It is the house whose garden became an enchanted land where Peter Pan took his first steps in his creator’s imagination. 

Moat Brae, where author JM Barrie played as a child, has long been credited as the place where he gained the inspiration to write the timeless children’s classic. 

Now the Georgian property has been named as one of the “coolest places” in the world to visit by Time magazine following its multi-million reinvention as Scotland’s new National Centre for Storytelling and Children’s Literature. 

The house, in Dumfries, was selected as one of the 50 sites around the globe children must see.

The building was saved from demolition a decade ago and has now been restored as an international visitor attraction.

A campaign by the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust (PPMBT) to raise £8 million for the renovation was spearheaded by actress and trust patron Joanna Lumley, and the house, which opened in the summer, now features on Time’s World’s Coolest Places list for 2019.

The magazine said it had based its selections on “quality, originality, sustainability, and accessibility”.

Describing Moat Brae, it said: “In 2019, Moat Brae reopened as Scotland’s National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling.

“Kids can run through the building’s enchanted gardens, enjoy the Lost Boys’ tree house and board a full-scale pirate ship. Indoors, they can search for hidden messages scattered around the house or look for Peter Pan’s shadow.”

Staff member Catherine Colwell told the magazine: “Moat Brae is a very special place. It gives anyone, no matter their age, the freedom to explore their own imagination.”

JM Barrie, was born in Kirriemuir, Angus, in 1860, but moved to Dumfries aged 13 after the death of his older brother David, in an ice-skating accident.
Barrie became friends with Stewart and Hal Gordon, whose father owned Moat Brae, and spent a great deal of time in their company there.

He credited the hours he spent playing in its gardens for firing his imagination, eventually leading to the creation of Peter Pan and all his adventures.

The author wrote: “When shades of night began to fall, certain young mathematicians shed their triangles, crept up walls and down trees, and became pirates in a sort of Odyssey that was long afterwards to become the play of Peter Pan. For our escapades in a certain Dumfries garden, which is enchanted land to me, were certainly the genesis of that nefarious work, Peter Pan.”

Peter Pan began as a play before being turned into a novel and has gone on to become a firm favourite which children and adults like, as well as spawning several cartoons and films.

It is hoped that more than 30,000 people a year will visit the attraction, with the centre potentially boosting the local economy by £1.3m a year.

The centre is home to the original “Tinker Bell” – a small bell JM Barrie bought to be rung when the fairy character appeared on stage in the original production of the story – and a dolls’ house which is nearly 6ft tall.

Other attractions featured on Time’s list included the new Star Wars attraction at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty Museum in New York and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Simon Davidson, Moat Brae’s centre director, said: “We are obviously delighted and flattered to be part of Time’s Top 50 Coolest Places for Kids and to be in such esteemed company.

“Reading down the list you see Mission Control, Houston, Notre Dame, Paris, Statue of Liberty, New York, and then Moat Brae, Dumfries, Scotland, UK.

“Moat Brae opened in June 2019 to celebrate the ‘enchanted land’ that inspired the writer of Peter Pan.

“One of our key objectives was create an attraction for Dumfries that people from all over the world would want to come to learn about our phenomenal history and to be inspired to find the creative spark within themselves.

“Receiving this kind of recognition  is a huge endorsement.”