No Signal & No People

My experience spending the night in a Bothy.

Something I had never even heard of up until a couple of weeks ago, when I made the decision to stay in one overnight for the purpose of a documentary myself and my team were shooting.

What is a bothy you ask?

Well, a bothy (in Scotland) is described as a small hut or cottage, used to home farm labourers or for the use of mountain refuge. Or, in our case, a home for the night in the middle of the wilderness. After weeks of preparation and planning into the routes we were going to take across the Highlands, we decided to choose one specific Bothy and spend the night.

Jumping in at the deep end, the first time I was going to visit this Bothy, would also be the first time I stayed an entire night, and due to the nights drawing in a lot quicker this time of year – it would mean we spent a large amount of our time in darkness.

To give you an idea of what is inside a bothy – to be honest, very little. The simple purpose of a Bothy, to provide shelter and (very little) warmth. No signal, no facilities, no food or water just a room with a fireplace and window. To a few people, I’m sure this sounds slightly daunting and not everyone’s cup of tea. I understand that, and I was also slightly nervous about what I was letting myself in for.

However, I actually thoroughly enjoyed the experience. If you are well prepared with food, water, warm clothing, a positive mindset and potentially a group of people – the entire experience of staying completely in the wilderness is exciting and almost something you could become addicted to.

How to stay in a Bothy

Simply turn up. One of the main differences between a hotel and a bothy, is the fact that you do not need to book. A Bothy is free to stay.

Although the idea of this is exciting, an aspect that I was certainly worried about was the fact that anyone could walk into the Bothy, at any point during the night, and would also be potentially sharing a room with you. This didn’t actually happen to me, however the Bothy we chose to stay in actually had numerous rooms – so this worry disappeared pretty quickly.

Our fascination with Bothies started when my colleague and bestfriend, Tom, grabbed ‘The Bothy Bible’ by Geoff Allan from Waterstones. The book tells the ins and outs of “bothying” and everything there is to offer. The book shares the locations of these odd little houses, how many people they sleep and a bit of background information on each.

We used this as our guide to Bothies.

As you can see in the image above, I managed to capture a picture of one of the visitor books left in the Bothy. These books were highly interested (a little strange in some areas), but told stories of each of the other guests that had previously taken our place and stayed in our Bothy. I was somewhat glad I read the book and some of the stories it had to offer after spending the night as some were a little creepy to say the least. (It goes without saying that I was glad we chose not to stay in the attic).

How the night went

After arriving at the Bothy mid-afternoon, we decided to grab as much (already fallen) wood that we could, before nightfall. This is something I would highly recommend you do as after the sun goes down, this task becomes significantly more difficult.

After this, we began setting out our sleeping bags, and began making the fire. We did this early so we could warm up the room before the evening when we knew the temperature was going to drop. After doing this, lighting a few candles and grabbing a bite to eat, the room instantly had a “cosy” feel to it. We played music and games, sat by the fire and had long, deep conversations late into the night.

When it came to sleeping, I’m going to be honest, I am a slight wimp when it comes to the dark and this is mainly down to being a horror movie fanatic. I slept OK – drifting in and out of sleep throughout the night, jumping up as soon as we saw the first signs of daylight. Apart from the odd noise or two and the loudest mouse I have ever heard, the night wasn’t so bad after all. One thing I am sure of however, is that it gets really cold in the Bothy. Ok, we didn’t choose the warmest time to year to start this expedition, but nevertheless a Bothy is essentially a wooden shed with no form of heating, so please do pack enough warm clothing and a heavy duty sleeping bag.

However, from a Filmmaker and Photographer’s point of view – these Bothies were well worth the trip. At least for the Bothy we stayed in, the views surrounding the exterior were utterly beautiful. Surrounding us for miles upon miles of stunning mountains, it really was a photographer’s dream, and I would highly recommend delving into a trip like this simply for the views and potential captures.

If you are planning a trip or even a stay in a Bothy, I would highly recommend purchasing Geoff Allan’s book and utilising his advice to do some serious research into the perfect Bothy for you. You can purchase his book below, using the following link:

Our documentary will be released within the next few weeks, so I will keep you updated on it’s progress and of course, post a link for you to watch when you have the chance.