New bear sculpture in Dunbar to celebrate John Muir

The legacy of one of East Lothian’s most famous sons, John Muir, has been immortalised through a five metre high steel bear sculpted by renowned Scottish artist, Andy Scott, the man behind the Kelpies and other well-loved sculptures.

This remarkable sculpture, fixed to a base erected on a mound planted with wild flowers, was unveiled today (19th November). It will be illuminated by lighting using renewable energy. The bear is located off the A1 in close proximity to the Spott Roundabout at Dunbar.

John Muir, born in Dunbar in 1838, played a key role in the development of America’s national parks. He emigrated from Scotland in 1849 and is famous for petitioning the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill, establishing Yosemite National Park. The bear is symbolic of John Muir’s travels through the far-off wilderness of America’s west, in the Rockies and his advocacy for National Parks.

The sculpture forms part of the mixed-use Hallhill development, which started on site in 1999. It has already delivered sports facilities, 56 acres of community woodland together with 1,200 including over 200 affordable family homes with approximately 320 currently under development, as well as school provision and commercial and retail outlets.

The event was marked by a reception comprising local dignitaries and school children from Dunbar Primary at the site, with Mrs Brenda McNeil from Hallhill Developments unveiling a plaque on the sculpture to mark the event.

A competition will now be undertaken with local schools to give the bear a name.

Situated at the eastern gateway to Dunbar, the location has been selected as it forms the primary gateway into the town and is visible from the east coast railway line and A1.

The sculpture is made of welded steel and is fabricated from steel plates of various thicknesses, heavy at the bottom and lighter towards the top, giving the structure an inherent strength. Visitors can access it via a walkway.

Andy Scott, a graduate of Glasgow School of Art, has completed over 70 projects across the UK and internationally. His distinctive hand-crafted figurative sculptures combine traditional skill with contemporary fabrication techniques.

Commenting on the erection of the sculpture he said:

“It is fantastic to see this sculpture finally being erected as part of the Hallhill development, especially in memory of such an influential character as John Muir, which is particularly apt given today’s focus on the environment.

“This bear sculpture will provide an opportunity to enlighten people about the man and his work. It is a symbol of the wilderness John Muir was such a passionate advocate of and is testament to his incredible desire to protect the natural environment.”

Angela Leitch, Chief Executive of East Lothian Council, said:

“We’re absolutely delighted that Andy Scott’s latest eye-catching sculpture has been unveiled here in East Lothian. It’s a highly appropriate way of paying tribute to John Muir, one of the county’s most famous sons, who played such an influential role in the development of America’s national parks.

“It complements fantastic attractions such as John Muir’s Birthplace in Dunbar and the John Muir Way, which continues to be a popular trail with visitors and locals alike. At five metres high, we’re sure the sculpture will become a real talking point, helping to draw even more visitors to the area.”

Ken Ross from Hallhill Developments commented:

“The Hallhill development, which this bear sculpture forms an integral part of, has brought tremendous benefits to the area, including almost 600 jobs together with new much-needed homes, commercial and retail opportunities.

“The sculpture reflects the ethos of this sustainable development, which is part of the Dunbar community, where families can work, live and play. It is located next to good schools, public transport links, amenities and facilities, in the sunniest place in Scotland.

“Acting as a welcoming landmark to the town, it will not only contribute to the emerging identity of Dunbar’s new gateway but has the potential to draw people into the area to find out more about John Muir.”

Exciting visitors at John Muir’s Birthplace

Obviously we are extremely fond of all our visitors, actual and virtual, to John Muir’s Birthplace.  However over the last week or so we have had some very exciting visitors.  On 25th October we welcomed Ellen Wong, US Consulate General from Edinburgh.  After being shown around by JMBT Trustees Will Collin, Duncan Smeed, Daisy Clark and Liz McLean, Principal Officer Wong signed the visitor’s book:

‘Amazing Exhibition to highlight the important work, life and mission of iconic Scottish American John Muir. thanks for the work you do to ensure his goals continue on to the next generation.’

During the previous week, we also received a surprise visit from Allison Theubet and 2 of her daughters. Allison very quietly informed us that John Muir was her great, great grandfather. John’s eldest daughter, Wanda, was her great grandmother. Although she was born in California, Allison now lives in Germany and was in Scotland for a short visit.

A Winter of Photography

As we move on to our winter opening times on 1 October, we thought it would be a good time to have a look at our upcoming exhibition programme for the next few months, which will be dominated by different types of photography.  You have about 1 week left to see our summer blockbuster John Muir:Writer, which finishes on Wednesday 9 October.  This will be replaced by some beautiful photographs by local photographer,  Fraser Stewart. Fraser says of his work:

This exhibition is a range of my photographic work of the many facets of Dunbar. It is a study of the diverse communities within a small coastal town. Dunbar is surrounded by beautiful nature and is a joy to explore and live in. Yet it is the people who provide the dynamic of the town, creating employment, starting up organisations and social groups. This exhibition captures all aspects of this unique community.

This will be followed by the John Muir Trust category winners from the Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year competition.  This will be the 3rd year we have exhibited winners from this category, and the images are always breath-taking. this year the John Muir Trust prize was given the theme of ‘Living Landscape’, one of the prizewinners being Ian Biggs with ‘Autumn Frost’.


Finally from 18 December we will be exhibiting the 12 winners from the Dunbar Town House Museum and Gallery ‘My Dunbar’ Calendar competition.  Anyone was able to submit a photograph of Dunbar, and the winners were chosen by who had the most ‘likes’ on the Dunbar Town House Museum and Gallery Facebook page. The result has been a beautiful calendar of Dunbar through the eyes of the people who live, work and play here. Calendars will be available for sale from the first weekend in October – reserve yours for only £6.00.

The winning photo on the front of the calendar is Jamie McAlpine’s ‘Sky Over Belhaven’



New John Muir Way Passports

The perfect way to mark your progress from coast to coast, the John Muir Way official passport is also your ticket to exclusive offers along the route. John Muir’s Birthplace is delighted to sell and stamp passports.  Holders will also receive a 10% discount in our shop!

Stamping Stations logo

Show it off, frame it, or keep it under your pillow! However you choose to celebrate, the John Muir Way passport records your achievement in completing the 10 sections between Helensburgh and Dunbar.

Whether you’re doing the route in one go or tackling one section at a time, be sure to have your passport stamped to mark your progress. When you’ve collected all ten stamps, you can claim your free completer certificate

There are ‘stamping stations’ dotted along the route in all sorts of places, from paddle steamers to pubs and castles to cafes. Look out for the STAMPING STATION logo at venues in each section.

> Check the map for stamping locations


Buying the passport

Passport foldout

The passport costs just £5 and you’ll find it for sale at both ends of the route and in other hubs along the way.

When you buy a passport, you’ll not only have a great souvenir and access to offers; you’ll also have that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from knowing you’re helping to sustain the John Muir Way for others to enjoy!

> Check the map for passport retailers


Need a little help to get you over the finish line?

Business welcomes

John Muir Way have teamed up with businesses along the route to offer passport holders a little extra something to help you on your journey.

Your passport will unlock exclusive offers and discounts at participating businesses and attractions. From complimentary coffee to preferential prices, it all helps when you’re crossing an entire country under your own steam.

Look out for the PASSPORTS WELCOME logo and be sure to show off your passport in-store to find out what’s on offer.

Summer Holiday Activities

Now that the summer holiday are upon us, take the opportunity for some free family time exploring the life of John Muir.  Our exhibition for the summer is John Muir, Writer. We look at his books, journals and letters, many of which were gathered together following John’s death in 1914 and published in several different volumes.  There are also drop in crafts for children – create your own journal to keep to record your summer holiday adventures! Combine this with a walk long the cliff top trail in Dunbar, the first part of the John Muir Way for a fantastic, free day out.

If you fancy being child-free for a morning, book them into our summer activity on 25 July, 10am -1pm. Only £12.15 for 3 hours of fun finding out about John’s writing and thinking about how John might have campaigned differently today! Call us on 01368 865899, email or pop in to book.

Come and make music!

We thought you’d like to see a taster of Junkman who will be coming to Dunbar for the end of Civic Week, 21  – 23 June!  Call us on 01368 865899 to book your space – prices start from just £3!

We’re in the Hall of Fame!

We are delighted to have been awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for the 5th Year in a row, and as a result we have been entered into their Hall of Fame! Why not make us part of your next visit to east Lothian and find out why our visitors rate us so highly!

Junk Music

For Dunbar Civic Week, John Muir’s Birthplace and Dunbar Town House Museum and Gallery are delighted to present JunkMusic (sponsored by the Dunmuir Hotel), played by JunkMan – Donald Knaack from Friday 21 – Sunday 23 June.

The Junkman™, percussionist/composer, and environmentalist Donald Knaack is the original recycled materials percussionist. He’s the Daddy of Eco-Beat, following in the footsteps of his mentor and collaborator, John Cage, by creating music and cutting-edge environmental awareness that transcends all styles and genres. His much-acclaimed concerts and interactive Junkjams™ impart timely messages regarding the health of Mother Earth, cultural tolerance, and how our personal behaviour affects other people’s personal space and rights.

In his music, The Junkman™ fuses the avant-garde with head-moving ear candy, and rhythmic muscle to form an irresistible edutainment experience!


Over the course of Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday, there will be a combination of Concerts, Workshops and Make and Take sessions led by JunkMan, aimed at both individuals and families. Numbers for each session will be limited and can be booked in advance through John Muir’s Birthplace at prices from £3 for a single ticket and £7.50 for a family ticket.


  • Interactive Concert Performance: An odyssey of highly original music with diverse styles of influence and great grooves. The Junkman™ performs on his rack of over 60 re-used materials and culminates the show with a Junkjam™ where the audience gets to join along in making music.


  • Make-& Take: A chance for children and parents to make a high-quality recycled materials percussion instrument with The Junkman™ and then take it home.


  • Interactive Eco-Workshop: Explores the basic science, math, and technology principles utilized in Junk Music™ and relates them to the environment. This workshop is interspersed with an interactive Junkjams.


Further details can be obtained by calling John Muir’s Birthplace on 01368 865899 or email

Happy Birthday John! (and John Muir Way)

It is a very special weekend here at John Muir’s Birthplace, in addition to it being Easter, when we get to consume our bodyweight in chocolate, it is also John Muir’s 181st Birthday AND the 5th Anniversary of the opening of the John Muir Way. Triple excuses for cake!

On Sunday 21 April, John Muir’s Birthplace Charitable Trust will sign a concordat with the John Muir Way Partnership agreeing to promote the John Muir Way as:

“An outstanding coast to coast route across the diverse landscapes and rich heritage of central Scotland; easily accessible and attractive to local people, businesses and visitors, and providing opportunities for all to increase understanding of John Muir’s legacy and philosophy through getting close to nature”

Immediately following this, Friends of John Muir’s Birthplace will celebrate the opening of their new exhibition John Muir, Writer. (More cake – can you see the theme?)
Following this we would recommend walking part of the John Muir Way (well you have had all that cake), and if you make it all 134 miles remember to claim your certificate from us or Helensburgh Leisure Centre!

To find out more about walking the John Muir Way, check out the website or to find out about wider events across the John Muir Birthday celebrations check out Alternatively you could try out some of the John Muir Trust’s suggested 10 Ways of Celebrating John Muir Day!

Whatever you plan to do this weekend – make sure to treat yourself to some cake! Happy John Muir Day!

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