Members of 59 Commando Squadron Royal Engineers at work on a new bothy at Camasunary. Photo: Major Iain Lamont

Members of 59 Commando Squadron Royal Engineers at work on a new bothy at Camasunary. Photo: Major Iain Lamont

Increasing use of mountain bothies by commercial businesses could put them at risk, a charity said.

The Mountain Bothies Association, which looks after about 100 rudimentary shelters in the hills of Scotland, Wales and England, has reminded companies the bothies are not available for their paying customers.

The charity maintains the shelters in locations across Britain, but does not own most of the buildings. They are available to use free-of-charge to hillgoers for an overnight stop, but are not intended to be occupied by groups on guided tours or adventure holidays.

The MBA said on occasions, owners have threatened to close bothies if the charity fails to prevent commercial use. It added that incidents have occurred where legitimate bothy users have been made to feel unwelcome, inconvenienced or even refused entry when commercial groups have been in residence.

The bothy code, under which the buildings are made available to the public, emphasises the shelters are not for use by commercial groups.

The MBA said: “Our volunteers who maintain the bothies, not unreasonably, feel aggrieved to know that their hard work is contributing to the profits of a business that probably does not support our organisation in any way.

“There could be a financial downside too. Local authorities, who levy business rates on bothies, provide 100 per cent relief of payment, which could be withdrawn if the buildings are used for commercial purposes.”

MBA trustee and owner liaison officer Roger Muhl said: “We do not wish to hide the existence and purpose of bothies from the customers of outdoor activities businesses.

“There is always the possibility that some may be sufficiently interested to join MBA and, better still, become one of our volunteers whose work is key to the success of the bothy network.

“Daytime visits to bothies for lunch etc are not a problem nor is seeking shelter in the event of a genuine emergency. It is planned overnight stays by commercial groups that are not permitted.

“When we have evidence of use or intended use by commercial organisations, we write to them asking them not to do so and to remove reference to bothy visits from their advertising.

“Around half of those in receipt of such letters respond by apologising that they were unaware of this restriction.

“We hope that this reminder will provide other proprietors and employees of outdoor activity businesses with a better understanding of the difficulties that can arise when they stay in MBA bothies.”

All work on the cottages, huts and similar buildings throughout the wilder parts of Scotland, England and Wales is undertaken by volunteers and financed by membership fees, donations and legacies. They are available for use as open shelters for walkers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

The bothy code says:

  • Respect other users

Please leave the bothy clean and tidy with dry kindling for the next visitors. Make other visitors welcome. If they are not MBA members set a good example.

  • Respect the bothy

Tell us about any accidental damage. Don’t leave graffiti or vandalise the bothy. Please take out all rubbish which you can’t burn. Avoid burying rubbish; this pollutes the environment. Please don’t leave perishable food as this attracts vermin. Guard against fire risk and ensure the fire is out before you leave. Make sure the doors and windows are properly closed when you leave.

  • Respect the surroundings

If there is no toilet at the bothy please bury human waste out of sight. Use the spade provided, keep well away from the water supply and never use the vicinity of the bothy as a toilet.
Never cut live wood or damage estate property. Use fuel sparingly.

  • Respect the agreement with the estate

Please observe any restrictions on use of the bothy, for example during stag stalking or at lambing time. Please remember bothies are available for short stays only. The owner’s permission must be obtained if you intend an extended stay.

  • Respect the restriction on numbers

Because of overcrowding and lack of facilities, large groups (6six or more) should not use a bothy nor camp near a bothy without first seeking permission from the owner.

  • Bothies are not available for commercial groups.

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