Open for a short period over the holidays is Serene Footman’s latest creation, and for this setting he has turned his eye to the central highlands of Scotland, in the Lochaber region, home of the Grampian mountains and the Mamores ridge. In particular, Serene takes his inspiration from an area close to Stob Bàn Munro that includes the Lairig Leacach bothy.
For those unfamiliar with the term, “bothy” refers to a basic form of accommodation or shelter. In the former guise, it provided accommodation for gardeners / workers on an estate (such as the one in the Royal Gardens at Windsor Castle). In the latter guise – and how it is used within Serene’s Lairig Leacach – a bothy offers free shelter for anyone wishing or needing to use it in remote mountainous areas across Northern Ireland, Wales, Northern England and Scotland, where they are particularly common and number in the hundreds to offer shelter for those hiking or climbing in the highlands and / or temporary places from which freshwater fishermen cast fish for salmon, etc.
The mountain bothy is analogous to similar shelters across the mountainous regions of Europe, such as the Alps. But it is somewhat different to at least some of its European brethren, as Serene notes:
Unlike the ‘refuge’ or ‘refugio’ that is typical of the Alps, bothies are unstaffed, contain no supplies or proper bedding. A bothy is usually just a simple hut – often a converted farm building. It is maintained only through the care and diligence of those who use them, and the goodwill of a network of volunteers making up the Mountain Bothies Association.
– Serene Footman, writing about Lairig Leacach
As such, the MBA describes the use of a bothy as “camping without a tent”, as you’ll need everything associated with camping sans a tent in order to stay in a bothy
In particular, the Lairig Leacach Bothy is regarded as one of the primary examples of the Scottish Mountain Bothy. It sits on the the old drovers road linking the Great Glen with the south, and is a popular stopping point for hikers climbing the hills of the Grey Corries range, and cyclists travelling through the pass. Oft-photographed, it has been maintained (and refurbished) by the MBA since 1977, and can also see use during the stag hunting season (late October through mid-February), when the public are advised to contact the local estate prior to wandering at large around the Grey Corries.
The bothy is the centrepiece for Serene’s build, caught as it is in the depth of a snow-heavy winter. Made specifically for the region by artist and mesh designer Impossibleisnotfrench (aka Harry Cover), and the detail afforded it is superb. The structure of the bothy is a faithful reproduction, and like the original, backs its way into the slope behind it. Inside, the sparse nature of the accommodation is also reproduced (those staying in the bothy during the colder months are advised to carry coal for stove!), and Serene has included some excellent touches to his – the MBA sign on the door, and further information sheets from the MBA framed on the walls inside.
As with the original, the bothy sits close to a bubbling burn (stream), but here the landscape – due to the constraints imposed by region size – diverge from the actual Lairig Leacach area around the bothy. While there are woodlands Lochaber, they are not as close to the bothy as seen within the build. The placement of the trees is interesting.
On the one hand, when compared to the open, rolling glen in which the actual bothy sits, they might appear to be something of an incursion, and interrupt the landscape when compared with photos such as the one by Chris Bowness shown earlier in this article. On the other, however, Serene’s build is inspired by the bothy and its surroundings, not a one-to-one reproduction; therefore the trees help to offer an alternative setting that in no way spoils the finished region. Indeed, given the noted constraints imposed by region size, the trees help break up what might otherwise be a limited sense of depth between the bothy and the off-sim peak that represents the 999m high summit of Stob Bàn Munro.
The fact that this is a setting inspired by Lairig Leacach rather than a reproduction also leaves room for some of Serene’s little touches, such has his signature placement of chairs in his builds. There’s also the large frozen pond of the landing point that perhaps reflects Serene’s reference to the region as a “vacation” region as it seem to invite visitors to perhaps try a little ice skating (but bring your own skates!).
Overall, however, Lairig Leacach once again demonstrates Serene’s mastery of the art of representing physical world locations within Second Life. The region is captivating in design and in detail – and makes for a worthwhile visit given it winter appearance.
- Lairig Leacach (Tor of Ironhall, Moderate)