Fiona Outdoors logo My independent guide to the best of Scotland outdoors

Have you tried: Bothying?

Written by Fiona

April 12 2017

I wrote about Geoff Allan and his inspiration to write a book about Scottish bothies. Find out more about Scottish bothies and the Scottish Bothy Bible.  The article about “bothying” published in the Sunday Mail and you can read it in full below.


Have you tried: Bothying?

What is it?: Bothying is the activity of walking or cycling to a bothy.

Tell me more: The Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) describes a bothy as “a simple shelter in remote country for the use of all those who love being in wild and lonely places”.

The word bothy comes from the Gaelic “bothan”, meaning hut, which was originally used to describe basic accommodation provided for bachelor estate workers.

In more recent times, a bothy is used as a term for a shelter in the UK that is freely available for anyone to stay in overnight, for a short rest or as a lunch stop.

Anything else to know?: Bothying as a recreation dates from the 1930s in the UK when increasing numbers of people from the towns and cities started to go walking and climbing.

Weekend groups of, mainly, young men would hitch-hike or use public transport to reach the hills.

They started to use a number of remote and partly derelict cottages to meet and sleep in.

This leisure pursuit grew after World War II, especially among Munro baggers, and bothies became even more popular.

However, by the 1960s, many of the shelters were falling further into disrepair due to lack of maintenance.

It was in the mid 1960s that the idea was conceived, by a cyclist called Bernhard Heath, to make some of the UK’s bothies more useable.

This led to the founding of the Mountain Bothies Association, with the aim of formalising the refurbishment and upkeep of a wider network of stone-built shelters.

Although looked after by the MBA, the bothies are still owned by the land or estate owners, who give permission for public use.

For many decades, the exact location of the MBA bothies, 80 of which are in Scotland, was revealed only to members.

However, in 2009, the association decided on a more “open to all” policy and published the first on-line guide to the bothies.

There are also other bothies that are not looked after by the MBA and their location is often revealed through word of mouth.

Now a new book, The Scottish Bothy Bible, has documented more than 100 bothies across Scotland.

It’s the most detailed guide to date with a wealth of information about location, size, facilities, routes and key attractions of some 104 bothies across Scotland.

What do I need?: Bothying requires you to reach a bothy under your own steam.

Most bothies are remotely located and some purists like to travel from home by public transport and then continue on foot or by bike.

Other people will drive to the nearest access point by road and then walk or cycle.

Because bothies are basic shelters, offering protection from the wind and rain and little else, you need to take all your own equipment and supplies.

Most bothies have basic accommodation including a living area with a fireplace or stove and a room for sleeping. A few have a toilet.

If you plan to use a bothy for an overnight, your bothying list will include a sleeping mat and bag, food and water.

It’s recommended that you take your own fuel as well, such as coal, or collect fallen wood nearby.

Bothies can’t be booked and you will only discover who is using the shelter on arrival.

Because of this, some people also carry a small tent that can be pitched near the bothy if the sleeping area is full.

The Bothy Code: Although there are no formal rules for using bothies, the MBA has compiled a simple code of conduct.

Basically, it’s requested that people respect each other and the environment.

You should leave the bothy clean and tidy – and how you would hope to find it yourself.

If there is no toilet, you should bury human waste out of sight, and take all litter away with you.

Groups of more than six people should not use a bothy or camp nearby without seeking the permission from the owner.

Anyone who stays in a bothy is asked to sign a logbook so a record is kept of visitors.

Who is it for?: Bothying is for anyone with a sense of adventure and an ability to navigate cross-country.

Author of The Scottish Bothy Bible, Geoff Allan, said: “Anyone can get into bothying and I’d love to see a wider range of people enjoying bothies.

“You could be a family, a keen walker, a Munro bagger or a mountain biker looking for somewhere remote to visit.

“You could walk to a bothy for a picnic and walk back again or hike there for a night or two with friends.

“I have also heard of people ticking off different bothies as a hobby.

“I personally enjoying cycling to bothies and I have had an amazing time visiting every one in my book over many years.

“I hope the guide inspires others to enjoy bothies as much as I do.”

How do I find out more?:

·      Mountain Bothies Assocation.

·      Bothies on a Bike

·      The Scottish Bothy Bible (In development) 

·      Buy The Scottish Bothy Bible by Geoff Allan, Wild Things Publishing, priced £16.99.

Can I help?: The MBA is a charity and relies on volunteers to maintain the bothies and for donations. If you can help with their work please do so.

More Like This


17 things I have learned when walking in claggy mountains


Isle of arran Corbetts: Cir Mhòr and Beinn Tarsuinn


Review: Lowe Alpine Women’s AirZone Ultra ND26L Hiking Pack


Explore hidden treasures with South Ayrshire snorkel trail


Review: Vango Alpha 300 tent 


Romantic getaways in Florida: Perfect spots for couples