We all know what the run up to Christmas is like, don’t we? The kids getting high on chocolate, unable to sleep. The wives freaking out about last minute shopping and getting all the extra nibbles for the winter layer. Well, that’s what our house was like.
It made perfect sense then (in my head at least) that the only logical course of action was to escape the house for a few days away before the real madness kicked in when I put on my Christmas jumper.
On an overcast afternoon on the 20th December, I met one of my key bikepacking buddies, Jack, in a car park at Tomintoul. The bikes were packed up and we were ready for an adventure.
Setting off, it wasn’t long before the village was well behind us. The roads before us for the next several miles were well kept and easily rideable whilst undulating slowly.
As you pass the magnificent hunting lodge of Inchroy, the roads soon turn to gravel tracks. The tracks are well kept though, so pose no significant challenge.
We crossed the bridge further up the valley and soon found the first of some of the unridable climbs (well, at least for us middle-aged puffers) so took in some long bike n’ hikes along the way. This was no great hardship though and it made for some lovely stops and wildlife spotting. We did manage to see a couple of Golden Eagles and a few buzzards along the way.
“That’s the last climb” Jack proclaimed at one point, only to turn a corner and see the mother of all climbs before us!
It this point the track was getting considerably worse. The surface a kind of course grit that enjoyed clogging up the chain and cranks in the wet weather. Thankfully, it was mild though for the time of year and there was no ice or snow that day.
At the point that we were really starting to get a bit frustrated with the weather and climbs, the remote bothy fell into our view. It’s a bit of an odd one, this bothy. Most of the building has collapsed, and the bothy has been rebuilt at the end. There is also a larger outbuilding that appears to be getting outfitted with some sleeping bunks.
We washed the bikes off in the river next to the bothy, then got inside for a brew. The temperature was starting to fall quite fast. The woodburning stove was quickly lit, though seemed to produce very little heat in that small room.
The bothy itself is quite small. Just a main room with a stove, table and platform for two. A wooden stepladder leads up to a loft room with an additional platform. There is more sleeping room in the outbuilding mentioned before.
The evening progressed well with the introduction of two bottles of whisky and a bottle of ginger wine. Whisky Macs were made to warm the bones. Some Christmas mince pies were added to the stove top to warm up.
The room seemed to warm up after a few drinks and dinner was made.
Jack decided that it would be great to watch a film on his phone called “Dog Soldiers”. A werewolf movie set in the remote highlands of Scotland where everyone gets massacred and somewhat chewed. Perfect.
The night progressed, and the whisky ran low. A few trips were made outside to see the stunning full moon lighting the hills around us.
At around midnight there was a loud banging on the door. Bearing in mind the movie we had watched and the fact that the nearest civilization was 17 miles away, I have to admit that I somewhat hesitated in answering! When I did answer the door, there stood a young couple who promptly asked, “Is this a bothy?”. “em, yeah” I replied, so in they came.
It turns out that they were a Belgian couple and had parked their camper at the Lin of Dee and headed out for a day in the hills. 14 hours later and somewhat very lost (with no maps) they spotted our lights and headed for us to seek shelter. We warmed them up with some food and they bunked down for the night with us.
The next morning, we gave them a map, extra food and showed them how to get to the nearest town.
We set off mid-morning. It had been a very cold and clear night, so the tracks had become much better with a bit of frost. The grit no longer stuck to the bikes. The return ride was fairly uneventful. I think we may have been a little worse for wear from the night before. A decision was made to have some lunch in Tomintoul before heading home, so we stopped in at the Glen Avon Hotel for a burger and a coffee with a friendly wee dog. Fantastic.
All in all, it’s a great wee bothy to head out to. Its distance from any civilization, makes it a quiet bothy that you are quite likely to get to yourself. Be prepared for a long ride in and some nasty climbs though. It was certainly beautiful, though not particularly memorable.
Faindouran Bothy 20.12.18 – Dave Borthwick and Jack Kirkbride
Words and Photos – Dave Borthwick