Scotland Traveloholic

Beginners Guide to Bothies

We can all agree that some of the most amazing and remote Scottish accommodation can often be the most expensive one. Consider bothies.

What would you say if I told you there a way to get one for free?

Forget 5* hotels. Forget cosy B&B’s. Forget the hostels. Forget about Glamping and sleeping in the tents in wildness. Think BOTHIES.

New trend and way of travelling is coming to Scotland with a premiere of “Scottish Bothy Bible: The complete guide to Scotland s bothies and how to reach them” written by Geoff Allan.

What is Bothy?

Basically it’s a small hut, cottage or shelter, usually left unlocked and available to passersby to use for free.

There are 81 bothies across Scotland, all of which provide refuge to many tired travellers and are usually located at wild and stunning locations.

Bothies are a remarkable part of Scottish outdoor culture and well known by experienced explorers.

Kearvaig bothy
Kearvaig bothy by Jakub Solovský
(CC BY 2.0)

But here’s the kicker:

Outside they look like a lovely, warm cottages, but the truth is that these come as close to an empty shell as possible.

You won’t find any gas, electricity, running water, facilities or sometimes even beds. “A rock tent” is a great comparison to what you can expect.

There’s usually a stove, table and chairs supplied by MBA. Bear in mind that there will be no one to help you to get the fire going in a stove so you don’t freeze to death.

You might be wondering: how is it free?

Free and stunningly located accommodation may sound bizarrely insane and too good to be true.

The Bothies are looked after by Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) which collects money on an ongoing basis to upkeep these old building and furnishes them with basics like a stove or a fireplace, table and visitors book.

Sunset from The Lookout Bothy
Sunset from The Lookout Bothy by Masa Sakano
(CC BY-SA 2.0)

About Bothying

The true culture of Bothying is much older that you think. It started with the Great Depression of 1930’s.

Working class had more free time since they worked less hours but that also meant they earned less.

Nevertheless, hillwalking stopped being the privilege of the middle class. Groups of workers started creating Climbing clubs all over Scotland.

At the same time, Munro bagging was gaining popularity, and some of the walkers were sleeping over in abandoned buildings next to the site of their climb to have a convenient morning start following day.

That’s how the modern bothying started gaining shape.

Bothy Etiquette

Remember that Bohing relays on shared trust and bothies locations were somewhat a secret kept between the members of the bothying association.

Their increased popularity may not be such a bad thing after all since there will be more good travelers looking after them and maybe bringing extra support to the MBA.

Horses outside Culra Bothy
Horses outside Culra Bothy by Gerald Davison
(CC BY-NC 2.0)

Keep in mind

Respect other users of the Bothy
Clean up for next visitors and make them welcome, don’t overcrowd popular bothies

Respect the Bothy
Report any damage and don’t vandalise, clean the parts you have used and take out all the rubbish, make sure fires are completely out , close windows and doors on departure

Respect the Environment
Keep the surrounding areas clean, keep human waste well away, bring your own fuel and don’t cut live wood, try to leave some wood supply for emergency use.

Respect the agreement with the estate
Observe any restrictions, remember that bothies are available for short stays only.


Top 5 Bothies for Beginners

Over Phawhope (Scottish Borders)

(CC BY 2.0)

A tiny room with a bunk bed, located less than a mile from the road so it has a tendency to be pretty busy. Set in a lovely location

The Gelder Shiel Stables (Cairngorms)

TGOC 2011: Mounth (gp124)
TGOC 2011: Mounth (gp124) by Ted and Jen
(CC BY 2.0)

Popular bothie visited by Charles and named “the royal”. Improved in a major renovation in 2015, it’s now a comfortable, warm and well worth a visit.

Ideal if you’re planning to climb on Lochnagar but with limited easy access to other hills if you’re just walking.

The whole bothy is now well insulated, and wood-lined, with a wooden floor.

Ruigh Aiteachain (Cairngorms)

Ruigh-aiteachain by Hal Jacob
(CC BY-ND 2.0)

Located in the glen Feshie, The bothy itself has two rooms: the first, as you enter, containing sleeping bunks and lots of space.

Second room is a more comfortable room with tables, benches and a good stove, which is said to be a lot more effective at heating the room than the previous version.

Unavailable to the public until work is completed.

Peanmeanach (Western Highlands)

Ardnish 04
Ardnish 04 by col.b
(CC BY 2.0)

Peanmeanach bothy was the post office for the whole Sound of Arisaig area. From the front door, you can enjoy fabulous views across to Ardnamurchan and Eigg.

Craig (Torridon)

Ardnish 04
The bothy at Craig by Nick Bramhall
(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Bothy which used to be a youth hostel until 2003. Probably It was its isolation that led to its closure.

When the hostel was closed some of the furnishings (beds, mattresses, kitchen utensils etc) were left, so this bothy is a very comfortable one. It is tidy, with a flushing toilet (as of Sept 2007)

Be Prepared for the Worst

Don’t ever have any assumptions with bothies, a spare tent is a must and it’s always better to be pleasantly surprised than let down by having high hopes. Below is the list of essential must haves if you planning to stay in a Bothie


Bothy Set Up
Bothy Set Up by Cody Long
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Sleeping bag

  • Sleeping mat
  • Mug
  • Stove
  • Gas
  • First aid kit
  • Head torch
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Candles
  • Waterproofs
  • Anything that will keep you warm

Bothy Book

Before leaving the Bothy, remember to write something in the Bothy Book, and maybe leave something small and useful behind and as a general rule of thumb, it would be great if everybody could leave the bothy in a better state than they found it in.

That is always the best gift you can give to the fellow user of the bothy.

Wrapping Up

wideangle bothy
wideangle bothy by captain.tarmac
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By now you probably get the idea of a bothy and what to expect.

It have a potential to be amazing free fun sleepover but on the other hand there a huge chance that it might go terribly wrong let’s be clear about that.

One thing is certain either way it will be the unforgettable experience in the greatest or the worst way possible. We think the prize is worth a gamble.

Further Reading

If you want more in-depth information, follow these link to purchase the:

 “Scottish Bothy Bible: The complete guide to Scotland s bothies and how to reach them” written by Geoff Allan or
“The Book of the Bothy”
by Phoebe Smith.




Founder of Scotland Traveloholic, travel photographer and videographer. A head full of dreams and ideas :)

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