We were told that the town of Dunkeld which sits right on the River Tay was a charming place to visit. We were not disappointed, but my real reason for wanting to go to this part of Scotland is because of a certain Peter Rabbit. Or rather, the creator of the lovely tales known as the Beatrix Potter Tales.
Beatrix Potter grew up in London in a wealthy family and as such she spent her summers away from the crowded city. Eleven of her childhood summers were spent in the beautiful area of Perthshire in the town of Birnam which is just across the river from Dunkeld (the other summers were spent in the Lake District in England).
It was during one of these summers in Scotland that Beatrix first penned the original Peter Rabbit story in the form of a picture letter to her former governesses son.
I love children’s literature and I love learning about what inspired the authors and illustrators behind the classics. If money weren’t an issue I would love to do a children’s literature tour of Great Britain like the one Joan Bodger describes in How the Heather Looks. I don’t know if that will ever happen, but for now I am happy to have a few places that are close enough to get a feel for what the authors behind the great children’s stories experienced.
There is a small exhibition and garden there in honor of Beatrix Potter, but honestly that wasn’t very large and not what thrilled me most.
The town was extremely charming, made even more so by the fact that we happened to be there on their yearly festival which meant live musicians in restaurants and various other happenings. It was definitely alive and well, and it was fun to see such a small town bustling with activity.
My favorite part, though, was just capturing the beauty of the River Tay, the bridge built in 1809, and the natural beauty of the area. No wonder Beatrix Potter was so inspired here. I could just imagine how after a winter in London, the freedom roaming about in nature afforded her. It inspired her and thankfully she chose to draw and illustrate her inspiration. It’s been a gift to children for many generations.
I was lagging behind the others, pushing the stroller, and peeking in the windows of shops when I spotted an alley that led down to the river. I decided to quickly walk down and take in the river view once more. I was delighted to find a playground there so quickly ran back up to tell the kids.
As they happily played, I imagined what it must have been like to be Beatrix coming into Perthshire for the summer just after a winter in London. I imagined her playing by the river, talking to the wash lady (who later became Mrs. Tiggy Winkle) as she hung out the laundry, and visiting and learning from the local postmaster who was a naturalist at heart and taught her so much about the local plants.
I wonder if it was the very fact that this was not her normal place to live that made her more alive to the beauty of it.
“It sometimes happens that the town child is more alive to the fresh beauty of the country than a child who is country born” Beatrix Potter
“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.”- Beatrix Potter
Whether you care about children’s literature or not, the town of Dunkeld is a lovely place and the spot by the river is a perfect place to have a picnic and take in the beauty around you.