Ben Alder Cottage (Photo Colin Baird)
Fifty First Timer No.6
Stay over night in the haunted bothy Ben Alder Cottage
(or A woman and her shovel)
And I am sorry to disappoint the ghost hunters of the world but the only thing this bothy is haunted by is vermin.
Four of us walked twelve and a half kilometers from Rannoch Lodge to Ben Alder Cottage. We had estimated our ETA based on normal walking pace and heavy sacks. What we failed to take into account was boggy terrain and the extra four kilos of fire fuel we each carried in our back breaking rucksacks. The result of this logistical error was four very tired walkers ploutering about in near darkness with only a twinkle of a light, way in the distance, to guide us to our destination. We eventually stumbled into the packed bothy five hours after our departure from the car.
This Mountain Bothies Association bothy hunkers at the foot of Ben Alder, a fine mountain, which is situated in the wilderness between the A9 and West Highland Railway Line. It is a pretty remote spot. The stone building has three rooms. The largest room has a sleeping platform and a stove, the middle and smallest room has a couple of bunks and the third room, the only one free for our occupancy, has a floor to sleep on, but also a fire.
In my novel Torque, character Frank walks into a bothy and produces from his rucksack a bag of coal and kindling, tined oysters and pancakes. My writing buddy disputed the feasibility of this load, but as I sat sipping my gin and tonic, crunching pistachio nuts beside the peat briquette fire and looking forward to couscous, salmon and a wee dram, I knew I had captured the experience accurately.
The other bothy occupants had traveled vast distances by car to then to either cycle, walk or canoe into this magical spot. The weather was freezing but dry and next day my party enjoyed a spectacular walk onto Ben Alder over steep ground and some crisp snow fields. That evening we enjoyed our G & T sitting outside on mouse chewed chairs and watched the moon sparkle on Loch Ericht. The previous company had departed in search of other bothies and shores, but we were joined by two guys from Sheffield who had carried a bag of coal over several mountains. The ironic thing is that Ben Alder is one of the few bothies where wood is plentiful from the near by forest and saws and axes are available for use.
The cottage toilet is a shovel and The MBA had pinned clear instructions on the door as to where to go with your shovel and how to act responsibly when shitting in the woods.
This fantastic image of Loch Ericht with Ben Alder on the left was taken on the walk out. The air was so still even the fish were scared to disturb the calm.
This same image turned on its side gives an interesting insight into the courtship rituals of the native ducks!