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Bothies are small, hut-like shelters found in the more remote areas of the countryside and in mountainous regions. Originally used as farm accommodation for itinerant workers, they now provide shelter to hikers, bikepackers, and other adventurers. There are 11 bothies in the South of Scotland and, between their uniqueness, cultural significance, and pretty convenient facilities, they are definitely worth checking out while on a bikepacking adventure. Find out more about bothies and how to use them below!

Please note that it is not safe to use bothies at present due to the risk of infection. Do not visit until further notice. Always check the Mountain Bothies Association website for COVID-19 guidance.

How do bothies work?

So you’ve decided to visit a bothy – but how does it work? Do you need to book? Do you have to pay to use it? What is inside these rustic huts?! Don’t panic, it’s simpler than you think.

Firstly, no, you do not need to book and you also don’t have to pay. Bothies’ doors are quite literally left open all year round for any adventurer to slip inside. This means that you can just turn up and settle in for the night, which is especially convenient if you’re desperately seeking shelter from cold and rainy weather. Of course, this also means that you may not be alone when you turn up, so be prepared to make some new friends!

Using a bothy comes free of charge, thanks to the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) which is responsible for maintaining them. The MBA is a charity organisation completely run by volunteers who ensure public bothies are well-maintained and remain free and open to all. If you would like to support their initiatives, they accept donations to fund their hard work.

Now to the fun part: what can you find inside a bothy? All bothies are different: at their most basic, they are simply wind and water-proof buildings providing somewhere dry to sleep. Other bothies may be a little more kitted out with a fireplace or a stove to provide warmth (though you may need to provide the fuel). Some bothies were built near a body of water, which can be handy to refill water bottles. Very rarely will bothies have toilet facilities, but most provide a spade to bury natural waste. Doing things the old-fashioned way is also part of the adventure!

The bothy code

It sounds ominous, but the bothy code is nothing more than a simple collection of rules to help bothy users leave the place as they found it. With the MBA maintaining these shelters and allowing their use free of charge, it is only right that a few rules should be followed to respect their hard work, the bothy itself, and future users. Scroll through the 5 rules below!

#1 Respect other users
Please leave the bothy clean and tidy with dry kindling for the next visitors. Make other visitors welcome and be considerate to other users.
#2 Respect the bothy
Don’t leave graffiti or vandalise the bothy. Please take out all rubbish which you can’t burn. Avoid burying rubbish; this pollutes the environment. Please don’t leave perishable food as this attracts vermin. Guard against fire risk and ensure the fire is out before you leave. Make sure the doors and windows are properly closed when you leave.
#3 Respect the surroundings
If there is no toilet at the bothy please bury human waste out of sight. Use the spade provided, keep well away from the water supply and never use the vicinity of the bothy as a toilet. Never cut live wood or damage estate property. Use fuel sparingly.
#4 Respect the agreement with the estate
Please observe any restrictions on use of the bothy, for example during stag stalking or at lambing time. Please remember bothies are available for short stays only. The owner’s permission must be obtained if you intend an extended stay.
#5 Respect restrictions on numbers
Because of over crowding and lack of facilities, large groups (6 or more) should not use a bothy. Please also observe the local COVID-19 rules regarding group numbers and mixing with other households, if any are in place.
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How do you find a bothy?

There are 11 bothies in the South of Scotland for you to visit! We recommend planning your visit ahead of time both so that your route is optimally planned, but also to make sure to pack everything you’ll need for your stay. Remember not all bothies have the same facilities available, so it’s worth checking the MBA’s map of bothies in the South of Scotland to avoid under preparing. Click on the names below to find out more about each bothy:

Planning your trip

Now that you’ve found a bothy you’d like to stay at, it’s time to plan your trip!

Firstly, do your research! It’s important to know exactly what facilities will be available. It is also important to know if the bothy in question is open at the time you’re thinking of visiting, or if access to the bothy is restricted due to it being stag stalking or lambing season. Please note that the MBA advises bothies in Scotland should not be used at present except in an emergency, due to the risk of infection. Check the MBA website for COVID-19 guidance.

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to pack. Always bring a small camping stove for cooking and candles for light. If the bothy you’re visiting has a stove or an open fire area, only use them for warmth and bring your own fuel. It goes without saying, but also bring your sleeping bag and make sure it is appropriate for the weather! 

It is sometimes customary to leave something behind for the next guest. Opt for useful items like firelighters, candles and kindling. You could also leave food, but make sure that it has a long shelf life and that it is unopened. You wouldn’t want to cause a bug or mice infestation…

Once you’re ready, go and enjoy your Scottish bothy adventure! It will definitely be a unique experience and a great story to tell, and you’re likely to experience the best views of your life on your way there.

More bikepacking

Check out some more of our bikepacking guides and blogs, as well as helpful itineraries to help you start planning your next adventure!

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Thinking of turning your Raiders Gravel adventure into a week-long getaway? First of all, let us say: smart move. The South of Scotland has so much to offer, and we guarantee you’ll find plenty of things to see and do. Here are our favourite accommodation options!

Read More »

A guide to Scottish bothies

Bothies are small, hut-like shelters found in the more remote areas of the countryside and in mountainous regions. Originally used as farm accommodation for itinerant workers, they now provide shelter to hikers, bikepackers, and other adventurers. There are 11 bothies in the South of Scotland and they are definitely worth checking out while on a bikepacking adventure.

Read More »

The White Laggan bothy

The narrow valley that links Clatteringshaws with Glentrool is a classic highland landscape. Flanked by Merrick – the highest peak in southern Scotland – with a loch at either end, it deserves to be better known. It has several tracks that you can link together on a bike, but the classic route is the cafe at Clatteringshaws to the cafe at Glentrool and back. A slight detour to White Laggan Bothy for coffee making is part of today’s plan.

Read More »

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