First Bothy Adventure - Iona Rendall
with Iona Rendall
Photos © by for jawnphoto.com and Iona Rendall
I recently made the decision to plan and experience my first ever overnight trip to a bothy. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a little while now since I’ve been spending more time hiking in the mountains. Scotland has some breathtaking yet remote scenery to enjoy so a bothy trip seemed like the perfect way to break up a long, remote hike over a couple of days.
My friend Lorna and I tried to be as organised as we could as neither of us had stayed in a bothy so we were a little bit like the blindleading the blind! We asked friends and the wider walking community for advice on everything from how much firewood we should bring to what sort of sleeping bag would keep us cosy during the freezing winter weather predicted.
Setting out on what felt like a milestone adventure was so exciting and it felt good to experience the buzz of the anticipation of the unknown. I suggested we ditch the cars and use public transport to reach our start point so it was great to take our bikes on the train from Edinburgh to Blair Atholl then cycle the 5 miles in to the bothy from there. It added a whole new element of adventure to the trip! Despite being so well organised we hadn’t accounted for any mechanical issues with the bikes and about halfway to the bothy Lorna’s chain snapped. Without anything to repair it with we had no option but to laugh it off and push the bikes the remainder of the way while the sun began to set. The final section to the bothy was downhill so Lorna was able to free while eventually and I can’t tell you how relieved we both were to finally see the bothy when our head torches shone on it. .
We settled in and lit the fire (feeling pretty smug that carrying all the firewood was worth it!) then set about preparing some food to warm us up. Two other women arrived a little while later and although we thought we might have the bothy to ourselves that night it was actually really nice to share the evening with others and really interesting to hear some of their adventure tales. It felt so surreal to be huddled up in the bothy with the fire crackling in front of us and the snow beginning to fall outside, knowing we were in the middle of nowhere! Despite the freezing temperatures I had a comfortable sleep and knew it had been worth carrying my bulky 4 season sleeping bag. So I woke up feeling pretty well rested the next day and ready for our Munro hike. The view that greeted us when we stepped out of the bothy that morning was like a winter wonderland! The sun was shining and the sky was clear, we couldn’t have asked for better weather.
On our return from the hike we collected the rest of our belongings from the bothy and discovered there were 13 people from various different friendship groups planning to spend the night there. I counted myself pretty lucky at that point that Lorna and I had only had to share with 2 others the previous night! We packed up and made sure we left the bothy the way we had found it then set off back towards Blair Atholl...luckily a downhill journey almost the entire way! With Lorna freewheeling her bike beside me and the sun beginning to set ahead of us I felt like overwhelming sense of achievement and satisfaction that we had successfully (despite some minor hurdles) spent our first ever night in a bothy. I couldn’t have had a better adventure pal and we couldn’t have asked for better weather for the trip
We made it back to Blair Atholl in time for a bowl of hot soup before the train. We sat there in the warmth and couldn’t stop saying how surreal it felt to have been so isolated for only 24 hours yet feel as though we had been away adventuring for days! What a liberating and empowering feeling that truly was.