Bothies are buildings which are popular with cyclists and walkers, found in remote areas and used for basic and free shelter/accommodation. They are buildings which have been abandoned or where the owners have little use for them anymore. The previous uses may have originally been shepherd’s huts, family houses or for nearby workers.
The dictionary definition of a bothy is “a small hut or cottage, especially one for housing farm labourers or for use as a mountain refuge.”
They are essentially a shelter to sleep in, often in remote but beautiful settings. They normally have no water, no sink, no electricity, no toilet and no beds. The facilities can vary, but you can never assume they will have anything apart from a roof and walls! Bothies normally have a sleeping platform or similar, but if it is busy, you may have to sleep on stone floor and squeeze between other travellers. It is very similar to wild camping, but with the luxury of a building around you!
Originally founded in 1965, the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) is a charity that works with the land owners and maintains the buildings through voluntary work and membership subscription. The bothies themselves are free to stay in, but the £25 a year membership is welcomed to allow for maintenance and the preservation of the buildings.
There are around 100 in the UK which the MBA look after, with nine in Wales, 11 in north England and the rest in Scotland. They are often found in mountains, near reservoirs, forests and remote areas. The access is always different, so road bikes may struggle to get to many of the locations. Mountain and gravel bikes would be more suitable.
I recently stayed in two bothies in Wales being Lluest Cwmbach in Elan Valley and Penrhos Isaf in Coed-y-Brenin. Lluest Cwmbach bothy was in extremely nice countryside, just above a reservoir and no nearby habitation. However, getting from the road to the bothy required lugging our bikes through 2km of boggy marshland! Inside it was a decent size, with a fire pit and a small amount of coal left over. Remember to take some torches and lights along as it can get dark very quickly! Also remember to write in the bothy visitor book.
Bothy code – The MBA have a very simple and common sense set of rules to follow:
- Respect Other Users
- Respect the Bothy
- Respect the Surroundings
- Respect Agreement with the Estate
- Respect the Restriction On Numbers
Location map: https://www.mountainbothies.org.uk/bothies/location-map/