Ten of the best bothies in Britain to stay in on your next adventure
Feeling the urge to escape to the great outdoors? Nights out don’t get much wilder than a spot of bothying. A bothy is a simple mountain dwelling you can stay in for free – these no-frills shelters are places to rest your head, with four walls, a roof, a sleeping platform and, if you’re lucky, a wood-burning stove. Found in the valleys between mountains, on the shores of lakes and perched on the most rugged coastlines in the UK, bothies offer unhindered access to some of the most spectacular landscapes in the country, and make the perfect pitstop on multi-day hikes.
Are you hearing the call of the wild? Get planning your route and remember to respect the rules of the bothy and other visitors, and to leave no trace of your visit. Here are ten of the best bothies to seek out on your next hiking adventure, chosen by Chelsea Davies and Sian Lewis.
Please bothy responsibly by following the bothy code – leave bothies clean and tidy, leave no trace of your visit and be respectful of other users.
PENRHOS ISAF, DOLGELLAU, SNOWDONIA NATIONAL PARK
You’ll be forgiven for thinking that you’ve stumbled into a fairytale if you spend a night at Penrhos Isaf. A charming stone farmhouse nestled in a forest amongst the crumbling, moss-strewn remains of an old smallholding, this bothy is equipped with a wood-burning stove and even has an outhouse with a toilet – fancy! Penrhos Isaf can be reached by foot, found here near Ganllwyd in Dolgellau.
GREG’S HUT, CROSS FELL, THE PENNINES
An old blacksmith’s shop and cottage for workers from the nearby lead mine, Greg’s Hut is now a respite for weary walkers tackling Cross Fell in the Pennines. England’s highest bothy at 700m, Greg’s is roomy but on the basic side – there’s a raised platform for sleeping, a wood-burning stove and a few odds and ends. But if you come armed with a flask of tea, a thick sweater and some kindling to get the fire going, Greg’s Hut makes for an authentic bothy stay in glorious surroundings. It’s a six-mile stomp on the Pennine Way from Garrigill to reach the hut – find a route here.
CADDERLIE BOTHY, LOCH ETIVE, ARGYLL AND BUTE
Cadderlie Bothy, a bunkhouse sitting on the banks of Loch Etive, is the perfect wild night out for first-timers thanks to the relatively short hike it takes to reach it, and the cosy facilities on offer – here you’ll find three rooms for sleeping, a roaring fire and a decent collection of whiskey bottles courtesy of a few generous souls who’ve stayed here before. Have a dram, enjoy the view and fall asleep to the gentle lull of the loch lapping the shore. The bothy’s grid reference is NN046370.
THE LOOKOUT, RUBHA HUNISH, ISLE OF SKYE
No, this isn’t an Airbnb. This former coastguard watch station is now a bothy, offering intrepid travellers a place to rest with a breath-taking panorama of the Western Isles. The Lookout’s clifftop perch on the most northerly stretch of the island is a fantastic spot to watch for whales and dolphins migrating across the Minch. It’s on the small side, with room for three and no stove, fireplace or access to drinking water nearby, but the bothy’s warden will be more than happy to fill up your bottles at Trotternish Art Gallery in Kilmaluag. From the right of the red phone booth just past Kilmaluag on the A855 you can follow the trailhead towards the sea to reach this wonderful spot.
GRWYNE FAWR, THE BLACK MOUNTAINS, BRECON BEACONS NATIONAL PARK
Hills a riot of gold, amber and chartreuse rising all around this little stone bothy, found in the eastern clutches of the Brecon Beacons. Grwyne Fawr keeps watch over a reservoir, and is rustic but cosy enough for an overnight stay. Inside there’s a fairly well-stocked common room, a wood-burning stove and a mezzanine sleeping area in the rafters. The Black Mountains are also a designated dark sky reserve, offering amazing stargazing opportunities. Mynydd Du car park is your starting point to find this bothy, with a three-mile walk through a pine forest towards the dam at the southern end of the reservoir.
DULYN, CARNEDDAU, SNOWDONIA NATIONAL PARK
Dulyn, despite being so remote, is a popular rest stop for hillwalkers traversing the slopes of Carnedd Llewelyn in Snowdonia National Park. It’s a unicorn in the bothy world, with creature comforts including a fireplace, bed frames, a dining table, chairs, pots and pans and even a rug. There’s no running water or toilet facilities, but you can freshen up with a wild swim in nearby Llyn Dulyn. Dulyn bothy is the perfect place to dip your toe into bothying thanks to its hostel-like vibe. You can find a detailed route map to find it here.
CAMASUNARY, ELGOL, ISLE OF SKYE
Another gorgeous bothy on the Isle of Skye, Camasunary gives you the chance to spend a free night in the shadows of the Cuillin Mountains, right on the rugged coastline of Camasunary Bay. The wooden bunks and sleeping platforms are well-maintained and there are a few picnic benches in the separate dining room, but there’s no stove or fireplace. The stone bothy is well insulated though, and no matter the weather, the views are truly beautiful. Here’s a walking route that takes in the Cuillins, Marsco and the Isles of Rùm and Soay.
WARNSCALE HEAD, HAYSTACKS, LAKE DISTRICT
A room with a view? Warnscale Head bothy is practically camouflaged into the slate strewn scree slope of the mountain, but persevere in your search for it and you’ll be rewarded with a wild stay overlooking Buttermere and Crummock Water. Inside, it’s bare-bones, and you’ll need to bring your own kindling for the stove, but the raised wooden benches for sleeping are comfortable enough. You can find a great description of the bothy and details on how to reach it here. Warnscale Head is tiny, with room for just three or four, so be prepared to wild camp, or if it’s full, to head to another nearby bothy, Dubs Hut.
Ryvoan is the perfect bothy for a quick evening of adventure. It’s only about an hour’s hike from Glenmore’s Forest Park car park, just up the road from Aviemore. The path to the bothy is easy to follow and winds through a beautiful forest of tall pine trees and along the shores of the glassy clear waters of An Lochan Uaine, the ‘Green Loch’, an amazing place for a wild swim before or after a night of bothying. Inside there’s a fat little stove, a wide bench to sleep on, a big pile of felled logs. What more could you want? Find a map of Ryvoan on the Mountain Bothies Association, Grid Ref: LR36: NJ 006 115. Walk Highlands list a map and instructions for walking to the bothy from Glenmore.
KEARVAIG BOTHY, CAPE WRATH, SCOTLAND
Scotland’s most northernmost bothy is pipped to the prize of being the most remote bothy in the UK by Maol Bhuide, but Kearvaig is still only accessible only by foot, mountain bike or ferry, and reaching it from Sandwood Bay via Cape Wrath is a real adventure. This is arguably the most beautiful bothy in Scotland, looking out at its own deserted white sand bay, and it’s pretty plush inside, too, complete with a mirror ball and a roaring fire (useful for warming up if you brave a plunge into the sea). Here’s more information on how to find it.