10 of Scotland’s best bothies to visit

Staioneag. Picture: Geoff Allan
Staioneag. Picture: Geoff Allan
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ARTIST Geoff Allan has spent four years travelling around Scotland’s wilderness areas by bike to chart all 81 of the country’s official bothies. He has collected more than 10,000 images on his travels on his Bothies on a Bike blog and hoped to publish a picture book next year. Here he picks out 10 of his favourites and explains what makes them so special.

Kearvaig

The view from An Cladach. Picture: Geoff Allan

The view from An Cladach. Picture: Geoff Allan

The queen of bothies sits on the far north coast of Scotland, three miles from Cape Wrath, the most north westerly point of the country, and 10 miles from the village of Durness.

It is probably every enthusiast’s aspiration to visit here at some point in their lives. It is actually very easy to get to, there a metalled road to within a mile of the bothy. However, you have to get to Durness to start off with, which is a bit of an effort to say the least.

Ben Alder Cottage (McCook’s Cottage)

The bothy is tucked away beneath the shadow of the Ben Alder massif, above a small bay on the shores of Loch Ericht, in the vast wilderness between Dalwhinnie and Rannoch.

Geoff Allan outside Ben Alder. Picture: Geoff Allan

Geoff Allan outside Ben Alder. Picture: Geoff Allan

One of the most well-known bothies, not least because of the stories that it is haunted, which were actually made up to discourage people from going to the bothy in the 1920’s. It has a rich documented history, including an account that Bonnie Prince Charlie used a cave on the hill above the bothy as a refuge in his escape across Scotland after the Battle of Culloden.

Maol Bhuidhe

The most remote bothy maintained by the Mountain Bothy Association is stuck out in the lonely territory between Loch Mullardoch, Loch Monar and Glen Carron.

A visit to Maol Bhuidhe provides a true test of your capability, especially in inclement weather, as it is protected on three sides by streams that rise very quickly when they are in spate. The bothy can be approached from the south, along a stretch of the Cape Wrath Trail starting from Sheil Bridge, west from Attadale on the southern side of Loch Carron, or from the north starting at Achnashellach. Each route is over ten miles of rough ground.

Maol Bhuidhe. Picture: Geoff Allan

Maol Bhuidhe. Picture: Geoff Allan

Brattleburn

On the section of the Southern Upland Way between Sanquhar and Moffat, the bothy lies four miles north of a single track road which can accessed from Junction 15 of the M74.

Some bothies do have a reputation for a certain drinking culture, but the majority provide a very friendly atmosphere. This bothy is one of the best I’ve been to recently.

An Cladach

An Cladach. Picture: Geoff Allan

An Cladach. Picture: Geoff Allan

This bothy lies on the shore of the Sound of Islay, on the east coast of the island, around four and a half miles south of the Port Arkaig ferry terminal as the crow flies.

All the MBA bothies on the islands of the west coast are pretty special, so it is very difficult to choose a favourite. But last year I took my sister to Islay for a couple of days and we stayed in this truly idyllic spot.

Gelder Sheil Stable

A former stable block in the Cairngorms National Park, three miles south of Crathie on the Balmoral Estate, close to Lochnagar.

Recently-refurbished, this now five-star bothy stands opposite a lodge occasionally frequented by members of the Royal Family. When the Queen is in residence at Balmoral, there’s a chance you might even see her here.

Staoineag

Brattleburn. Picture: Geoff Allan

Brattleburn. Picture: Geoff Allan

Located in the back country between the West Highland Line as it passes north of Rannoch Moor and Glen Nevis, five miles west west of Corrour Station, where part of Trainspotting was famously filmed by Danny Boyle.

I’ve been to Staioneag eight times over the years and the bothy holds lots of happy memories. A great place to visit if you don’t have a car, because by far the easiest way to get there is by train.

Mark Cottage

Located on the shores of Loch Long at the end of the Ardgartan Peninsula, six miles south of Arrochar.

Considering how close it is to Glasgow, Mark Cottage is in a surprisingly remote location. Once home to Scotland’s oldest man, James Grieve, it is particularly popular with sea kayakers. Added to the Mountain Bothy Association list in 2011, its condition is very spick and scan, and the bothy even has a small library.

Oban

One of Scotland’s most remote bothies sits at the head of Loch Morar, in an area of the west coast called “The Rough Grounds,” around six miles north as the crow flies from Glenfinnan.

Oban is a very special place which, although hard-earned, is well worth getting to. Knoydart and “The Rough Grounds” have the highest concentration of bothies in the country, and it is easy to link some of them together on a multi-day expedition. The added bonus is that the West Highland line from Fort William to Mallaig runs to the south, and there is a ferry to Inverie, so you don’t need a car to complete a trip.

Glen Garrisdale

One of the most picturesque bothies in Scotland, with fabulous views over to Mull and Scarba sits on the far north-west coast of Jura, 25 miles north of the island’s distillery at the village of Craighouse.

Although only three miles from the end of the metalled road which runs up the east coast of Jura, the terrain to the bothy is so tough that it can take as much as three hours to get to the bothy. However once you have arrived you will not want to leave, as the coastline there is intoxicating.

• Read more about Geoff Allan’s four-year quest in Brian Ferguson’s Scotland on Sunday report