While traveling around NZ, I've stayed in many public huts around different ranges like the Tararuas and Ruahines. Are there any public huts around the UK (England, Wales, Scotland, etc.) where anyone could stay overnight after a day hike?

Any other relatively affordable, remote, rustic accommodation would work, whether in an old castle, a house, or hut.

  • this is more in Scotland than England. as everyone says below it's a "bothy". I THINK that's pronounced "boh" not "bow"
    – Fattie
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 15:16
  • "Any other cheap..." nothing, whatsoever, is cheap in the UK. Just forget the "cheap" part :/
    – Fattie
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 15:16
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    According to Wiktionary, "bothy" is pronounced /ˈbɒ.θi/ in the UK. In that part of the world, /ɒ/ is the vowel in "lot" and "cloth" but probably not the one in "caught".
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 20:06

2 Answers 2


The UK isn't a very wild place, at least compared with New Zealand, so there isn't a lot of call for 'public huts', by which I'm assuming you mean shelters which are free for anyone to use in remote areas.

The only such things I know of are 'bothies' for hikers. You can find out more at the Mountain Bothies Association. They are basic shelters, almost all in remote places, where hikers can use them at will. They are concentrated in Scotland (where most of the UK's wilderness is), but there are some in northern England and the UK. Outside of those areas it's very rare that you can't find some kind of accommodation nearby at the end of your day's hiking.

The nearest equivalent elsewhere in the country is the Youth Hostel Association. The YHA in the UK is a little more geared to hikers than other hostel associations, and maintains a good number of cheap hostels in good hiking areas. Not free but cheap, even by hostel standards. Generally need to be booked in advance, but you can sometimes walk in. (Thanks @MadHatter)

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    I'd endorse all of this save to note that all YHAs I've dealt with try to maintain a small reserve pool of spaces for last-minute walkins who would otherwise spend the night in the rain. There's no guarantee there'll be one for you, but if circumstances required it I wouldn't not try a convenient YHA simply because I didn't have a booking. If you do try that, make sure you've already joined the YHA!
    – MadHatter
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 6:22
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    Why free? Mountain huts exist everywhere in Europe. They are resonably priced, but usually not free. UK Caving huts are reasonably similar, but targeted on different kind of guests. Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 10:45
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    just flagging that a/ the OP doesn't use the word 'free', and b/ most such huts in NZ national parks do now carry a small charge. There are hunters and other huts that are more basic and which do not have a cost but are usually rougher and more remote and sometimes not 'public'. Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 11:48
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    By way of comparing the wildness of the UK with New Zealand, note that they're essentially the same size (NZ is about 10% larger) but the UK has fourteen times the population of NZ. Within the UK, England is about 53% the land area but 85% of the population. The upshot of this is that England has 420 people per square kilometre, compared to only 17/km2 for NZ. Even Scotland is 68/km2. Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 12:10
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    Taking a step back from the specific question, the laws on public access to land are different in Scotland compared with England and Wales. For example in England there is no default legal permission for camping, or even for cycling and horse riding, even on "open access" land, and the "National Parks" in England are not "100% wilderness areas."
    – alephzero
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 13:44

These are known as bothies. A bothy is a basic shelter, usually in a remote location. They are unlocked, and available for anyone to use, free of charge.

There are many different styles and sizes of bothies. A lot of them are old cottages, others are purpose-built wooden huts. Guirdil Bothy Guirdil bothy, on the Isle of Rùm. Photo from Geograph, by Calum McRoberts, CC-BY-SA

Many bothies are maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association. They look after about 100 bothies. Most of these are in the highlands of Scotland, but there's also some in Southern Scotland, Northern England, and Wales. The MBA have a map of the bothies on their website.

Bothy Photo Gallery.

There are also some other (non-MBA) bothies. These may be maintained by the estates, or other groups. But they can be harder to find, if they are not publicly listed.

Beehive Bothy The Beehive Bothy, on the Southern Upland Way. Photo from Geograph, by Brian Barclay, CC-BY-SA

The facilities in a bothy can vary, but they are usually pretty basic. You have to take your own sleeping bag and mat, plus any cooking equipment etc. Some bothies have a fireplace, but you may need to carry in fuel.

The Mountain Bothies Association have produced a "bothy code". This has guidance for what to do at the bothy, to act responsibly, and avoid making a mess etc.

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    Could you add a picture of a bothy so that it's clear how one looks?
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 12:14
  • @JonathanReez see the "Mountain Bothies Association" link in the post, and go to "Bothies" and "Location map" in the menu. Many of the entries on the map link to pictures.
    – alephzero
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 13:48
  • "see the "Mountain Bothies Association" link in the post, and go to "Bothies"" HEH! gotta love that :)
    – Fattie
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 15:13

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