Plans approved for Feshie Bothy renovation

Ruigh aiteachain bothy, Glen Feshie, Cairngorms

Ruighe-aiteachain bothy from the south. Due for renovation

Long anticipated plans to improve and extend Ruighe Aiteachain Bothy in Glen Feshie have been approved by the Cairngorm National Park Authority.

The popular Feshie Bothy, as it is commonly known, will have a stone-built porch added on the north side (where the existing entrance is), housing a flight of stairs to sleeping accommodation upstairs, along with a small wood store.

The existing two ground floor rooms will be retained, but with a new wood floor, new windows and doors, built-in bunks in both rooms, and new wood-burning stoves installed in both rooms, using the existing chimney.

The plans, submitted by Glenfeshie Estate Ltd, were approved by the CNPA on Friday, 13th November.

The MBA learned several years ago that the estate owner, Danish clothing millionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, intended to carry out a professional renovation of the bothy, but information had been scant since then. Assurances had been given to the maintenance organiser that the bothy would remain open to all as at present, but there’s no denying there were suspicions it would end up a paying bunkhouse or similar.

Similar suspicions occurred to Kincraig and Vicinity Community Council, which was anxious that the bothy remain free to the public as a mountain refuge. But the report to the CNPA planning committee contained the reassurance from Glenfeshie Estate:  “Your sentiments are also ours! The bothy will continue as an open to all overnight refuge but on this occasion safe to use. The wood store is to allow for a small supply of dry wood to prevent our visitors cutting down any more ancient Caledonian pines.”

The report from CNPA officials further notes: “It is important to note that the applicant does not seek permission for a change of use of the building. The building shall remain in use as a bothy and any permission granted for this proposal would not permit a change of use to occur.”

Backing those statements is Mr Povlsen’s record since purchasing the estate in 2006, meeting with a favourable response for conservation efforts which have seen a radical reduction in deer numbers and resultant transformation of Glen Feshie with a heartening level of regeneration. He has also in the last couple of years created a much appreciated, non-boggy version of the path into the bothy from Achlean, up the east side of the Feshie, and still has plans to rebuilt the Carnachuin Bridge to link to the road on the west side of the glen.

Timescales for the bothy renovation aren’t known yet, but the planner’s report and supporting papers for the application, along with drawings of the proposals, can be seen at


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A rubbish bothy weekend

Haven’t  moaned about rubbish in bothies for a wee while, so indulge me…

Went in to Corrour this weekend to change over the toilet bag, walking in on Saturday morning from Bob Scott’s and arriving just before lunchtime, somewhat moist from the rain, and knackered from the 8kg of coal in my sack.

There was plenty to do at the toilet. Various ongoing problems there meant the normal changover, moving a 20kg bag of human waste through a narrow passage from one side of the building to the other, was more difficult than normal. The public area of the toilet was overdue a clean-out too, so that took another hour or so.

That was all planned for though.

What wasn’t planned was the large bag of rubbish hanging up in the storm porch.

Rubbish left at Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

Halfway down the bag of rubbish

You can see from the photos, it was a rancid mess inside, and absolutely crawling with small blackflies which were finding plenty sustenance and a great breeding environment in all the food waste in the packets and tins which had been crammed and forced into the bag.

Rubbish and flies in Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

Most of the flies flew, but you can see them crawling over the sauce bottle

Food waste and rubbish in Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

A sticky, rancid mess in the bag

Now you can’t just burn a bag of rubbish like that – all it needs is a gas cannister in there and you’ve lost both the bothy and yourself – so I had to pick through the horrible, sticky, crawling mess and feed everything onto the fire bit by bit. It was literally four hours – four hours – before I needed to put any other fuel on the fire, apart from some mouse-chewed packets of food left on the shelves. And the abandoned sleeping bag wouldn’t burn very well, so that was carried out on Sunday along with all the tin cans, some of which I had to put through the fire anyway to get rid of the stinking food and flies. Crushed, the tins filled the 10k sack the coal had been in.

So far so distressingly normal. Neil Findlay and I had been out at Corrour five weeks earlier, so all that rubbish had been left in that time.

But it hadn’t just been left there. Someone had taken it all and very deliberately – determinedly even – crammed it in, just like they were tidying up.

…And then they left it.

My take is that they hung it all up on a hook on the wall thinking that would keep it out of the way of mice. And that they probably walked out thinking they had done something, if not exactly good, then at least next best to good, because, after all, they wouldn’t have room for all that rubbish in their rucksack. (And no-one in their right mind would put that shit in their rucksack.)

Utter crap!

That’s the most charitable take on it and it’s bullshit.

The reason all that rubbish was left was slovenly laziness. There was nothing there that couldn’t have been burned or carried out at the time before. So no excuse at all for the people whose rubbish it was.

Even if it was someone else who ‘cleared up’ and put it in the bag, what the hell was he thinking about? Even out of reach of mice (progress of a sort I suppose) it was a breeding ground for flies – and there were, literally, hundreds, if not even thousands of them.

So let’s get this straight:

DO NOT leave rubbish in a bothy.

DO NOT leave unused food in a bothy.

DO NOT leave that nearly-empty gas cannister (I took six out from Corrour this morning)

DO NOT leave bottles of meths etc. (Even more dangerous, because some idiot is going to try to get the fire lit with it and burn the place down)

DO NOT leave unwanted gear or clothes. In the last eight years I alone have removed at least five tents, half a dozen sleeping bags and enough items of clothing to dress a bloody scout troop.

Sounds negative? Well tough.

Everyone who looks after bothies has the same problem again and again: rubbish. Rubbish left by people who call themselves hikers, hill-walkers, climbers, bothy folk. Rubbish left by people who are very often the same people that decry folk leaving rubbish in bothies.

Bothies are hugely vulnerable. It doesn’t take much at all to change a bothy from a nice, clean, welcoming shelter to a rancid hole that you don’t like to put your sleeping bag down in. So treat it like that. Treat it like you actually care rather than like some bloody parasite, using what others have provided and shitting on their effort. Because if you are one of those people who close your eyes to the rubbish you’ve left  when you walk away from a bothy, or who gathers rubbish together and then still leaves it, you get no respect from me.

Ach, I’m sick of moaning. So to end on a positive note, Saturday night in Corrour was a good bothy night in spite of everything that had gone before. Andy and Calum from Dalkeith arrived in the afternoon, relative newcomers to hillwalking and staying in their first bothy, thrilled to bits with it and great company right through the evening. Then at 10.30 pm, long after dark, three Londoners arrived, knackered. They’d taken the overnight bus to Aviemore, walked from there up onto Cairngorm, headed out to McDui, getting overtaken by darkness halfway there but carrying on to the top before dropping down off the side into the Lairig Ghru, down the steep boulderfield that must have been purgatory in the dark and wet, to arrive at the bothy hoping it wouldn’t be too full to get a bed. On Sunday morning these guys headed back out to Aviemore, to catch the bus back down south; they would arrive in London at 7am on Monday and two of them would go straight from the bus station to work. Now that is keen.

And I’m delighted to say that all five – Andy and Calum, and the three Londoners – enjoyed their first night in a bothy, were determined to come back for more… and took all their rubbish home with them!

Corrour Bothy in the Lairig Ghru, Cairngorms

Corrour Bothy – a great place. Please help keep it that way


After writing this I was asked to write a similar post for the UKHillwalking website. Same idea, but developed the idea of who’s responsible. You can read it here

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Royal opening at Gelder Shiel – Ernie’s Bothy

HRH Prince Charles, the Duke of Rothesay, outside Gelder Shiel Bothy on Lochnagar, Cairngorms

Prince Charles outside Ernie’s Bothy

This blog has never had any real need for a Royal Correspondent, but I had to appoint myself to the job today for the official opening of the refurbished Gelder Shiel Bothy on the slopes of Lochnagar.

Back in May, the Ballater Charitable Chiels drove up en masse from Balmoral to carry out a major renovation of what up until then had been a cold, unwelcoming doss. The MBA, including your truly, were there, having drawn up the plans and been involved in negotiations with Balmoral Estate, but the real work was done by the experienced and tooled-up tradesmen of the Chiels, who had wanted to adopt the project as a tribute and memorial to their former president Ernie Rattray (who had also been a member of Braemar Mountain Rescue Team for many years).

Today (8th October) the transformed bothy – now called Ernie’s Bothy – was officially opened by HRH The Duke of Rothesay, better known to most as Prince Charles.

The Chiels were once again there en masse, along with members of Ernie’s family, and four of us from the MBA – Bert Barnett (who drew the plams), Kenny Freeman (project manager for a gazillion bothy work parties and renovations, Ian ‘Piper’ Shand (joint MO for the bothy) and myself (MBA Eastern Area Rep).

L to R Bert Barnett, Ian Shand, Neil Reid, HRH Prince Charles, at Gelder Shiel Bothy, Cairngorms

Prince Charles chats to the MBA crew: Bert Barnett, Ian Shand and Neil Reid. Photo by Kenny Freeman

Bert Barnett, Kenny Freeman and Ian Shand at Gelder Shiel Bothy, Lochnagar

Bert, Kenny Freeman and Ian outside the bothy

A jolly nice day out it was too. After a couple of pretty moist and mochy days, the sky cleared and the sun shone – and the four of us piled into Piper’s Land Rover to get a lift up there.

Prince Charles arrived, drams of Lochnagar 12-year-old Malt Whisky were handed round in commemorative glasses (all courtesy of the Lochnagar Distillery I understand?), speeches were said (some great stories about Ernie!) and a plaque was unveiled by the Prince and Ernie’s widow, Dot.

12-year-old Lochnagar Malt at Gelder Shiel opening

Refreshments at the opening

Then Ian Shand played a tune on the pipes, ‘Ernie’s Awa Tae The Hills’, which he had composed in memory of Ernie.

Charles stayed around to meet and greet the assembled cast (we chatted, no-one will be surprised to learn, about the amount of litter left in bothies) and then signed the bothy book before going back down the road.

Prince Charles' signature in the Gelder Shiel (Ernie's Bothy) visitors' book

Prince Charles signed the bothy book. (And there’s always one… so did Kenny Freeman!)

Before he had left, though, the bothy got its first official visitors since the opening, a quartet of Joyce K Low, Alan Ferrier, and two others whose names I missed, who had arrived intending to stay the night before tackling Lochnagar. They looked slightly puzzled as they arrived and had to wind their way through lots of identically-jacketed Chiels, but then came to an abrupt stop when they saw the guy in between them and the door was the next King of Britain. Cue much back pedalling as they decided they weren’t in such a hurry after all! At least they were able to enjoy an unexpected dram while they waited though – and a very nice drop it was too.

I’m not much of a royalist, but I’m with Charles on this one, hoping that people will treat this bothy (as any bothy) with the respect it deserves.

Commemorative plaque in Gelder Shiel (Ernie's Bothy), Lochnagar, Balmoral Estate, Cairngorms

The plaque in honour of Ernie Rattray, unveiled by HRH Prince Charles and Dot Rattray

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Writing the book on mountain rescue

Cover of Braemar MRT 50th anniversary book, Mostly Happy Returns

Mostly Happy Returns, by Braemar Mountain Rescue Association

There’s a perhaps morbid fascination among hill walkers and climbers with tales of when it all goes wrong. I’ve long ago given up trying to figure whether it’s for education or voyeurism and just read the tales anyway. Sod the philosophy.

So when I heard there was a new book out celebrating 50 years of the Braemar Mountain Rescue Team there was no hesitation about getting a hold of a copy and no time wasted getting stuck into it when I had it in my hands: Mostly Happy Returns.

After starting with a foreword by John Duff, the Braemar bobby who was in at the start of the team in 1965, it opens with a very appropriate chapter contrasting the very different fates of two accident victims, one from the 1930s and one from 2014, showing the crucial differences made by technology and the existence of a dedicated and trained mountain rescue team, with the body of the first victim not recovered until  several days after the accident, while the 2014 victim was not only found, but being treated in hospital within just a few hours.

Mostly Happy Returns bills itself as a celebration of the team’s achievements and characters “with assorted misremembered tales of derring-do, wild haverings, and the dottled recollections of bygone days when storms were stormier, snow was snowier, and tweed, tackety beets and a muckle Thermos kept the elements at bay.”

And that’s pretty much what it is. Those looking for a sober history will be disappointed, as will those looking for a blow by blow account of all the major rescues, although many are here. I could be critical and say some tighter editorial control could have resulted in fewer multiple references to the same rescues, albeit often seen from different perspectives, and a wider net being cast over the treasure trove of stories a mountain rescue team must accrue.

But to hell with the critic’s hat. This is a thoroughly readable book as it is, un-put-downable with stories of rescues told by the people who have left their families and warm homes to go out in often appalling weather to do their utmost to save lives, not to mention all the training between times, to ensure they have the techniques to match the dedication. Some great pictures too, both current and vintage, and interesting info about how the team works. And it’s all set in an arena which will be familiar to all with a love of the Cairngorms, giving the inside story on incidents most of us will have heard about but only superficially in the papers.

So grab yourself a copy; it’s a great read and sold in a great cause, to provide funds for the Braemar Mountain Rescue Team to keep on doing what they do so well – ensuring that, when it all goes wrong, we all have Mostly Happy Returns.


How to get a copy of the book
Each book costs £10.00 and Braemar Mountain Rescue Association can post it to any UK address by Royal Mail 2nd Class delivery for the small additional charge of £2.00. A cheque for £12.00 should be made payable to Braemar Mountain Rescue Association and sent to:
Braemar Mountain Rescue Association
23 Albert Road
AB35 5QL

If you wish to pay by bank transfer, the Association will send bank details if you e-mail  Remember to include the name and address – including postcode – you want the book sent to.

Alternatively, the book can be obtained from the following outlets:

Braemar Mountain Sports, Invercauld Road, Braemar.
Braemar Caravan Park, Glenshee Road, Braemar.
Braemar Pharmacy, Mar Road, Braemar.
Wild Thistle, Invercauld Road, Braemar.
Braemar Service Station, Braemar.
Mar Lodge, National Trust, Mar Lodge Estate, Braemar.

Brown Sugar Café, 8 Bridge St. Ballater.
Deeside Books, 18-20 Bridge St. Ballater.
HM Sheridan, Butchers, 11 Bridge Street, Ballater.
Outdoor Shop/The Bothy Café, 43 Bridge Street, Ballater.

Hilltrek Out Door Clothing, Ballater Road, Aboyne.

Out There Active Wear Ltd, 3 Dee Street, Banchory.

Craigdon Mountain Sports, 51 High Street, Inverurie.

Castleton Farm Shop, Fourdon, Laurencekirk.

Tarland Post Office, Melgum Road, Tarland


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Callater completed

Callater Lodge and Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

A welcome and homely sight on return from the hills – Callater Bothy, with the Lodge behind

At the start of September the Eastern Highlands MBA crew descended mob handed on a spartan Callater Bothy and brought light and an element of cosiness.

Lightwells built from the roof through the ceiling brought light into the formerly gloomy longhouse, and a dividing wall created separate bedroom and living areas, making it easier – in theory at least – to raise the temperature in the living/kitchen area.

Interior of Callater Bothy, Glen Callater, Cairngorms

A painfully obvious lack of trim and a saggy ceiling betrayed a job unfinished

But the rough edges were still on display, and two bunk beds were without platforms. Time simply caught up on us.

Last weekend, though, some of us went back to get the job finished.

These work parties aren’t without their dangers though. We gathered on Friday evening and very quickly fell prey to an implausible amount of alcohol which had somehow found its way into the supplies. Bill from Callater Lodge was invited over and there followed a night of song and story that’ll live long in memory – even if memory often seemed a bit cloudy on the Saturday morning! One indelible memory, though, was the unforgivable treatment of John Gifford, who had gone to the trouble of memorising a new song for the occasion, lauding the joys of working in the mountains. Unfortunately, John, with his English background, failed to realise – or to appreciate once it was explained to him – that Scots are congenitally unable to hear the line in the chorus which mentioned “the wind in the tussocks” without breaking into giggles, titters and, ultimately, uncontrollable falling-on-the-floor laughter. So,  sorry John, we couldn’t help ourselves.

Come morning, though, the laughter was over. Some of us visibly struggling through the hangovers (and one, who shall remain nameless, having to retire early) we set to with a will.

Some of the major sags in the ceiling were remedied, and copious measuring and cutting saw the trim prepared and affixed around the light wells, and skirting board fitted on the new dividing wall. The doorframe was finished, and suitably trimmed, and the bunks were finished, with platforms built in with tongue and groove boarding, and the finished articles fitted with ladders and fixed to the walls for extra stability. All looking very neat.

At work on renovations at Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

Alex at work on the saw table, better known as the sleeping platform

Working on renovations inside Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

Bill pictured fixing trim around the light well

New bunks in Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

The completed bunks. Kenny measured, Alex and Bill cut, and I fitted the platforms – real teamwork.

Callater Bothy Maintenance Organiset John Gifford at a work party at the bothy, in the Cairngorms

It wasn’t as dark as this photo makes it look like, but the light was definitely going as MO John Gifford completed the paperwork at the end of the job.

Work eventually ground to a halt as darkness was approaching and it was a weary crew who set off down the road to their various homes… apart from me. I had planned to stay up for another night and grab a walk on what looked like being a good day on the Sunday.

I enjoyed a quiet night in with a good book (and no alcohol), with the only disturbance an occasional rattle at the door – not a ghost, just a Highland garron who seemed to have a notion I might let him into the bothy!

Two highland garrons, or ponies, at Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

The two garrons who were occasionally interested observers to the work party. I’m pretty sure it was the nearer one which was the nocturnal snorter and door rattler.

Sunday did dawn fair, and I set off up the Carn an t’Sagairt Mor path, following that top with Carn an t’Sagairt Beag and Carn a’ Choire Bhoidheach, taking a side trip out to the headland of Creag a’ Ghlas Uillt, before a late lunch on top of Lochnagar, enjoying views down towards Aberdeen and back into the central Cairngorms, as well as across the dramatic cliffs of Lochnagar itself.

Loch Callater, Cairngorms

The path up Carn an t’Sagairt Mor slants easily upward along the side of Loch Callater

Lochnagar and The Stuic Buttress, Cairngorms

Lochnagar in the distance behind The Stuic, an excellent buttress I’ve climbed in winter but never yet in summer

Glen Clova from the White Mounth, Cairngorms

A hazy view through to the upper reaches of Glen Clova

View from the Black Spout of Lochnagar, Cairngorms

Looking across the coire of Lochnagar from the top of the Black Spout

Lochnagar cliffs, Cairngorms

The mighty cliffs of Lochnagar

The cloud remained high and sparse all day and I returned via the old stalking path which avoids the tops and winds around them instead, enjoying the feeling of space on the plateau and the unseasonal warmth of the sun now that I was off the tops.

Sun reflected on Loch Callater, Cairngorms

Afternoon sun reflects on the waters of Loch Callater

I was wearied enough by the time I got back to Callater, but if the day had taken its toll on a slightly unfit body, it had been real medicine for a troubled mind, and after packing up, I cycled down the road to my car and home with a far lighter heart than I had left Fife some days before. Sometimes it’s not just the bothies that get renovated on these trips.

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A make-over for Callater Bothy

Callater Bothy and Callater Lodge, in the Cairngorms

Callater Bothy is the building on the right, with the Lodge at the rear.

It’s been said – and with some cause – that a bothy without a fire is just a shed.

Well Callater Bothy may not have a fire yet, but it’s looking considerably more welcoming after this weekend.

Callater Bothy, sitting beside Callater Lodge beside the loch of the same name in Glen – you’ve guessed it – Callater, was subjected to an MBA Eastern Highlands makeover, with about 15 or more volunteers taking it apart and putting it together again.

Led by Maintenance Organiser John Gifford, with Kenny Freeman project managing, the volunteers replaced two old roofing panels and removed three panels at the front, replacing them with perspex and cutting light wells through roof and ceiling, bringing lots more light into what was once a very dark bothy. There’s also a roan pipe along the front of the bothy.

Inside, the sleeping platform was removed and a new wall built to split the one long room into two, one of which will have bunk beds (currently half built), with the other a living area which is smaller and easier to get warmer.

In the long term everyone is still hoping to persuade the estate to allow a stove or fireplace to be put in, but in the meantime the bothy is at least lighter and more welcoming.

Even with people working beside, through and over each other, though, there wasn’t time to complete all the work in the two days available, and it still remains to complete the bunks in the sleeping room, fit facings round the light wells, and, eventually, build an internal storm porch to keep more of the draughts out. As with all these jobs, completion will depend on availability of volunteers and weather but in John Gifford the bothy has a very keen MO with lots of drive, so I don’t think it should be too long before the work can be done.

I’ve included some photos of the work but, with a fading camera battery, I only managed to get the early stages of the work before it went dead on me. Other photos may be added later if anyone takes pity and sends me some on.

Volunteers working on the roof of Callater Bothy, Invercauld Estate, Cairngorms

Opening up the roof of the bothy to cut the three light wells

Volunteers at Callater Bothy, Invercauld Estate, eastern Cairngorms

Tea break time. At the back of the picture are Marlene and Eleanor, who kept the workers fed and watered over the weekend. Beside them is MO John Gifford and in the foreground are Allan ‘Sinbad’ Moore, Kenny Ferguson and Derek Stewart

MBA volunteers working on Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

One perspex panel in place and sealed, two still being installed.

MBA volunteer Kenny Freeman working on Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

Kenny Freeman at work in the loft space, cutting through floor and ceiling to make the light wells, which were then lined in plywood with the ‘help’ of yours truly

View of Loch Callater hills from Callater Bothy, Invercauld Estate, Cairngorms

And lest we forget why we go to these places at all… this is a view of the sun catching the hills at the side of Loch Callater. This is indeed a special place.

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Anticipation v realisation: the bothy book

Cover of The Book of the Bothy, by Phoebe SmithOne of the more anticipated new books this summer was the Cicerone guide The Book of the Bothy, by Phoebe Smith. As soon as it was announced the old guard bothy ‘guardians’ were up in arms: not only was this going to be a book about bothies – and probably giving their locations – but, perhaps even a worse sin, it was being written by someone who was not one of us.

On that basis alone I was inclined to stick up for Ms Smith. I’ve always been of the view that we look after bothies for everyone, and not just a small clique of those deemed worthy.

But, sad to say, despite being a book whose time had come, despite being well produced and published by one of the most respected guide book publishers, this is not the success it should have been.

Given that this blog is about the Cairngorms, I’m going to restrict my comments to the Cairngorm bothies included in the book but, sadly, here alone there are too many points where proper checking and proofing have been lacking, resulting in a number of inaccuracies.

Page from The Book of the Bothy wrongly titled Glendar Shiel

The wrongly named Gelder Shiel bothy

Some are glaring but relatively harmless, such as referring to the Gelder Shiel as Glendar Shiel, Derry Cairngorm as Derry Hill, and Loch Avon as Loch A’an. There’s an unfortunate piece of timing, with Gelder Shiel (or Glendar?) being referred to as a bit of a cold hole: the gap between writing and printing has meant that the book does not take account of the substantial renovation that took place earlier this year.

However it’s a bit concerning that the author actively encourages people visiting Bob Scott’s Bothy to go out and cut up deadwood for the stove. As explained elsewhere on this site and in a notice within the bothy, Mar Lodge Estate, which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, has specifically asked people NOT to burn deadwood, which is a valuable habitat for insects and birds. The message should be to carry in coal – don’t burn wood. Encouraging people to do exactly what the estate has asked them not to is hardly responsible and could lead to trouble for the future of the bothy.

There are a a fair few more errors in the Cairngorm chapters, leading one to assume that entries for other bothies are similarly fallible, which does rather damage any authority the book may wish to claim.

I also wonder at the absence of Corrour Bothy from these pages. Given the importance, position and popularity of Corrour, I would have thought it would be a definite inclusion. To be fair, Phoebe Smith does say her choice is a personal one but, as the book is presented in a guidebook format rather than as a personal memoir, I think more should be expected than just a personal hodge podge. Perhaps including the full complement of MBA bothies (all the bothies included here are MBA apart from Scottie’s) is a bit much to ask but surely more effort should have been made to include the principal bothies.

So far so unremittingly negative.

Diary style pages in The Book of the Bothy, by Phoebe Smith

‘Diary’-style inserts add a personal flavour to the guide.

As I said, I was looking forward to this book and have no argument with its existence or with an ‘outsider’ writing it. So it’s only fair to say there’s also a lot to like about The Book of the Bothy. The format is a good one, with each bothy having a main piece of text complemented by bite-sized snippets and information panels. Each bothy also has a ‘diary entry’ section too, where the author records her own memories of finding and or staying in the bothy, which adds a personal touch. The photos are good too, and the whole spirit of the book is good: this is a book written by someone who, if not as experienced as some, has enjoyed her bothy nights and understands and supports what bothies are about.

But the devil is in the detail – guidebooks are built on attention detail – and it’s just such a damned shame that she didn’t do more checking and get her book more rigorously proofed.

So to buy or not to buy? A difficult one for, as I say, it’s a likable book, and maybe many of the errors I’ve spotted aren’t major but… on the whole I’d probably hang fire until the revised edition.

Since posting this and sending a full list of suggested amendments to Cicerone, I’ve been contacted by the author, Phoebe Smith, who contests some of my points – fair enough, we’ll just have to disagree – but does sound genuinely contrite about suggesting people collect wood at Bob Scott’s, underlining a commitment to make appropriate changes for the next print run of the book.

She also made the point that she did inform the MBA of her intentions and received no objection, although, in a way, I’d hold that immaterial. The MBA has no monopoly or veto on people writing about bothies and, in any case, some foreign guide books already mention bothies and their locations. From the comments below there still seem to be plenty who don’t believe the book should have been written or – if it must – that it should have been written by the MBA rather than an ‘outsider’ – a view I find totally insupportable. This is a book with good intention and, as I said above, good spirit – and, as with bothy users, who also may never have hammered a nail, that’s what counts.

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