Police patrols at remote mountain bothies after reports of parties, vandalism and fires

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Patrols are to begin at a number of remote bothies across Scotland after reports of partying, vandalism and hillwalkers being shut out of the shelters.

Bothy Watch has been launched by Police Scotland to highlight the issues at a number of bothies - which provide basic, free accommodation for walkers and climbers - in the south of the country.

PC Samantha Briggs at the bothy at Tunskeen in the Galloway Forest Park. Patrols at bothies across southern Scotland will be stepped up following reports of parties, anti-social behaviour and fires at the simple properties which are used as shelters for hillwalkers. PIC: Contributed.

PC Samantha Briggs at the bothy at Tunskeen in the Galloway Forest Park. Patrols at bothies across southern Scotland will be stepped up following reports of parties, anti-social behaviour and fires at the simple properties which are used as shelters for hillwalkers. PIC: Contributed.

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It follows a number of incidents, including one when hillwalkers were prevented access to one of the bothies by a group of revellers who had taken over the property.

The walkers were then forced to continue in bad weather - and later rescued off the hillside when conditions further worsened.

PC Samantha Briggs said the bothies were now attracting a "different kind of user" from walkers seeking a break or shelter from the elements.

She said: “For years these buildings have been a valuable and in fact quite a social resource for hill walkers and cyclists, with many reliant upon them on their long distance trekking routes.”

Tunskeen bothy in the Galloway National Forest, where patrols will begin following reports of partying and anti social behaviour in the area. Hillwalkers have been prevented from using the bothies in some cases. PIC: MBA/A McQuiston.

Tunskeen bothy in the Galloway National Forest, where patrols will begin following reports of partying and anti social behaviour in the area. Hillwalkers have been prevented from using the bothies in some cases. PIC: MBA/A McQuiston.

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“Nowadays there is a wealth of information available online about their locations and as a result they have become generally more accessible.

"This trend for the bothy has attracted a different type of user and we are concerned that health and safety on the hills is compromised and the integrity of the bothy lost.

“We are aware of a report that genuine hillwalkers were prevented access to a bothy full of revellers. They were forced to continue on in bad weather and subsequently had to be rescued off the hillside. This is a real concern for us and we want to raise awareness to the consequences of not using these shelters correctly.”

"This is a real concern for us and we want to raise awareness to the consequences of not using these shelters correctly.”

“The Bothy Watch initiative will promote sustainable and safe use of the bothies but at the same time I think it is vital to educate the new generation of users on the proper etiquette surrounding their use in order to reduce potential for anti-social behaviour.”

The officer said it was time to spread the message that bothies were not "law free zones" and that regular checks would be carried out at buildings with monitoring of any vehicles parked in restricted zones.

Police will work with Forestry and Land Scotland, Mountain Bothies Association (MBA), Local Authorities and Mountain Rescue Team volunteers on the campaign.

Peter King, MBA’s Area Organiser for Southern Scotland, said: “We welcome this initiative by Police Scotland. The MBA has developed a Code of Practice for bothy users, based on respect for the building, the surrounding environment and other users.

" A copy of this “Bothy Code” can be found in each of the bothies that we maintain and also on our website www.mountainbothies.org.uk.

"We have also recently appointed an Education Officer tasked with considering what further action we can take to spread the message about responsible use.”

Any crimes involving the bothies can be reported using the Bothy Report section on Mountain Bothies Association’s website, or alternatively by phoning Police Scotland on 101 (999 for emergency calls). Information can also be passed via the independent charity CrimeStoppers by calling 0800 555 111 where anonymity can be maintained.