You could be forgiven for thinking that every aspect of hillwalking had already been written about, many times, and that most books about Scotland's mountains that are published these days are updating, revisiting or providing the author's personal slant on places and subjects that have been covered by others previously. "The Book of the Bothy" by Phoebe Smith therefore came as something of a surprise. We've come across fictional and non-fictional accounts of climbers and walkers in which bothies are visited, but we are pretty sure we've never previously encountered a book that is actually about bothies. Combine an author whose knowledge of and love for her subject is as obvious as her ability to convey that knowledge - and that love - to her readers; the extremely high production values we have grown used to from Cicerone Press; and a simply magnificent cover photo, and you have a book that is a sure-fire winner.
Bothies are something of an enigma to many of us, even those of us who have ventured out into the hills on a regular basis. Perhaps there's a sense in the modern world that a system set up to provide visitors with free accommodation in some of the most remote corners of Scotland is simply too good to be true? There has to be a catch, hasn't there? Well no, apparently not, and this book should be considered essential reading for anyone who wants to add an extra dimension to their exploration of the Scottish hills. And not just Scotland, of the 26 bothies discussed in detail between the covers of this book, 16 are in Scotland, 4 are in England and 4 are in Wales. The bothies included are the author's personal selection from the 100 or so that are on offer in the UK.
Each bothy is given a map showing the location and route in, some photos, a descriptive text talking abut access routes, history, facilities and so on. Also included are the author's personal recollections of her own visits, from crashing a stag party at Glencoul bothy to a solitary but supremely comfortable night at the remote bothy near Sandwood Bay. Ever since Alfred Wainwright opened up the fells of the Lake District to all those who followed his pictorial guides, it's been a risk run by authors of guidebooks (and, for that matter, websites about Scotland) that they could make the places they are describing too popular. We suspect that Phoebe Smith's book will result in more people visiting and staying in bothies, both those she covers and others, but given the effort needed to reach many of them, she's unlikely to cause an accommodation crisis anytime soon. This book is essential reading for all lovers of Britain's remaining remote areas.