Big Bothy Walk #21

Stewart had dropped me off at the top of the path that would take me south out of Glenfinnan to the west side of Loch Shiel. All that overdramatic faffing around at Essan had cut my day short, I set up my tent by the bank after a few hours of walking further away from the busyness of the road and into the quietness of the growing mountains. On a forest track, it was a much less perilous journey than the one the day before and, because I wasn’t desperately staring down at my feet the whole time or fighting bracken and bogs, I was able to actually enjoy the views of the rising hills, streaked silver with cascading waterfalls and buttressed with basalt.

Of course, being the height of midge season, once I had set up my tent I was trapped inside, peering out through the mesh in an attempt to avoid the swarms. I was rapidly running out of areas of skin that had not yet been bitten and having to Smidge my arse every time I needed a wee was quickly becoming less funny.

Donning my headnet, I packed quickly the following morning and continued along the track. Eventually reaching the tiny hamlet of Polloch, tracks became paths, diving into the forest to the glimmering head of Loch Doilet. The trees continued in shadowed green walls all the way up Glen Hurich.

I had heard that finding one’s way to Resourie through the trees was often a bit of a palaver; the trees changed so often and the paths were moved around every few years. I was surprised when a cairn appeared by the side of the road. I paused. I could only assume this marked the spot on which to enter the darkness of the trees though no path was apparent at all. I took the chance and pushed over the floor of pine needles on a rough bearing of where the bothy was supposed to be and soon stumbled on the vague path that lead to a clearing. Light poured into it and the grass shone like something blessed amid the darkness of the forest. A small cottage gleamed. If there had been a choir singing, it would have seemed entirely appropriate.

It isn’t clear how long a place called Resourie has existed. It first crops up in records as the place where John Murray, secretary to Bonnie Prince Charlie, fled to in the bloody wake of Culloden, pursued by General Campbell’s troops. After securing money for his emigration and escape, he met his wife here, and they vanished from these shores forever.

After the clearances the settlements were whittled down, smaller and smaller, until only isolated houses remained. The last occupants of the lone house of the township that was once Resourie were the Sykes family, here as tenant farmers. They arrived in 1910 from Glenfinnan – a steamship dropped them off in Polloch where they were rowed to the pier and then carted in the last six miles. On their departure six years later, the rowing boat carrying their furniture capsized and it was left, ruined, on the pier for two days before the steamer arrived.

I know all this because the MO of Resourie, Susan, is a legend. She has put a large poster up displaying Resourie’s past. Also a helpful diagram on how to actually use a Dowling stove without giving yourself CO poisoning, and several careful drawings and instructions on how to proceed hiking eastwards. Which was very useful as that’s exactly what I needed to know. It also appeared it was Susan that placed the cairn by the road.

A familiar pattern of three rooms, the right hand room housed bunks, a desk and a neat fireplace by the wall of information. The left hand room also had bunks, a stove, another desk and a brilliant library corner where chairs and a table sat beneath an orderly shelf of books. The middle room enclosed a small sleeping platform and stored a wheelbarrow.

Resourie is currently enclosed in a shaded den of trees and ferns where a burn ripples nearby like something out of fairytale. Hopefully it’s a good fairytale where the heroine doesn’t end up eaten by wolves, or worse, married.

The whispering, babbling nearness of the forest isn’t always here. It wasn’t here for a long time before the Forestry Commission came in, and just a few years ago the area was cleared. Now trees have grown again. Susan, aware of the conflicting information out there, had done more than her due diligence to add clarity to visitors to her bothy. The next day I would find the onward route east marked again by small cairns for at least two and half miles. Who put them there? Well, according to the bothy book it was our Susan.

If you have come to this post in 2027 via ancient search-terms looking for information about Resourie and don’t know whether there will be forest affecting your onward journey – don’t worry pet, Susan will have you covered. Susan has set the gold standard of being an MO. When I get to be an MO one day, I will aspire to be like Susan.

I settled into my room, drying my tent out quickly in the patch of sun that shone into the clearing. The sky started to darken, and I packed the tent away. Suddenly the door sprung open and a couple burst in. Before I could utter a word of welcome, they had burst back out and slammed the door shut. They then stood outside and argued about what to do next.

It appeared that my presence had interrupted their plans for a romantic night of bothy-based canoodling. Not that it sounded like there would have been much canoodling anyway; this seemed to be just the latest of many arguments that the route in had inspired. I always find it odd when others are surprised that someone else is also in a bothy, especially on a lovely Friday evening in July. Despite there being two other rooms available, they decided to sulk and set up a tent outside instead.

Oh well, their loss. Susan’s pride and joy was all mine tonight.

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

Resourie (1989)

Owner: Glenhurich Forest: 0300 067 6650

Fuel: Lots of deadwood and fallen timber in surrounding plantation.

Water: Burns to the left of the bothy

Notes: Open all year. You are asked not to light fires outside, as the fire risk to the surrounding plantation is high.

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