explore the ‘Mammores’ area of Scotland, a series of mountain ranges which lie to the east of Fort William, and north of Kinlochleven.

The Mammores mountain range, West Scotland

The first bothy we stayed in was the Meanach bothy in the heart of the valley, and 10km from the nearest tarmac road. A very useful base if you want to conquer The Grey Corries.

Meanach bothy, Scotland
The Meanach bothy

A couple of nights later we stayed in the Staoineag bothy, which is another 3km east of the Meanach bothy. On a good day, this bothy provides stunning views….thankfully we arrived there on one of those days.

The last bothy we passed on the walk was the small Lairig Leacach bothy.

I confess I was a bothy virgin before this trip, but it really was superb. BUT, some advice…..

If you are planning to stay in a bothy, be aware there is a Bothy Code and ‘etiquette’. Bothies should be respected and not abused. Volunteers look after the bothies and misuse can lead to disrepair.

For more information, visit the Mountain Bothies Association website.

Safe hiking and exploring!

6 replies
  1. The Bothy Ghost
    The Bothy Ghost says:

    Hi Simon, good to hear that you’ve discovered bothies and enjoyed viisiting the three bothies mentioned. Many who use bothies regularly, however, take a dim view of grid ref’s being posted on the web, as info is often incorrect. There’s nothing wrong with giving clues as to their locations, as you have done, but new users should be able to find what they’re looking for by using map reading skills. Wandering off into the Scottish hills should be seen as a serious undertaking, no matter what time of year.

    Hope to run into you in some wild and lonely place sometime.

    Happy bothying,

    The Bothy Ghost.

  2. The Bothy Ghost
    The Bothy Ghost says:

    Hi Simon,
    There is a bothies forum which needs to be promoted as much as possible. Describes as a “virtual bothy” and “alternative bothies forum”, it is @…


    Why don’t you look in on us some time. Just chuck a log on the fire, pull up a chair and someone will put a dram in your hand.

    It can get a bit rowdy in there but they’re a friendly bunch, honest! They’re also well informed, helpful and eager to welcome new-comers. Well, they’re bothy folk…

    Look forward to hearing from you there.

    All the best,

    The Bothy Ghost.

  3. Peter
    Peter says:

    ” dried pasta ”
    I am a bothy M.O.
    If I find ANY food of any sort in the bothy that I look after, it goes straight into the black sack I always carry for rubbish. Please do not leave anything that you have brought in. If you carried it in, carry it out.

    • Simon Heyes
      Simon Heyes says:

      Hi Peter, I agree – anything you bring in, you take out, but in that particular bothy, dried pasta, salt and tea bags were left. In rare cases they may be desperately needed by someone, so I didn’t remove it.


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