Staying at Cuagach Bothy felt like a leap back in time. When I thought about it, I have always had a sense of attraction to long ago rural living. I have read enough books in my life time which took place during time periods where people’s lives were lived a bit more simply and yet a lot more vigorously. The characters in the books I read included those real live men and women in history and the fictional characters often written by people living within that time period themselves. These people were born into their lives. They were taught their way of living by their parents or care-givers. They were physically strong and mentally obstinate and persistent. They lived their lives with the conviction that it was a thing of merit to always get their jobs done. Life was harsh compared to the lives we normally live in our present Western society but though they were aware of that fact, they knew it was just life the way they had it and they had to go on with things and survive.
After Charlie dropped me off at the bothy and made sure I was settled (thanks Charlie!), I looked around and actually chortled. It reminded me of the Little House on the Prairie only made of stone instead of wood. Actually, the bothy is probably bigger than the Ingalls’ home and it does have electricity, a calor cooker and a stove and an adjacent room with a shower and toilet which is more in keeping with 20th century than 19th. Still…I was elated!
This was going to be fun!
This is an adventure!
However, unlike the Ingalls family or other people in history, I was born in 20st century New York City. I was also used to certain luxuries which leads to this one rather humbling fact: I am a bit of a soft wuss.
One challenge I had was keeping the fire going in the stove so that the water for my shower was heated. I didn’t quite get the knack until the day before I left. I think this was because I was for the first few days trying to conserve wood and coal. There was a generous supply of this left in the bothy but I didn’t know how much I was allowed to use or what the added expense would be until Maggie (the owner) assured me I could use as much as I wanted to keep warm and that the charge would be minimal.
The other small challenge was the notice hanging in the cottage stating that as a precaution, water should be boiled. I boiled it the first few days but then the water started to come out of the tap in a not very pretty yellow. (I found out later this is the norm on Eigg when it rains). In the end I did what men and women did for hundreds of years, I fetched water from the well, St Columba’s well to be exact which was a short walk away. From my last trip here I remembered the water being clear, drinkable, delicious and above all safe to drink. I loved going to the well each day and filling my water bottles up. It offered another feeling of oneness with the island…and well it gave me some work to do.
Bothy living was certainly different than what I was used to having been raised a city girl. One week was probably not long enough for me to get the full experience of it all. Yet, it stretched me and it was where I feel I was meant to stay. Cuagach bothy is rather charming and considered one of the best bothies on the island (from what I gathered from both locals and visitors). I enjoyed my stay there. It beats camping for me and at least the loo was within the bothy unlike other bothies which have the use of an outhouse. The views from my window were gorgeous.
I was prepared for the colder temperature with a warm sleeping bag, hot water bottle and thermal clothing so I was warm and comfortable. Best of all, I had days of quiet stillness and no interruptions which was what I had been craving. I had brought with me Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, Big Magic which gave me lots of inspiration and offered me a sense of freedom and purpose.
I got hours of writing done which I wouldn’t have had if I had been staying at a place with a TV, strong wifi signal and mobile network. I had a nice welcome too, as Maggie had left a vase of hand-picked flowers on the windowsill.