Friday, 13 March 2015

Inverness Gothic.Secret Hovel Y. Charlestown of Aberlour

After a short rest and a chip supper Alex decided he had regained enough strength to walk into the secret bothy. It had been a while since any of us had been into a secret bothy and this was the secret bothy of secret bothies. What a privilege! We parked in the Secret bothy Lay-by, specially reserved for secret bothy guests only. then shouldered our heavy overnight rucksacks and head-torches. It was now pitch black, around 8 o clock and snowing heavily.
"Just as well it's a good track and it's easy to pick out a line with the snow around. " I remarked.
" Yeah, we'll be in there in no time." Alex replied. "Two hours walk at the most. GPS and SAT NAV technology has taken all the mystery out these places nowadays. It's no fun anymore."
We set off at a good pace into a wild, bleak area of snowy mountains. It was fairly windy and the falling snow hitting our faces made it hard to see anything as we followed a roaring river into the desolation.
We were also carrying a bag of coal and kindling in for the fire.
After several hard miles a startled barn owl flew up from the wall of a building where it had been sheltering. Barn owls have an Achilles heel in that in order to fly silently at night their feathers are downy but not completely waterproof and they hate rain or heavy snow on them which tends to cling to the down surface and makes flying much harder.
" This must be it." Alex stated proudly. "The Original Secret bothy X. Still undiscovered by the masses!"
"It's certainly well hidden." John commented, looking at the outside. " Full marks for disguise." 
It turned out the bold custodians of secret bothy X had taken GPS and SAT NAV technology into account and given a false set of coordinates. We had arrived at secret hovel Y instead. All the glass had long ago departed from the windows, the floors were covered in rubble from collapsed ceilings on the upper level, the place had no doors and a poor dead frozen jackdaw adorned the bedroom. It made "Bleak House" look like a five star hotel. Unknown scampering things scampered in the rafters.

As we were completely spent, no other building had been observed nearby, and as it was a freezing raging blizzard outside we had no choice but accept our fate and make the best of it. We didn't have the energy to go anywhere else.
John swept the best looking floor of rubbish, (see above) I found a large section of plasterboard upstairs to block the open downstairs window with and then I constructed a makeshift fireplace just out from where the fireplace would have been. Having carried coal and kindling all this way it seemed stupid not to use it... with suitable caution of course as we only wanted a manageable fire that would keep us warm. Just as well we did have a fire as we were all damp after the walk in and the temperature was below freezing outside with a howling snowy wind. It also helped to keep hungry rats at bay.
As the coal was wet and difficult to burn at first it got rather smoky for a while but eventually it cleared and a good bed of embers built up.
I became quite proud of my wee fire as it did take the chill off the room and provided some much needed cheer. Alex was asleep by this time and snoring loudly so I had to smoke him awake again by furtively putting some fresh wet materiel on. Sorry. Poor boy was completely knackered and done in..
I stayed awake for a few hours enjoying the convivial ambiance of secret hovel Y. ( I did leave a space at the top of the window for smoke to get out and snow to blow in.)
In the morning we tidied up, hid the evidence of any fire, and left our ruin in the same immaculate state we found it in. Surprisingly, we were still alive and unchewed by vermin... although we had been well smoked overnight.
As we had arranged to meet Gail in Charlestown of Aberlour we headed down to this lovely spot beside the River Spey. It's actually on the long distance multi day Speyside Way. A first visit for most of us and we were pleasantly surprised by this prosperous looking place. The photo galleries within this link are worth a look.       
What used to be the railway station but now toilets and a tea room.
As this area is well known for its distilleries this is an appropriately shaped barrel building for a pub.
In the afternoon Gail arrived with her geocaching friend, having had a great time themselves hunting hidden things in a group. Corbett's seemed to be off the menu as both John and Alex were knackered and not in the mood for any more inclines.
" Is there a kipper shop in the town? Gail asked when she met us. " Very strong smell of smoked produce around here. It's usually top quality around this neck of the woods"
She learned the sad truth on the confined journey back....

The End.


Linda W. said...

What an adventure! Glad you survived your night in "secret bothy Y!" Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment! :)

Neil said...

That's a real old fashioned doss Bob!

Robert Craig said...

I must be going soft. Took a look at the picture and thought 'I'd rather be in a tent!'


blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda,
Better a memorable adventure, although unexpected, than a normal walk in to a cosy refuge. Much more exciting.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil,
It did the trick as we would have been stuffed without it. Had to cross a knee deep river to reach it in a blizzard so it was most welcome.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Craig,
It was a great night with a few "improvements" to the room like getting a plasterboard window and door fitted minutes after our arrival to keep out rats and snow. You'd pay big money on a corporate team building weekend to experience "thinking out the box" and "learning to adapt outside your comfort zone"... all the usual jargon....and we had it all for free.

Carol said...

That's one bothy trip I'm not jealous of! Having said that, it would certainly be an adventure so something great to look back on - just not sure it would have been comfy at the time!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
We did find the real bothy the next morning walking out but I,ll keep that a mystery.

Carol said...

I hate mysteries!

Anonymous said...

Hi Bob,

Just catching up with your blog. Had a rat infested bothy experience for the first time earlier in the week (on Hoy). I've stayed in a number of bothies over the years and perhaps have been lucky, but until then I had learned to expect mice, but not rats. How often do you reckon you come across rats and are there any bothies which you would definitely avoid because of them?



blueskyscotland said...

Hi Mark,
I don't go into many bothies these days, maybe 4 or 5 a year, as they tend to be much busier places than years ago when I clocked up 100 over 20 years. Only heard of rats in two, one of which was Dibidil on Rum but that was 30 years ago. Don't think rats are a problem in bothies generally unless folk leave food behind after visits. Plenty of mice though usually and we had the company of one overnight just recently in a bothy but as you know they are not a big problem and almost an honoured guest.Cant have a bothy without a resident mouse.