Happening upon a Hut

One of the things that feels quintessentially ‘Scottish’ is the idea of making well-known things seem like no big deal.

Exhibit #1: In Edinburgh, I had the unoriginal idea of writing some of my own original ideas in the same coffee shop where J.K. Rowling penned Harry Potter. And given the massive popularity of HP, I expected massive, commercialized signs, cosplaying baristas, and bad puns like Espresso Patronum and Severus Scones. The reality was that I had a hard time even finding the place. What I found (finally) was a very normal (and quite nice) coffee shop called The Elephant House that had, on a two inch sticker in the corner of a many stickered window, the tiny words ‘birthplace of Harry Potter.’

The faded “Harvey’s Furniture Store” is the back side of the Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling penned Harry Potter. This photo is taken from the Grey Friars Cemetery, cite of Rowling’s many inspirational walks. In here, you can find the headstones of Thomas Riddle and William McGonagall.

Exhibit #2: We saw a similar thing in Glen Nevis, when a small, tattered out-of-the-way wooden sign read ‘scenes from the film Braveheart were shot here.’ Were this in the States, there would be a freaking amusement park in Glen Nevis where you could don a kilt and paint your face blue and shout Freedom while riding the Wavy Wallace rollercoaster. But Scotland doesn’t really commercialize (and ruin) things the way that Americans might, and we appreciated that.

The cloud-covered green hills and highlands of Glen Nevis

Which leads me to how we randomly happened upon Hagrid’s Hut in the middle of nowhere in Glencoe. We had just hitchhiked 35 miles with Lisa and Lisa (a story for another day), and were looking to pitch out tent. The campground cost £24, and because of the pouring rain, all the tent locations were about as dry as a bowl of soup in the shower. So we took up the Scottish right of wild camping, and hunted for a semi-dry spot in the wilderness. We finally found a decent spot up a hill near a copse of pines, and set up Cupcake for the night. While our eye for dryness was on point, our eye for level surfaces was lacking, and I woke up about every 20 minutes curled up in a ball at the foot of the tent.

Hagrid’s Hut was right in between where Jonathan is standing and the small orange “cupcake” of our tent tucked under the pines. Right at the tree line there is the famed stone wall.


hagrids hut

That morning, with stiff necks, tight backs and bleary eyes, we emerged to the sun (the sun!), made our coffee and had our breakfast on a little mound on the hill that offered one of the more magnificent views thus far on our trip. Which was then spoiled by a group of 5 Australian teenagers from the soupy campsite down the road, who decided, for some unknown reason, to hike up the very hill where our tent was! Get your own hill, bros! But no, they came right to ours, asking us if this was where the “cottage” was. I told them no, there’s no “cottage” here and nothing to see here, certainly not a tent with all our belongings, please-go-away-thank-you-goodbye. They didn’t, though, and eventually, with the day running away from us, we left for our hike and hoped that the recklessness of youth did not cause these dudes to vandalize or steal any of our stuff.

Turns out that the kids were harmless, and that we were right in the middle of yet another Scottish ‘No Big Deal’ situation. We ran into them later, and they told us that we had pitched our tent RIGHT at the site that the Harry Potter filmmakers had shot the scenes of Hagrid’s Hut from The Prisoner of Azkaban! That little rock wall that Harry and co hid behind while time-traveling and saving Buckbeak from execution was where we set up our stove and made coffee. That mound with the magnificent view was right where Hagrid’s Hut had once stood. We didn’t know, because the Scots, in their awesomeness, had deconstructed the hut leaving no trace, no signage, no nothing—just the blank, beautiful wilderness.

Jonathan taking shelter behind the same wall that Harry and Hermione hid behind.

Honestly, it made the location and the experience that much sweeter. Because it was no big deal, the location became personal and meaningful to us in a way that overblown commercialism could never bring. We went back for photos, and enjoyed our own private time at the place that once held the hut, and enjoyed the view in peace and quiet. No big deal, it turns out, is the best kind of deal.

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