Sweeney’s Bothy is situated on croft land, where its elevated position close to Eigg’s northern tip influenced a design that incorporates a large window taking in the view towards Rum. The building was developed in collaboration with artist Alec Finlay as part of Creative Scotland’s Year of Natural Scotland in 2013. This dedicated off-grid artist residency space is purpose-built to offer artists, writers, musicians and the wider public direct creative engagement with the Scottish wilderness. Sweeney’s Bothy is a modest hub for contemporary creative activity, broadcasting knowledge and inspiration far afield via a multimedia website, which has evolved into a major survey of Scottish contemporary art, culture, and ecology.
The bothy is based on Finlay’s design concept, which was inspired by the 7th Century Gaelic King Sweeney (Shuibhne). Cursed, Sweeney fled into the 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).
The poetry of Sweeney, and accounts of the legend, informed the building’s layout. At the centre of Sweeney’s Bothy, a thorn-shaped support props the bed above, echoing the trees Sweeney slept in and protecting a soft interior containing a desk, wood-burning stove and a bunk 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.