By Cara Sulieman
SCOTLAND’S bothies are under threat from commercial groups who are illicitly using them as overnight accommodation.
The Mountain Bothies Association – who maintain many of Scotland’s wild shelters – have warned that the buildings may even be closed down if the practice doesn’t stop.
Scotland is currently home to around 100 bothies, which provide essential shelter to outdoor enthusiasts for free.
But some companies offering guided hikes in the Scottish Highlands are including them in their itinerary without getting the owners’ permission first.
The large groups that are crowding into the small shelters are causing problems for hikers who try to use the bothies – with some walkers saying that they have even been turned away from the buildings.
The MBA are warning these commercial groups to gain the permission of the landowner first, so that the shelters can continue to be used by all.
Neil Stewart, press officer for the MBA, said: “From time to time there is evidence, either in the form of actual use or in advertising, that some of these bothies are being used by commercial organisations as overnight accommodation for their clients.
“Such use is not a permitted activity under our agreements with the owners of these buildings unless that owner has given specific permission.
“Unauthorised commercial use of bothies places the good relations that the MBA has with the owners under some strain and may even result in closure of a bothy.
“It is also unfair to legitimate users arriving at the bothy who may have difficulty finding space, being made unwelcome or even rejected as has happened in some cases.”
He declined to name any at fault but said if a group wanted to use a bothy they should contact the landowner and get permission.
The MBA then ensure that their members are informed that the shelter will be closed on those days, through their website and newsletter.
It is when this doesn’t happen that the problems occur.
Mr Stewart said: “Commercial organisations that wish to use bothies to accommodate their clients or for any other purpose must obtain permission from the owner of the building.
“In most cases, the bothy owner is the estate owner. Organisations having difficulty finding bothy owner contact details can send a message with appropriate details to the MBA website and we will try to help.”
Bothies are traditional huts situated in remote parts of the country which are open for anyone to use as shelter.
They are simple structures – most are just a stone building with a shovel for digging a toilet and little else.
They are owned by the landowner, but maintained by the Mountain Bothy Association, who ensure that the buildings are safe and weatherproof.