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Corrour Bothy

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Corrour BothyCorrour Bothy - 14th July 2009

Corrour Bothy is the former deer watcher's bothy below Coire Odhar in upper Gleann Dhé.  The use of 'bothy' in the name correctly implies the purpose of the building ; to house an estate employee while engaged in his work ; in the case of Corrour Bothy that was seasonal deer watching.

As a place name Corrour Bothy is a contracted Anglicisation of Coire Odhar - the corrie behind it.  The original Gaelic would be Bothan Coire Odhar - meaning bothy of dun corrie.  How Bothan Coire Odhar became Corrour Bothy is easilly understood when you know the local Gaelic pronunciation of Coire is like Corr, and Odhar is like Our – suggesting an Anglicisation in the form Corr Our Bothy.

It is certain that a bothy has stood below Coire Odhar, between Bod an Deamhain and Carn an t-Sabhail, since the 19th century, and that bothy was built to house a deer watcher during the summer months.  We don't know exactly when the bothy was built, but the fact that no building is shown on the old 6-inch maps of 1869 suggests the often repeated construction year of 1877, if not correct, can't be far wrong.  I only hesitate to accept that construction year because it's repeated often, without support. 

Like many highland estates in the 19th century, the focus of Mar Estate shifted from agriculture to hunting and the employment of deer watchers was part of that shift.  During the deer shooting season, deer watchers provided essential intelligence about the movements of deer herds in their part of the forest.  It was a week-day job, and the watchers walked home at the weekend.

In 1900 Charles Robertson was the resident deer watcher at Corrour Bothy, and the earliest contemporary reference I’ve seen to the bothy is an article published in Cairngorm Club Journal.  In the article Ballater to Lynwilg by William Skea (ccj 17, July 1901, p270-273) describing a 'tramp' in July 1900 – the author writes :   

At mid-day we were abreast of Glen Geusachan, and Charlie Robertson saluted us from the door of his hut (Corrour) as we passed on the opposite side of the Dee. We thereafter made tracks across the glen, and, fording the Dee, prepared for the ascent of Cairn Toul

– William Skea – ccj 17, July 1901 (p272)

It was during that first decade of the 20th century that Seton Gordon came to knew the bothy - reminiscing about that time in Gordon (1948) - the author writes:

The bothy on the opposite side of the Dee to the Tailors' Stone is known as the Corrour Bothy, receiving its name from the corrie behind it.  In the lifetime of the Duke of Fife, a deer-stalker or deer-watcher lived in the bothy from July to October.  When I first knew the Cairngorms an old watcher named Charles Robertson, a great character, inhabited the bothy, and was succeeded by John Macintosh

– Gordon (1948) (p316)

In the 1920s the estate stopped using the bothy to house deer watchers - the door was forced, and it became an unofficial 'open' bothy.  In Alexander (1928) the author refers to the bothy in passing - writing :

the Corrour bothy, formerly occupied by a deer watcher in summer but now disused

– Alexander (1928) (p143)

Unfortunately, but unsurprising the condition of the now 'open' bothy deteriorated at the hands of that minority of us who will sacrifice future-comfort, for immediate-comfort in the form of firewood. 

In 1938 a young Syd Scroggie arrived at the bothy for the first time after cycling from Dundee to Derry Lodge, and walking in from there.  In Scroggie (1989) the author describes the condition of the bothy writing :

As I first experienced it in 1938, Corrour Bothy was in a beautifully dilapidated condition, just the thing to give a place character ... we surveyed the torn-up floor with joists and bent nails exposed, moist walls of quarried granite with the protective panelling gone, the underside of a tarry felt roof, the waterproofing qualities of which were merely retrospective, and at the far end of the bothy from the fireplace, a ladder propped up against a sagging loft where lay the ancient mattress reputedly infested with fleas

- Scroggie (1989) (p12-13)

In 1950 the condition of the old bothy had deteriorated so much that it might have become another 'pile of stones' had the Cairngorm Club not rebuilt it (ccj 87, 1951, p185-193). 

This was a substantial rebuilding job - the roof, door, and window were replaced.  The upper stonework of the walls was rebuilt, and the buttress on the north-gable was added.

In 2007 I discovered the already underway plan of the Mountain Bothies Association to build a toilet block at Corrour Bothy, and I arrived there in August to find the shell of the toilet block almost complete.