It may come of no surprise to the reader on here that I have a fascination and love of bothy’s. Not everyone is familiar with the term ‘bothy’, so i’ll provide a brief explanation:
‘It is a mountain shelter that is open for people to stop over for a night, or take refuge in poor weather, or just visit for a picnic or lunch. There is much more to the bothy than this, as they are all individual and have rich histories, both from the peasant farmers and shepherds that use to live in them with their families generations ago, to the mountaineers that have used them on epic and pioneering winter climbs. They are a wonderful asset to have in the UKs wilderness areas and a night in one can enhance any visit to the mountains, as well as the chance to have a great social encounter with other likeminded mountain visitors, of whom you may of never met before, nor meet again – but often those stories told and memories will never be forgotten’.
In no particular order I have included a range of bothy’s from locations all over the UK. Later on I will include a few of my favourite foreign ones – usually termed ‘refugio’, sometime just ‘hut’ or ‘hytte’ in Scandinavia.
First up is the lovely Greensykes Bothy in the Southern Scotland area. I am now the Maintenance Organiser (or MO for short), who helps maintain, tidy and generally keep an eye on Greensykes. Each MBA bothy has an MO, or quite often two MO’s. Info and advice can be found via MBA webpage link: https://www.mountainbothies.org.uk/ If you start you use these places I recommend you to join, for £25 per year you get a quarterly news letter and the money from subscriptions is well spent on maintaining, improving and adding new bothies.
Here’s my ‘potted’ Greensykes story…
I guess it all started in 2016, when I caught site in the Bothy Newsletter of a Workparty support request, at the time a chap called Mike Parker was at the helm, so I emailed him and asked if I could join and possibly bring my two teenage lads along – he was very accommodating and welcomed us along, this workparty in action is shown above – there was a lot going on, with thirteen helpers in all. It was in January and we had been blessed by the winter weather gods! It all started there…
I have since visited Greensykes on many occasions, in all seasons, usually on the bike, sometime alone and sometimes with friends and sometimes with family. On one occasion, I can’t quite remember, but pretty sure it was winter pre-pandemic – so lets say January 2018. There was a lot of snow lying in Megdale and my ride in, up the dale got gradually harder, to the point at the sheep pens just before the forest boundary I decided to abandon the bike and continue on foot for the last km. I was following two sets of foot prints, so I knew that there would likely be other guests at the bothy. My assumption was correct as the smell of smoke drifted down from the bothy – a most welcoming smell to a weary and cold cyclist, even more welcoming was the greeting from the guests, they were as surprised as myself and it was the aforementioned Mike Parker that greeted me, he then offered me dinner and then plied me with some beers and whisky.
On my travels I find this happens all too often, usually with complete strangers, small acts of kindness and sometimes like this ‘quite big’ acts of kindness! I always pass on this gratitude in my own way when I meet others.
The evening went on until late and I recall uttering the words at some point – ‘I could fancy doing this MO role’.
Mike held me to this! A year or so later he asked me if I could take on the role, after some short thoughts and checks with the domestic management, I agreed to it. I would nominally begin in Jan 2020, with a ‘handover’ of tasks from the master. Meanwhile Mike was not leaving as he went on to fulfil a more demanding role within the Mountain Bothy Association (MBA), as the Area Organiser for Southern Scotland.
So that’s were it all started …and then the Pandemic hit, so for the best part of 18 months the bothy’s were closed, except for critical maintenance.
Some of the more unusual, interesting ones, quite often my favourites as they are tricky to locate…
Not all the bothy’s in the UK are managed by the MBA, there are others, usually owned by the estate, sometimes managed by the estate, or sometimes just managed by ‘friends’. These places are not publicised, they are certainly not ‘secret’ either, you just have to do your own research to find them, or quite often there whereabouts may be shared during a night in a bothy with other like minded folk. This keeps them special! They are located across the country – Wales, England and Scotland. I am not sure what is on offer in Ireland..? (something to have a think about…?)
A few of my favourite non-MBA bothy are pictured below. I am happy to share their locations, but it will have to be done with you over a whisky, in a bothy and sat in front of a toasty-warm fire!
I also have many more to find, some that I know about already and others that I will find on the way – both by riding by them, or finding out about them during the ‘bothy nights’.
The interiors… these have a wide range of styles and decor, from the quaint to the curious, to the well presented, some have little or nothing and some can be down right rancid – no photo’s of these one’s I’m afraid.
Some Bothy views to die for…
Bothy Artwork …or is it graffiti?
I can not locate my other bothy ‘artwork’ pictures – when found I will be sure to include them.
So what does Europe have in its wilderness places?
There are many countries that I have not visited in Europe, however in the ones that I have, I have found huts and refugio’s that serve a similar purpose and usually have a small group of people or friends to help maintain them and keep them special. In no particular order..
This post is still a little ‘Work in Progress’ – I will add and update it as more discoveries are made.