The Yorkshire Dales’ Bothy

It was that time of year again! The annual bothy trip was upon us and we were ready to head to the hills and officially start the new year. All of our bothies to date had been Mountain Bothy Association (MBA) managed bothies but we had heard about a mysterious bothy high in the hills of Wensleydale that sounded too good not to visit. The problem was that every blog post was very clear not to give a way the location. A wonderful post from Backpackingbongos  gave some tantalising clues and with a bit a scour of the OS Maps and a google of some map locations we realised we’d found our target. In fact even better than finding one bothy we found two with 5 miles of each other!

A drive through the Yorkshire Dales is always a pleasure especially if it involves meeting Stoney and hunting for bothies. Armed with sleeping bags, food, beer and whisky (both medicinal) we rocked up in Leyburn early on the Friday morning and decided on our plan of action. Some of the websites we found had suggested these bothies we’re occasionally locked so we took the trusty Mitsubishi Delica as a back up just in case! We parked up on the moors and took the short walk in to the first of the shooting huts. The walk in was less than a mile from the moorland road and we quickly decided that this would be a great fall back if our original choice was locked. It had a working toilet (with running water not composting) and it was well maintained with some big benches that would make ideal sleeping surfaces off the ground.

Both bothies are in fact part of a local and prestigious estate although they are in the middle of land designated as open country and accessible under the CROW act. The estate uses the buildings to provide shelter to groups who take part in shoots on the moorland but they happily provide shelter to people travelling through the estate as their signage and guest books clearly state.

The walk to the second bothy was longer and around 4 miles across the permissable tracks that score the moorland. It’s pretty easy walking with a slight sting in the tail as you ascend the hill top to the bothy.

When we reached the second bothy above the tarn we stopped to assess the potential of an overnight stop. This was by far the more remote of the two and reading the visitors book there had not been only a handful of overnight stops in the past year. We decided to make the decision after having something to eat so we stopped inside to do so taking in the visitors comments as we ate.

After a cold lunch we decided our best option for the evening would be the first bothy we passed. The second one was stunning in it’s location and views but was far draftier than the first and whilst nothing will be as cold as the arctic conditions in Mosedale Bothy the year before we were ready to take the relatively more comfortable option!

So four miles back and we were at our final stop for the day. The night was drawing in, the tea lights came out and began to settle down for the evening. There’s something quite enigmatic or perhaps nostalgic about a candle lit night in a bothy. You feel as though you’ve been transported several generations to a simpler time and its a great way to get away from it all (particularly as this bothy was sufficiently out of range for mobile signal).

As MBA members we’re well aware of the bothy code. This is as important when a landowner provides access to their buildings for shelter and is not part of the code as leaving a mess or being disrespectful to the property is likely to lead to it being locked and the goodwill lost. Both huts had charity boxes in which were to support local land management projects. Both huts we’re stocked with fire wood and whilst the estate would not be unhappy at this resource being used in an emergency situation it is only polite to take in and use your own fuel, which we did. We followed the estate requests and Bothy Code to a “T”. We cleared out the fire and set it ready for it’s next use with fresh kindling, we carried out our rubbish (along with that left by some others) and we ensured it was left in a clean and tidy state for the next curious wanderer.

As Duke of Edinburgh Award leaders we were quite proud to see a number of nice positive comments and some good humour from D of E participants that had stopped by in the bothies for shelter. With the condition of the “Bothy Book” deteriorating we couldn’t resist saving a few for posterity!

So “where are these bothies?” we hear you cry! Well the simple fact of the matter is we’re not telling. At least not in our traditional sense with a guiding .GPX file. We’ve left a few clues which is all we had to follow and we hope that some of you curious adventurers dig deeper and find your way to the “houses” or the “hut” one day soon. You won’t regret it…unless you’re the kind of doltish buffoon that packs beer cans in your bag which leak on to your sleeping bag….. again. It’s a good job he’s pretty!

Mick Fenwick

Mountain Leader, D of E Co-Ordinator, Deputy Headteacher

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