Bothies are mountain huts, remote shelters, often hundreds of years old with rich histories. They may have once provided all-important shelter for roaming shepherds, houses for estate gardeners, refuges for weather-beaten ghillies, stalkers and fishermen.
Today many of these crumbling stone cottages have been restored to watertight, windproof huts that are enjoyed by adventurous walkers and cyclists alike, providing a solid home in remote parts of the UK that are especially appreciated in the all-too-often adverse conditions!
If you love remote and wild places, there’s little else more magical than reaching a welcoming bothy after a day in the hills. Typically found in Scotland, plus a few in Northern England and Wales, these enchanting little cottages can range from a tiny stone room to spacious houses and everything in between.
Bothies are free to use, for everyone. To keep them this way, everyone that visits and uses bothies must follow the code, including taking all your rubbish with you and respecting these buildings and estates that provide them. Expect that the bothy will have minimal facilities and take everything that you need with you, as well as make sure that you are informed on how to responsibly use the toilet in the wild (aka, there probably won’t be a toilet). Do make sure you read the bothy code before you visit: mountainbothies.org.uk/bothies/bothy-code.
When planning a trip to visit a bothy, you must always be prepared for the worst, if there is not space for you or if the bothy is temporarily closed. Make sure you have kit so you can stay outside if need be, for example a bivvy bag and tarp or a tent.
For most shelters you’ll need to supply your own firewood or coal if it’s cold or wet and you need to light a fire. Make sure you plan this into your trip logistics and packing.
You’ll find that the Tours in this Collection range in accessibility from short routes near train stations to very remote trips that you’ll need several days and a certain level of stamina and experience to complete. By their very nature, bothies tend to be in very remote and sometimes hostile areas so you’ll need to be sufficiently competent with emergency first aid, navigation and emergency procedure should the worst (hopefully not) happen.
Bear the time of year in mind when you’re planning your trip. Tours in the winter season can often be boggy and wet, firewood may be damp and difficult to light. In the peak summer season bothies can become very popular and you may struggle to find a space. The best bet is to visit during the weekdays if you can and avoid the busiest spells in July and August. Do take the midge season into account too, especially in Scotland, and make sure you take repellent and nets with you if you’re riding during the summer months.
All of the Tours in this collection involve some off road riding and some quiet lanes. Therefore, any gravel bike or mountain bike would be suitable within reason, though you’ll probably want at least 40mm wide tyres.
There are a range of tour lengths in this collection, so you can take advantage of the multi-day planner to split each route into daily tours according to your preference.
Find out more about bothies listed under the Mountain Bothy Association here mountainbothies.org.uk/bothies/location-map
Escape to the Cambrian Mountains, aptly named the ‘desert of Wales’ for it’s remote and undiscovered beauty, and enjoy a night’s stay in one of the most luxurious bothies going, Claerddu (pronounced Claire-thee). With a flushing toilet, a full log store and regular maintenance by the Elan Valley Trust, this is nothing less than five-star accommodation!This 48.5 mile (78.1 km) loop from the Powys town of Rhayader heads west into the heart of the Cambrians through the spectacular Elan Valley, riding on wide and wonderfully rough gravel tracks alongside the network of man-made reservoirs that supply water to Birmingham and the West Midlands. After a cosy night in Claerddu Bothy, the route then heads back to complete the loop via the north of the Cambrian Mountains, through the beautiful wooded Hafod Estate following the Trans Cambrian Way (see komoot.com/collection/899090/welsh-border-to-irish-sea-bikepacking-trans-cambrian-way) and then past Craig Goch Dam and along the shores of Penygarreg Reservoir on the Elan Valley Trail.
Nestled next to the reservoir that gives its name, Grwyne Fawr Bothy is a tiny little hut in the Black Mountains of South Wales.Sleeping no more than three people, you’ll want to make sure you get a space here, so avoid weekends or high summer if you can and always bring alternative shelter, for example a bivvy bag or tent, just in case there’s not space! This route is an A to B ride linking two market towns on the English and Welsh border. You’ll start from the train station in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, and finish the next day in the cathedral city of Hereford, having spent a night at Grwyne Fawr. Each end is on the train line along this border route, so you can easily access the route or even extend it if you want to make it into a full loop, returning to Abergavenny.
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Facing the Lake District to the west, Greg’s Hut Bothy is high atop Cross Fell, a peak in the Northern Pennines. This circular route from Penrith is easily accessible by …
This 64.4 mile (104 km) circular route from the town of Haltwhistle in Northumberland explores the graveller’s dream of Kielder Forest Park in Northumberland and Cumbria, with an overnight stop at Kershopehead Bothy on the Scottish and English border.The train station in this town makes this a really accessible route, and you’ll find shops here as well as at The Boat Inn next to Kielder Water, just before your last trail to the bothy. Start by heading north on lanes past Hadrian’s Wall and the Military Road to reach the edges of Kielder Forest Park.Here you’ll find miles upon miles of golden gravel, sometimes compact and sometimes loose, mainly between rows of tall trees, always wide gravel roads. Enjoy the short climbs and descents before the longer drop down to the shores of Kielder Water. Keep your eyes open for the rare Ospreys that make this spectacular place their home.
Quite a remarkable bothy thanks to its location on the royal estate of Balmoral in Scotland, this is a challenging route that’ll take you past many other bothies and mountain refuges on your journey to Glas-Allt-Shiel. Easily accessible from the town of Aviemore and its train station, I’d recommend you allow more than just a couple of days for this route and enjoy some of the other bothies along the way too. The 111 mile (179 km) route is a clockwise loop following much of the ways of the Cairngorms Loop (komoot.com/collection/901294/burns-lochs-bothies-of-the-scottish-highlands-cairngorms-loop). After a long climb from Aviemore to the south-east, your first mountain hut is the emergency shelter of the Fords of Avon. Heading east, you’ll pass Faindouran Lodge bothy next and the Ponymen’s Hut as you descend alongside the River Avon. You’ll then head south along Builg Burn to the Loch, before reaching the village of Crathie and passing the Lochnagar Distillery.
Ben Alder Cottage is well-known among hill walkers and mountain bikers in Scotland for being one of the best, and most remote bothies in the Central Highlands. It’s quite an …
Set in the Scottish Borders, this 86 mile (139 km) route is a circular route from the town of Lockerbie to Over Phawhope Bothy near Moffat after 22.4 miles (36 km). Accessible easily by train and with mostly wide and easy gravel roads, this route is more suitable for novice bikepackers than some of the more remote trails in the Scottish Highlands, but equally can be enjoyed by experienced riders too.Leave the train station in Lockerbie to head north, following a series of lanes alongside the River Annan, between the railway and the main road. Rolling green fields surround you, with the hills of the Scottish Borders rising to your right. It’s not long before you come within a close distance of Moffat, which is well worth a detour if you’ve never visited before, especially to try their unique Moffat toffees!
You’ll need to take a ferry to start this Tour, from the Scottish mainland at Oban to Craignure on the Isle of Mull. Getting onto these large sea-faring vessels is all part of the adventure, watching the shores of the beautiful island draw closer as you sail through the waves.Anyone who’s ever visited the Isle of Mull before can attest to its splendour. Small and quiet singletrack lanes circle the island, linking tiny little seaside villages to remote estates, woodlands and lochs with some mighty moorland hills dominating the centre.This 58 mile (93.5 km) route takes you from the ferry port at Craignure to visit Tomsleibhe bothy at the foothills of Beinn Talaidh after a short ride along the coastal road, and a scenic detour through the forest near Fishnish Point. You’ll turn inland at Glenforsa Airfield to follow the River Forsa up through the valley to the wonderful, yet rarely visited, bothy.