Hot & Bothied (Film)
Hot & Bothied is an inspiring and funny short film that follows three friends on a bikepacking trip through the Scottish Highlands, learning as they go while attempting to negotiate a route between two remote bothies. Watch the full film here, along with a Q&A with director Dominic John…
Photos by Jim Cossey (@jimcosseyphotography)
Hot & Bothied is a short from from Dominic John that follows three friends on their first bikepacking trip, a three-day pedal through the Scottish Highlands, linking together a couple of remote bothies. The film is refreshingly free of pretension, at times hilarious, and beautifully shot and edited. Set aside some time to watch it below, then read on for a Q&A with Dominic and a selection of still photos from the trip.
Ahh, Scotland is so beautiful. What brought you up there, and how’d you come up with your route?
Scotland has always appealed to me as a place for adventures in the UK. I’ve got South Wales on my doorstep in Bristol, which has some amazing mountain biking and walking, as well as some great scenery. But Scotland has always felt like the Alps of the UK, so when I started thinking about getting into bikepacking and making a film about my first trip, it was straight away my first choice of places to go and explore. It’s also not at all on our doorstep, unlike Wales, with about a 500 mile drive that takes around 8.5 hours.
The route was devised over a few evenings in the pub looking over various maps with Jim and Luke who would be accompanying me on the trip (as well as being my unwitting subjects for the film). We came up with a basic idea of where we wanted to go in the Scottish Highlands, but the route was really nailed down over a pint in the pub with a mate of mine, Ben Jones, who runs a guiding business in Scotland and the Alps. He knows the place a lot better than me, and with his mate Iain McKenna another well practised bikepacker we pin-pointed the route and broke it down into a three-day trip. The bulk of the route was off-road using fire roads and double track, with the odd bit of tarmac to link it all together and take in some stunning Loch side views.
For readers who don’t know, what exactly is a bothy? And can you tell us anything about the history of the two bothies you stayed in on this trip?
The dictionary defines bothy as: “(in Scotland) a small hut or cottage, especially one for housing farm labourers or for use as a mountain refuge.” We have some bothies in Wales and England, but the vast amount of them are in Scotland. In short, they’re a shell of a hut, house, or cabin that basically acts more like a tent than a hostel. There’s no running water, beds, or lights, but they are quite often close to streams. Bothies normally contain a few useful items that are replenished by guests when they can, like candles, some firewood and matches if there’s a fireplace, a spade, maybe a bit of dry food, as well as a guest book. They vary greatly in terms of furniture and fitting, as we found out.
We spent our first night at Staoineag bothy near Loch Treig. The main issue was that it ended up being about an hour’s hike pushing bikes to get there, but it was well worth it once we arrived. The views surrounding the bothy were mind blowing, and served as the perfect view to cook our dinner in front of. Unfortunately, there’s not much information on the history of either bothy other than being based on the Killiechonate and Mamores Estate.
The second night was spent at Glenbuck bothy, again about an hour’s ride/hike above Loch Oich on the Aberchalder Estate. This one was a bit more kitted out with furniture, although it was all very old and a bit moldy, but looked kind of welcoming. The sound of mice scurrying around us whilst we were going to sleep on the floor that night that wasn’t so welcoming, though.
Who were your riding partners, and what bikes were you riding?
Jim is a freelance landscape and wedding photographer and a Panasonic Lumix ambassador based in the Brecon Beacons, Wales. We met about seven or eight years back on a mountain bike race that we were both working on, and the friendship as they say blossomed from there. He’s a mountain biker like me and I thought he’d be up for an adventure and capturing some stills along the way.
Luke is a filmmaker based in Bristol who I met through the magic of Instagram and being creatively minded in the same city. He shot a great bikepacking film called Beulah, also in Scotland, the year before for Pannier and Brother Cycles. So, as well as being up for an explore around a different part of Scotland, it was great to have another filmmaker along on the trip.
I’ve worked with Merida on film projects for a year or two now, so it seemed like a great bike brand to involve in the trip. We had two Merida Silex gravel bikes kindly supplied to us for the journey. The bikes lapped up the smoother miles, but also absolutely tore down the rougher fire roads with more confidence that I thought I’d have after spending the past 15 years riding much burlier mountain bikes.
Jim was on a medium Silex 600, which is their 1×11 SRAM Apex 1 groupset aluminium bike, and Luke was on a medium Silex 700 2×11 Ultegra specced aluminium bike. I already own a large Silex 700 so fit in well with their bikes. The tyres that come specced with the bikes are Maxxis Razzos, which I use all the time for road riding and the odd bit of more gentle gravel riding, but for this trip we wanted something with a bit more grip so went for the WTB Resolutes which worked pretty flawlessly for us throughout the trip (although I had a few issues at the start with setting it up tubeless).
The terrain looks like it was quite tricky to navigate at times, but were there other, less expected challenges you encountered along the way?
For our first proper bikepacking adventure, I think we were generally pretty lucky and didn’t face too many outright show stopping challenges. Although, saying that, the heat was pretty unbelievable, and something that we tried to get across in the film. For anyone who knows Scotland a bit, it’s not the sort of place that you’re likely to suffer from heat exhaustion, but for this one week or so we had the most amazing weather, though because the route was so exposed with little to no tree cover it was pretty hard going at times though.
The other thing was midges. Especially in the morning and evenings, they were pretty terrible and made some of our stops a bit shorter than planned in the day time. I think both those factors definitely affected group morale, as you might be able to tell from the film.
Some of the mountain passes and climbing we tackled would probably be tough with unweighed bikes, but with fully loaded bikes it made for hard work, and I think did cause Luke to go slightly mad by the end (he eventually recovered after a few beers and nice dinner once we finished, though).
I have to ask… what’s with the big backpacks? Anything you guys hauled out there that you might leave behind on the next trip?
Haha, good question. As we were all pretty new to bikepacking and it was up to each of us as to whether we went for lightweight kit. Jim and Luke opted to stick with their normal camping sleeping bags, which contributed to a lot of the bulk. I invested in a lightweight three-season sleeping bag and air mattress, which kept my setup more compact, but was massive overkill in terms of insulation it turned out.
Jim had a drone in his frame bag and camera kit in his backpack, as well as a water bladder and down jacket. Luke basically just had his sleeping bag in his backpack, along with coffee supplies. I managed to fit almost everything on the bike and just had a jacket and basic camera kit on my back.
It’s tough to know what we could have cut back on. There’s probably not a huge amount I’d get rid of. I think I’d probably try and cut down on the amount of clothing, even though it was already quite sparse. Maybe the crocs won’t make it out on the next trip. But we tried to be reasonably prepared and if needed could have done the trip on just the food we were carrying, although we were lucky and came across a few handy cafes along the route on the second and third day.
Lastly, should we be expecting any other bikepacking films from you in the near future?
This trip definitely sparked a desire to do more bikepacking adventures and capture them on film. I think the freedom and escape that we got on this trip were pretty eye opening for me. I’d love to do something in Alps, going between mountain huts over a week or so. There are a few discussions about collaborations with brands, so we’ll see if any of those take off.
I’ve also got more of a road touring four-day ride with a few mates in the summer going from Bristol to North Wales (about 354km), with maybe a bit of gravel added in for good measure. But, I think that’ll be a stills only trip so I can experience it without being behind the lens the whole time.
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