Bothying – relaxing in Arenig Fawr

The story here is really a non story. There isn’t any particular point nor is there any particular event that just cries out to be written about. Another excellent weekend immersing oneself in the glory of wet autumn colours, being blasted by white swirling clouds and watching the moon rise to the sound of damp wood cracking in the fireplace. DSC_2562

It started on a hangover from another great stag do – this time in Manchester. With some free time afterwards, what better way for the body to ride out the stormy aftermath than stretching out in a heavy sleeping bag on a flat concrete roof. Mug of cuppa soup, book, golden sunset, serrated Welsh horizon, chilly breeze, and a Bothy to ourselves. Martyn and I have been on many of these weekends together. I’m sure we used to have interesting conversations but most of the time I can’t be bothered. DSC_2580DSC_2567 DSC_2568 DSC_2572 DSC_2578
Still a little shaky from the weekend’s frivolities, we’d stopped off in Bala to pick up some food and wood for the evening. Tempted by an interesting independent beer shop we decided to just have a little look inside. Tempted by a free taster, and another. Before long the keys were jangling as the whisky cabinet was opened and the till rang through a few litres of our preferred beers. They didn’t disappoint.

DSC_2583 DSC_2584 DSC_2587 DSC_2588 DSC_2589 DSC_2590   DSC_2607For every night of occupation, a bothy undergoes a transformation. A transformation total and complete althought without smooth or steady transition. Beginning in the thick blackness of night time, the fire is the main source of light. It’s light is warm, flickering and gives everything it touches the appearance of warmth. It’s sound is comforting, its gentle hissing in contrast to the howling winds from outside. Light a few candles. Everything inside softens. It starts to become really quite hot, jackets hung up, boots steam and warm, damp socks leave kidney shaped footprints on the smooth stone floor. The shadows of the large iron nails driven into the whitewashed walls cast shadows, doubling the spartan internal decoration. Whiskey warms and softens the room further. The moon has now risen and the heat inside has built up sufficiently that the thin, crooked wooden door is an impenetrable barrier protecting you from the cold night air.  Outside the vapor of breath rises into the beam of the head torch to disorientate and accentuate the contrast between the living and the cold stones and grey grass. Back inside, read a book, distraction free. No phone signal anyway. No idea of the time.DSC_2581

In the morning the warm, soft dream is over. The bothy is as dirty as you forgot it was. The white walls are sooted and damp. Ash litters the floor. A white plastic carrier bag hangs, shredded on a nail in the wall, the juice from last night’s tinned dinner staining the bottom corner. It is very cold. Outside the sun is rising, it’s laser straight rays reaching in all directions, it has a halo in the haze and the morning dew is already beginning to burn off. Urination complete, back into the bothy and it is colder than ever. Time to get moving.

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We climbed Penygadair and bagged a few other summits over the next few days. The walks were long and often pretty steep. I was pretty tired and usually hungry. It was mostly pretty wet and occasionally cold. Visibility was poor and it was very disorientating. I was completely content and the whole thing was very relaxing. Which is probably why this is a non story.


We parted with money in Bala for food, fuel and drinks. Co-op were doing cheap mug shots but obviously had nobody on the tills. Company policy.

We stayed in the Arenig Fawr bothy  for free. For more information on bothies click here.

I ended up with an extra day in Wales at pretty short notice so we stayed in the Braich Goch Bunkhouse in Corris. It was pretty good if a little dragon themed and Martyn got to sleep in the same bed that Prince William slept in.

I really like Corris. It is a small village with a surprising amount going on and is in the middle of a huge pine forest. I felt a bit Twin Peaks. Just a bit.

On a trip a few years back I found the other hostel in Corris was much more charming and would recommend it.


One thought on “Bothying – relaxing in Arenig Fawr

  1. Bradley

    Hi there Jamie,
    You seem quite the adventurer and so I thought I’d ask you for a few tips.
    I will be cycling around Scotland for 2 weeks in June and each night we shall either be wild camping or staying in a bothy. What can you suggest in regards to food -mainly evening meals, gearing, doing the number 2 , cleaning, foraging and anything else that you can think of from water to toothbrushes?


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