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200 copies of Shelter Stone have been hidden in bothies worldwide – a 66-page newsprint publication that might just save a life, even if it means setting fire to it

Bothies have a long association with literature. The best bothies have a shelf of books brought in by volunteers or left behind by walkers, and the best ones even have something approaching a library (for example, Strathchailleach). The simple pleasure of finding an unexpectedly good read to while away those long winter nights is part of the fun and delight of bothying.

Last summer, an artistic project was launched at the namesake Shelter Stone at Glen Avon in the Cairngorms. November marks the half-way point in the year-long project.

46 artists and writers, led by Edward Summerton, Senior Lecturer at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, have created 200 copies of Shelter Stone: The Artist and the Mountain and hidden them among bothies and shelters in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as Iceland and even the French Alps. The book features a mix of creative poetry and art, with writers selected by John Glenday and artists selected by Edward Summerton.

Made from 70 per cent recycled midge trap waste and in collaboration with the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA), the 66-page Shelter Stone aims to both entertain and perhaps even become a vital survival tool for those hunkered down in a bothy for a night.

A survival tool

Edward Summerton, Senior Lecturer at the University, said, “Firstly, Shelter Stone is art; it’s not only something to read but acts as a reference to understanding our relationship with the mountain landscape.

“Secondly, it can also be a survival tool. We encourage those who find it, and who need some extra warmth, to use it to dry your boots, light a fire or even use it as a draft-excluder. It might just be crucial in harsh mountain conditions.”

Neil Stewart, Mountain Bothies Association Publicity Coordinator, said: “For over fifty years, our volunteers have restored and maintained old buildings as unlocked shelters for people out in remote places. 

“A night spent in a bothy is a wonderful experience and can greatly enhance appreciation of our mountain heritage. Shelter Stone will add to that experience and I am sure that those who come across a copy will be both fascinated and delighted with its contents.”

5 down, 195 to go

So far five books have been spotted in bothies in the UK, including ones in Oban bothy in the West Highlands, Corrour bothy in the Cairngorms and another in Cae Amos bothy in Wales.

For those unable to access the remote bothies, an exhibition of the publication will be on display next month in conjunction with the Dundee Mountain Film Festival, the longest-running mountain film festival in the UK.

The exhibition opens at the Visual Research Centre (VRC) in the Dundee Contemporary Arts centre on Thursday, 23 November at 6pm. It’s open to the public from Friday 24 until Saturday 25 from 12.00-17.00.

Images © University of Dundee

Header image: Corrour bothy, Cairngorms