#260 – Gleann Dubh Lighe bothy

Gleann Dubh Lighe bothy © UKH

Hogwarts Express, AKA The Jacobite Steam Train, crossing Glenfinnan Viaduct ©96tommy


(Left click images to zoom in, use browser return arrow to go back)

I blame Harry Potter!    The plan had been to walk out to Corryhully bothy, known as ‘The Electric Bothy’ due to its being connected to a modest hydro-electric generator.   We had arrived expecting a short hike out and back, but what we hadn’t allowed for was that unpredictable but growing hazard in the Scottish Highlands – the Tourist Trap.    In this case, the attraction was Harry Potter’s ‘Hogwarts’s Express’, known in real life as ‘The Jacobite Steam Train’.

Fort William and the Road to the Isles

Routes to the bothies – Corryhully (red) and Gleann Dubh Lighe (blue)

Glenfinnan and the route to Gleann Dubh Lighe bothy

The train makes a daily run from Fort William to Mallaig and back again, and I’m sure it’s a fantastic sight as it crosses Glenfinnan Viaduct, but don’t expect a solitary experience.  We arrived at a reasonable time to start the trip,  only to find the start point at the railway viaduct had become a car park, and a full car park at that.   Luckily, we had a backup plan, so leaving crowds of disappointed and sulky kids behind us, we headed down to road to walk out to Gleann Dubh Lighe bothy instead.

Setting out ….

…. and heading towards the forest

Cascades in the ‘Dubh Lighe’ or ‘Black Torrent’

The only people likely to show interest in Glean Dubh Lighe are hikers going out to the bothy, or heading beyond to Streap (909 metres) and the wilderness area of the Rough Bounds of Knoydart, so there was no competition from the multitude of Harry Potter fans.  Unfortunately, the start of the revised route was a bimble through the woods, though the cascades of the Dubh Lighe stream (translates as ‘Black Torrent’) provided some interest.

A bridge too far?

The view down to the ‘Black Torrent’ below

Out of the woods and into the open

Regular readers will know that Chris and I are not great fans of routes through forests, especially commercial forests, though Border Collie ‘Mist’ is happy enough and spends much of her time checking out the scents of other four-legged visitors.  There was, however, a wee bit of excitement (for Chris at least) before we left the forest, in the shape of a bridge over the stream, with the Dubh Lighe running through a narrow gorge below.  My request for her to stand on the middle of the bridge for a photo was declined, and none too politely at that!

First view of the bothy

Closer view of the bothy

There at last

Having survived the bridge (wide enough to drive a light truck over as it happens), we finally emerged into more open ground and soon after that the bothy came into sight.   In the early 1900s, the bothy was home to the McLennan family – seven children and their parents lived here, with dad working as a shepherd, forester, ghillie and stalker on the Fassfern estate.   When the cottage became unoccupied, it came under the care of the Loch Eil Outward Bound Centre, before the MBA (Mountain Bothies Association) accepted responsibility for its upkeep.

The bothy after the fire of 2011 © MBA

The buildings in the care of the MBA are maintained by the association with the agreement of the owners, to be used as free accommodation for travellers and mountaineers.   A surprising number of the bothies are damaged by fires, and earlier on our May 2019 trip to the Highlands we had visited Bob Scott’s bothy near Braemar, which has the dubious distinction of being in ‘version 3’, the previous two having been destroyed by fire.

The burned-out bothy in a sorry state © Allan

Glean Dubh Lighe bothy was badly damaged by fire in 2011 and was a subject of prolonged debate as to whether it should be rebuilt – thankfully for hill-goers, the bothy was repaired by MBA volunteers.   A faulty gas cartridge was the culprit in this case, though readers looking for a more interesting tale should read ‘The Night the Bothy Burned’ by outdoors writer John Burns.

Border Collie ‘Mist’ ready to try out the renovated bothy

The name on the door – looks like we found the right place

Just inside the entrance

The main room with the fireplace

The sleeping platform in the main room

Looking through the entrance hall to the second room

The second room and the ‘library’

The renovated bothy is light and airy, and undoubtedly an improvement on the original with wooden floors and wood-clad walls.   The main room has the original fireplace and a sleeping platform, and would make a cosy stopover.   The second room lacks a fire but has the benefit of a well-stocked bookshelf – those placing more importance on comfort over reading are advised to arrive early and head for the room with the fire.

The track continuing up the glen

Beyond the glen – wide open spaces with Streap beyond © Andrew Spenceley

We stayed for a short while for a brew and a bite to eat, before setting off back down the track.   Before leaving, Chris walked a short distance up the track to check out the view, but the cloud had descended and there wasn’t much to see.   In better weather it looks much more inviting, as seen in the photo above by Andrew Spenceley, so we have a good reason to return – that’s if Chris is ready to cross the Dubh Lighe bridge again!

Time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock except where indicated otherwise.

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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8 Responses to #260 – Gleann Dubh Lighe bothy

  1. hikeminded says:

    I’m going to Skye next April and have to take pictures of this 🙂 Looks like from another time – like so many things in Scotland.


  2. Hi, I’m guessing you will have a car if you’re staying at Glenelg. If yes, the small ferry over to Skye should be operating from Easter onwards, and that’s your easiest way of getting on the island. The following Skye posts would give you some great hikes – #202 (ignore the problem my wife had with the ‘bad step’ – it’s not all that difficult and it’s near the beginning of the hike), #203 (easy walk bur arrive as early as possible as it’s very popular), #226 (same comment as #203), #225 (depending on the weather in April).
    There are a couple of bothy walks on Skye near the end of #223, and there’s a long hike in #248 that takes a bit of planning regarding transport.
    If you have time for a diversion on the way to Glenelg, #225 isn’t far off route, and the railway viaduct in this post is worth a look, though it’s a bit more off route.
    Have a great trip – get back to me if you want any more info.


  3. Woops – the second #225 above (…diversion on the way to Glenelg) should read #255!


  4. It’s also the Glen approach for the Munro Gulvain too surely? I didn’t really like the glen – perhaps it was the forest. Don’t remember the waterfall and bridge though…

    It isn’t really surprising that bothies burn down seeing as many of them have an open hearth and most folks light a fire!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: #262 – It’s that time of year again! | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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