Fords of Avon Refuge to be refurbished

Fords of Avon Refuge on a dreich day

A rickle o' stanes: the Fords of Avon Refuge on a (very) dreich day.

Nice to hear news confirming that the Fords of Avon Refuge refurbishment has been given the planning go-ahead by the National Park Authority.

The Fords of Avon Refuge – or bothy as many refer to it – is a well-known landmark in the Lairig an Laoigh, one of the three main passes through the Cairngorms.

Built in 1970, it is on record as having saved lives on a number of occasions, being the only shelter for many miles in an area where people seem to excell at getting lost. There have been refugees from the climbing grounds at the head of Loch Avon and mislaid skiers from Cairngorm, as well as assorted wanderers who have failed to find their way back to Aviemore and come across the refuge during what would be a very lengthy trudge indeed to Tomintoul.

Those who have needed it have found it welcome, but there’s no doubt it’s feeling its age and many walkers in less dire straits have moaned at the state of it. Apparently fussy walkers these days don’t want to put up with wet floors and draughts under the door. (Or, perhaps, the pile of boulders which I found at the back of the hut the last time I was there!) Much of the moaning is just that – it is, after all, a refuge, not a proper bothy, and only ever offered the most basic of shelter. But there’s no denying it would make a nicer halt on the way through the Lairig an Laoigh if it was at least dry inside.

Now the MBA and the RSPB (owners of the land and the building) have come together to do something about it, with plans to replace the existing structure with something similar but better insulated, floored and waterproofed.

The work is planned for late summer, to avoid disturbing any nesting birds in the area.

Visitors to the Cairngorms in recent years will have noticed a few changes to the bothies.

For a number of years they seemed to be getting fewer – the Sinclair Hut and Jeans Hut both gone – but when Bob Scott’s burnt down a few years ago there was a major effort by local climbers and others to rebuild it, and that has seemed to mark the start of a revival in the Cairngorm bothies. Over the course of two years Corrour Bothy in the Lairig Ghru was transformed from a cold hole into a five-star bothy with adjoining toilet; stoves were put in the Feshie bothy and in Sheilin o Mark; Ryvoan has a new fireplace and sleeping platforms, not to mention a rebuilt porch. And there are plans afoot (though yet to be approved or finalised) for Faindouran and the Hutchison.

Exciting times indeed.

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