Locating Image Sm

The landscape of the Cairngorms, the light and accessibility, changes radically throughout the year. In summer, with a clear sky, it’s bright for the full day. Throngs of visitors clog the roads and paths. People combine with leisure infrastructure, mountain moors, native woods, lochs, industrial forestry and the jaggy remains of logging. Snow and permafrost now only happen in winter, and largely in the higher reaches. Dwindling snowfall means less snow sports—for winter, this landscape empties of people. It’s cold, but on lower ground not that cold. It is dark.

This collection is a response by three artists—James N. Hutchinson, Siân Robinson Davies, and Sarah Rose—to their winter residencies in and around Inshriach, Cairngorms. The project was conceived by then Bothy Project director, Luke Collins, and generously supported by the Hope Scott Trust. Luke commissioned the artists to investigate and reflect on the location in which Inshriach Bothy is situated and invited me to act as editor. Each participant was resident for one week in February 2019—I stayed the following week, from the beginning of March.

The 200 acres of land around Inshriach bothy is dwarfed by its neighbouring estate, Andreas Polvsen’s 45,000 acre Glenfeshie, and the nearby 53,375 acres of Balmoral owned by the Queen. [1] Inshriach came into the ownership of Walter Mickelthwaite in 2008, having belonged to his grandparents since the 1970s. Taking it on meant relocating the 500 miles from London. Walter (with help from his mum, partner, father-in-law and friends) added a yurt, shepherds hut, old fire truck and horse-box sauna to transform this into an eco-friendly ‘glamping wonderland’. [2] A deer fence separates Inshriach Bothy from this assembly, hiding within Douglas firs and silver birches. Juniper bushes straddle the ground. As James describes:

‘The Bothy is a small cabin with a single room divided into a sitting area and a cooking area, above which is a mezzanine bed. Collecting water from the tap involves a twenty-minute round trip, or the containers can be filled from the river. Wood for the stove is in a hut down the track, and needs to be split using an axe and block located in a nearby clearing, and washing is via a camp shower hung on the Bothy’s outer wall. Electricity is provided by a solar panel, but there is only enough for a desk lamp or a single laptop charge, as there is not much sun at this time of year.’ [1]

Bothy Project residencies, normally lasting for about a week, have been taking place at Inshriach since October 2012. The shelter was built by Bobby Niven and friends and is managed by Bothy Project in collaboration with Walter. This management means half the year has been devoted to residencies for visual artists, musicians, designers, architects, writers, bakers… Some of these are funded through a variety of grants or awards and some are self-funded by the artists themselves. The other half year is used for private lets. A similar arrangement also exists for the sister site up and running from February 2014, Sweeney’s bothy on the Isle of Eigg.

Being in Inshriach, and being alone, brings continuity to the writing in this collection—immersion in the late winter countryside, negotiating low light, questioning our capabilities, a concern about access to and ownership of land, an awareness of solitude. James (whippet in tow) navigates a textured landscape by car, on foot and through a constellation of found stories from around the bothy—reworking the material into a fearful parable of our turbulent times. Siân—in defence of the desire to be alone—dwells in this building, assimilating self and its formative relationships, into this landscape. Sarah’s three texts blend memoir and diaristic narrative to explore how experience is conditioned by being from another land. My efforts at self-maintenance expose the normally hidden everyday activities gathered together by the word ‘accommodation’.

What you understand about somewhere, and what then is expressed in writing, is shaped by your disposition. Will you: Climb that tree? Walk up the hill with or without a guide? Or, more prosaically, successfully keep the fire going to spare yourself (and potentially a whippet) from the cold? Stories permeate all of this—the stories we bring, tell, search out. There is no single unified experience of Inshriach, we all ‘get’ and ‘read’ it differently. Rather, this residency offers a method: take yourself out of your usual structure, see what happens, show us what it brings to you.

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NEW WRITING CONTRIBUTORS:

INTRODUCTION: Anna McLauchlan introduces this short MAP season of new writing inspired by residencies at Inshriach Bothy, Cairngorms.

THE RESIDENCY: Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3
James N. Hutchinson’s narrative is published across three days.

CREATURE by Siân Robinson Davies.

BEFORE, ROAD, INTUITION Three collected texts by Sarah Rose.

ACCOMMODATION Anna McLauchlan concludes this season of new writing inspired by residencies at Inshriach Bothy, Cairngorms.

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Anna McLauchlan is a teacher and learner working across environmental studies, geography and art together with kinaesthetic and somatic practices.

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[1] These acreages were found in the following sources. Inshriach House—On The Estate, Glenfeshie Estate & Cottages and Gazetteer for Scotland—Balmoral Castle.

[2] Anonymous, 2014, ‘How I turned Highland estate into glamping wonderland; when Walter Mickelthwait moved to his grandparents’ Highland estate, he decided to transform it into an award-winning and eco-friendly glamping site’, Daily record, December 8

[3] James N. Hutchinson, 2019, The Residency: Part 1, Arrival. MAP #53

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Thanks to: Siân, Sarah, James and Alice for their comments; William Grant Foundation for funding my residency at Inshriach Bothy (one of The Bothy Project Residency spaces), and the Hope Scott Trust for supporting my editorial role; the Scottish Society for Art History for covering my travel costs; the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) Glasgow for accommodating discussions leading up to the production of this collection. My writing is made possible by the kindness of Margaret McLauchlan and Susan Malloch.