Peter Pan Moat Brae Dumfries opens on 1 June 2019. This house and its gardens inspired JM Barrie to write Peter Pan, and it was saved from the wrecking ball three days before demolition!
Moat Brae has been renovated and transformed into Scotland’s National Centre for Storytelling and Children’s Literature. And with Joanna Lumley as a patron, it has to be something pretty special. We experienced a preview visit, so whilst things weren’t 100% finished, I can reveal lots of juicy details covered in fairy dust.
Moat Brae is so imaginative regarding how it conveys information to children. It’s about peeking, clapping, reading, listening to whispers, climbing and crawling. It’s not a boring museum with artefacts in glass boxes with dull descripitions in tiny print. It’s about interaction and imagination.
When you arrive you’re measured to discover if you’re ‘young enough to know everything’, and to discover which character from Peter Pan you are. Junior was Nibs and Mr Tot was Wendy. A door to Neverland beckoned them onwards.
In the Dining Room a table is set, with each setting revealing a key player in the story of JM Barrie and Peter Pan. Next moment, a painting comes to life, and it’s JM Barrie telling his own story.
Another room reveals a little bit about the house, its architect, and places in Dumfries that resonated with JM Barrie. A wonderful touch is a wee keyhole – peer through it to discover what happened when Barrie and his mates were accidentally locked in at school and had to break their way out!
Moat Brae also has the original ‘Tinker bell’ that tinkled during the first stage production of Peter Pan. Kids clap their hands and stamp their feet to activate the bell, it tinkles, then Joanna Lumley’s voice ‘translates’ what the fairy just said. So cute, and the kids believed it all!
Mr Anderson’s Library
This library is a gem. A beautiful space for hanging out and reading a few retro books with the kids. The decor is imaginative – an alligator’s tale sticking out of the wall adds a certain something! There are also reading nooks under the stairs, perfect child-sized snugs to cosy up in. Ideal for slow rainy days.
Theatreland features a ‘real life stage’ and a big box of dressing up clothes, giving the tots the chance to act out scenarios as daring pirates or as the Darling children. Another wonderful touch is a dog kennel in the wall. Kids crawl through the kennel to reach the next room. Parents can follow suit or they can take the conventional door route!
Catching Tinkerbell & Peter Pan
Once you’ve caught up with your kids, you’ll discover that next door to Theatreland is the ultimate chase! Our kids adored catching the glitter ball of Tinkerbell and the shadow of Peter Pan. ‘Catch it’ by hitting the wall. Tinkerbell then bursts into a glittery display, and Peter Pan transforms into a moving pirate ship or alligator. Hard to explain, but quite addictive for tots. The voice of Joanna Lumley encourages children in their pursuit of our heroes.
The Discovery Garden
Outside is a riverside play park for wee ones. A Lost Boys Lookout provides a climbing frame and slides. The Jolly Roger pirate ship is another climbing, sliding endeavour. The Mermaid’s Lagoon transforms mini-mortals into shimmering beasts with glistening tales – a great photo opportunity. And of course there’s a Wendy House.
Café and Shop
A café and a gift shop will be open to visitors. These weren’t available to use during our preview.
Ultimately, Moat Brae is a fantastic addition to Dumfries, and it offers something one-of-a-kind. If you’re interested in children’s literature, reading, Peter Pan, Scotland, architecture, Dumfries, Joanna Lumley, magic or fun, then it may be the place for you. #NeverGrowUp
Moat Brae is in Dumfries itself so it’s relatively easy to reach by public transport. We drove from Aberdeen, which took roughly 3.5 hours. We spent three nights in the area, discovering a range of child-friendly activities in Dumfries and Galloway. I’d recommend private transport for touring and sightseeing.