What is a Bothy? Stay For Free in Scotland As Long As You Follow These Rules

Photo by Matthias Wendling/Shutterstock

What is a Bothy? Stay For Free in Scotland As Long As You Follow These Rules

Scattered across the Highlands and rural areas of Scotland, a bothy is a small house that can be used by anyone, as long as you follow a few rules. These highland houses are completely free to use, with no need to book in advance (in fact usually you can't), offering shelter for those passing through.

As Scotland can get frightfully cold in the winter, with unpredictable storms especially in the Hebrides, these rural stone huts can be a lifesaver for those camping around Scotland. Stay for free at a bothy while in Scotland as long as you follow these rules.

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What is a Bothy? Stay For Free in Scotland As Long As You Follow These Rules

Refrain from Using for Large Groups

Bothy in Scotland

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As multiple groups of people could potentially be staying overnight at the bothy, it's advised to keep numbers below at the very most six people. The houses are small and not really suitable for a large group to stay at, which can cause other travelers wanting to use the facilities to have a negative experience.

Some of the more popular bothies can often fill up quickly if it's a summer weekend, make sure you bring a tent or have alternative accommodation ideas just in case there's no room left.

Just for Short Stays

Small house or bothy in Scotland, beautiful scenery

Photo by Helen Hotson/Shutterstock

These remote houses are meant for giving hikers and travelers passing through the area somewhere to stay for a night or two. It's not a cottage to base yourself for exploring around the region, long stays are usually discouraged, unless the owner has said otherwise. If you are planning to stay for more than two days at one of the bothies, make sure to contact the owner and ask for permission, some of them will allow it (usually those that are less busy.)

If you're looking for somewhere to stay for more than a few days and are not to keen on camping, it's better to book a holiday cottage, there are plenty to choose from around Scotland and the UK.

When You Gotta Go...

Bothies are very simple small huts, often you won't find a toilet inside. Don't panic, as they are mostly located in remote places, do your business outside in the great outdoors. Most of them will have a spade available, which is for buying your waste. Just make sure to go a little way from the hut, to prevent nasty smells.

Be Welcoming to Others

Coire Fionnaraich Bothy Scotland

Photo by John Allan/Wikipedia

Note that just because you got there first, it doesn't mean the bothy is yours alone to use. Likewise, if you notice it's occupied then by all means go inside. The bothy is meant for everyone to use, which can sometimes mean cramming as many as 15 people into a tiny hut during the high season in popular places. While this can get a little cloying, it's better than leaving someone to sleep outside in the cold. If you're staying at the bothy, it's appropriate to be welcoming to anyone else visiting.

Bring Everything You'll Need

You'll need to bring your own water, food and fuel if you're going to need to use the fire. While some visitors will leave a few things such as extra firewood or canned food for the next person to come along, often the bothy will be fairly empty and it's expected that you bring everything you need.

Don't Litter

Mountain hut or Bothy in Scotland

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For most this will be obvious, but there's plenty of people who still manage to forget to take their rubbish with them. While the managing organization such as the Mountain Bothies Association, will take care of maintenance such as repairs needed for the property, keeping it tidy is the responsibility of the public.

Many of the buildings are old, historic structures that were once houses for shepherds or other workers and it's best to treat them as such. If you do cause any damage to the property by accident, make sure to contact the association or owner to let them know.

Staying at a Bothy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Note that most bothies around Scotland are currently closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Make sure to check the page for each bothy you are planning to visit in advance to make sure it's open.

Some huts are also closed during deer stalking periods, usually from August. It will usually be stated on the website for the managing association so make sure to check.