A Glimpse Inside

Once again we have had to close our doors, hopefully it won’t be long before we are able to welcome you back into John Muir’s Birthplace. In the meantime, we still have lots of ways to help you explore the life and legacy of John Muir.

  • You can see some of our temporary exhibitions by visiting our  Exhibitions page. Look out for some new additions soon.
  • Check out our Home Activities page for lots of ideas to support home learning.
  • Have a look on on Facebook or Twitter @JM_Birthplace for all the latest info on what we are up to!
  • Watch the short tour below of Duncan Smeed, Chair of John Muir’s Birthplace Charitable Trust on a short tour of the building. Brought to you with thanks to Michael Conti.

January Lockdown

In line with the latest Scottish Government Announcement, John Muir’s Birthplace will remain closed for the month of January, and will only reopen when it is safe to do so.  In the meantime, why not check out our online Exhibitions or try our Home 100 Activities to help with home schooling – or as boredom busters! We look forward to welcoming you back soon – take care and stay safe!

Christmas Closure

Following the latest Scottish Government announcement, John Muir’s Birthplace will close at 4pm on Thursday 24 December and reopen Wednesday 20th January should guidelines allow.

Please keep following our social media channels for further information.

Thank you for your support during 2020 and we look forward to welcoming you back when safe to do so in 2021.

Christmas Dinner with John Muir

John Muir doesn’t write much about Christmas, indeed one can imagine that he would be unimpressed with the tinsel and trappings of the holidays. However he enjoyed the company of others, and in this extract from ‘Yosemite in Winter’, first published in 1872, he was particularly taken with Christmas dinner!

…we slid smoothly over the astronomical edge of ’71; Santa Claus came with very little ado, gave trinkets to our half-dozen younglings, and dropped crusted cakes into bachelors’ cabins; but upon the whole our holidays were sorry, unhilarious, whiskified affairs. A grand intercampal Christmas dinner was devised on a scale and style becoming our peerless valley; heaps of solemn substantials were to be lightened and broidered with cookies, and backed by countless cakes, blocky and big as boulders, and a craggy trough-shaped pie was planned for the heart and soul of the feast. It was to have formed a rough model of Yosemite, with domes and brows of “duff” and falls of buttering gravy.

May we take this opportunity to wish all our followers a

Merry Christmas and a Safe and Healthy New Year!

We will be closed from 25 Dec – 19 January inclusive, please keep watching in the New Year as we unveil our plans for 2021.

November 1833 – Muirs first appear in Dunbar.

November 1833. Daniel Muir, an army recruiting sergeant who had settled in Dunbar as a meal dealer some 4 years earlier, married his second wife, 20 year old Ann Gilrye, daughter of local flescher and local councillor, David Gilrye.  The couple lived in a room behind Daniel’s shop on the west side of Dunbar High Street.

Daniel Muir

Daniel Muir

Daniel’s parents had both died when he was very young, and he moved to Crawfordjohn, Lanarkshire to be raised by his sister.  He joined the army at a young age, and received several postings, ending up as a recruiting sergeant in Berwick. It was here he was introduced to a young Helen Kennedy, who had inherited her late mother’s meal dealership in Dunbar. The pair married in 1829 and Daniel took over the business. Sadly Helen died in 1832. Some sources report a child in the marriage, however there are no official records of this, there being every chance both Helen and the baby died.

Daniel mourned his wife and grew both the business and his own standing in Dunbar society.  Only a few yards away across Dunbar High Street, a young Ann Gilrye lived with her family above her father’s butcher’s shop.  Ann caught Daniel’s eye, and the pair were married in November 1833.  Their first daughter, Margaret was born in 1834, followed by Sarah in 1836, and their first son, John Muir in 1838.  They would go on to have 8 children in total, all of whom survived to adulthood.

The Gilrye family had also experienced tragedy, Ann and her sister, Margaret were the only surviving

Ann Gilrye Muir

Ann Gilrye Muir

siblings from a family of 8. There can be no doubt that the loss of so many of his own children led to David Gilrye’s desire to be close to his grandchildren. John remembers walks with his grandfather in ‘The Story of My Boyhood and Youth’, crediting him with first awakening his love of nature, and with teaching him to read from the shop signs on the High Street.

My earliest recollections of the country were gained on short walks with my grandfather when I was perhaps not over three years old. On one of these walks grandfather took me to Lord Lauderdale’s gardens, where I saw figs growing against a sunny wall and tasted some of them, and got as many apples to eat as I wished. On another memorable walk in a hayfield, when we sat down to rest on one of the haycocks I heard a sharp, prickly, stinging cry, and, jumping up eagerly, called grandfather’s attention to it. He said he heard only the wind, but I insisted on digging into the hay and turning it over until we discovered the source of the strange exciting sound–a mother field mouse with half a dozen naked young hanging to her teats. This to me was a wonderful discovery. No hunter could have been more excited on discovering a bear and her cubs in a wilderness den.

One can only imagine David Gilrye’s emotions in 1849, when Daniel announced he was following his religious inclinations and taking his wife and children to America to start a new life.

Winter opening

Now that the nights are getting darker and the leaves are turning, it’s time for us to switch to our winter opening hours. We will be open 10am – 5pm (last entry 4pm) Wednesday – Saturday.  We will be closed Sunday – Tuesday each week.

In these strange times when we are being encouraged to stay close to home, it is the perfect time to spend quieter months visiting places on your doorstep that you’ve always meant to see but never quite got around to it!  We also have locally made gift ideas that might not be available from online retailers. Lots of reasons to pop in, we look forward to welcoming you.

John Muir Earth, Planet, Universe: Outdoor Exhibition at Dunbar Harbour

Friends of John Muir’s Birthplace Committee Members Liz McLean and Duncan Smeed and Philip Revell of Sustaining Dunbar braved the elements on Saturday 24 October to install weatherproof versions of the panels of their 2020 temporary exhibition entitled ‘John Muir, Earth-Planet, Universe’. Due to Covid-19 restrictions it hasn’t been possible to showcase these panels in John Muir’s Birthplace over the summer season.  Friends are very grateful for the help and support of the Dunbar Harbour Trust to allow them to use The Battery at Dunbar Harbour as a wonderful outdoor venue. We hope that many people will be able to visit, read and be inspired to get involved – all in a beautiful Covid-safe environment where John Muir himself explored during his boyhood in Dunbar!
“When I was a boy in Scotland I was fond of everything that was wild, and all my life I’ve been growing fonder and fonder of wild places and wild creatures”, [John Muir, The Story of my Boyhood and Youth]
An official ‘virtual’ launch of this exhibition, and further news about the ‘What If?’ programme it has inspired, is planned for early November and further details of this will be published in the next day or two. See for more information.
For those that can’t visit in person, the online version of the exhibition is also available to view at:

Dunbar Art Trail

We love the recently launched Dunbar Art Trail, which features the John Muir Statue on Dunbar High Street, and the John Muir Stone in Lochend Woods.

The Dunbar Art Trail provides a great way to explore Dunbar, via all the public artworks dotted around the town. With an in depth history and information about the artworks, the artists behind them and an interactive map, this is a great free to use tourist map ideal for a socially distanced adventure!
The trail also features a printable checklist and why not use the hashtag #dunbararttrail see if you can bag yourself each of the artworks on the list. Check it out today at

Muir Houses Through Time – Online Exhibition

You may remember that earlier in the summer we published David Anderson’s research into the buildings on Dunbar High Street occupied by the Muirs.  There were tales of commerce, double-crossing and greed, as we discovered that the buildings had nearly as interesting a story to tell as John Muir himself!

We are delighted that the series of blogs has now been gathered into an online exhibition and can be enjoyed once again at your leisure!  You will find Muir Houses Through Time on our Exhibitions page in bitesize chunks for you to browse.