The stable building, right, at Gelder Shiel near Lochnagar, is available as a bothy. Photo: Nigel Corby CC-BY-SA-2.0

The stable building, right, at Gelder Shiel near Lochnagar, is available as a bothy. Photo: Nigel Corby CC-BY-SA-2.0

Did you know you can stay in one of the Queen’s properties, free of charge?

It’s hardly palatial, but the Gelder Shiel Stable on the Balmoral Estate is just one of about 100 mountain bothies that are usually available for outdoor enthusiasts to use.

The stable does have one luxury many bothies don’t – a toilet – and it lies in the shadow of the imposing munro Lochnagar.

The shelter is in the care of the Mountain Bothies Association, which this year has listed the owners of the numerous buildings it maintains, though only one of which it owns.

The Queen is also listed as a donor to the charity, along with numerous individuals, estates and companies.

The MBA has just published its annual report for 2014, which reveals it spent £44,000 on maintaining the bothies which provide vital shelter for mountain-goers and rudimentary accommodation for trekkers.

The association’s volunteers contributed 1,152 working days looking after the buildings, and maintenance took place on 59 properties.

It took over responsibility for one new bothy during the year, Dubs Hut in the Lake District, owned by nearby Honister Slate Mine, and closed another, Culra in central Scotland due to problems with asbestos.

The MBA also agreed to renovate bothies at Flittingford in the Kielder Forest and at Cae Amos in north Wales and reached agreement with its owner for a replacement bothy at Camasunary on Skye.

In their report for the year, the charity’s trustees record their appreciation for the support received from the owners, managers and staff of the buildings the association maintains, pointing out that without their continuing generosity the association would not exist.

Other owners of bothies in the care of the MBA include the Earl of Mexborough, the Ministry of Defence, the Scottish and Welsh Governments, utility companies, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, plus numerous individuals and estates.

The Mountain Bothies Association was founded in 1965. It has about 3,700 members, and, with the consent and support of their owners, undertakes the restoration and maintenance of a number of old cottages, huts and similar buildings throughout the wilder parts of Scotland, England and Wales for use as open shelters for walkers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

Many of the buildings that are cared for by the MBA would otherwise have become derelict. The association currently looks after almost 100 bothies. All of the restoration and maintenance work is undertaken by volunteers and is financed by member subscriptions and by donations.

The work of the association was recognised by the award of the Queens Award for Voluntary Service in 2015. More details are available on the MBA website.

And before everyone dashes off to the Balmoral Estate for a little royal hospitality, the Gelder Shiel Stable may not be available between the beginning of September and late October as the adjacent shiel may be occupied.

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  2. Mountain shelter back in service after volunteers’ restoration