As a keen walker I can recall countless times that I’ve walked past superb stone built buildings that had fallen into disrepair through under-use, abandonment or on occasion vandalism. Many of these buildings were located in remote and idyllic locations and as such I would often think about what I would do with the building if I owned it and how I’d love to bring it back to some form of usage if I could buy it. At other times I may have just wished I could get inside to shelter from some horrendous weather.
Having spent my formative years in the the North Yorkshire Dales and having done most of my walking there I had not heard of bothies, what they were and what purpose they had until I got a bit older and began walking more often in the Lake District and Scotland.
Bothies were used originally as a mountain refuge, somewhere that you could take shelter whilst out in more remote areas in particular in the Scottish Highlands. Thanks to the work of the Mountain Bothy Association there are now around 100 shelters across the UK which are maintained and free to use in accordance with the mountain bothy code.
The Bothy Code
Respect Other Users
Please leave the bothy clean and tidy with dry kindling for the next visitors. Make other visitors welcome. If they are not MBA members set a good example.
Respect the Bothy
Tell us about any accidental damage. Don’t leave graffiti or vandalise the bothy. Please take out all rubbish which you can’t burn. Avoid burying rubbish; this pollutes the environment. Please don’t leave perishable food as this attracts vermin. Guard against fire risk and ensure the fire is out before you leave. Make sure the doors and windows are properly closed when you leave.
Respect the Surroundings
If there is no toilet at the bothy please bury human waste out of sight. Use the spade provided, keep well away from the water supply and never use the vicinity of the bothy as a toilet.
Respect Agreement with the Estate
Please observe any restrictions on use of the bothy, for example during stag stalking or at lambing time. Please remember bothies are available for short stays only. The owner’s permission must be obtained if you intend an extended stay.
Respect the Restriction On Numbers
Because of over crowding and lack of facilities, large groups (6 or more) should not use a bothy nor camp near a bothy without first seeking permission from the owner.
Planned overnight stays by commercial groups are not permitted
Some Bothies even have there own colloquial versions
Bothies can range dramatically in size and facilities and if in doubt you should assume that you’re going to a very basic provision, essentially a hut with a floor, no bed, no toilet, no light, no water. Anything you need should be taken in with you. The Mountain Bothies Association has a location finder that provides details on the bothies that are managed by the assocation. They also provide details of what is available at each bothy.
As bothies are maintained with the agreement and encouragement of the estate owners they should be respected and not viewed as free holiday homes but if your respect the fact that you’re allowed to use them for free then these are a wonderful facility and alternative to a wild camp in remote areas. We recommend that you look at the Mountain Bothy Association site and if you try a bothy and enjoy it then consider joining the association as a member and contributing to the superb work they do in maintaining this resource and improving the provision and increasing it when possible. Check out our posts relating to the bothies we have stayed in for more details too!