Everyone who goes to the Scottish hills has at least heard of bothies. These free-to-use shelters run by the Mountain Bothies Association are located in some wild and spectacular places and come in very handy when planning a multi-day hillwalking trip.
|Photograph by the author|
The MBA do their best to keep bothies in a clean and usable condition and to that end they have published a ''bothy code'' - a guide for users. It is not my concern to reiterate that code here; it is available in many other places (anyone who doesn't know it can read it here).
My concern is the number of people who, seemingly, don't know the code or (more likely) simply ignore it for convenience sake. Part of the bothy code is that rubbish should never be left in a bothy yet I have never been to a bothy which didn't have a pile of rubbish either in it or just outside it.
Sometimes this rubbish is in a black plastic bin liner neatly stacked against the bothy wall as if waiting for the refuse wagon to pick it up! A popular item found in bothies is the empty whisky bottle. Apparently a useless empty bottle immediately becomes useful if a candle is stuck into it thereby giving the owner of the bottle a good excuse not carry it out with them!
|Photograph by Jim Barton/Geograph UK|
Any toilet-related business you need to do should be done well away from any bothy and well away from any source of water which bothiers (or anyone else) might use - especially important when a handy river runs right by the bothy as it does at Staoineag (and many others).
One more problem occasionally encountered in bothies is the presence of a large group who fill the bothy and leave no space for anyone else. It is bad manners at the very least to go to a bothy with a group large enough to fill it.
On one memorable occasion I arrived late in the evening at the bothy at Loch Chiarain only to find it jam-packed with a group of teenage schoolchildren - and I do mean jam-packed. There wasn't room to squeeze in anywhere. When I pointed this out to the group leader he simply shrugged his shoulders and said that the group had permission!
Permission or not, it is bad practice, bad manners and doesn't reflect well on the English public school that particular group were from. The organisers should have known better. On that occasion I had a tent with me so I camped outside and didn't push the point and this practice of large school groups going for a jolly on the Scottish hills only raises its ugly head during the warmer months!
|Photograph by Paul Birrell/Geograph UK|
Surely if you carry something in to a bothy then you are capable of carrying the leftovers out again! The motto of the hills Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints doesn't seem to apply to bothies!
Ok, I've already included this link but it's worth pressing the point. If you use bothies but don't know the bothy code then here's your chance to read it again.
Sources: Mountain Bothies Association; personal experience.