The Bothy Project (TBP) is a network of small-scale, off-grid art residency spaces in distinct and diverse locations around Scotland. Their objective is to create platforms for artists to journey and explore the peculiarities of Scotland’s history, mythology, landscape and people. These platforms will be established through the creation of purpose built bespoke dwellings made in collaboration with visual artists, musicians and writers. TBP is committed to using sustainable materials and natural building techniques to create simple, modern designs.
The Inshriach Bothy is a modern off-grid, live/work space designed specifically for artist residencies. The bothy was built as a part of RSA Residencies for Scotland 2011, fabricated in residence at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. Once built, the bothy was transported to Inshriach Estate, 4 miles from Aviemore where it sits on the banks of the river Spey within a traditional Scottish woodland area of the Cairngorms National Park.
The Bothy is comfortable and warm, insulated with sheep’s wool and heated using a wood-burning stove. Facilities include a library, desk, mezzanine double bed, kitchenette, wood-burning stove with oven, rainwater harvesting system, outdoor suspended bag shower heated by stove, composting toilet (deluxe), solar panel lighting system, solar panel phone charger, and a solar/wind-up radio and torch. The studio space consists of wall space 2x2m and a floor space of 1.5x2m. The space is ideal for painting, drawing, , and small-scale sculptural work: bricolage, wood carving, reading and thinking.
Sweeney’s Bothy / Bothan Shuibhne
The Bothy Project is a collaboration with artist Alec Finlay to create a bothy on the Isle of Eigg. Like the bothy at Inshriach, Sweeney’s Bothy is a dedicated off-grid artist residency space, purpose-built to offer direct creative engagement with the Scottish wilderness, offering opportunities for artists, writers, musicians, and the wider public. Sweeney’s Bothy is a modest, iconic hub for contemporary creative activity, broadcasting knowledge and inspiration far afield via a multimedia website, evolving into a major survey of Scottish contemporary art, culture, and ecology.
The bothy is based on Finlay’s design, inspired by the 7th Century Gaelic King Sweeney (Shuibhne). Cursed, Sweeney fled into a wilderness, surviving for a decade among the trees and birds, living on sorrel, berries, sloes and acorns, and enduring ‘the pain of his bed there on the top of a tall ivy-grown hawthorn in the glen, every twist that he would turn sending showers of hawy thorns into his flesh’ (Flann O’Brien, At Swim, Two Birds). Sweeney’s poetry from that period describes the austere beauty of the remote glen where he lived naked, communed with animals, and existed beyond convention.
The myth of Sweeney conceals remnants of shamanic animism within pre-Christian culture. Like Han Shan, Basho, and Thoreau, Sweeney is a visionary hermit rejecting ‘feather beds and painted rooms,’ engaging with nature, the irrational, overturning accepted knowledge.
The poetry of Sweeney, and accounts of the legend, have inspired our new bothy. Sweeney’s Bothy | Bothan Shuibhne will be an innovative thorn-clustered construction, echoing the thorn trees that Sweeney slept in, protecting a soft interior containing a welcome desk, fire, and bunks for two. The bothy belongs within a new contemporary movement – identified by Finlay as ‘hutopian’ – in which artists create huts and viewing platforms in the Scottish wilderness, proposing them as ecological, technological, architectural, and social models. The project has been funded as part of Creative Scotland’s 2013 Year of Natural Scotland.
TBP was initiated by artist Bobby Niven and architect Iain MacLeod, realising the first art residency bothy in 2011 thanks to support from the RSA Residencies for Scotland programme. The bothy was part fabricated during the RSA residency at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop and then transported to Inshriach Estate near Aviemore where the build was completed in a traditional Scottish woodland area in the Cairngorm National Park.