The Unknown Mountain Bothy Shelters of British Isles

The hiking trails of Britain are among the glories of the UK. The public rights of way are enshrined in countless footpaths. The majority of British hikes and walking holidays are ‘safe as houses’. And there are loads of fascinating country hotels and pubs to while away a thousand pleasant evenings. If you listen to the conversation, you may hear someone talking about mountain bothy shelters nearby.

One of my favourite memories of Britain are countless ancient buildings scattered about the countryside. Of course the famous ones, castles and ruined monasteries are under government management, with fossicking under stones a punishable offence. Because of this, I find the tumble down stone cottages like this one more pleasant to explore, and soak up the ambience gathered across the centuries.

Mountain Bothy Shelters on the Shore of Loch Etive in Scotland
Bothy on the Shore of Loch Etive in Scotland: Summoned by Fells / CC BY 2.0

Bothy on the Shore of Loch Etive in Scotland

If you were to examine this cottage on the shore of Loch Etive, you will find a sign indicating it is under care of the Mountain Bothies Association of the UK. This is an umbrella organization comprising close to 4,000 volunteers. They dedicate themselves to maintaining abandoned cottages, that once sheltered shepherds from fierce winter storms. While the landowners agree to allow hikers to stay overnight in them at no cost at all.

Because there is no money in mountain bothy shelters, nobody advertises them. However, the Mountain Bothies Association does have a search engine on their website. Before you consider them as holiday accommodation, know that facilities are primitive. In fact, it could be better to expect no facilities at all. So no sink, no tap, no bed, no lights, and no kindling neatly laid in the fireplace in this simple room near Ennerdale Water in England, either.

The Secret Pleasure of Overnighting in mountain Bothies shelters
The Secret Pleasure of Overnighting in Bothies: Bothy / CC BY 2.0

The Secret Pleasure of Overnighting in Mountain Bothy Shelters

Some bothies are in achingly beautiful locations, visited only by hikers, volunteers, and occasional curious deer. The secret pleasure is waking up in the morning in some of the most beautiful places in all of lovely England. Dare you sleep like this for one night in the company of the spirits of shepherds long gone to their final rest?

My final picture is of a bothy outside Applecross on the edge of Loch Toscaig. This is in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands. There used to be a ferry service across the water, but that closed in 1988. You will have to follow the coastal road from Applecross to get there. Do enquire ahead regarding availability of the bothy.

Uags bothy near Toscaig, Applecross, in Scotland. Mountain Bothy Shelters
Uags bothy near Toscaig, Applecross, in Scotland: Col.B / CC BY 2.0

About Richard Farrell

Richard FarrellI tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time.My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast (30.7167° S, 30.4667° E). I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned.

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