So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and bothy for the first time.
Planning your first bothy visit can be scary, particularly if you’re taking your kids with you. So make sure you do your research and choose an easy one for your first time. There’s no point choosing to hike a difficult 10 mile route with kids. Remember you have to carry all your kit in with you, including cooking equipment, fuel, water and sleeping kit, so give yourself a break, go easy on yourself (I know for some of us that’s hard!) and for your first bothy experience choose one with a super easy hike in. New to bothying? Read our bothy guide here.
We’ve chosen four easy bothies in the Highlands which are great for first timers. Each of them are only a 30 minute trek in, meaning you won’t be so utterly exhausted on arrival to enjoy the actual bothy experience.
4 Easy Highland Bothies to discover for first timers
1. The Lookout – Isle of Skye
Built in 1928, this former coastguard watch station perched on the cliffs above Rubha Hunish on the most northerly tip of the Isle of Skye is a tiny bothy of epic proportions. Overlooking the wild Atlantic ocean, the huge glass bay window gives outstanding panoramic views and is the perfect place to spot migrating whales and dolphins! The bothy even has it’s own binoculars with regular sightings recorded in the bothy book.
The Lookout is a super easy 30-40 minute walk in from a old red telephone box in a small car park after the Shulista turn off on the A855 (sounds rather cryptic but it’s actually easy to find the start point and it’s clearly marked on the North Skye OS map 23). The interior is tiny with a sleeping platform for 4 people max. It’s clean and comfortable, although it doesn’t have a stove and it’s location on a wind buffeting cliff looking out over the roaring Atlantic gives it 5 stars in our opinion. Remember to keep kids well away from the cliff edges so avoid visiting with toddlers. Best for families with older kids with a bit of nowse.
Located in the shadows of Beinn Stumanadh, near Tongue on the wild North coast of the Highlands, Achnanclach (meaning ‘field of stones’) is a great first bothy to try.
Fifteen minutes drive out of Tongue on the A836 brings you to the drop off. It’s one of the few bothies that, with careful spotting, can be seen from the road. The hike in is pleasant half an hour walk starting on the sliver of land between Loch Craggie and Loch Loyal. It’s an easy skirt around the North shore of Loch Loyal and then a hop and a skip across some bog land (wellies might be best for kids) before picking up the 10 minute trail around the base of Beinn Stumanadh to reach the bothy. There are a few rooms for bedding down in. Avoid the ‘green room’. Get there early to bag the two singles in the kitchen or if you’re a family the room double backing off the kitchen is perfect to fit the whole family.
This bothy is still used by estate workers, so best avoided during lambing season and between stag stalking season (1 Sept-20 Oct).
Not far from Achnanclach on the road to Durness, Strabeg bothy is tucked away out of sight at the end of the never ending sea loch, Loch Eriboll. Park next to the gate at the furthest end of the loch. The trek in is an cinch at only 1.5 miles along a well maintained farm track, although the last 500 yards are boggy and there is a river crossing (all the more adventure!) just before you reach the bothy (this may be hazardous after heavy rainfall but is generally very crossable).
Strabeg bothy is a wonderful farmhouse and even boasts a toilet. Although there is no running water it’s possible to flush the toilet with a bucket from the stream. We totallly rate Strabeg for first timers, plus it’s directly on the NC500 route.
4. Secret bothy
Why would we include a secret bothy in our roundup? Well the answer, for me, is plain.
There are a number of secret bothies, whose location is passed on occasionally from locals to only a lucky few. Those in the know can relinquish worries of a bothy bursting at the seams and rest assured they may well be the only ones to inhabit the bothy that night. I can’t quite bring myself to divulge the location of this bothy, but if you know the Highlands at all, you might be able to identify the mountain, and that my friends will lead you to it.
This bothy is maintained by the local primary school and my family who lives locally have been passing by either on an afternoon’s walk or an overnight stay for years. It was particularly special to look back through the bothy books to find numerous scrawled entries by my nieces and nephews back when they were children.
This bothy is a mere 30 minutes to walk into, is the only bothy I know that actually has BEDS, is located on a the pebbly shore of a beautiful loch AND has a dedicated bothy guitar!
If you want to learn more about the location and details of some of the best bothies maintained by the MBA, we highly recommend The Bothy Bible by Geoff Allan.
Geoff also recommends Over Phawhope, Gelder Shiel Stables, Ruigh Aiteachain, Peanmeanach and Craig as his top 5 family friendly and bothy beginner bothies.
Are you a family who has stayed in a bothy? We’d love to hear from you!