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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26 Responses to A make-over for Callater Bothy

  1. Brilliant Neil. My eldest son and I at last managed to visit Hutchinson Memorial Hut 2 weeks ago. 20+ visitors, some with tents and as the evening drew on a few more admitted that they had one man tents so a very crowded bothy thinned out by midnight to 2 sleeping on the benches, 2 below and 3 of us on the floor with the inner door open. What a difference the stove makes. On to the reason for my post, not one of the visitors was an MBA Member. It maybe an unacceptable suggestion however I was wondering if the MBA should consider placing “donation info signs” within their bothies. Granted many don’t have phone access, however a large proportion of the general public are used to making payments /donations via their smartphone. This will increase! PS We spent Sunday evening in one of the shelterstones which was most enjoyable.

    • Hi Davie, 20+ sounds a bit crowded and just shows the value of lightweight tents! Glad you enjoyed the place though.
      As for donations signs, I don’t think that’s a bad idea, but I know there are those who would recoil from anything that implies people SHOULD make donations, as one of the cornerstones of what the MBA do is that there is no charge for using bothies. But you’re right, with smartphone technology people might respond. (Though, to be fair, many people do make donations after visiting bothies)

  2. alanfmackay says:

    Some great work by some great people.

  3. Sinbad says:

    Aye Neil, another great Eastern Highlands effort with lots of hard work , not to mention the musical entertainment and several drams consumed afterwards. An example of what can be done by a “well oiled” team. Now for “The Tarf Hotel” 5 star upgrade.

  4. Norrie Muir says:

    Another good job in looking after a bothy.

    The last time I was in the bothy was in January 1976, it was still a stable then, no glass in the windows or a door with a cobble floor and it was real cold. We had walked over to Creag an Dubh Loch to do a climb and on the way back we saw the old team having a drink on Loch Callater. The loch was frozen over and they had carried a load of logs onto the ice and built a fire. I don’t know if they started the fire before or after starting the drink, nobody drowned.

    During the night, the wind changed direction and blew the snow into the stable, at first light when we woke up, everything was covered in 6 inch of snow. It was a a weekend to remember.

    I hope to stay in the new refurbished bothy this winter.

    • Daft days, but great to look back on. You’ll have to light your fire on the ice again this winter, Norrie, cos we still don’t have permission for a stove, but at least the bothy is a bit more snug. Hope you enjoy.

  5. Mark says:

    Terrific effort. Looks like you certainly got mob-handed to achieve all that in such a short time. Hope the idea of a stove comes to fruition, it will take the place to another level.

    I’ve been attending the workpartys at the Wales area’s latest project at Cae Amos. It’s a big task getting the old place into shape. The workforce seems to made up of blokes my age, ie those with the time. The last job we did when I was there was to carry the new stove in. Took five of us grunting and moaning to hump the chuffin’ thing the last hundred yards into the bothy from where it had been dropped off. Looking forward to the workparty next month.

    • Aye, it’s hard work sometimes, but always worth it at the end of the day. Stoves are a bit of a bugger – I remember helping to hump the Bob Scott’s stove a hundred yards over rough, hummocky ground. A bit of a trial.

  6. HillBelly says:

    Talking of East Highland bothies, any news on how Faindouran is coming along. I see there were some workparties there this summer. Any closer to being habitable again?

    • I haven’t been on any of the work parties myself, but there is another one planned for early October, which should finish all the current work. I understand the gable wall is now stabilised and the bothy is now back in use, although the stove is not yet installed, so can’t be used yet.

      • HillBelly says:

        Thanks for the update. It’ll be nice to see it back in use again. We arrived just after the wall had collapsed, at the end of a long day. Arriving in the dark with snow falling and seeing the exposed sleeping area from the light of the head torch was quite confusing at first. Just glad we weren’t around when the storm took the gable end down.

  7. Glad my camera doesn’t have batteries πŸ˜‰ What’s a ‘roan pipe’?

    The bothy is looking great – I think dividing into 2 smaller rooms is a great idea and will be much easier to keep warm.

  8. piper says:

    Some nice pictures Neil .Even Derek is giving you a wave i think ?,take a closer look .lol

  9. Sinbad says:

    Just to set the record straight regards the “roan pipe”. This should be spelt rhone, sometimes rone and is a half round channel that runs along the eaves of a roof to collect and dispose of rainwater down a pipe called a rainwater conductor. Rhones can come in several different profiles, such as deepflow, halfround, and OG (ornamental gutter) and various sizes depending on the amount of flow off the roof. Having been a plumber in a previous employment,I’m trained in such things and have fitted many a rhone in my time.:)

    • Ach, ye’re a donnert aul’ feel o’ a Dundee chanty-fitter. The word can be used with several different spellings of which roan and rone are the most common. And since rone is an ugly-looking word – aesthetically speaking – I choose to go with roan. I’ll grant you that you may be the best body to go to if a roan pipe needs fitted, but if it needs written down, I’m yer man. πŸ˜€

  10. Sinbad says:

    According to the Oxford dictionary a “roan” is referring to an animal such as a horse or cow which has two different colours. No mention of “pipes”. R(h)one is a Scottish gutter which is half round section or similar, whereas a pipe is a cylinder, hence “rone pipe” doesn’t make sense.I assume you’re thinking of a rainwater pipe (RWP) which carries the rainwater from the gutter to a drain. This is also called a conductor. Rhone is, I believe, a French river. So, there, stick that in yir pipe and smoke it!! We can carry on this discussion if you’re going to the GAS (nothing to do with pipes, gas or otherwise)

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