Glamping at The Barley Bothy
I first heard about Boutique Farm Bothies when scrolling through Instagram and saw a repost by VisitAberdeen of someone relaxing in a hot tub in a picturesque countryside setting. ‘Wood-fired hot tub’ in the caption caught my attention and I immediately wanted to find out more. Years ago, when we lived in New Zealand, my husband and I travelled around the South Island as WOOFF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) volunteers and on one of the farms, they had an outdoor, wood-fired bath. Sitting in that bath in the farm setting, with the fire crackling underneath, was such a lovely experience. The photo immediately brought back memories of these travelling days and, as we were planning a weekend away for my husband’s birthday, Boutique Farm Bothies seemed like the kind of place we would love. This was confirmed as soon as I looked at their website – glamping is right up our street and the accommodation looked lovely. We struggled to decide between The Sheep Shed (for couples) and The Barley Bothy (for families, with two box beds) as they both looked wonderfully unique.
The first two months of the year were busy. The calendar was full, to-do lists overflowing. A break at the beginning of March was very welcomed, particularly as it coincided with the country being battered by the Beast from the East and Storm Emma. Where better to retreat from the relentless snow and icy winds than a cosy bothy, nestled in the Aberdeenshire countryside? I couldn’t wait – a log burner, a hot tub and time just to rest and relax. We handed the kids over to grandparents and set off down snowy tracks to the Barley Bothy.
The roads to the farm were really snowy and we had to park at the bottom of a slight hill and walk up to the bothy with our bags. The corrugated tin hut stood out against the snowy surroundings with its blue painted windows. Although the snow had caused us worry that we might not make it away for the weekend, I’m glad it was snowy – it made it even more magical.
It was such a joy to walk from the bright white of the snowy scenery into the colourful Barley Bothy. Brightly coloured chairs, a pink painted door and cupboards, splashes of reds and yellows… it was a cheerful greeting that made me smile. The first thing that struck me was the high ceiling and the airy, open atmosphere. The two box beds are cleverly concealed behind shutter doors on one wall, with storage drawers below. It is a brilliant use of space.
The Barley Bothy is made from upcycled materials and is full of character. The wooden interior was once a chicken shed, the steel frame was salvaged from a scrapyard. I instantly fell in love and felt at home. The warmth from the Jotul log burner was very welcome after the chill from the snow, and the welcome from owners Jane and James was equally warm. Jane had helpfully guided us to the Barley Bothy via phone calls when we got slightly lost in the snow, and they couldn’t have been more helpful or friendly when we arrived. There was fresh bread, homemade strawberry jam and tablet waiting for us (all delicious!), as well as porridge oats and other bits and pieces stocked in the cupboards.
Just after we booked our stay, we watched the episode of George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces which features the Barley Bothy. Although having seen it on screen gave me an idea of what to expect, I was still completely enchanted when we first walked inside. I loved all the upcycled decoration, such as the coffee table and bookshelf created from wooden boxes, and the recycled wooden shelving units in the bathroom which read ‘Horse nails’. The vintage toilet, with its pull-chain, was such a novelty! I adored the little touches, such as the pretty curtains tied back with ribbon, and everything has been well-thought out, like candles a-plenty for cosying up at night and bath salts.
Glamping gives you all the joys of camping without the uncomfortable sleeping-on-the-ground and stumbling in the dark to the toilet block. You get all the lovely bits – bread toasted on flames, the wonderful smell of wood-smoke, the get-away-from-it-all atmosphere – but in this case with a cosy bed and lovely crisp sheets, electric lighting, your own bathroom and gorgeous iron bath.
The Barley Bothy is heated by the wood-burning stove and there is a wood-burning range for cooking, so the very fact that you have to keep fires going for heat and food (and cups of tea!), means that everything is done slowly. You can’t stay here without having to slow right down. And I adored that.
And the wood-fired hot tub… Oh, my goodness – it was wonderful. I can’t describe the joy of running along a snowy path (shrieking, I’ll admit, from the cold) before sinking into the hot water. It was so invigorating with the freezing weather to go from the heat of the tub to the chill of the snowy evening (my husband did take it a step too far and, seemingly thinking he was on some Nordic adventure, jumped out of the hot tub and into a huge pile of snow, before hopping back in).
It did take a few hours to heat the water (you have to continually stoke the fire – and thankfully that was my husband’s job). There is something so special about being in a hot tub outdoors, but even more so when it is wood-fired and you listen to the crackling of the fire. It was absolute bliss – a glass of champagne, the sound and smell of the fire, the peacefulness of a snowy night and the heat of the water. We lit it again on the Saturday and it was equally lovely in the day; listening to a stream babbling beside us, and watching the farm scenes – a tractor at work up at the farm, the sheep in the fields and a pheasant tottering about in the snow.
We will definitely be going back to The Barley Bothy. As much as I loved our magical winter retreat, it would be lovely to see it in summer with its wild-flowers and countryside views, and enjoy the long summer evenings on the verandah. Hopefully next time I’ll be treated to clear skies – it must be quite something to gaze up from the wood-fired hot tub at the stars and fall asleep under the star-gazing window.
As we drove away, I said to my husband that I wanted to keep hold of some of the slowness of the weekend; I often feel like I’m rushing from one thing to the next. It was a reminder to enjoy the moment, enjoy the process, enjoy the little things. Keeping a fire going, turning off devices, reading a book, having a long bath, gazing up at inky skies… the Barley Bothy invites you in its own lovely way to slow down a bit.
Cocooned in wood-fired warmth.
Hidden away from the world,
time to disconnect.
Books, pots of tea, card games,
like it used to be.
Time to reconnect.
Long baths, deep breaths.
Nothing rushed or done in haste.
A pause on racing thoughts and busy days.
A place just to be, for a while.
The bothy is a warm embrace:
comforting, like an old friend,
full of character and charm.
A haven to hide from this winter storm,
And simply bask in the fire’s warmth.
Blue painted windows gaze onto white all around,
Colour standing out against the snow.
I am reminded of the joy to be found in simple things,
And taking it slow.