A lot of weekends featured on this blog have started with a night at Bob Scott’s Bothy.
But who was Bob Scott? And what’s his connection with the bothy?
Regulars at the bothy mostly know, but many first time or occasional visitors don’t have much of an idea.
Bob Scott was the head keeper on Mar Lodge Estate during the 1960s and early ‘70s, and lived at Luibeg Cottage from 1947 to 1973. The cottage is still there – it’s the stone-built white house across from Derry Lodge, on the south side of the Luibeg burn just before it joins with the Derry Burn to form the Lui.
That’s where the original Bob Scott’s Bothy was and where Bob’s legend – among the hill-walking fraternity at least – was born.
Bob Scott was born at Linn Cottage, Linn o Dee in 1903. That’s the cottage you can see just before crossing the Linn o’ Dee road bridge. He was one of a family of 11 and his father was a keeper on the Mar Estate.
His father died when Bob was young, and he left school aged just 12 to work on Mar Estate, soon being promoted to ponyman, as most of the young men in the area were away at the war. For a number of years he was rifleman on the south side of the estate – up Glen Ey – in days when all transport was by foot or pony. He also spent a time as a fishing ghillie on the Dee for several years, working for the County Council during the winter.
When WWII broke out he joined the Royal Engineers in 1939 and, after being torpedoed at sea and blitzed in London, he served for three years in North Africa, finishing the war in Austria.
After the war he was the stalker at the Linn of Dee for a year before taking over the Derry Beat (and Luibeg Cottage) in 1947. The previous occupant, one ‘Aal’ Beattie, had allowed hill-climbers to use a wooden bothy beside the cottage and Bob followed suit, quickly establishing a rapport with the local climbers.
When he first arrived at Luibeg with his family he relied on a pony and cart for transport, swapping the cart for a sledge in the winter months when snow might lie on the ground for months on end. It wasn’t until the latter half of the ‘50s that he got a Land Rover – and it wasn’t until the ‘60s that he had the luxury of electricity, and that from a generator.
During the ‘50s, in what was probably the golden age of Cairngorm climbing, Bob was a good friend to his regular climbing visitors (he was friendly with both Adam Watson and Tom Patey) and his bothy was a favoutite resort socially as well as for practical reasons. He reckoned New Year might see anything from 40 to 50 people there.
Down in Glen Dee, when Mar Lodge opened up a public bar in 1964, Bob became a regular fixture, at least at weekends, and could sometimes be prevailed upon to give climbers and walkers a lift up to Derry – but one beneficiary of his kindness did once tell me that, having stowed your rucksack in the back of the Land Rover, you then had to keep a close eye on him in case he drove away up the glen without you – though whether that was due to forgetfulness, drink or devilment (he was known for his pithy sense of humour) wasn’t explained.
On a more serious note, in the days before organised mountain rescue teams, Bob participated in numerous rescues, sometimes organising and leading a search himself, using his intimate knowledge of these hills.
Throughout the ‘60s and into the ‘70s Bob remained a familiar figure to the increasing number of walkers and climbers stopping in by Mar Lodge on a Saturday night or up at the Derry through the day. (The author well remembers as a child being awestruck at meeting him face to face at the Derry and believing his outrageous lie when he claimed not to like the hills at all.)
His wife had died in the mid ’60 and he continued to live at Luibeg with his daughter Eileen until retiring in 1973, when he moved to Allanaquoich, a cottage east of Mar Lodge.
All the time he had been at Luibeg there had been a wooden bridge across the Derry Burn and another across the Luibeg to his home, but these had been getting increasingly rickety (and may even have been gone before he left the cottage) and his Land Rover usually forded the two burns. After he moved to Allanaquoich the estate built a new wooden bridge over the Lui, close to the site of the present Bob Scott’s Bothy. Bob was asked if he intended going up to have a look and allegedly remarked: “Na, na, I’ll see it when it floats doon the Dee.”
That bridge did indeed collapse (an accident with a digger) but, alas, by that time Bob was no longer there to see his forecast come true. He died in July 1981. That same year the public bar at Mar Lodge closed, as did the unofficial and increasingly popular Canadian Campsite just up the road where the Lui met the Dee. It was, all in all, the end of an era.
Anyone interested in learning more about Bob Scott should read Adam Watson’s excellent book It’s A Fine Day For The Hill, which is full of tales and reminiscences of Bob, who was his close friend.