Day trip to a library literally in the middle of nowhere: Innerpeffray Library

Approaching Innerpeffray Library from the path leading from the old school house.

Some images from the [rainy] drive to Innerpeffray from St Andrews. These roads made for a lovely day’s adventure!

Since coming to Scotland in 2010, I’ve been wanting to make the pilgrimage to a place that all librarians this side of Hadrian’s Wall have heard of: Innerpeffray Library. This library, billed as “Scotland’s First Lending Library” is often talked about in circles of bibliophiles, book historians and library history buffs, and I was overjoyed when this was the location announced for this month’s semi-annual meeting of the Rare Books in Scotland Group. Innerpeffray Library was founded around 1680 by David Drummond, 3rd Lord Madertie, by making over 400 books available to the public.

A gathering of rare book librarians in a perfect setting: the main room of Innerpeffray Library.

This is the earliest borrowing register for Innerpeffray Library, dating to the mid-18th century.

This collection was initially made available through the family chapel, and in 1762 a new library building was completed (adjacent to the chapel) by Robert Hay Drummond, in which the collection still remains. This circulating library remarkably flourished during the 18th and 19th centuries. Remarkable because it is literally in the middle of nowhere: this library sits on a hill-side overlooking the River Earn half-way between Crieff and Auchterarder and is in the heart of rural Perthshire. It has over 3,000 volumes that are 18th century or older and the earliest borrowing register (from the mid-18th century) shows that the library was heavily used by people from all over the area.

The library stopped circulating its books in the 1960s, and so this once heavily-used and quite eclectic collection has become crystallised in its home. Researchers still come from far afield for its bibliographic treasures, but also to marvel at what an 18th century lending-library might have looked like. The library is now maintained by a live-in librarian supported by Innerpeffray Mortification Trust, a charitable organization [number SC013843, just in case you’re interested!] which has been tasked with the upkeep of the Library and the adjacent school house. The Drummond family chapel is now the property of Historic Scotland.

A view of Innerpeffray Library from the cemetary of the Drummond family chapel.

One of the stacks in the 18th century reading room of Innerpeffray Library.

The journey to Innerpeffray was very much a pilgrimage for this blogger. The drive took me away from the coast, through fields of sheep and yellow rapeseed, across old bridges and through glens and forests that I hadn’t seen before. It was a beautiful excuse to get out of Fife and see a bit of Perthshire and this amazing, old library. Many thanks to Lara Haggerty, the librarian at Innerpeffray, for hosting us today and for sharing this wonderful Scottish treasure!


5 responses to “Day trip to a library literally in the middle of nowhere: Innerpeffray Library

  1. Lovely record of an interesting day! I have sent the link to Colin and Anne Edgar, former library-custodians at Innerpeffray.

  2. Pingback: Innerpeffray Library and the Knock of Crieff « Anabel's Travel Blog·

  3. Well written DG – and excellent photos. A visit to this unique library is a memorable one for anyone. I can’t help admiring the attitude of David Drummond, 3rd Lord Madertie, for starting it in c1680.

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