Doune Byre

Big Bothy Walk #13

“We’ve set up ten minutes down the loch. Camp with us, it’s not even flat here”

“Yes it is” (It wasn’t)

“You don’t have to stay here, this bothy is shit”

“No it isn’t” (It was)

My own rules for this Big Bothy Walk stated that I had to sleep inside or in the vicinity of each MBA bothy. I was now in a pickle because Doune Byre was, frankly, gross and there wasn’t much in the way of flat ground to camp on in the area immediately around it.

After such a charming night at Rowchoish, I suppose I had raised my expectations of how the WHW trailwalkers would have treated Doune Byre. Two other bloggers I admire, Hiker Heather and Becky the Traveller had both had secluded and comfortable nights at Doune Byre, surely I would have been warned if it had been a state?

The walk there was short, yet I still set off early. I hoped to be able to charge my power bank at the Inversnaid Hotel but arrived before the Walker’s Bar opened. The midges were already out in force so I sat by the waterfall in my headnet and dozed.

The Walker’s Bar was both fantastic and completely unwelcoming. Through a separate entrance from the main hotel (which is, oddly, owned by a coach company and caters purely for guests that book on those trips), it lead to a gear storage room where hikers were expected to remove boots and bags and sticks, and then into a space set out like a rather nice canteen with numerous plug points, long tables and a lot of light. Visitors would still have to go through the plush corridor in their socks to order at the bar. It was only in making this walk that one soon realised that this whole setup was to try and keep the stinky, dirty hikers away from the nice, clean, coach-loving tourists and the staff were not particularly welcoming. Matt and Phil had caught me up here, and left ahead of me as I waited to get as much charge as possible.

On from the hotel, the path became highly annoying. Just a lengthy obstacle course of boulders and exposed roots which really isn’t my box of biscuits. The convoy had caught up to me and I was trapped miserably in the tramping line again. I was thankful I would leave the West Highland Way tomorrow. I don’t know how people hike in a crowd for a week.

Doune Byre appeared soon after the gauntlet ended; with the loch behind it and a meadow rolling towards me in front, it had seemed idyllic. A small slit of a window peeked from the doorside wall and a plank of wood, inscribed with the bothy’s name, hung, welcoming, beside it.

Inside was a whole other matter. Graffiti was scrawled all over the walls and the chimney and it was absolutely filled with rubbish. There was clutter and discarded, useless bits and pieces everywhere. Three people had already claimed the sleeping platform on the left hand side and placed their belongings on the two other sleeping platforms by the fireplace, seemingly in an attempt to deter others from staying.

This is a bothy where the history is very faded. Whilst it is distinctively a byre, there’s also a very good chance it was used as a grainstore. There is nothing definitive to say accurately when it was built, nor many records to say which tenant farmers it ever belonged to. Most likely another sad relic of a pre-clearance time and a family who were forced to leave Scotland, whose existence here has been forgotten.

A single room, smaller than Rowchoish, with only a table and a small shelving unit between the fire and the platform. It was rudimentary, but a rudimentary bothy is not necessarily a charmless one. Doune Byre had been stripped of any loveliness by the neglect of its users. Honestly, I’d expected this sort of sight in Tunskeen, but here it was a shock. I turned around and put up my tent outside on the lumpy hillside field, steeling myself for an uncomfortable night. That was where Matt found me.

Despite my original conviction, it did not take long to persuade me to move. I really didn’t want to stay here; a constant stamp of feet passed by my tent as the trail wound past the bothy and the three that had taken it over were already bristling whenever someone else went to enter. I broke down my tent and went with Matt further up the loch to a flat, grassy space right by the bank, underneath the trees. I couldn’t see the bothy anymore, but I decided it still counted.

We lit a fire in an existing pit, the smoke keeping away the worst of the midges until the rain came, as it always eventually does, and drove us to our tents.

For more information about bothies, visit the Mountain Bothies Association website

If you are visiting a bothy, please be sure to follow the Bothy Code

When hiking in Scotland, familiarise yourself with the Outdoor Access Code

Doune Byre (1980)

Owner: Glenfalloch Estate

Fuel: Deadwood and fallen timber can be found in surrounding forest. Driftwood from the loch.

Water: Burns to left and right of bothy

Notes: Open all year.

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