Bothies – the inside story

Hill-walkers are generally aware of bothies – yet many have never plucked up the courage to stay in one. Ben Dolphin decided it was time he did – and he made this atmospheric film to share the experience

I made my bothy debut beside a remote loch in Sutherland and loved every minute. I hope my film gets across something of the practicalities, the etiquette and the satisfactions of staying in a tiny stone house miles from the nearest road – and I hope it prompts you to try it yourself.

First, a few words of background. Though free for all to use, most bothies are owned by the landowner or estate and their continued availability depends on responsible use by bothy visitors and on maintaining a good relationship with the owner. Some bothies have restrictions at certain times of year when estate staff need to use them for stalking or lambing.

Although owned by the landowner, bothies tend to be looked after by dedicated groups or individuals who give their time freely to help with upkeep.

Many are maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association, which arranges work parties to deal with wear and tear. The Association has also published a handy Bothy Code for users.

Whether or not to disclose the location of bothies has proved controversial over the years. While many bothies are well known to outdoors enthusiasts and are well used, others are closely guarded secrets. Many are in vulnerable locations and are open to misuse.

The existence of bothies in the Scottish outdoors is by no means a secret but there are, none the less, longstanding traditions of seeking them out for yourself, inadvertently stumbling upon them on your travels, or learning about them through word of mouth.

In respect of those traditions I’ve not said exactly where this bothy is. Maybe you’ll find it while you’re out and about on your travels.

More information about bothies and the Bothy Code can be found on the Mountain Bothies Association website. Another useful website is that of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

For more from Ben, take a look at his youtube channel or the Benvironment blog. By way of a follow up to this video, Ben has also shared a selection of Bothy advice in this video which we’d also recommend watching.

Related

You may also enjoy reading about James Carron’s bothy bagging experience from back in 2010.



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19 comments on “Bothies – the inside story
  1. David says:

    Great video – informative and interesting but quite personal too… Will lookout for more of his videos 🙂

  2. Rob Hutchinson says:

    Really enjoyed this – I too will look out for more of Ben’s films.

    • Great video, thanks Ben. For a single-handed video some really great shots, must have taken a lot of time to get it right!!
      Move over Cameron McNeish!!!

      • Ben Dolphin says:

        There’s definitely a learning curve, shooting things by yourself but I think I’m getting better at it now. It’s more the wind that’s the problem as it’s ALWAYS blowy in the hills it seems.

        That said, I could lie and say I had a legion of minions helping me with lighting, booms, a warm caravan and fresh bread baked over the fire every day…..but I won’t 😉

    • Ben Dolphin says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Rob, and thanks for commenting 🙂

  3. Allan says:

    Scotland at its best brilliantly captured by Ben

    More please

  4. Lorna Oldershaw says:

    Cracking video, thoroughly enjoyed that, and it has definitely made me want to head to a bothy! Fantastic work by Ben, can’t wait to see what’s next!!! 🙂

  5. Ian Watterston says:

    Fantastic video travelogue. Well done Ben, it was well shot, interesting & informative in a beautiful part of the Highlands. Keep up the good work & looking forward to the next one!

  6. Alan says:

    Ben, what a superb video.

    Not only informative, but very atmospheric too – you really captured the feel of being out in the wilds alone.

    I’ve always shied away from Bothies too.. not really sure of what to expect, tending to plan walks based on the proximity of bunkhouses, hostels etc… I think I’ll definitely try the ‘bothy experience’ this year!

    Look forward to your next video.

    • Ben Dolphin says:

      Thanks 🙂 It’s definitely worth taking the plunge. I’ll be going again but I think I’ll try and rope someone else into going with me as it’d be nice to have company. See Geoff’s comments below about the importance of heat though, as they’re points well made.

  7. Geoff Allan says:

    Hey Ben, been sent this link and really really impressed with the whole chat and presentation. As you can see from my website I too ‘do’ bothies on a bike, but I have to say cycling into Coiremor in January is pretty hardcore. All of your advice is sound but I would emphasise that in winter heat is everything, even more important than a steady amount to drink, though I wouldn’t compromise on this either. Of all paces Coiremor is a simple walk in because its so rare to be able to drive so far up the glen, and so 10 kg of coal and a bottle of wine is a no brainer. As I’m sure your well aware camping and bothying is a real paupers and kings scenario, you can’t buy that wilderness star lit night experience, but if your not carrying a tent it is well worth bringing in a few creature comforts to help ease away the time…anyway that’s my two pennies worth, good luck with your future adventures this year

    • Ben Dolphin says:

      Thanks Geoff. When researching where to go for my first bothy visit I did actually come across your website and found it useful for background info on different bothies. Actually that’s what convinced me to cycle in rather than use my feet 😉

      It’s funny, but in a tent the winter cold doesn’t bother me. It’s quite normal to wake up with frost on the inside of the tent and boots that are frozen solid. In that bothy, however, with a prospective fire staring me in the face, the cold seemed much more potent and so I’d definitely agree heat is a VERY nice thing to have in them 😉

  8. Luis says:

    Brilliant film, I’ve always skipped staying in a Bothie, but they’re not too dissimilar from a New Zealand hut I see. As usual Ben Dolphin produces amazing content. His blog Benvironment is well worth a look and regular reading.

    • Ben Dolphin says:

      Cheers Luis 🙂 Good point! I’d not considered how similar the two countries’ huts were. The principle is certainly similar to NZ not least because of the historic use by people shooting deer. I suppose even the annual payment to respective organisations makes them similar too!

      I only stayed at a few huts in NZ – on the Milford Track (which are obviously luxurious) and up on French Ridge in Mt Aspiring NP. Loved it!

  9. FIONA COUSLAND says:

    Loved every bit of this Ben 🙂

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