Tag Archives: Bothy

past and present

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couldn’t resist a photo of this while cycling by, plus a little photoshopping

Finally got out on the bike again a couple of weeks ago after a bit of a summer lull, and pushed through on Sunday with an afternoon visit to Minch Moor. My sighter was a creaky effort from Dunkeld to Killin, faithfully following the banks of the River Tay for thirty odd miles, before tackling the endlessly undulating back road round the loch. This enabled me to put in an appearance at a ceilidh that friends had very generously organised in the village hall, to celebrate a triumvirate of 40th birthdays. Having grumbled for weeks about how much of a pain it was to get to this part of the world by bike, I actually had a really enjoyable ride, and still had enough energy to attempt a passable Gay Gordons, and a little out of sequence Virginia Reel. Got a bit ‘tired’ later on, and rather embarrassing threw an unsuspecting partner to the floor during the final Orkney Strip the Willow, but I think we’ll gloss over that. However much practice I’ve had over the years, I always seem to have trouble with a free bar….

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Looking towards Killin on the backroad round Loch Tay

Then last weekend, I took advantage of the unseasonably good weather to pay a visit to the closest bothy to Edinburgh, which much to my surprise is just a couple of miles beyond Traquair. I’ve been here loads of times over the years, but only really became aware of the bothies existence when I was starting the research for this project. Bit thick considering its right there in the list in my MBA handbook, but I suppose observation has never been my strong point. And it turns out to be round the corner to the test piece mountain biking descent off Plora Rig, a kamikaze slalom that I was already acquainted with. Over braking. No helmet. Trip to Borders General. Nine stitches. Forehead. Doh… I only I realised when I turned the corner across the valley from the bothy, and had to negotiate my bike down the routes approach path. Got some dismissive stares from some dudes spectating their mates who were flying down the hill, but there was little I could do. Difficult to hide the pannier in such circumstances. A different time indeed.

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View of Edinburgh and the Pentlands from the road that crosses the Moorfoots and heads down to Innerleithen

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Minch Moor Bothy

 

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if Calsberg did bothy trips…

When I started this blog, I had half a mind to call it bothies on a budget. But I’m glad I didn’t venture to far down that particular avenue, as it would be hard to tie in last weekend’s bothy trip with a few old student friends. Its sketchy enough to airbrush out any tenuous bike links into this this cameo entry, but when you get a door to door lift in a Aston Martin DB9, all I can do is hold up my hands and say this wasn’t exactly part of the original vision.photo (4269)

Although I am counting the pennies, most of my friends have muddled through pretty successfully and a couple are seriously in the money. And when Ant confirmed that he and Paul were coming along, I knew that the lap of luxury would be gently eased into my otherwise back to basics plan. So a potentially austere wilderness weekend morphed into the most luxurious bothy trip imaginable: the booking of the Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club Hut in Glen Licht to save us from interacting with the hoi polloi, a hired Landrover Discovery to save us from a walk in, and enough booze and coal to iron out the lack of hot tub and sauna. And of course sirloin for dinner and a fine selection of cheeses to adorn the oatcakes. We even took in three guitars and an accordion. I don’t quite know how I’m going to readjust back into my monastic routines when I next venture out.

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boys own action

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delving into the Pogues back catalogue…

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excursion to Camban bothy which is much improved since I was first there twenty five years ago

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view of the bothy from the ridge on Ben Fhada

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the crew taking a break

with my sister’s welcome assistance

Ok, I have to admit that after May’s debacle, I didn’t have any qualms planning a road trip with my sister that included the possibility of motoring over a couple of significant obstacles, so I didn’t have to deal with them at a later date on the bike. And why not take out the big daddy of them all, namely the Bealach Na Ba, which I’m sure is the steepest road in mainland UK. This little strategic sidestep meant that I could make it down to Uags bothy at the bottom of the Applecross peninsula without even breaking into sweat. I’m sure somewhere deep in my psyche there is the desire to peddle up its alpinesque switch backs, but after all the exertions over the last year I was happy to be a passenger once again. And once I got to thinking it didn’t take a huge leap of imagination to include a trip to Craig on the itinerary, thus negating the need to expend energy over the undulations of the Diabeag road. I just had to be very nice to my sister for the week, as she would be doing all the driving.

I also have to confide that we luxuriated at the Torridon Inn for a couple of nights – courtesy of my sister’s credit card – which with my budget mindset took a little getting used to. Well, a good five minutes at least. I even remembered to pack a smart set of clothes so I didn’t look like some kind of tramp when I walked into the hostelry’s restaurant. All in all, it was a really sedate trip. The wander along the coast to Craig is a real treat, with great views over to the Trottenish and out to Harris, and there is a similar atmosphere to the walk down to Uags. The only difference is the path down the peninsula takes some finding, even though there is a helpful signpost close to the road end.

Walk in along the coast from Diabeag

Walk in along the coast from Diabeag

Craig bothy

Craig bothy

Useful signpost

Useful signpost

Uags bothy

Uags bothy

bike error

The latest leg of my quest had been planned with a fair amount of care and efficiency. It was to start with a cheeky Monday excursion with John to Sheilin of Mark bothy, cycling in from the Glen Esk side. Then I was off mid week to Oban on an advanced train ticket, with the intention of peddling to Fort William via Mull and the back roads of Morven, with a possible extension on to Inverness if the weather held. And over the weekend I was committed to marshalling a leg of the Islands Peaks Race with some guys and gals from the Carnethy Running Club, having resolved that it would be good for me to nudge myself out of my comfort zone, and actually positively interact with people for a change. So when John reversed into an unsuspecting tree in an otherwise empty car park, after a jolly day dodging the snow showers, it wasn’t quite the launch pad I had been hoping for. Surveying the quite impressive amount of damage done to our machines, which had moments before been studiously secured on to the tail gate of the car, I really didn’t think I’d be honouring my commitments.

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Sheilin of Mark bothy

However, sometimes I can still pull my finger out and act with unnerving haste and ill consideration, just like the old days.  Having man handled the broken bike to Edinburgh the next day on the train, the bloke from the cycle shop confirmed that my buckled forks were a right off, and that to get back on track I would have to buy a new machine that afternoon. Which, with the promise of some cash from the very apologetic driver, I duly did. The Bike Station just happened to have a perfect bike at an acceptable price, and with a bit of swearing, I had the bike rack transferred and the panniers packed before the evening was out.

Ahhh feel this post is already spinning out of control, so I’ll try and get back on track as quickly as I can. Made the marshalling gig in Salen on Mull, after staying in Tomsleibhe bothy in Glen Forsa the night before, and headed on to Leacraithnaich on the Morven side with a bit of a hangover. I had a stand off with a sailing couple over the only copy of the Weekend Guardian in the shop in Lochaline, and because the distance was actually really short – barely twenty miles in all – I even had time to do a bit of exploring down by the coast, for another little secret spot which I’d been curious about for a while.

Tomsleibhe bothy, Mull

Tomsleibhe bothy, Mull

First boat heading to Salen in the Islands Peaks Race

First boat heading to Salen in the Islands Peaks Race

Southern coast of Morven

Southern coast of Morven

Leacraithnaich bothy

Leacraithnaich bothy

By the Sunday I was off over the hills to Strontian, and arrived there pretty knackered at lunchtime with the intention of cycling on to Resourie. I then looked more closely at the map and realised the top of the pass was over 400m, bracketed with those tell tail double v’s indicating steepness on either side. What an idiot. In fact it almost broke me just cycling over that afternoon, having pitched my tent in the very welcome campsite in the village. And the worst of it was the nagging feeling that I still had the trip back over the bealach once I was working up the forestry track to the bothy.

Resourie bothy

Resourie bothy

I was pretty run down when I woke up the next day and I resolved not to push myself too hard for the rest of the trip. I camped in an ok spot by the beach at Ardtoe the following evening, and it was drizzling as I completed the leg up to Lochailort, round the coast of Moidart, on the Tuesday morning. I was very thankful when the train to The Bill pitched up and thought I may just bite the bullet and get a ticket back home there and then. However, I rallied and decided to look at the forecast in Nevisport before deciding what to do. In the end I cycled up to Invermaille along the Caledonian Canal, and was very happy that I’d pushed myself on a bit, as the sun came out and the bothy had an ample supply of firewood. The next leg up to Inverness could wait though, and I cruised back down to Fort William the next morning happy in the knowledge that I had some more choice bothies in the bag.

Invermaille bothy

Invermaille bothy

bothy fire

bothy fire

Over Easter I stayed with a whole bunch of friends and their darling children in a large country pile just outside of Nigg, to the north and east a bit from Inverness. As a hapless singleton I’m quite used to being utilised in an uncle capacity, but these days the kids are all a little older and look after themselves pretty much, so there is less pressure to be entertaining or get involved in family activities. I do still try and help out with the cooking – and this annual event has a reputation for some fine dining – though this year even the kitchen operations seemed to be running like clockwork, so much so that I was even able to ducked out of these duties. Free loading? Moi? Think I’m using this entry as a bit of a confessional.

Anyway down to business. In my car-less world the location was always going to present some challenges, but with a bit of motivation and a rudimentary grasp of the train timetable, I was able to get all the way to Glenbeg bothy and back in the space of the daylight hours. In fact it wasn’t as big an expedition as I feared, the final off road miles were on a veritable motorway, and I was back in the pub in Bonar Bridge with a pint of Guinness waiting for the service back to the Cromarty Firth by 5 o’clock.

Reflection in Abhainn a Ghlinne Mhoir on the walk in to Glenbeg

Reflection in Abhainn a Ghlinne Mhoir on the walk in to Glenbeg

Glenbeg bothy

Glenbeg bothy

The next day I planned to put my feet up but I was enticed to join the girls on a hill walk over the Fannichs. This turned out to be an excellent decision as not only was the company very convivial, the weather in the west coast was much better than the unpromising low cloud that hung over the house. My only problem was a lack of kit, and I had to skitter round the snow plastered hills in my running shoes without a pair of crampons.

Sgurr Mor, Fannichs

Sgurr Mor, Fannichs

An Teallach

An Teallach

Surveying the scene at the top of Sgurr Mor in the Fannichs

Surveying the scene at the top of Sgurr Mor in the Fannichs

View of Sgurr Mor from Meall a Chrasgaidh

View of Sgurr Mor from Meall a Chrasgaidh

Last of the light over An Teallach

Last of the light over An Teallach

My visit was almost over before it had started, and after a lazy outing with the kids the following afternoon, it was time for everyone to start packing up and heading home. However, I still had a few days to spare and having said my fond farewells I headed back up north on the train. I then cycled west in an increasingly persistent snow shower over to Oykel Bridge and on to the bothy at Duag Bridge. From there the next morning, I walked on to Magoo’s bothy at Coiremor and spent a long evening huddling up in my down bag wishing that someone could helicopter in some coal. The snow scuppered any plans to climb Seana Bhraigh so I was somehow back on the road to Lairg the next afternoon, having made a quick dash to Knockdamph on the bike to complete the tick list. A speculative phone call to a mate in Inverness got me a bed for the night, and in a fit of fine efficiency I knocked off Ruigh Aiteachain the next day before travelling back to Edinburgh.

The Schoolhouse, Duag Bridge

The Schoolhouse, Duag Bridge

Creag an Duine and Coiremor bothy

Creag an Duine and Coiremor bothy

Knockdamph bothy

Knockdamph bothy

Ruigh Aiteachain bothy

Ruigh Aiteachain bothy

Fireplace left in a textbook fashion

Fireplace left in a textbook fashion

red wine becomes a bit of a theme

Another weather window, another hasty plan put into action. Taking heed of last months worries about my rather suspect fitness levels, I decided to head south and tackle some bothies in the borders, and contemplating a couple of shorter days and less hill time. Well relatively speaking at least. The key factor in the decision though, was availing myself of the most splendid hospitabilty of another great friend Pam, who lives near Thornhill a few miles north of Dumfries. Oh how great it was to be spoiled for a change, with mountains of food and free flowing red wine. I’m just glad I was at least doing a bit of exercise to burn off the calories.

After a late evening catching up and a good night’s sleep, I studied the map in the morning and realised I could cycle off road over the Lowthers, and take in Kettleton Byre and Burleywhag in one fell swoop. Happy days. Two bothies in the space of a few hours, if only the whole project was this simple. The only thing I hadn’t factored in was that it was the start of the lambing season, and I spent a fair amount of time hanging around behind a couple of shepherds on quad bikes, who were rounding up ewes to get them safely off the hill. Anyway job done, and all I had to do when I got back to base camp was try and steel myself for the inevitable capitulation when trying to refuse third helpings of chilli con carne.

On the way to Durisdeer

On the way to Durisdeer

Kettleton Byre bothy

Kettleton Byre bothy

Burleywhag bothy

Burleywhag bothy

The next morning I was very grateful for a lift over towards Carsphain so I could tackle my next objective which was a wee jaunt to Clennoch. I had had in mind and overnight stop but I read up that the bothy didn’t have a stove, so that put the mockers on that plan. It looks so unpromising on the map surrounded by forestry and with a wind farm stuck up on the hill above the glen, but to my surprise the bothy turned out to be a little gem. There is even an adhoc group called the Friends of Clennoch who are unofficial custodians of the place. All the old bothy books had been lovingly laminated, there was a pair of binoculars for general use, and the last entry in the log described how the visitor had bought up some daffodil bulbs to plant. Thank god its a little further away from the road than other more forlorn bothies in the area.

Clennoch bothy

Clennoch bothy

On the way home I popped in to see another glamourous old friend who was celebrating a birthday, which to my shame I had completely forgotten about. I quickly recovered though and more red wine flowed, so the limit of the next days activities barely stretched to a stumble to Tunskeen for lunch. However another bothy in the bag, six for the year already, roll on Easter.

Tunskeen bothy

Tunskeen bothy

jelly legs

Now I have no one to blame for the over ambitious nature of my first outing of the year. I think the deluded memories of last summer, sauntering over the summits like some puffed up domestique, were just too fresh in the memory to dissuade me from starting with something simpler. And it all looked pretty straight forward on map my ride, but I still seem to be blind to factoring elevation into the equation when planning a route. Anyway, I can safely say that the B974 Fettercairn to Banchory road over the Cairn O’Mount is bastard steep. Normally when you start on up a slope and begin tapping out a rhythm (cough, cough), you can at least fool yourself that the top of the bealach is within reasonable distance. But this slope just kept on going and going. And just when I thought it must be levelling out soon, I realised to my horror that  the road went straight over the freaking mount, and there was to be no relief. Man I barely made it to the viewpoint without toppling over and asking for mercy. It was intense, all two miles of it…. So where was I off to? Can you not guess? Oh yes, that’s right I’m the bloody bothy bore who knows about all these obscurities. House of Charr my friends, House of Charr. The most easterly of the MBA’s as I’m sure its becoming clear, even further east than Mount Keen, which is almost in Aberdeen as it is. And that is about as interesting as it got. The bothy is in some nondescript old territory and it doesn’t even have a fireplace. I was lucky to get some sunshine. And the shame of it is that I had to walk the final 500m back up over the summit on my return. Yes walk. I can barely type the words. After a whole year of not getting off the bike on a tarmac road, I had to admit defeat.

House of Charr bothy

House of Charr bothy

The next morning I was filled with not a little apprehension as I got a lift to Glen Shee with my bestest friends John and Katherine, who were absconding from child care duties for the day. The plan was to scoot down the hill towards Bramaer, and trot across to Callater Stable while they went skiing. But obviously that meant in the afternoon I would have to cycle back up to the ski station, and just to rack it up a bit John had to be back for a meeting, so there was a cut off time to contend with. It was a beautiful day so it wasn’t really a hardship, but I didn’t have so many spare minutes for lunch and I was already feeling my legs when I got back to bike. Safest to say, despite my fears that it would turn out to be something like the torturous experience of Tour de France competitors finishing up the Col de Tourmalet, I made it without incident. But I have made a mental note to plan something a bit more sedate for my next adventure.

Callater Stable

Callater Stable

View over Loch Callater

View over Loch Callater