Sleep in a Bothy


Luib Chonnal Bothy in a lonely spot at the head of Glen Roy

In a new series of articles on this blog called SLEEP CHEAP I am going to try all the different ways to sleep for free or cheaply I can think of. In Scotland, sleeping in a bothy is a great choice.

What is a bothy?

Bothies are unlocked shelters generally in remote and mountainous areas in Scotland. There are about a hundred or so, typically plain stone built shelters with a slate or corrugated iron roof. They usually have a fire place or perhaps a wood burning stove. Some have raised sleeping platforms but usually its a case of sleeping on a wooden or stone floor. Sometimes there is furniture left behind and even pots and pans, but many are simple and sparse. They don't have electricity, water or toilets. They get you out of the wind and rain, like Bob Dylan sang: "Come in she said I'll give you shelter from the storm".

How do you find them?
Due to being in remote locations, bothies are mainly used by climbers, walkers, cyclists, and in some occasions boaters. If you hang out with this kind of outdoor people you are bound to find out about the location of a few bothies. Bothies are maintained by work groups organised by a charity called the Mountain Bothies Association. If you join for £20 you get a handbook listing the locations. If you are too tight to pay that then looking on the MBA's gallery page or doing a Google image search might help locate one on your intended trip. Guide books, walking magazines and websites quite often share the location of one or two bothies (for example as possible accommodation on a route). The MBA like to minimise publicity to reduce the problems caused by overuse, like rubbish, vandalism, fire, and human waste.

How to use them?
The MBA have a code of use the bothies. The gist of it is to leave it in the state you found it in. It is worth having a small hand trowel for digging a hole (for doing your business), although there is often a spade provided, and maybe candles to leave as a replacement for any you use when you are there. Leaving some fire wood (including kindling), or having a bash and cutting peat, means the next people can get a fire going without having to go foraging for fuel. It is old hat, and a bad idea, to bury rubbish, better to burn the paper bits and carry the rest out. Its also more sociable to cook on a stove rather than on the fire (hogging the heat) but sausages on a stick might be an option. For me one of the coolest things about bothies is meeting eccentric characters. I think its damn good to be offered a nip of scotch from a stranger and I would recommend sharing whatever goodies you may have (chocolate biscuits, stories, etc) with other people in the bothy. When you leave sweep the floor, don't leave food behind that rats like (or that rots), make sure the fire is out and shut the door.
MBA website

What if the bothy has burned down?
Its worth having a back-up plan in case the bothy is not there, ruined or overcrowded. A tent or a bivvy bag would do the job. I'll write more about these and other types of free accommodation in future.

You Might Also Like


  1. Brilliant post. I had no idea these places existed.

    Are there any in England?

  2. Thanks Red Bike! Think there may be a few in Cumbria and maybe in Wales. Almost by definition they tend to be somewhere fairly remote. Camping barns are much more common in England but you have to pay a few quid. Look out for more CHEAP SLEEP articles coming soon.

    If anyone has any suggestions I'll attempt to try them out.

  3. I will added this blog to reading list in the hope you'll report about a few more. - Remote is perfect, provided I can ride to them.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Contact form


Email *

Message *

Follow by Email