Posts tagged ‘bothies’

December 4, 2016

17 hours 15 minutes of night

by backpackingbongos

Last week in the far north of Scotland the sun rose at 8.46am and set at 3.31pm. The extended periods of darkness almost became meditative as the moonless nights swallowed the land. Bothies were my refuge; a fire, candles and the beam of my head torch pushing the darkness away. When dawn finally came the light was soft, the sun when visible low on the horizon.






February 5, 2016

A solo mid Winter Borders / Kielder bothy trip (part one)

by backpackingbongos

The River Esk was in full spate as I drove over the bridge in Langholm, the brown turbulent water an impressive sight. Once past Bentpath and heading up the Meggat Water the road was a mess of stones and gravel washed down from the recent heavy rains. One long flooded section gave me cause for concern, but luckily the water was only a few inches deep.

I left the Doblo at the end of the road next to an information board at the deserted Jamestown. I was a bit nervous leaving our new van on its own and full of kit in such a remote spot. Reuben was saddled up with his panniers and I hoisted a full and heavy 80 litre pack onto my back. Much of the weight was a bag of coal, kindling and firelighters, you can’t head into a bothy in January without the means to have a warming fire.

It took less than an hour to walk to Greensykes bothy, first along a firm track and then a boggy slosh through the forest. Under a steely grey sky with a hint of drizzle in the air the scenery was hardly inspiring, but it was good to fill my lungs with fresh air and stretch my legs.



The bothy was hidden until the very last minute, the first glimpse being through a break in the conifers. I looked for signs of life and smoke from the chimney but all was quiet. I really wanted the place to myself, space to clear my head and relax.



The place was indeed empty, clean, well-kept and with a good supply of coal and dry logs. With dark falling I set about lighting the candles that I had carried in and got the fire going. The chimney drew very well, the fire filling the room with warmth and a friendly glow. I made a cosy nest on the sleeping platform, putting Reuben’s bed next to mine. It was one of the most pleasant bothy evenings that I have had. I sat reading in front of the fire whilst drinking the half a bottle of red wine I had brought along.



The warm room meant that the winter sleeping bag that I had brought along was not really needed, I didn’t zip it up until the early hours. For some reason Reuben did not settle down that night, he kept shifting around, sitting up and staring at something. I didn’t feel any ghostly presences, but perhaps he sensed something I could not.

In winter, bothy mornings are much more preferable to waking up in a tent. There is space to stretch out and make breakfast in comfort. There is always a good quality spade to make the morning walk of shame much easier. Before leaving I swept the bothy and left it as neat and tidy as I had found it. The bag of coal I had carried in was left with the existing pile of fuel.




The walk back to the van was much quicker, my rucksack a bag of coal lighter. Much of the snow that had been on the ground had now melted, leaving the track even wetter. A solitary shepherd with his collie passed on a quad bike as I neared the road head.

Before driving off I restocked my rucksack with another bag of coal and food for Reuben and I.  The aim this time was Kershopehead bothy, just to the east of Newcastleton, deep in the forest to the south of Kielder. It was a very scenic drive over the moors between Langholm and Newcastleton, an area very worthy of returning to for a backpack. Newcastleton is a pleasant place and the village shop and bakery provided a boost to my supplies.

The van was once again left in a remote spot, this time at Kershopehead Bridge. The walk into the bothy this time was longer, taking a good couple of hours. The problem with forestry tracks marked on the map is that you don’t know if they are going to be wide roads or narrow grassy trods. I managed to pick one that started off promising but soon left me stuck in the middle of a bog. I had to re-trace my steps and start again.

Kershopehead is another well looked after bothy, although I was glad that I had carried in a big bag of coal as it was lacking in the dry fuel department (although it is in the middle of a huge forest!). The stove was soon roaring and another cosy night was spent staring into the flickering flames and reading Game of Thrones. I had carried in with me a huge brick of a book, weight not really being an issue when you are only walking a few miles a day.


The following morning we set off into low cloud and light drizzle to find a way to climb Glendhu Hill. This isolated moorland lump is defended almost to its summit on all sides by forestry. Height was quickly and easily gained on a series of forestry tracks until we got to Coal Grains and a convenient place to leave the track. Here the forestry had been felled and replanted. That meant that the conifers were only a couple of metres high and there were gaps between them. I hid my pack before climbing to the summit, relieved to get the weight off my shoulders. The going however was still very tough due to the rotting brush underfoot from when it had been felled a few years ago. There were many traps for the unwary hidden in the long grass and heather.

The summit itself was a desolate place in the wind, rain and mist and we did not hang around. We retraced our steps back to the ruckack for a quick snack break. Reuben was not enjoying the weather and did his best to build a nest in the heather by much kicking and turning round and round in circles. No sooner than he had got comfortable we were off again.

The trudge back to the car seemed to take ages, tracks through forestry plantations never being very exciting the second time round. I was glad when we rounded the last corner to see the van still where I had left it.

With it being late in the afternoon there was not enough daylight to walk to the next bothy on my list. Instead I drove to the end of a single track road and a gravel forest car park. A quiet night was spent in the van, owls hooting in the dark woods. The morning brought mild panic when I could not open either of the rear sliding doors. Climbing undignified over the front seat and exiting head first it was evident that they had frozen shut, a bit of a design flaw. The stove in the Doblo is designed to be used alfresco so I stood at the rear of the vehicle brewing up and cooking breakfast, my breath steaming in the sub-zero air. The forecast promised a bright and sunny morning with cloud building in the afternoon, followed by heavy snow during the evening and night. Once again I repacked my 80 litre pack with plenty of coal and kindling.



March 15, 2009

Planning a Northern Highland coast to coast

by backpackingbongos

This time in 5 weeks and I will be embarking on a coast to coast backpacking trip across the Northern Highlands.  This trip has been in the pipeline for months now and I have finally settled on my route.  I wanted to backpack through the wildest scenery that the highlands have to offer yet cross from coast to coast within a week.  This limited my route to the area north of Inverness where Scotland narrows dramatically and sea lochs cut inland.  I also had to bear in mind that I will be backpacking in mid April and the weather may not be kind to me!  There is a high chance that the high tops will still be plastered in snow and I want to travel as light as possible.  This means taking a lightweight tent, wearing lightweight mid cut boots and not taking an ice axe or crampons with me.  This meant planning a route that sticks to the lower glens with the option of climbing higher if conditions allow.

I have decided to start at the village of Evanton on the Cromarty Firth and finish at Ullapool on the west coast.  I will start by following Glen Glass to Loch Glass via the Black Rock Gorge.  A track alongside Loch Glass will lead to the Abhainn Beinn nan Eun where I plan to wild camp.  The following day will involve crossing rough moorland to get to Loch Vaich where I hope to wild camp by the old cottages of Lubachlaggan.  I will then aim for Glenbeg bothy where I have always fancied spending a night, the area being really remote.  The next part is the crux of the trip where I will cross the remote Corbett of Carn Ban.  I am hoping that the conditions will be right to visit the summit of Seana Bhraigh before dropping down to Coiremor bothy.  An easy day next to Knockdamph bothy before heading to Ullapool via Rhidorroch lodge.

A total of 60 miles split over 6 days.  2 nights wild camping and 3 nights spent in bothies.  I could do bigger mileages each day and knock a couple of days off of the crossing but am savouring just being in the wilds for that amount of time.  The only drawback is the amount of food that I will have to carry – I will have to start dehydrating my own soon!  Lets hope for a mild and sunny April in the Highlands!

Map of route (click for full size)


January 24, 2009

Bothying in the North York Moors

by backpackingbongos

Last weekend I had planned to travel to the North Pennines with a mate to stay in a non-mba bothy.  We were also going to check if a remote building I had spotted from a distance years ago was a bothy we could use on another trip.

Alas the plan had to be changed at the very last minute, my mate had hurt his back and the weather for the Alston area was showing 100mph winds on the tops and heavy snow!  It was now me on my own and I could not face the long drive and the bad weather.  I got out my maps the night before and decided to head for The North York Moors, an area I have only visited once.  There was also a bothy that I could stay in as the wind was still going to be pretty strong – maybe too strong for a backpacking tent up on the moors.

I left Nottingham at 7.00am and found myself in Pickering only 2 hours later, much quicker than I had anticipated.  I had decided to do a short day walk near Goathland before heading off to the bothy.  This was pleasant enough but could not under any stretch of the imagination be called exciting.  A bash through the heather to the 260m trig point, passing a guy in shorts (it was cold and just a bit breezy!) followed by an attractive riverside stretch along Wheeldale beck.

Back to the Bongo for a spot of late lunch then a short drive to park up the van for the night.  One of the reasons why I like bothies is being able to spend the evening in front of a roaring fire.  Therefore my rucksack weighed a ton as it was full of wood and coal.  It took me nearly an hour to stagger just over a mile with that damn rucksack, the track was a quagmire and I was covered in peat up to the knees.  Just at the last minute the bothy appears, I looked for any sign of smoke from the chimney but could not see or smell any.  Opening the bothy door I was pleased that it was empty and clean and tidy.  I claimed a single sleeping platform then went out into the gloaming for a look around, noticing two figures on the horizon heading towards me.  I have to admit that my heart sank as I was looking forward to a peaceful night on my own, so went back in to continue unpacking.

5 minutes later two lads opened the door and pleasantries were exchanged.  They were from Scarborough and had come to stay at the bothy many times in the past.  Within a few minutes the bothy was full of chatter, a fire was lit and beers passed around.  Looking like it would be a good night.

As the evening progressed the wind outside got stronger and stronger until it was a steady roar, rain bouncing off of the tin roof.  My curry for dinner played havoc with my stomach and I had to step outside with the bothy spade and go for a long walk across the heather.  The downside to bothying I suppose!

More food was eaten, whisky was then drunk, then a night spent sleeping on a hard wooden platform.  The morning dawned lovely and sunny with just a touch of ice on the puddles outside.  I love bothy mornings as it saves packing up a wet tent!  Lots of coffee, curry noodles and a stomp / slosh across the moor brought me back to the van and the drive home.

Just a shame I forgot my camera!

Pinkneys bothy (not my own picture)