The Walking Library for Sweeney’s Bothy

Building a routine for Sweeney’s Bothy

Dee Heddon Sweeney's Bothy

Sweeney’s Bothy is beautifully crafted. I crafted a routine for living here. It is filled with planning and takes time and effort to perform.

It goes something like this:

Build the fire.
Light the fire.
Boil the kettle
(for tea).
(1 hour)

Shower outside.
(2 minutes)
Cook the porridge
(10 minutes).
Walk to shop
(2 hours).

Boots on
Boots off
(keep mud outside).

Prepare the dinner
(during daylight hours).
Cut the kindling
(during daylight hours).
Read the library.
Stoke the stove.
Light the candles.
Head torch on.
Cook the dinner
(variable time).

Keep fire hot.
Boil kettle.
Do dishes.
Wee outside
(last time).

Wash in sink.
Brush teeth.
Close stove.

Much of my time is taken up with the time it takes just to do the things that need doing.
Time = effort.


Building a library for Sweeney’s Bothy

Walking Library Sweeney's Bothy picture

I am here to deliver a library for Sweeney’s Bothy. Last summer, working and walking with my Walking Library collaborator, Misha Myers, we solicited donations for the Bothy Library. Now that the Bothy is built, it is time to install the library. I catalogue the books and begin a Sweeney’s Bothy Reading Log.  I am a peripatetic reader, darting with pleasure and indiscipline from book to book, keeping track of my reading in the Log, learning much as I go.


Building Book-Shelters

Book Shelter 1 Book shelter 2 Book shelter 5




What book would provide you with shelter? Of solitude or companionship?
With spines upturned books too shelter worlds.
Books as bricks, sometimes as heavy.
Leaves that shade.
Windows, hearths and thresholds to other times and places.


Building images of Sweeney
I imagine I am following Sweeney’s footsteps. I look for traces.

Sweeney's footsteps 2Sweeney's footsteps 3Sweeney's footsteps 4Sweeney's footsteps 1

I see places where I imagine Sweeney might have rested his troubled head.

Sweeney's shelter 5 Sweeney's shelter 3 Sweeney's shelter 1 Sweeney's shelter 2





Building pathways for walking libraries
I take daily walks. I always carry some books with me. Today, with the sun shining, I head over the fields to the beach of the singing sands. I take Thomas A Clark’s The Path to the Sea. There is such pleasure in finding a wooden gate leading to the path to the sea, just as is pictured on the front of Clark’s beautiful collection of poetry.

Path to the Sea 2

on a clear day
unfasten the gate
and take the path
over the machair
through the orchids
down to the sea.

Path to the Sea 1 Path to the Sea 3






I take the path down to the sea, with Thomas A Clark as my walking companion.

Walking Library Sea


Building connections
walk to Eigg Primary School, carrying on my back another Walking Library, this one made for 8 – 12 year old readers. My rucksack is filled with books which have walking at their centre – from factual books about the different ways that non-humans walk, to the lithographic gem Henry’s Walk to Paris, to Winnie the Pooh’s memorable walk to the North Pole. These books have been suggested by members of the Walking Artists Network.

We write a Walking Poem for Eigg, starting with the line ‘This foot has been…’

We learn about other mobile libraries, from the donkey library in Columbia, to the camel library in Kenya, to the elephant library in Laos, to the bicycle library in Montana, to the boat library floating through the fjords of Norway.

Eigg Primary School 1


Building Respite
I spend a lot of time simply watching the weather wash over the Isle of Rum, grey clouded shrouds to glistening snow peaks. I watch the sun setting and the night falling, cocooned in the warmth of my nest.

Sunset 1 Sunset 2Sunset 3







Building Experience for Bothy Dwellers
Take slippers.
Take wellies – and get used to taking them off before you come in to the bothy.
Take a head torch.
Take candles.
Prepare for being in the dark (there’s not much electricity being generated at the moment).
Take a flask.
Take earplugs (the wind and the hail can be very, very loud nested up there in the sky).
Take very quick showers (if you take any at all).
Grow patience and enjoy the emergence of an appreciation for slowness.
Take extra days off work in case the ferry doesn’t run.