hidden europe 47

In from the cold: Britain’s mountain bothies

Picture above: The Mountain Bothies Association bothy at Arenig Fawr, where a good view counts for much more than sybaritic comfort, is one of 26 bothies featured in a new book by Phoebe Smith on Britain's mountain bothies. The book is published by Cicerone (photo © Phoebe Smith and Neil S Price).


A new book by Phoebe Smith celebrates the simple British bothy. It appears as the Mountain Bothies Association marks 50 years of work looking after the bothy network which is so valued by hikers in the mountains of northern England, Scotland and Wales.

In the forgotten lands to the east of Ffestiniog, well beyond the moorlands of Migneint, the walker comes to the Tryweryn Valley. A great hill frames the south side of the valley. On its eastern flank is a little stone hut, which takes its name from the mountain itself: Arenig Fawr.
Nobody walks to this simple bothy in the Welsh hills expecting overnight luxury. It is a modest structure, with a fireplace and two little platforms — each just the right size to accommodate one sleeping person.

This unsophisticated hut is a good spot to reflect on the fate of Capel Celyn, the community in the valley below which was destroyed to make
way for a reservoir. Welsh water was piped to Liverpool, and a tight-knit village in a remote valley paid a heavy price for English thirst. It’s also a good spot to reflect on why the simplest forms of travel are often the most rewarding. Who needs feather beds and five-star luxury when a real wilderness experience is there for the taking?

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) which does superb work in looking after over 100 mountain huts across Britain. Arenig Fawr is one of eight Welsh bothies in the MBA network. That network also includes ten bothies in England (all in the Lake District and northern Pennines). The great majority of MBA bothies however are in Scotland. MBA relies on volunteers to help maintain the bothies which are highly valued by walkers and mountaineers.

Related note

Lamb soup galore

Lamb soup is a staple in some parts of Europe, but utterly unknown elsewhere. In Iceland, lamb soup has the status of a national dish. That lamb soup was once judged to be the perfect remedy for dysentery was new to us.