I went ‘wild’ camping in the Scottish Highlands and it was nothing like camping in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
It was a tall order, thinking I could wild camp for ten days in the Scottish Highlands. I’ve been camping before – as a child, with friends, or at festivals – but I’ve never been camping in Scotland before. And in Scotland, it rains. I had delusions of hiking to glens, lochsides, and riverbanks, pitching the tent, and enjoying evenings of good food, good company, and good times. It wasn’t a complete disaster (far from it) but camping is hard.
I have no idea what Ron Weasley was complaining about.
The final installment of The Harry Potter saga finds the golden trio – Harry, Hermione, and Ron – out of Hogwarts, hunting Horcruxes, and camping in the wilderness. But, unlike Muggle me, they had magic.
Before we even begun we packed, and granted, we did not have Hermione Granger’s tiny beaded bag (with an Undetectable Extension Charm on it), instead we had to pack all of this in rucksacks. We needed:
A tent – big enough to sleep in but small enough that we could carry it.
Sleeping bags and sleeping mats.
A cooker, and cooking equipment, as well as gas canisters and basic cutlery.
A headlamp (in lieu of lumos), water purification tablets, food, first aid kit (no Essence of Dittany here!), a trowel and biodegradable loo paper (alas, no vanishing spells), compass, waterproof matches, windproof matches, midge repellent, and finally a coffee pot.
On top of all of this, we packed the regular underwear and socks, sexy striped thermals, and hiking boots. There was no room for books so we had to keep those in the car. So, unlike Hermione’s carefully chosen library, Horcrux books included, we had to settle for only a few (by our standards).
With full rucksacks and a full car we had no room for an Invisibility Cloak (as we weren’t being hunted by Voldemort, we probably didn’t need it), a Portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black (while it would have been nice to bring artwork from home, it just wasn’t practical), The Sword of Godric Gryffindor (my Swiss Army Knife had to suffice, but in all honesty, cutting my toenails or pulling a splinter with a sword may have been a tad melodramatic), Wizard’s Robes, Polyjuice Potion, or Extendable Ears.
Camping is all about seclusion and getting back to nature. While seclusion in The Deathly Hallows was forced, it was easily achieved by “travelling by Apparation to … woods, to the shadowy crevices of cliffs, to purple moors, gorse covered mountainsides and, once, a sheltered and pebbly cove.” For us, mere Muggles, we had to drive (and drive and drive and drive) and then walk up mountains, take off our shoes to ford rivers, descend into gullies, all while soaked in Scottish rain. And as it was ‘Summer’, there was no avoiding crowds, so Hermione’s protective enchantments around would have come in handy.
Upon arrival at each campsite, we had to firstly wait for the rain to pass (or more realistically, lessen), and then pitch the tent. As Muggles we were pretty good at pitching the tent, but it took practice and time – poles clipped in place, fly on, pegs in, guy ropes at utmost tautness. The spell erecto would have saved us many moments of frustration and I can only imagine the peace of mind I would get from not having to pitch a tent in the wind and the rain. And then, once it was up, there was the tent interior. Now, we are not huge people, but our tent had room for our bodies. That’s it. I would gladly tolerate the “smell of cats” if we had Perkins’ tent – one that had the interior of “a small flat, complete with bathroom and tiny kitchen”. Instead of a bunk bed each (complete with blankets and a mattress) we endured the hard Scottish ground. Once in the tent, there was no room to move, and certainly no armchairs or kitchen table. And the luxury of a loo! The first few nights in our wee tent were spent wide awake worried about the alarming rate at which my bladder filled, consequently I spent the remainder of the trip mildly dehydrated.
Showers and bathing were a problem. While camping Hermione, Harry, and Ron had to lower their standards from the Hogwarts Prefects’ Bathroom to the humble tent bathroom, but I’m sure it did the job. I had romantic visions of waking up and taking a dip in a nearby loch or river, but with temperatures of around 5°C there was no way I was getting in that water. Instead, we went for days without, relying on multiple layers of clothing to mask to scent.
Despite having a full kitchen, magic did not help the golden trio when it came to food. Because we were not being hunted by Death Eaters up and down the country, and neither of us were deemed “undesirable #1” it was quite straightforward to simply walk into a Muggle store and buy food (are there wizard grocers? Where do they all buy their food from? Is there a magical equivalent of Sainsbury’s that does a weekly delivery to the Hogwarts House Elves?). Yes, the wind and the rain posed a problem when trying to cook on our tiny stove, with a billycan balanced on top, but what’s the point in having a kitchen if there’s nothing to cook? But, I would have liked the option of having breakfast without going outside to brave the elements.
To ensure the book was appropriate for a young audience, I can only assume J.K. Rowling’s publishers edited out the copious amounts of swearing that goes hand in hand with wild camping. Our conversations were peppered with phrases such as “fuckin’ midges”, “god I smell like shit”, or “this fucking tent pole”. And I’m sure many ramblers were surprised by exclamations of flowery vocabulary that seemed to come from copses of trees or from behind rocks. However, The Deathly Hallows has its own list of fabulous curse words that I can imagine Rowling’s editor chose from and inserted each time they saw the words fuck, shit, dick, ass, damn, cock, or bastard, and to be perfectly frank “Merlin’s most baggy Y-fronts” and “rat’s fart” are excellent additions to my lewd lexicon.
It was wet and windy and my patience was tested (on numerous occasions) but, jokes aside, camping in Scotland was great. Magic would have come in handy the night our tiny tent braced a storm, when it was too wet to cook, or when our car was dangerously low on petrol. Yet, there is another kind of magic in crawling out of the tent after a stormy night, to brilliant sunshine hitting the mountains of Glen Coe, with the love of your life sitting on the banks of the river making you coffee. And so you sit side by side, with your battered copy of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, and are thankful for both kinds of magic.
To see more photos of our trip click HERE.