Tayside and Central Scotland

Beatrix Potter's hidden Scottish link

Image copyright Craig Wallace
Image caption Beatrix Potter wrote two of her stories at Eastwood House

The Tale of Peter Rabbit is known throughout the world. What is less well-known is the role Scotland played in the story.

Beatrix Potter was born on 28 July 1866 and spent long family holidays in Perthshire. Now, 150 years after the birth of the author, Elizabeth Quigley has been given exclusive access to the house in Dunkeld where she wrote some of her stories.

Eastwood House is a beautiful Victorian villa on the banks of the River Tay in Dunkeld and is set in nine acres of ground. This is where Beatrix Potter and her family spent some of their holidays.

Today, Alex Kettles lives here with her family. It was raining the day I visited. She showed me round the house and we went into a room not far from the front door.

"She probably wrote the stories outside, sitting outside on the lawns. Perhaps if it had been wet like it is today, this is the sort of room that she may very well have been in," she told me.

"It was called the morning room. It would be a nice place to sit, less formal perhaps than the drawing room. So yes, I'd like to think that this was perhaps where she was when she was writing those stories."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Beatrix Potter's stories still captivate children across the world

The family travelled up from London and on one holiday in 1893, two of her now world famous stories came to life. On 4 September she wrote a picture letter to Noel Moore, the son of her governess.

Alex Kettles explains that they were written down at Eastwood House.

"We know that because the name of the house and the date were put at the top of the letters. The letters were sent to the young son of Beatrix's governess.

"He was unwell and so she sat down to write him a little note and thought, I'll write you a little story. This was the story of Peter Rabbit, which you can see in the drawings which then became part of the book a few years later.

"I believe that the following day, feeling a little bit guilty that she had written a nice little story for Noel, she wrote another story for his brother, Eric, which was the tale of Jeremy Fisher."

Ferns and fungi

Just a short distance across the River Tay from Eastwood House is Birnam Arts. Nursery children from the Royal School of Dunkeld enjoy playing in the garden and at the exhibition there all about the author.

Beatrix Potter was fascinated by the world around her and she was not only a talented artist, but her interest was also a scientific one.

Over many years, she studied ferns, mosses and fungi.

Dave Amos is the exhibition manager at Birnam Arts.

"When she came here as a child, she was coming from London and she came to this beautiful place and was so impressed with her environment," he said.

"She became very interested in fungi and animals and birds."

A century and a half after she was born, her stories still captivate many across the world.

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