'Enchanted' Dumfries home that inspired Peter Pan is turned into a children's storytelling centre

Moat Brae has been turned into Scotland's first National Centre for Children's Literature and Storytelling.
Moat Brae has been turned into Scotland's first National Centre for Children's Literature and Storytelling.
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A Georgian landmark credited with inspiring JM Barrie to write Peter Pan has been turned into Scotland's first dedicated children's centre for literature and storytelling.


A new look has been revealed for Moat Brae, the house and garden in Dumfries where the novelist played as a child, a decade after it was saved from demolition.

A discovery garden inspired by Neverland in Peter Pan has been created as part of the 8 million project.

A discovery garden inspired by Neverland in Peter Pan has been created as part of the 8 million project.

Campaigners led by actress Joanna Lumley raised £8 million to restore and redevelop the property and its grounds, which date back nearly 200 years, into an international Peter Pan-themed attraction.

Born in Kirriemuir, in Angus, Barrie spent much of his childhood playing with school-friends Stuart and Hal Gordon at their home and garden after moving to Dumfries when he was 13.

Barrie, who lived in Dumfries between 1873 and 1878 later wrote in his memoirs of how Moat Brae had been the original inspiration for Peter Pan, stating: “For our escapades in a certain Dumfries garden, which is enchanted land to me, was certainly the genesis of that nefarious work.”

The trust which has been spearheading the birth of Moat Brae said it was expected to provide a magical environment and a resource for people of all ages to play, learn and be inspired by the place JM Barrie referred to as “enchanted land.’”

Moat Brae has been a fixture in Dundee since it was built, to a design by Walter Newall in 1823.

Moat Brae has been a fixture in Dundee since it was built, to a design by Walter Newall in 1823.

The complex, which overlooks the River Nith, features exhibition space, reading and play areas, a shop, a cafe and rooms available to hire for special events.

A performance space has been created in the garden, alongside a pirate ship, a treehouse and a mermaid’s lagoon.

It is hoped more than 31,000 visitors a year will flock to the newest attraction, which has created 18 jobs and is expected to generate some £1.3 million for the Dumfries economy.
Moat Brae director Simon Davidson said: “Moat Brae inspired a truly great storyteller to create one of the greatest and best-loved children’s tales of all time.

“Now it has been brought back to life as our National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling in order to spark the imaginations of many thousands of young people from every corner of the world.”

The new-look Moat Brae is expected to attract 31,000 visitors a year.

The new-look Moat Brae is expected to attract 31,000 visitors a year.

Dating back to 1823 and built to a design by Walter Newall, Moat Brae was in private ownership until 1914, when it was turned into a nursing home, which closed in 1997.

It was proposed to be bulldozed and turned into sheltered housing until campaigners managed to win a stay of execution in October 2009.

Dame Barbara Kelly, chairman of the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust, which will run the centre, said: “The opening will be a very special moment

“We’re hugely grateful to all the many individuals and organisations who have come together to make our dream come true by saving Moat Brae and creating somewhere that children can play and let their imaginations roam free – just as J.M. Barrie’s did.”

Paula Ward, regional director of national tourism agency VisitScotland, said: “The opening of Moat Brae marks a new chapter for literary tourism in Scotland.

“The arrival of the Dumfries attraction is an important addition to our country’s literary legacy and is sure to propel the region into the spotlight, sprinkling its magical fairy dust across the south of Scotland and shining a spotlight on everything that it has to offer.

“We know people people are inspired to visit destinations they know from books, TV or film and literary tourism is an important tool for helping us showcase Scotland to audiences around the world.

“Whether it is Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott or Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Scotland’s stories continue to entrance our visitors.

“We hope that people young and old will feel inspired by the boy who never grew up and be transported back to childhood in a place where their imagination can run wild.”