Chasing Bothies | The Cairngorms & The Isle of Skye
By Jonas Stuck
This Easter, we headed up-country from the South-East coast, vanishing down sun-drenched winding roads in the Lake District until finally reaching the northern tip of the Isle of Skye.
During our journey, we spent three nights in the vast and wonderful Cairngorm mountains. Our plan was to find bothies to sleep in; lonely little huts found all across Scotland that are free and open to everyone. On the first night we arrived at Feshiebridge (about 9 miles south of Aviemore) to walk the forest path to our first destination, which we had found in our sacred Bothy Bible. Our hearts dropped when we discovered it was closed for renovation - just shows that you should always check the Mountain Bothy Association before starting your trek! We ended up camping by the car, and the next day headed off for a stunning day-hike, taking us up and over our first Monroe mountain; from bright sunshine to biting wind and frozen cheeks. Afterwards we made a brief stop in Aviemore (a great town to stock up in outdoor shops and refuel with coffee) and then parked up in yet another remote carpark to camp - Scotland is perfect for wild-camping.
The next morning, we set off from Glenmore Lodge in glorious sunshine to walk seven hours to our second bothy, the Hutchinson Memorial Hut, which is the highest in the UK at 800m. We were feeling pretty smug that we’d be the first to arrive (according to the Bible, it only had room for four people to sleep and we didn’t bring our tent), but by the time our hearts had jumped at the sight of it there were already eight people in the bothy, and three more would arrive before the day was over! It didn’t matter, two people were happy to stay in their tent and four brave hearts slept under the stars, cowboy-style. What a location! The bothy nestles at the bottom of a semi-circle of Monroes, with Ben Macdui - the second highest mountain in Scotland - not far behind. We were all awake early and were lucky enough to see the sun rising slowly over the hills and melting the frosty grass.
Full of energy, we decided to climb a Monroe and take a slightly longer route back to the car. The hike itself was beautiful, working its way over a ridge, down past a huge loch and through long valleys filled with the sound of rushing water. This was such a breathtaking introduction to the Cairngorms, and made us fall in love with Scotland all over again.
Our aching feet were glad to see the car, and so we headed off to the Isle of Skye. What a drive! Definitely the most stunning I have ever been on. Huge empty roads leading through moorland only inhabited by herds of red deer, surrounded by mountains and shadowy lochs. We crossed the bridge to the island just as night fell, and stayed in a hostel in Kyleakin, which was a good choice for our dirty, tired bodies. The next day we drove up the coast of Skye, passing incredible rock formations, to a carpark near the very northern tip. From here we walked a couple of miles to discover our third bothy - an abandoned coastguard’s hut fittingly called ‘The Lookout’. We arrived in evening sunshine (who ever said it rained in Scotland?!) and found we had the place to ourselves, which was such a joy. The bothy has incredible views over the sea and islands, but alas we didn’t see any whales, despite rumours that they are around. We made tea and watched the sunset with steaming mugs in our hands.
Jonas Stuck is a 24-year-old photographer based in Berlin, Germany. He graduated in History & Politics and is now completing an MA in Contemporary Environmental History. Having travelled a lot in childhood, Jonas was inspired to pursue a life of adventure, setting the grounds for his own explorations. "I am fascinated by every form of self powered movement, whether it be sailing, skiing or biking. However, it is walking that has influenced me the most and the photography that accompanies these adventures."