Did you hear about this little hidden treasure: Library of Innerpeffray? What a wonderful place! If you love history, books and interesting stories, this is a place to go. It’s Scotland’s first free public lending library founded in 1680 and used by the local community till 1968.
The library is in an idyllic setting in Perthshire just 4miles from Crieff. The library has been a place of learning and prayer for over 400 years and is now one of the last places of quiet contemplation left. It has a rich and fascinating history and was founded by David Drummond, who was very much ahead of his time.
The History of the Innerpeffray Library
The land that now belongs to The Library of Innerpeffray was once the property of the wealthy Drummond family. They were granted this land by Robert the Bruce in gratitude for their support during the Battle of Bannockburn and they continued to live on it fruitfully for many centuries.
David Drummond, 3rd Lord Madertie, created Scotland’s first free public lending library in 1680. The idea of lending out his books to local people was quite radical at the time. He also created a fund to pay for their maintenance. Madertie wished the Library and School to benefit the community “in time coming” and left them with a legacy of 5000 Scottish Merks, charged his successors with the responsibility.
What Are Some Popular Books at the Innerpeffray Library?
The collection was added over the years, growing to around 5000 books by the 20th century. In 2013, a significant donation of Scottish first editions from US-born collector Janet Saint Germain added a new dimension for visitors.
The most precious books are the handwritten Borrowers’registers. These fascinating volumes record everyone who borrowed a book, often in their handwriting, a unique resource for family historians and academics. This resource allows people to come and identify their ancestors from the region, see their own handwriting and hold the books they once borrowed. Innerpeffray has one of Europe’s oldest surviving examples of a library borrowers’ register, dating from 1747 to 1968. The register now has been digitised and visitors are welcome to request information on readers of the past.
Among the treasures are the books on animals, medicine, history, travel, religion, science, and poetry. There are tiny pocketbooks to giant folio editions, homemade paper covers to decorative leather and gold bindings.
Keeper of the Books
The Keeper of Books is an office held continuously since Andrew Patoune in 1696. The Keeper also holds the key of the Collegiate Chapel of St Mary, at Her Majesty’s pleasure. Guided tours are offered to all visitors and you can ask for a tour with the Keeper of Books on your favourite theme. The collection of books is incredible, and the best part is that the guide takes the book out and you can actually flip through the pages.
The Heritage Trail
The heritage trial funded in 2019 highlights key points in the history of the site from prehistory, through the Roman occupation of Scotland, the Scottish Wars of Independence and the Jacobite rebellion. The trial is a gentle path down to the river Earn, offering places to sit and enjoy the tranquillity of the rural location. The heritage trail can be explored all year round.
St Mary’s Chapel of Innerpeffray and graveyard
St Mary’s Chapel of Innerpeffray was built by the then Lord Drummond for the family’s personal use. Unfortunately, the Protestant Reformation stopped the building from being used as a Catholic worship space by 1560. The building was partly used as a public lending library, providing access to the private collection of the Drummond family.
The Chapel still retains features from its days as a Catholic church, including a basin for holy water. The timeless atmosphere and beautiful acoustic are still present. It is free to visit and maintained by Historic Scotland.
The Library is located in rural Perthshire between Crieff and Auchterarder on the B8062. Journey time from Edinburgh or Glasgow is approximately 1.5 hours by car. The nearest train station is Gleneagles (10 miles away). Buses connect to Crieff (6 miles away) from Glasgow and Stirling to the south and Dundee and Perth in the northeast.
Sat Nav postcode is PH7 3RF – follow the road to the car park at the end
More directions here
The Library and Chapel are closed to visitors for the winter season and we currently plan to reopen on 2nd March 2022
Phone: 01764 652819
How to become a Friend of Innerpeffaray Library
The library hosts many activities and events all year round e.g. in the past Inside Outlander about the area connections with TV series or the Library’s Festival of Reading. Please refer to FB page for more details
Innerpeffray, By Crieff, Perthshire PH7 3RF