One of my projects this year has to been to draw a series of Scottish bothies for a new range of mugs. Have you ever walked past one? Or even stayed in one?
If you don’t know, bothies are usually abandoned cottages that have been turned into mountain shelters for hillwalkers. Maintained by the volunteers of the Mountain Bothy Association (MBA), they are fairly basic – often there is a platform for sleeping one and maybe a fireplace. In fact the MBA describes a bothy as “camping without a tent”. Others, as I have learned, are regarded as luxurious for having a toilet (and at least one case, a separate toilet block).
But given their remote location, many bothies are lifesavers in times of emergency. One such example is the Fords of Avon Refuge in the Cairngorms. It has provided shelter in bleak situations for more than 50 years – and there’s not much to it. One room, a door, no windows and space for maybe four people. A renovation means its watertight and it’s sheltered from the fierce Cairngorm winds by heaps of boulders.
A Royal visitor
Others like Shenavall or Coire Fionnaraich are former deerstalkers’ cottages in the Highlands that have been renovated. Shenavall was originally built in the 1890s as a cottage for deerstalker Colin MacDonald and his family. Living in such a remote area meant they had to be virutally self-sufficient, growing their own vegetables and caring for animals. It is now a busy bothy – a perfect base for trips to five remote Munros in the Dundonnell area. But is also hosted royalty – King Charles stayed there when he was a pupil at Gordonstoun.
And Coire Fionnaraich was built in the 19th century, north-west of Balnacra. It was renovated in 1986 and has a stove to keep you warm on a cold Highland night. It even has an upstairs – there’s a smart staircase and a room at the top to sleep in.
Bothies are everywhere!
And they’re not just found in the Highlands. Tunskeen in Galloway Forest Park is actually the first bothy renovated by the MBA in 1965. One of a handful in the south of Scotland, Tunskeen is just a one room cottage. There’s a lovely account of the renovation project on the MBA’s website, where Bernard Heath describes staying along at night in the ruins and being astonished at the arrival of a bedraggled group of Scouts.
I have really enjoyed drawing these wee buildings and trying to capture their characters in a line drawing. You can see the original drawings and new stacking bothy mugs at the Spey Bank Studio in Grantown-on-Spey.