Lairig Leacach is a spectacular location at the foot of Stob Ban in the Central Scottish Highlands. It is the home to a tiny bothy, which is the centrepiece of my ‘vacation’ sim, which opens today for a short time. The landmark is here.
A bothy – also called a byre, or cowshed – is a refuge, a place to rest tired feet or sleep, sheltered from the wind, rain and snow. Although by no means unique to Scotland, bothies are very characteristic of the Highlands. Unlike the ‘refuge’ or ‘refugio’ that is typical of the Alps, bothies are unstaffed, contain no supplies or proper bedding. A bothy is usually just a simple hut – often a converted farm building. It is maintained only through the care and diligence of those who use them, and the goodwill of a network of volunteers making up the Mountain Bothies Association.
Bothies exist mainly for hikers who need shelter – perhaps for the night, or just for an hour or two while a storm blows over. For a long time there was no official list of bothies and their locations, perhaps with the intention to avoid the kinds of guest who are only interested in working their way down such a list in order to ‘bag’ as many as possible. A book containing such a list – The Scottish Bothy Bible – does now exist. Its author was subject to some criticism for breaching this unwritten rule that bothy locations should be discovered only by accident: when in need, or passed on by word of mouth between trusted hikers.
Lairig Leacach is an especially small and primitive example of a Scottish bothy, The location is as stunning is it is remote – it is a ‘good walk from anywhere’, as the guide books say. I was struck by the wildness of the place, and especially the contrast between the big hills surrounding it. The difference in scale is breathtaking …
The bothy itself consists of a single room containing an old bunkbed and not much else. And yet, on a freezing cold night, how welcome must such a place be to the walker who is lost or exhausted.
Although Lairig Leacach – the name means the ‘pass of the flagstones’ – is a bleak and desolate place today, like much of the Scottish Highlands it would have once been quite densely forested, indeed there is still quite a large forest close by. In the spirit of those who campaign for the reforestation (or rewilding – see also here) of the Scottish Highlands – and to make the sim a bit more varied and interesting for visitors to wander around – I thought I would try to capture some of this spirit with a sim design that takes quite a few liberties with trees. The outcome, to my eyes and ears at least, is a place that feels much more alluring, almost mystical …
Amidst this great landscape stands the bothy itself, and I am very grateful to Harry – whose SL name is Impossibleisnotfrench, you can visit his inworld store here – for generously (and quickly!) meshing an uncannily accurate version of the Lairig Leacach Bothy especially for this sim.
The spirit of bothying – to provide shelter for all – captures what Christmas means for me. I hope the sim provides something of a haven for its visitors – and photographers – over the next few days. Enjoy it while it lasts, because it will be gone in a flash …
Happy holidays to all,
Serene Footman 🙏