Q&A: Are bothies a purely Scottish thing?

Q The rustic, free shelter of bothies are a characterful addition to the texture of the UK hills. But are they only found north of the border?

Dalballoch Bothy in the Monadhliath mountains. Photograph: Tom Bailey / Trail Magazine


Trail Magazine's mountaineering editor, Jeremy is also the author of Britain’s Highest Mountain Walks, pb Collins. He knows the UK hills better than his own reflection.

Bothies as we know them today are basic unlocked shelters found in mountain or wilderness areas. They are mostly redundant buildings that have been left open by their owners and can range from single-room shepherds’ huts to multi-room shooting lodges. The tradition for using them for walking and climbing started in the Scottish Highlands; there are greater concentrations here than anywhere else. However, they aren’t exclusive to Scotland, and similar open shelters can be found in the Lake District, the Pennines, and the mountain areas of Wales.

Again they are mostly old estate buildings, but in England and Wales you also find disused quarry huts. Around 100 bothies are maintained and looked after by the Mountain Bothies Association; again the lion’s share are in Scotland, but in their care there are also a good spread throughout England and Wales.

If you haven’t used bothies before you should essentially treat them like a stone tent. Some have sleeping platforms, tables and chairs, and some even boast functioning stoves; but you can never count on what’s available so be sure to take all you would need for an overnight stay under canvas apart from the tent! For further information and the Bothy Code visit www.mountainbothies.org.uk