Day out: Moat Brae, Dumfries and Galloway

Fly up, up and away to an enchanting house that once inspired Neverland and is now a children’s literature centre encouraging the next generation of writers

The Moat Brae National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling in Dumfries, South West Scotland

Located in the Scottish market town of Dumfries by the River Nith, the Georgian house and grounds at Moat Brae played a crucial role in inspiring one of our most beloved stories, Peter Pan. 

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It was here, between 1873 and 1878, that author JM Barrie loved to play as a teenager. A young resident of the town, Barrie befriended brothers Stuart and Hal Gordon, who lived in the impressive house. He joined their ‘pirate crew’ and the boys spent hours on adventures in the gardens. 

Torthorwald Castle, Torthorwald Village, Nithsdale, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, UK
Haunting Torthorwald Castle, Nithsdale ©Alamy

Along with nearby spots, such as the ruined castle at Torthorwald and the local Camera Obscura (now part of Dumfries Museum), the garden of Moat Brae was Barrie’s ‘enchanted land’. The seed sown during these formative years grew into the stage play Peter Pan, or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up (1904) – introducing the world to Peter, Wendy, Captain Hook, the Lost Boys and Neverland. 

Mabie Forest, Dumfries, Scotland
Alamy

Imaginative play

Moat Brae reopened on 1 June 2019 as Scotland’s National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling, and now hopes to fire the imaginations of a new generation of creative minds. Playful visitors can search the house for hidden crocodiles, catch fairies in the attic nursery or climb aboard the Jolly Roger Pirate Ship by the River Nith. And don’t forget to measure your stature against the ‘How Grown Down Are You?’ chart.

Hooked on writing

Moat Brae also runs groups, classes and courses for people of all ages. There is a keen interest in developing a love of books, storytelling and writing, from the ‘Wee Writers’ sessions for parents and very young children, all the way up to more academic lectures, specialist courses and workshops.

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With trails, treasure hunts and temporary exhibitions celebrating children’s literature, 2020 is an ideal time to visit the ever-expanding centre. This year marks the 160th anniversary of Barrie’s birth, on 9 May, so it’s a perfect time to pay tribute to the author who inspired so many of us to embrace our imaginations. A visit to Moat Brae is certain to touch all of those who, like Peter Pan, have no intention of keeping their feet on the ground.