A bothy was traditionally a stone house built for farm labourers, often on vast estates, across Scotland, Ireland, Wales and northern England. They fell into disuse with the advent of motor transport, thus allowing labourers to travel greater distances within the working day, but then saw a revival with the advent of leisure time spent in the great outdoors. These days, bothies have been repaired and provide shelter for people who may be out walking in hills or mountains, be it from briefly inclement weather, to overnight if necessary.
The UK has a Mountain Bothies Association, which seeks to provide some sort of network, and maintenance, to them.
The north-west Highlands (of Scotland) and Islands -see the map above- has around a dozen. The distance between Inverness to Skye is, I guess, 120 miles or so (?) so you can see how the existence of a few bothies scattered around the area helps dedicated hill walkers split their journey up into more manageable bit-sized pieces, and allow them to take shelter overnight.
Bothies, not always, but often, can also be found close to lochs (i.e. Scottish lakes) or the sea.
The Bothy Project website speaks extensively about ‘communing with nature’ in such dwellings, the simplicity, romance and remoteness of being there, and there’s a film by The Bothy Project which attracted an article in The Guardian last year about wild swimming as part of the experience. We’ve written about wild swimming previously.
I’m currently reading ‘The Book of the Bothy’ by Phoebe Smith, a book that explores various aspects of bothy life and experience.
I was drawn to it via a friend, who is a keen hill walker and ‘Munro-bagger‘. (The Munros are all of Scotland’s mountains over 3000ft). While talking to this lady and her husband, also a keen Munro bagger, it was revealed that at the end of a long day’s hiking, with the intention of stopping in a bothy overnight, there are often ‘skinny dipping’ and some plain ‘naturist’ experiences to be had.
‘You’re miles from anywhere, certainly miles from anyone, so if the bothy is next to a body of water we strip off to swim or simply soak away sore feet in a stream’, I was told. ‘It’s not just the two of us within ourselves as a couple who does it, bothy experience often involves communal skinny dipping or nudity, even amongst people who would never call themselves nudists or naturists. You pack the essentials, and swimsuits aren’t essential.’
It may be far too cold to consider skinny dipping in some loch right now, but I’ve made vague plans to go and walk my first Munros later this year, in the company of some friends, and take in an overnight stay in a bothy.
‘There’s a bothy code’, says my friend’s husband, outlining the do’s and dont’s of bothy life.
One is not to burn live wood but… ‘there’s nothing nicer than walking the shore of a small bay gather driftwood to make a fire, then stripping off and sitting around it, drying socks or cooking up a hot meal as the sun goes down’. I look forward to a new ‘naturist’ experience later this year, then.
In the meantime, finding a ‘bothy’ of sorts, stripping off and searching for driftwood to light a fire is an altogether easier thing in SL at this time of year…
PS: There haven’t been many posts recently, and won’t be many next week either. I’m exceptionally busy with real life, but there should be a slow-down in 7-10 days time, permitting me more SL time.