Big Bothy Walk Completed

Juls Stodel has finished her walk around all 104 bothies in the UK. She has been hiking to these basic backcountry shelters, scattered across Scotland, England, and Wales, since June 2022. She reached the final cabin at the end of last month.

Stodel put all her possessions in storage, grabbed a backpack, and set off. She commented on social media, “Is this a ridiculous idea? Yes. Yes, it is. But God loves a trier and we’ll see how far I get.”

Camban bothy in the Northwest Highlands. Photo: @over_stepping/Instagram


Starting in Hawick, a small Scottish border town, she walked up to Loch Lomond. Then, to avoid the chilly Scottish winter, she began hiking south toward Wales, ticking off dozens of bothies in the process. Her attempt to steer clear of bad weather was not successful. Wales was constantly cold and wet.

She then made her way to the snow-covered North East of England, then reentered Scotland last March. A month later, she had reached John O’Groats, the northeastern tip of Great Britain.

For the first few weeks of April, she detoured to the Shetlands and Orkney, off the coast of Scotland. Stodel didn’t just trek to these bothies, she delved into the history of each one she stayed in. She filled her social media with short videos and intriguing snippets of information. In the Scottish islands, for example, she recounted folklore about Vikings, giants, and mermaids.

In an interview with The Great Outdoors she explained, “It’s not just about the buildings or the landscape, but also about embracing the culture and history of these shelters and their former lives.”

Back on the mainland, she walked the north coast of Scotland, then paused her walk for a few weeks. Her trek was not about rushing around as some kind of speed challenge, but fully immersing herself in the experiences.

She restarted her bothy walk in the Highlands. Then a quick jaunt to more islands — the Hebrides and the Isle of Skye — then back into the Highlands again. Since most of the UK’s bothies are in Scotland, it was fitting that she started and ended her journey there. Her final bothy was in Coiremor, northwest of Inverness.

In total, she spent 365 days walking around the 104 bothies, not including breaks.

The journey was not easy. Though the idea seems simple, it took a huge amount of planning. Stodel says that the logistics of the trip were far more draining than the walking itself. Many of these bothies sit in incredibly remote locations. For most of them, she mapped out three potential routes, based on weather, intermittent water sources, and whether paths actually existed where the maps said they did. She also needed to figure out when she could get food, grab an occasional shower, or wash her clothes.

Coire Fionnaraich bothy in the northwest Highlands. Photo: @over_stepping/Instagram


“There was no set trail to follow, no reports for half the routes I had scrawled down,” she reflected. “But that also gave me freedom. I…could change things around to be more (or less) interesting. I could leave wherever I was at any time and go elsewhere when I needed a new headspace or a different adventure.”

She had to stop the walk twice, to let leg and foot injuries heal. Occasionally, the constant planning and solitude got too much. Stodel says she has no “solid memories” of her time in Wales. Every night there at a new bothy, she would spend hours crying, feeling exhausted and lonely, and just going through the motions.

At the same time, over those 16 months, she met countless new people in the bothies she stayed in. Friends joined her frequently for sections. “I may have started solo, but I haven’t done it alone,” she says.

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.