Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hidden Literary Gems Part 2: How A Search for Peter Rabbit Led to Dunkeld and Birnam in Scotland

Last week, I shared about a wonderful side trip my family and I made while in Scotland this summer, to the lovely and literary-linked Dunkeld. This week we move on to its sister city across the river, Birnam, where we finally found the adorable Beatrix Potter Exhibition and Garden.

And what a charming treat it was! Hosted by Birnam Arts, the place was a combination of indoor exhibit, gift shop, and an outdoor garden, all dedicated to Beatrix Potter and her many books.

The exhibit was mostly geared for children, but we enjoyed strolling through and learning just the same. As for the gift shop, we probably had more fun in there than in any other store we visited the entire trip. There were Potter-inspired books and cards and stationary and dishes and toys and figurines and so much more. Good thing I was facing a 44-pound weight limit for my suitcase home or I would’ve ended up spending a fortune. As it was, I narrowed down my final choices to a few greeting cards, a tiny journal, and a set of Beatrix Potter coasters. Oh well, there’s always amazon. ;)

The Beatrix Potter Garden was small but so lush and beautiful, with a winding walkway and wrought iron depictions of some of Potter’s most memorable characters, such as this glimpse of Mr. Jeremy Fisher.

Here’s a slide show of some of the pictures we took while we were there…

From Private Letter to Bestseller
Potter lived in England, but Birnam, Scotland, is where the author was staying when she wrote what would eventually become her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Considering how charming and picturesque and bunny-filled the area is, that wasn’t hard to imagine at all!

The Tale of Peter Rabbit actually started as a story and picture letter written to a young friend, Noel Moore, in September of 1983. Potter later revised and privately printed it in 1901. Then, in 1902, it was taken on by a publishing company and ended up becoming a huge success. In fact, The Tale of Peter Rabbit is now one of the best-selling books of all time, with 45 million copies sold!

The Original Spin-Off Merchandiser
I’d known some of that story, but I was surprised to learn that Potter also became an early originator of book tie-in merchandizing when she patented a Peter Rabbit doll in 1903 and a Peter Rabbit board game soon after. If only she could be alive today and see the never-ending parade of spin-offs from her original creation! Some of my favorites include:

Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life by Marta McDowell

• the DVD of Miss Potter, the movie starring Renee Zellweger

And, of course, for the kids…

Peter Rabbit Touch and Feel by Beatrix Potter

One fun little side note, when I was looking up the links for the above items on amazon, I ran across the most adorable Beatrix Potter letters and ended up buying a “C” for myself. It just came today, and it’s even cuter than I expected. 

Now I just have to figure out where to put it.

Bye to the Bunnies
As much as we enjoyed our detour to Dunkeld and Birnam, eventually the time came to hit the road and continue on our drive north to Loch Ness. As we were heading out, we noticed so many bunnies that my husband finally pulled over so I could take a picture. Of course, they all scampered away as we came to a stop, but you can imagine how many there were just by the number of rabbit holes in this shot!

We sat there for a minute, waiting for them to return, and were just about to give up and go when one brave rabbit hopped back into view. Pausing at the door of his cozy little warren, he looked over at us as if to say, “Hello, Friends. Can I show you the way to McGregor’s garden?”

One final photo, just in case you’re curious what other creature awaited us in Loch Ness… 

Well, maybe not. But my daughters sure had fun staging it!

Thanks for joining us on our travels, and be sure to check back next week when I’ll be featuring all of the hottest new Christian fiction releases.

Who is your favorite Beatrix Potter character? (I was always a fan of Squirrel Nutkin myself.)

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