Having published his book The Scottish Bothy Bible earlier this year, Geoff Allen gave a talk at Blackwell’s in Edinburgh last Thursday. Witty, personal and very informative, Geoff Allen provided a fascinating insight into the way in which he collated his book and the many difficulties he faced when writing.
Bothies are relatively unknown, a secret treasured by a select – often Scottish – few. Bothies, in simple terms, are open shelters for people to use and rest in during long walks in the Scottish Highlands. Scattered across Scotland, they come in various different forms, from old schoolhouses to farm cottages. Given how many there are, it is certainly impressive that Geoff Allen has been to all of them.
His comprehensive talk started with the inspiration behind the book, before describing why it took so long for it to be completed. Numerous examples of his trips to various bothies were shared with the audience, providing an insight into the details of his book.
After studying in Edinburgh and being part of the mountaineering club, he fell in love with the Scottish Highlands and was fascinated by bothies. 20 years after he moved from England to Edinburgh, he decided to write about bothies in 2011. However, due to financial issues he was forced to cycle or take public transport to all of these incredibly remote areas of Scotland, thus taking him five years to visit every single one. As a primarily visual artist, Allen has filled his book with stunning photography, featuring isolated bothies surrounded by beautiful countryside in some of Scotland’s loveliest (if infrequently seen) weather.
From the farmhouse of the Victorian Lodge that is so remote that it is only visited 40 times a year, to a bothy that was famous for being the last house to be used with no amenities, Allen also offers a knowledgeable insight into the history of bothies. His book now contains half the word count of the first draft, as his passion to include all he knew and saw was too much. By hiking and cycling to all of the bothies, Allen’s book dedicates time to highlighting the various ways to get to all of them, and gives insider tips to help new travellers.
Bothies have been kept a secret part of Scottish heritage and countryside for so long that there is little information out there; hopefully, this book will be ground-breaking in the area of hiking travel literature.
Whilst not a book for everyone, it certainly acts as a great encyclopaedia for those wanting to see more of, and understand, the Scottish countryside, as well as anyone interested in understanding more about the history of these isolated dwellings, of which hikers are so fond.
The Scottish Bothy Bible by Geoff Allen
Photo credit: Beth Blakemore