City Slickers in a Smart Countryside

We are opening back up for the summer with a photography exhibition of images taken along the John Muir Way by Sharon McMenemy Khan/4 Pegs Gallery. Celebrating 10 years of the John Muir Way.

“When you’re preparing for the John Muir Way, you focus on navigating: distances, signposts, gradients. Once you start riding along the path, you begin to relax and enjoy the countryside. You disconnect from everyday life and connect with the history of the people and the place. It’s a heart-warming journey that connects you to nature.”

The photographs are taken at different viewpoints from Falkirk to Dunbar.

Nature writing workshop

We are really excited to be hosting a workshop with experienced writer and facilitator Elspeth Wilson. Join Elspeth for a relaxed, creative session on writing about the natural world. This will be a supportive space where all abilities and confidence levels are welcome!

  • 2-4pm (including a break)
  • Thursday 28th March
  • Dunbar Town House
  • Free to attend

To book please contact John Muir’s Birthplace at or on 01368 865899. Booking is essential as places are limited. Do feel free to get in touch or pop in if you have any questions.

Elspeth Wilson is a writer and poet who is interested in exploring the limitations and possibilities of the body through writing, as well as writing about joy and happiness from a marginalised perspective. Her nature writing has been shortlisted for Canongate’s Nan Shepherd Prize and Penguin’s Write Now scheme. Her debut poetry pamphlet, Too Hot to Sleep, is published by Written Off Publishing and was shortlisted for the Saltire Society’s 2023 Poetry Book of the Year Award. Her debut novel, These Mortal Bodies, is forthcoming with Simon and Schuster in 2025. She can usually be found in or near the sea.

The workshop is part of the Scottish Library and Information Council‘s ‘Shelf Life’ project promoting climate engagement across libraries – we’re happy to be sharing it with East Lothian Library Services!

We are hiring (again)!

We are delighted to say that East Lothian Council Museums Service are recruiting Seasonal Museum Assistants to work with us from April – September in 2024. The closing date for applications is Sunday 28th January.

We are looking for people with enthusiasm, flexibility, great communication and organisational skills and a passion for delivering great customer service to join our team to help visitors get the most from their visit to our museums. Museum Assistants open and close our museums, welcome visitors to our venues, answer enquiries and make sure that everyone has an enjoyable and safe visit. They operate our shops, assist with school and other groups, activities, events and exhibitions.

We operate four museums and have a range of shift patterns available (including at John Muir’s Birthplace).

For more information on the individual posts, the role and how to apply take a look on MyJobScotland here.

Call for exhibitions

We would like to invite exhibitors from across the UK to be part of a ‘Climate Call to Action’Combining the best in visual art with a passion for inspiring climate action, we plan to hold a series of exhibitions from April 2024 to encourage climate action.

We welcome entries from amateurs or professionals working across a diversity of art forms, including artists, photographers, makers, crafters and community groups.

? opportunity to host meet the artist sessions and workshops

? Dunbar High Street location with 10m wall space and case

? expressions of interest by 31st January 2024 to John Muir’s Birthplace,126 High Street, Dunbar, EH42 1JJ,, 01368 8659899.

Please don’t hesitate to be in touch with any further queries. We’re open to both first-time and seasoned exhibitors – no question is too silly!

We are hiring!

We are looking for a part-time permanent Museum Assistant (17.5 hours a week) to join the team at John Muir’s Birthplace.
We are looking for someone with:
  • enthusiasm
  • flexibility
  • great communication skills
  • great organisation skills
  • and a passion for delivering excellent customer service
If you think you have the skills to help visitors get the most from their visit take a look at the full job advert on myjobscotland at
The deadline for applications is 7th January 2024.

Festive closures

John Muir’s Birthplace will be closed from 25th December 2023 to 2nd January 2024 for a festive break. We are open up until Christmas Eve for all your last minute Christmas shopping needs. If you are planning on visiting us on the 24th please note that we’ll be closing at 4pm rather than our usual 5pm.

We are looking forward to welcoming you all back to the museum on the 3rd of January!

We want to say a huge thank you to all our visitors that made this year so special – John Muir Way walkers, local primary schools doing their John Muir Awards, pilgrims from the US, and all the local families who pop in for a nosey (and sometimes just to use the loo)!

Some of our highlights from this year are:

Who knows what 2024 has in store? In the meantime thank you for all your continued support, and we hope you all have a peaceful winter break.

20th Anniversary Celebrations

(Thank you to GreyGoose_Bakery for our wonderful birthday cake!)

Do take a look at our official press release marking our 20th anniversary:

John Muir’s Birthplace on Dunbar’s High Street opened its doors for the first time on 23rd August 2003. At a celebration event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Birthplace, Trustees of the John Muir Birthplace Charitable Trust and staff of East Lothian Council’s Museum Service welcomed many of those involved in the planning, procurement, and development of the museum. Other guests included representatives from local schools and organisations that are actively engaged with the need to care for the environment in all its forms. John Muir has been – and continues to be – an inspiration for many.

John Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland, on 21st April 1838. As a child he developed a deep love of the natural world. This grew into a lifelong journey, both physical and spiritual, of exploration, revelation, hardship and wonder. His introduction to Yosemite Valley, California, resulted in his campaign to preserve wilderness for wilderness’ sake. This led to the establishment of the world’s first national park system. Today he is remembered as a pioneer of the modern conservation movement. More than a century on his ideas are more relevant than ever and John Muir continues to inspire people all over the world.

There have been over 220,000 visitors to the Birthplace since its opening. From distinguished visitors including direct descendants of Muir and the then Prince Charles and Prince Edward to tourists from all over the world, local residents and school children. The most common comments left by visitors mention how inspiring their visit has been.

Other milestones for the Birthplace include achieving Visit Scotland 5-star visitor attraction and Green Tourism Business Scheme Gold status, the TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice award, and John Muir Conservation Award (non-profit organisation) from the John Muir Association in Martinez, USA.

John Muir’s Birthplace also marks the eastern end of the John Muir Way, which is one of Scotland’s Great Trails. Many visitors have completed this long distance walk that launched in 2014 on the centenary of John Muir’s death. It traverses across the diverse landscapes and rich heritage of central Scotland and provides opportunities for all to increase their understanding of John Muir’s legacy and philosophy through getting closer to nature. Those completing their travels at the Dunbar end of the route have an additional incentive to visit the Birthplace where they can collect their John Muir Way completion certificate.

John Muir’s Birthplace works closely with schools to introduce children to John Muir’s life and conservation work. Each year between 500 and 1000 local authority school pupils participate in the John Muir citizenship project, run in collaboration with East Lothian Council’s Landscape and Countryside and Arts Services. This project provides opportunities for school pupils to engage hands-on with stories about John Muir and the natural world around them. A wide range of outdoor education groups, private schools, and youth organisations also visit, often as part of completing the John Muir Award.

Following a brief review of the past the Trust outlined the exciting future plans to update and upgrade part of the exhibition which focuses on Muir’s life as a campaigner and activist. New and updated displays will inspire visitors to engage more deeply with the current environment and climate challenges that we all face and hopefully inspire and motivate people to take action in whatever way feels right to them towards creating a thriving planet with flourishing communities for all.

East Lothian Provost, and Trustee of the John Muir Birthplace, John McMillan, said: “Muir was part of a continuum – he was inspired by those before him and in turn went on to influence many others to appreciate, value and protect the natural environment and so understand its crucial role in our survival. His story together with that of his forerunners and those who followed illustrate how social, political and economic issues are closely connected to environmental devastation and climate crisis. We can look to John Muir and others to create a new story for our future and for our communities.”

Help us celebrate our 20th birthday!

Can you believe it? We opened our doors for the first time on 23rd August 2003 and here we are 20 years later!

We want to say thank you so much to every single visitor who has crossed our threshold over the years, from seasoned John Muir enthusiasts to locals popping in to check our community noticeboard. We wouldn’t be able to open without you.

Our birthday has coincided with some fantastic new research on our Birthplace sampler. Embroidery samplers were often made by young women to mark important events such as leaving school, or to record family births and marriages. We’ve managed to unravel these clues to uncover new information about who stitched our sampler and why. Scroll down to find out about this in more detail and read about what we previously thought here.

We thought our 20th anniversary was a wonderful time to put out a call for embroiderers to produce a replica sampler, keeping in the tradition of samplers being made to mark significant events. Carry on reading below to find out more about why we want to produce a replica.

Licensor: University of the Pacific, Muir Hanna Trust.

This sampler is the only item that we have at the Birthplace that connects to John Muir’s childhood in Scotland. It has been on loan from the United States National Park Service collection at John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, California since the early 1980s. This is because the sampler ended up in the USA with Ann Gilrye Muir, John’s mother. The sampler has the date 1816 in the box at the bottom, so can’t have been made by Ann, as she was only three!

Who was the mystery stitcher?

The initials correspond with birth, death and marriage dates for the family. They also illustrate the sad reality of Victorian life, with only three of the ten children surviving into adulthood because of tuberculosis. This may have been caused by inhaling bacteria released from the carcasses of infected animals at the families butchers shop at 113 High Street, where Lothian Printers is now located.

What do we know?

  • The parent’s initials DG and MG are shown either side of the box on the bottom row.
  • In 1816 there were eight Gilrye offspring.
  • The five eldest have initials shown in a box with the date 1816.
  • IG appears next to the box but is out of sequence.
  • The three youngest children’s initials appear above the box.

We think this sampler was stitched by John Muir’s aunt Isabella when she was thirteen years old. Needlework was considered an essential part of a girl’s education. The sampler may have been produced as a form of school leaving certificate to demonstrate the standard of needlework that Isabella had achieved. It would also have coincided with her parent’s 21st wedding anniversary.

Can you help us keep telling this story?

It is vital that we treat delicate old fabrics with care as they are very sensitive to light damage. We have recently had the sampler assessed at the Scottish Conservation Studio and have been advised that it should no longer be on permanent display to minimise ongoing light damage and protect the sampler for the future. We would love to have a replica made so that we can continue to share this amazing story with visitors.

The Scottish Conservation Studio have recommended some conservation work to help preserve the sampler for future generations with an estimated cost of £2,500.

Ideally we would love to have two replica samplers produced – one for display and one as an education resource.

Do you know anyone with the skills to produce a replica? Please let a member of the team know or email

You can make a donation to support this exciting project here on our website. You can also donate at the front desk, just speak to a member of the team.

Thank you for your support.

You can learn more about the history of Scottish needlework samplers here on the National Museums Scotland website.

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