Should Bloggers Write About Bothies?

When I first walked into Barrisdale bothy there was a note fastened to the bothy book, in which visitors recorded their stay.

It roughly read, "If you like this place, then please don't write about it. If you're a guide-book writer, then that applies double to you".

I also believe the Outdoor Writers' Guild, of which I was never a member, had a code which emphasised not mentioning the whereabouts of bothies.

And write a letter to the Mountain Bothies Association requesting a list of bothies and the reply would read, "there is no list".

The whereabouts of bothies was communal knowledge. It was shared between like-minded individuals. You didn't tell someone who might abuse that knowledge or the bothy.

This approach, by and large, kept away most of the idiots. Although some would rip out the wooden sleeping platforms to use as firewood.

How times have changed.

The Mountain Bothy Association now has a website, with clickable map that provides the OS Grid Reference of a bothy.

And the privately run Barrisdale Bothy in Knoydart has its own wesbite.

I was astonished to discover by both. But perhaps I'm behind the times.

In my book, describing the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail, I agonised over mentining the whereabouts of the Uags bothy, and I won't do so here. Why?

This is electronically searchable while, for now at least, the book is not. Some sea kayaker, following the trail, might have urgent need of that bothy.

If they dig the knowledge out of my book then I consider them to be a like-minded person.

So I was initially horrified when a comment from Tony, below this entry on my blog, revealed the BBC website was carrying a magazine-style report about a bothy-weekend break.

After reading it in detail I was a little more reassured. Although Loch Aline is mentioned, the bothy is not named, so people won't find it easily on OS maps. No grid reference or route description is given.

So what is going on here?

Perhaps all that has changed is the way we pass-on our bothy knowledge?

People still share their experiences with like minded individuals. Only now they do it online, through Facebook, Twitter or specialist sites like High-8, rather than on the hill, in the pub or climbing club meet.

Still. I'm unsure.

I have always fretted about naming bothies in my work. Today, as I write this, I'm as conflicted as ever.

Particularly when writing for a medium where Google can locate a digital needle in a billion information haystacks.

And as for Track My Tour... well, I'll write something selarately about that.

3 Comments Here:

Ian said...

Hi Simon,

Thought provoking post! Like you, I found bothies either by chance or by word of mouth; and would pass on information only to "like minded" folk. Was I right, or was I being elitist?

I'm careful to be vague about wild camp spots, but hast the internet let the genie out of the bottle with regard to bothies?

I don't know - but your post prompted me to edit a recent post on my blog...

Ian

paddlingOTAKU said...

Well, I had to google 'bothies' and still not sure of the pronunciation....

PO

Ian said...

Pronounced Bothy with a short vowel as in Bottle; which is nicely appropriate!

Ian