A white bothy on grass land with a beach and blue sea in the background Alternative North Coast 500 Route

WIT: A Guide to Kearvaig Bothy

Kearvaig Bothy sits pretty on untouched, undisturbed ground. It’s the Highlands at its most wild, most heartbreakingly bare. Kearvaig – known locally as ‘Kerwick’ – combines gorgeous white sand with rub-your-eyes-blue water. It’s a quiet, calm and mesmerising inlet, soft and solemn while the fierce Atlantic waves crash in to the crumbling sea cliffs all around it. It’s an incredibly special place.

Kearvaig is, moody, serene, unsettling… it’s hypnotic and placid and still a place to sip whisky by warm fires and play cards with old friends. Keep reading to find out how you can experience all of that, spot some entertaining puffins and even combine your trip with Scotland’s most north-westerly point.

Why Visit Kearvaig Bothy?

Do we really need to convince you to visit Kearvaig Bothy? Just look at those pictures. Why wouldn’t you want to visit?

A white farm house with white sand and blue water, set among green marsh
An outstanding spot

As well as being a brilliant addition to any Cape Wrath visit, Kearvaig Bothy is widely recognised as one of the most special ones. Not sure what a bothy is? Check out Tiso’s Tiso’s excellent Beginner’s Bothy Guide to find out if you like the sound of them.

And please, please, please, know what you’re getting in to. These bothies are wild, remote homes maintained by the hard-working Mountain Bothy Association. But more on that later.

The Firing Range

Kearvaig is also one of the most modern bothies around. This is probably because it’s owned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). It has the feel of a country home rather than a country shack. Walls are plastered and the rooms are generally well-kept and clean.

After it was abandoned by the last farming family there, it was eventually purchased by the MoD. Since it’s in the middle of their firing range, it’s sometimes used during drills. When the range is in use, you’ll be able to see red flags. You can check out the firing times on their official website, but activity is normally restricted during summer. If they’re running drills, you don’t really want to be anywhere near Kearvaig.

The Bothy

If like everybody else you’re visiting this remote corner of Scotland in summertime, then you probably won’t have to worry about drills. You’ll only have to worry about which room you choose to nestle up in.

There are an incredible 6 rooms in Kearvaig Bothy. In the main building, you’ll find a main room with a fireplace and the ‘King of Kearvaig’ chair. There are some ‘hilarious’ house rules, and another room with a table, chairs, and pews for sleeping platforms.

There’s a small close, which if push comes to shove, somebody could sleep in. Then there are two rooms upstairs too. It’s a narrow staircase, but we really couldn’t believe the Bothy even had an attic. The other front door leads to a separate room which is all to itself. This is where we spent the night. There’s a fireplace, some air mattresses, a table and chairs, and some sleeping platforms too. What more could you want after a long day of walking?

The Beach and the Wildlife

The pictures of the beach probably speak for themselves. It’s stunning. Unspoilt, remote and incredibly beautiful, you’ll feel like there’s nobody else in the world when you’re here. If there are, then they’ll definitely hear your screams as soon as you duck under the water. It’s breathtakingly cold here – you’ve been warned.

When you’re on the beach, have a look at the jaw dropping scenery to your right. You’ll find some of Britain’s highest sea stacks and a plethora of seabirds nesting there. Puffins, razorbills and guillemots are easy to spot. On top of this, there are some really cool rock formations and natural caves too – just take care with the changing tide and slippery rocks. This was a surprise for us, and along with the beach and bothy, it topped off a magical visit.

We saw some deer near the bothy after the sun went down as well. You’re likely to see more of them than you will passers-by.

A deer looks back at the camera in grassy land near Kearvaig
Hullo traveller

How to Get to Kearvaig Bothy

The instructions on how to get to Kearvaig (known locally as Kerwick) are fully explained in our How to Get to Cape Wrath Post. You’ll be requiring the services of Malcy, and quite possibly Stu or Andy too.

The traditional way to get here would be walking, and you can do that from Sandwood Bay. Alternatively, it’s part of the ahem, slightly longer Cape Wrath trail.

The Boat

First off, you’ll need to get the Cape Wrath ferry. You’ll find this just outside Durness. This is also known as East Keodale Pier.

The Cape Wrath ferry in the water
Malcy is your man on a boat

Malcy will take you across the water in around 2-3 minutes, but it’s an extremely relaxed timetable. Your best bet is to turn up and see what the deal is. We’ve included a rough timetable on our Cape Wrath post. It’s £7.50 return and cash only. Once there, you’ll need to walk or cycle roughly 8 miles on the bumpiest road in Britain.

If, understandably, you don’t fancy a long walk or cycle, you can get a return minivan from either Stu or Andy. They’ll be waiting for you once you arrive, and ask for £13 for a return ticket. Again, it’s cash only.

Speak nicely to them. They’re both understanding and friendly guys. They should be able to drop you off at Kearvaig, which is 4 miles short of the Cape Wrath Lighthouse. This leaves you with a simple and downhill 15-minute walk to the bothy. This won’t always suit them, but we think more often than not, you’ll be alright.

Your Packing List

Your packing list for Kearvaig isn’t too different to what you’ll normally pack for bothies and for camping in general. However, this time there is basically no chance of finding driftwood or any dead branches. There was a little bit of leftover firewood and some fire starters when we visited, but you’ll definitely need to bring your own supplies for a bothy fire.

Our Recommendation

We think the best plan is to see both Kearvaig Bothy and Cape Wrath in the one visit. They’re 4 miles apart, and just about the only things to see in this barren stretch of Scotland.

Ideally, you’ll have been busy all day, seeing everything there is to see in either the Durness area or the Tongue area slightly further south. Catch a ferry around 3pm and politely ask Stu or Andy if it suits them to drop you off at Kearvaig Bothy.

You’ll arrive around 4pm and get most of the evening to enjoy the area. Make sure to organise getting picked up by either Stu or Andy the next morning on their first journey. Double-check that they’re saving you enough seats.

When they pick up passengers from the first ferry the next day, they’ll save your group spaces on the van and take you to Cape Wrath with the group. Then you can get the van all the way back to East Keodale before noon and be on your way. Or, if you’re walking, then you can begin your trek down the coast.

Two girls walk on perfect sand with sea cliffs in the background at Kearvaig
We’re off to see the puffins

Mountain Bothies Association (MBA)

It’s important that before you head to any bothy, you know exactly what a bothy is! The majority of these mountain shelters are privately owned, but maintained by the MBA. This group of volunteers rely on donations to keep the bothies in such good condition.

You’ll find all the information you need on the MBA website but in short – these are not holiday homes. They’re a roof over a walker’s head for the night, and their upkeep relies almost entirely on hard work from volunteers. Please, show these beautiful homes the respect they deserve.

It’s a free home for the night, yes, but why not become an MBA member and support bothies in the future? Even if you’re only visiting Scotland on holiday, you can help to make sure they’re still here when you return. Please feel free to make any donation you feel will help with their maintenance, or alternatively you can become a member and make a twice-yearly donation.

So! Are you planning on visiting Kearvaig Bothy soon? Even better, have you recently been? Leave a Comment below and let us know how it went! Kearvaig really is a lovely place and we’ll definitely be back one day.

Heading further north? Check out Part 2 of our Alternative North Coast 500 Route. We’ve got you covered if you’re heading south too with Part 3, Durness – Scourie.

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