Tucked away deep in the veins of Scotland sit a flurry of unassuming shacks perfectly suited to mountaineers, hikers and wanderers alike. These bothies — abandoned cottages, crofts and farmsteads — were the once stomping ground of shepherds, farm workers and even hermits. True but and bens, bothies today serve as free sheltered accommodation for adventurers seeking a roof for the night.
Totally off the grid and only reachable by walking, hiking and cycling through unpredictable and untamed terrain, bothies are tricky to find. Thanks to talented photographer, artist and surveyor, Geoff Allan, and his newly published Scottish Bothy Bible (the first ever fully complete bothy manual) there is hope yet for locating these magical Scottish hidden huts.
So you too can give bothying a go, Culture Trip brings you our edit of just a few of the many wanderlust-inducing finds featured in The Scottish Bothy Bible.
Breathtaking and truly enchanting, those who live life on the edge will fall in love with Eagle’s Nest, a compact cliff cave comprised of wood and stone woven into the rugged rocks at Mangurstadh, Lewis. Two wee windows provide enrapturing views of the harmonic Atlantic waves swirling and crashing, while the two skylight windows lead you to look up. The raised platform sleeps two people and the fireplace or ‘bothy TV’ adds to the snug setting.
The Teahouse (Easan Dorcha)
They do say the best things come in small packages. Described by Allan as a ‘quirky, glorified garden shed’, Easan Dorcha or The Teahouse is tiny in size yet mighty in appeal. Sitting in a resplendent backdrop of Scots Pine, Birch and Rowan, The Teahouse is aptly named, considering it’s most popularly used for wee tea break pit stops, as opposed to overnight stays. Still, those game for the unusual can squeeze about three folk on the ground. In 2010, the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) spruced up this shed with sturdy cedar, making it as resilient as it is charming.
Suileag is a simple shack, stripped of any pomp whatsoever, set in the spectacular shadow of Suilven. The rudimentary nature of this bothy adds to the adventure element and is all part and par for the bothying course. Like all bothies, Suileag, which means ‘little eye’ or ‘loop’ in Gaelic, is located near a river, which doubles up as a water supply. Although a little chilly during winter, this stone covered bothy features two rooms separated by a partition, working hearths, inevitable outstanding views and can sleep up to eight. Simplicity never looked so tempting.
This one gives the term ‘a room with a view’ a whole new meaning. Close to the endorphin-inducing Quiraing at the Trotternish Ridge, The Lookout supersedes any romanticised views of wild exploring accommodation. Teetering boldly above the tumultuous Skye seas, this former coastguard watch shack is a prime place to spot marine life; especially whales, dolphins and porpoises. Apart from the breathtaking bay window (complete with 180-degree views), highlights include the dormitory with bunk bed for three, seating, coffee table, marine info board and decorative retro telephone. Another stunning refurb job from the MBA and local community members, this intimate love nest is bursting with charm. Binoculars provided!
Located above the alluring Loch Morar, Oban Bothy and the accompanying trek in it, sing to the souls of those with an affinity for the isolated and removed. After all, it is within such lonely places that refuge and a deeper relationship with the environment become apparent, in turn creating all the company you could ever need. Oban is that kind of soothing lonely place, with its welcoming entry porch, whitewashed facade and but and ben mentality. Larger than many, this bothy contains an attic room and two communal rooms, one more appealing than the other. Until the 1990s, the map coordinates were kept under lock and key, making it all the more desirable. A rite of passage for hardcore ‘bothyers’, consult Allan’s Bothy Bible for indispensible info regarding routes.
For the low-down on Scotland’s best bothies (including travel writing accounts, top hillcraft tips, stunning Scotland photography and gripping historical narratives) ‘The Scottish Bothy Bible’, published by Wild Things Publishing, is available for purchase now. And yes, he created this adventurers’ holy grail on foot, bike and via the grace of Scottish public transport!