House and garden that inspired JM Barrie is brought back to life

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Many historic buildings are lost in the UK as they fall into ruin, but in the town of Dumfries, one very important building is being saved and brought back to life.

Moat Brae is a fine Georgian town house, with a special connection to one of Scotland’s great children’s writers – JM Barrie, creator of Peter Pan.

Barrie moved to Dumfries in his early teens, attended Dumfries Academy and became involved in the newly formed Academy Dramatic Club. This was where he first developed his love of theatre.

The teenager lived on Victoria Street, which is now adorned with a memorial plaque, but his closest friends, the Gordon brothers, lived in the large Moat Brae on George Street. Barrie visited his friends at the house and it’s said they played in the garden; Barrie himself remarked how they had climbed trees and played at pirates, which many years later helped inspire him to write the play, Peter Pan.

Long after the three boys had left the garden, the building fell into disrepair after closing in 1997.

But this story has a happy ending, as several years of hard work and fundraising by the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust has seen the building undergo renovation. It will eventually become a centre for children’s literature, with special attention on that famous garden, making it a place for play and active learning.

Renovating the starlight dome - image credit of Graeme Robertson

Renovating the starlight dome – image credit of Graeme Robertson

The first phase of the work is now complete, allowing parts of the building to be opened to the public.

Every child has heard the story of the boy who wouldn’t grow up, but it is a special experience to go beyond the story and see the places which inspired Barrie.

Moat Brae will be open to the public for free tours from Saturday 8 March to Saturday 19 April. Volunteers from the trust will be giving visitors, and particularly local people, the chance to see how the work is coming along, and what future plans are in place to turn this into a top visitor attraction for families. The trust will also be looking for ideas and views from local visitors.

Tours will run for half an hour on Wednesdays from 2pm – 6pm, and weekends from 12pm – 4pm. Find more information on the tours at Moat Brae.

Inspired to find out more? Check out the other literary connections in Dumfries & Galloway.

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Nikki has been writing about Scotland for over four years but still has a lot of exploring to do!

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