Peter MacQueen is happiest when he is in his hut . . .  now his book is opening a new chapter for off-grid fans.

I think you have a hutter’s heart,” says Peter MacQueen. Some might not consider this a compliment. To my ears, this sort of patter is high-grade sweet-talk.  As the man whose book gets to the heart of hutting in Scotland, Peter knows a wannabe hutter when he sees one, even if that someone is on a Zoom call from his kitchen in a Glasgow tenement, dropping mentions of allotment-grown veg and kayaking away-days.

The Lewis-based broadcaster and writer spent months touring around Scotland’s communities, speaking to the people who have one of the most prized possessions in modern Scotland: a hidey-hole in the wilderness. “There’s a new hutting site just outside Dunfermline, in a place called Saline,” he tells me, days before his book, The Art of Hutting: Living Off-Grid with the Highland Hutter, hits the shelves.

“It’s in 50 acres of woodland, with Scots pine and beech and oak, a really mature woodland. The first 50 huts are now being built. They had 600 applications for that site alone. So demand is high.”

So what sort of person has a hutter’s heart, I wonder?

“I think it’s people who lean towards the outdoors, being in a more simple environment and enjoying doing more simple things, with friends or family, the dog, pottering around in the garden, taking more time to make that meal, fishing, cooking things from the garden. I guess it’s a version of the Good Life. It’s that back to basics thing.

“When I did my big tour around all the huts of Scotland for the book, I went round the different hutters and  really got a sense of how it’s working for people.”
The allure of getting away from it all is not exclusive to the modern way of life. Peter’s book shines a light on the Scottish sheilings – or arigh in Gaelic – which became extensions of the domestic stronghold centuries before 2023’s notions of digital detox and forest bathing.

“I wanted to let people know about that history, and dig back into our relationship with informal buildings, looking back at the history of the shielings and the arighs which were once common throughout Scotland.

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“There’s long been a connection between huts and housing, and toing and froing between the two. 

“I think it’s part of  a healthy lifestyle. It’s good for mind and body. On May day, people would walk the cattle up to the sheiling, they’d make crosses from rowan branches and tie them into the tails of the cows and set off up to the sheiling.  

“It would allow the crops in the nucleus village to mature. The men would stay and work on walls, tending the crops or thatching the houses. The women and children and grandmothers would head to the sheiling and make cheese and butter, maybe be fixing clothes. There was a lot of toing and froing between the two, a sort of summer holiday feel to it even then, although it was very much about work. There are a lot of similar feelings between then and now.”

Peter’s hut is near the Clachan Bridge by Oban. He and his husband Coinneach MacLeod (aka the Hebridean Baker) visit regularly. It sleeps two comfortably, three at a push. But that’s not accounting for its popularity. “The last time we were there seven of us went and it’s 30m square,” he says, laughing. “So seven’s too many. I think they’ll need to bring a tent next time.”

Current trends – accelerated by the pandemic – have seen the rise in the high-end garden room, with its French windows and soft furnishings adorning the gardens of those with the cash to spare. But there’s a difference between these luxurious domestic outposts at the bottom of the lawn and making a break for a hut in the forest. 

“A hut is a simple building, used intermittently, of no more than 30 metres squared, constructed of low impact materials not connected to mains water electricity or sewage,” says Peter, quoting from the official form of words used when the charity Reforesting Scotland reached a 2014 planning agreement  with the government.

This gave huts specific designation as part of the organisation’s 1000 Huts campaign, seeking to establish hutting communities in well-forested land.

“It is constructed in such a way that it could be removed with little or no trace at the end of its life.

“That’s what was agreed with the planners and that’s what’s making it easier for people to have a hut. 

“Hopefully, awareness in planning departments is on the rise. Hopefully, they will understand that people aren’t trying to build a home.

“The case for a building consent has been taken away and that has led to a surge in the popularity of hutting, and there are modern communities popping up which sit nicely with the pre-existing huts and communities in places like Carbeth.”

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Peter points to the enduring Norwegian tradition of hutting – or hytte – as the examplar. 

“Hytte is huge,” he says. “People leave the cities and head to the huts at the weekend. In some areas there are half a million huts. So we need to have more. They’re good for the generations to intertwine, there’s the magic of fire, for cooking heat and light, which gives people a place to gather round. Songs are sung, stories are told and new traditions form. And all the hutters I met, whether they’re young or old, have either relearned old skills or learned new ones. They have to look after it, maintain it. Chop firewood. Sharpen an axe. Get things going that are broken, Make do and mend. 

“And it keeps people out of the air so it’s more sustainable too.”

A flick through the book, whose glossy photos reveal huts of all shapes and sizes in idylls around Scotland, would make even the most committed cityphile yearn for a night closer to nature. As does speaking to him in the kitchen of a Glasgow tenement.

“If you have a hutter’s heart, then the hut will find you,” he says. 

My bag is packed. 

Peter MacQueen’s book The Art of Hutting: Living OffGrid with the Highland Hutter is out now.

For further information on Hutting, visit