I often used to find myself spending a lot of my idle time dreaming about Bothies, although I’d never heard the word before. I imagined myself finding an abandoned stone building and using it as a base for activities. I would sit with my friends by the roaring fire as my socks dried, occasionally peeping outside to see how dark the night has become. It would be a free place, away from everything, but right in the heart of what I wanted.
Despite spending many years walking and cycling around the UK, I’ve only just discovered that these imaginary sanctuaries already actually exist and are even better than I’d imagined. A bothy is a small house or hut with four walls and a roof as a minimum. The majority that I have stayed in are much better, offer wooden sleeping platforms, glass windows and a fireplace or stove. Some even have toilets. They are free of charge and anyone can use them, that is part of the fun. Half of my nights have been spent with only my mates. The other half have been spent with a young American searching for the perfect concept for his next poem, an enthusiastic, tooled up mountain leader and a quiet until drunk Glaswegian woman.
Some have been rough and creepy but others have been the sort of place I could imagine charging Londoners £110 per night for the ‘authentic Welsh retreat experience’ and then listening to them babbling on about how cheap it was for such a great night.
The truth is that they are a relatively well kept secret and only suit a certain type of person. The only way to find out if bothying is for you is to go and spend the night in one.
The dream is kept alive by the MBA – although there is no charge to use one, membership is good practice.
Wales, November 2015 Arenig Fawr
Wales, June 2015 Black Mountains
Lakes, August 2015 Bob Graham for Beginners
Wales, April 2015 Mid Wales Trio of Bothies