Bothies and the Bible

When I first started frequenting bothies it was mostly about Munro bagging rather than the bothy experience itself. Visiting bothies like Shenavall and the Tarf Hotel was just a means of getting some shelter to sleep for the night en route to bag remote far flung peaks. As more of us completed the Munros, the bothy trip as we knew it slowly evolved, the list ticking became more a byproduct and the bothy trip was more about escaping the rat race and enjoying some good craic with friends.

Planning a bothy trip with friends can sometimes be a bit of a mission. How many does it sleep? Are there sleeping platforms? Does it have a fire? Then we would have an east and a west option to suit where the best of the weather was. This is before you even look at routes.

Searching Google images and reading blogs reveals some information, but not always quite enough. On the back of this I starting creating bothy video tours for my YouTube channel so viewers back home would know what to expect when they visited.

Along came Geoff Allan the author of the ‘Scottish Bothy Bible’. The first book to catalog every Scottish bothy with routes and what to expect from the area and of course the bothy itself. I received a copy of the Bothy Bible as a gift from my partner Nicola and I instantly loved the book. It’s well illustrated with lots of information, a well thought out book that would have took an age to research. All of a sudden my bothy video tours could be redundant.

Geoff Allan’s Bothy Bible guidebook.

In some quarters The Bothy Bible has caused anger and controversy. So what’s not to like about this book?

  • Profiteering. Many are upset and angry that Geoff Allan is making money off the back of a registered charity, being the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) who maintain bothies.
  • Increased traffic. Many believe such a book will increase the numbers visiting bothies.

Quite rightly, like any other author Geoff Allan is being remunerated for his efforts. 10% of all proceeds also go to the MBA and the organisation gets free publicity. I’m also aware of the fact that Geoff is a Maintenance Officer for one of the bothies on the Isle of Rum. I think it’s safe to say that Geoff has and will contribute a fair bit more towards bothies than your average bothy dweller.

In my humble opinion the increased traffic argument is also unfounded. Most people who want to find more information on bothies will search the internet and find various blogs and social media content. They are unlikely to stumble across a book and then visit a bothy. Equally anybody with ill intentions of vandalising or trashing a bothy is unlikely the type of person to buy a book either.

To maintain simple shelters in remote country for the use & benefit of all who love wild & lonely places.

The Mountain Bothies Association’s mission statement is self explanatory: “To maintain simple shelters in remote country for the use & benefit of all who love wild & lonely places”. You don’t have to be a hairy hill walker or an intrepid long distance backpacker to stay in a bothy. You just need a love for the great outdoors and in return the MBA asks that you respect and abide by the bothy code. Bonus if you decide to join or donate to the MBA.

Those who oppose the Bothy Bible can often give the impression that bothies are old men’s drinking dens and nobody outwith their clique is welcome. These types can be off putting to anybody who hasn’t visited a bothy before. Thankfully these types are in the minority and are only visible on social media.

The MBA and all the bothies they maintain are not a secret or an elitist club. Everybody is welcome. The location of each bothy is listed on their website. For anybody who enjoys the great outdoors, they should have at least one bothy trip on their bucket list to experience it for themselves.

Oban Bothy

To summarise, I’ve found the Scottish Bothy Bible book to be an excellent reference point to supplement research with maps and other sources. It gives you an idea of what to expect on arrival and having all Scottish bothies in one book is definitely an advantage. It’s a must for anybody who is just starting out or even for those seasoned bothy dwellers.

Finally I must dash as I have the last bothy trip of 2017 to plan and pack for. I wish you all a happy new year. 🙂




7 thoughts on “Bothies and the Bible

  1. I quite fancy that book myself if I ever get my leg back – I’ve always fancied bothy bagging – well, at least the ones with fires = I’m very soft when it comes to cold!

  2. Anonymous

    I’ve no problem with the Bothy Bible. To me it’s a well researched and produced book of places which are already in the public domain. It takes effort and organisation to reach a bothy. We shouldn’t discourage people accessing what is an underused resource. Although misuse does happen I’ve been bothying long enough to realise that this nothing new. The “closed shop” mentality of those who claim hold to traditional values of bothy goers reflects on them poorly.

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