The Peter Pan stories by J.M. Barrie and others were part of the fairy tale mania that swept Britain in the early 1900s when anything considered magical or romantic had a moment. Barrie crafted his stories for the children of the Llewelyn Davies family, of which he was close, and after the death of their parents, took guardianship. The kids were his inspiration for Peter and the lost boys, and much of their time was spent in London’s Kensington Gardens and at his Black Lake Cottage retreat.
Let’s retrace their steps by following the second star to the right straight on 'til morning. Or you know, an overnight flight to London.
Cranley Hotel: Nothing in London is cheap, least of all hotels. But the Cranley is a good deal, relatively speaking. It also puts you in strolling distance of Peter’s stomping ground, Kensington Gardens. The Victorian era hotel even looks like the Disney version of the Darling townhouse, all blue and cream-colored with big chairs and delicate little side tables to hold your tea and biscuits.
Kensington Gardens: It was here on one of his daily strolls that Barrie met the brothers who would inspire Peter and the Darling boys. Check out the Palace, walk through the gardens and ponds and don’t miss the original Peter Pan statue, which Barrie commissioned and had installed overnight, without any announcements, in the spring of 1912.
The large Victorian and Georgian mansions of this charming neighborhood were home to the fictional Darling family. The area was also home to many artistic and intellectual luminaries including Barrie himself, along with Charles Dickens and William Butler Yates. Virginia Woolf later resided here and along with other nearby artists became known as the Bloomsbury Group. Nowadays you’ll find tons of universities and museums along with the Great Ormond Street Hospital. Why visit a hospital say you? Well, Barrie signed over all his royalties to them and today a Peter and Tinkerbell statue reside out front.
Black Lake Cottage:
This estate was where “Uncle Jim” and the boys got into their most swashbuckling adventures. They ran through the woods calling it an “enchanted forest,” and swam in the “tropical lagoon.” Now privately owned, it’s off limits, but certain J.M. Barrie fan sites have directions to places with views. The whole Surrey area is magical, filled with forests, and even an outdoor sculpture park
While Peter debuted at the Duke of York Theatre, he was made popular at Wyndham’s, where Barrie first got his start and worked throughout his career. Plus, the various du Mauriers, relatives of the Llewelyn Davis boys, worked here too. It’s both full of Pan history and visually impressive as well.
Happily Ever After:
Fairy Gardens: It’s a whimsical idea that Tinkerbell and her friends lived in a fairy garden, and there’s a public one at Furzey, an hour or so outside London. Search the tree trunks to find little doors that open to the fairy houses. Drive a bit further to Trentham Estate for an even grander fairy garden, with a bit of a modern take. Here they installed a mile-long fairy garden walk around a lake along with miles and miles of themed gardens. Run around and embrace your inner imp.
It may not be Neverland, but it is a darn good way to feel like you never grew up.