The Guardian: Bothy Culture

Photo: Murdo MacLeod, The Guardian

The Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) charity has reopened its 105 mountain huts, shelters and howffs after more than a year of closure due to Covid.


The overwhelming majority of these are in Scotland and they reopened in August for what the MBA described as “responsible use”, pointing out that Covid has not gone away. The bothies are all sorts of shapes and sizes in varied locations – many are extremely remote and operated with the agreement of owners and estates and maintained by MBA volunteers since the late 60s and early 70s.

Bothies are much more sustainable than many hut systems in other countries. Nearly all the buildings are old disused cottages and huts. They have virtually no services and thus very little environmental impact. This is in contrast to my experience of huts in New Zealand, many of which are purpose built and where toilet waste is often helicoptered out, and in Europe, where they often lay on catering at a logistical and energy cost. While this enhances the facilities extended to walkers and mountaineers, it entails a much higher environmental impact than the humble bothy.