Exploring Buchanan CastleMay 31, 2020
It wasn’t exactly “urbex” – more “ruralex”. I’m not sure if it’s even worthy of such a description. Buchanan Castle, near the village of Drymen in the west of Scotland, is surprisingly easy to access. We just drove up and strolled in!
Buchanan Castle, then – and now.
Although there were several “Keep Out” signs, there were a couple of huge gaps in the barbed wire fence that were so big you didn’t have to crouch down very far to get through. The biggest one had a path leading right up to it.
Buchanan Castle is a derelict ruin which has been slowly collapsing since the 1950s, when its roof was removed to avoid paying tax on the building. It was originally built in the 1850s by James Graham, the fourth Duke of Montrose, designed by the Scottish architect William Burn, and it was the Montrose family seat until its sale in 1925.
The castle was requisitioned as a hospital during the Second World War. Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess stayed there very briefly after injuring his ankle while parachuting into Scotland on his doomed “peace mission”.
By coincidence, it was the childhood home of the mysterious Lord Ronald Graham, who seems to have been written out of history, probably due to his Nazi conncections. Lord Graham actively recruited people of influence to the Nazi cause, and he was a good friend of the Nazi sympathiser Edward VIII, the king who abdicated to marry the divorcee Wallis Simpson in 1936.
I was expecting the castle to be a bit spooky, and – it was! For me anyway. My friend Karen absolutely loved it. I agreed with her that it was a beautiful old building, despite the decay. But I couldn’t shake off a sinister feeling, maybe due to my own morbid expectations.
The towering walls evoked the building’s former grandeur, despite the rotting beams. Care was required to avoid tripping up. And that wasn’t the only hazard…
This lintel has a worrying crack!
Derelict buildings are dangerous places. I did consider wearing my climbing helmet – maybe it would have been wise. But falling masonry wasn’t the only hazard.
When I saw how badly the floor had given way here, I started to tread very lightly, keeping as much as possible to the edges. I really enjoyed the visit, but I think it tapped into one of my early childhood fears, of old buildings collapsing.
Then there was the spooky dark room…
I don’t know what this room was, but it gave me the creeps! It might have been a bathroom, as there were bits of porcelain scattered about.
Away from the spooky room, Karen found an interesting staircase.
It didn’t lead anywhere exciting, and I decided not to test it to see if it would bear my weight!
It wasn’t easy to capture the enormous scale of the building with my camera.
There were narrow corridors with vertiginously high walls on either side.
The two dark shadows near the top look like brooding ravens, but they’re just bits of debris.
And some enormous masonry.
We were not the only “explorers” in the castle that morning. There was a friendly couple who had cycled in.
Despite the “Keep Out” signs, the locals seem quite relaxed about people visiting the ruins – either that, or they hadn’t noticed us! There are lots of large, opulent-looking houses near the castle, and as we walked past, I could hear the voices of people out in their gardens. But none of them seemed bothered by our presence.
As we were walking round one of the large drawing rooms at the front of the castle, I spotted a man outside talking into what looked like a big walkie-talkie. He turned round and looked right at me. Then he turned back and carried on his conversation.
Large room with an elegant fireplace.
It was very difficult to get good views of the castle exterior, due to the density of the foliage. Winter might be a better time for photographers to visit.
Some of the leaves looked tropical – there might have been some exotic plants in the grounds.
This is a view of the entrance, looking up to some grand corbels. I’m not sure what the number “54” signifies. Maybe there’s an “18” on the other side, and it’s the date of completion.
Despite the spookiness, we were both impressed by this once-grand building, which is gently collapsing and being reclaimed by nature.
If you’re thinking of visiting this lovely castle, remember that the risk is real. This is a dangerous derelict building, and as time goes on, the risk will increase. I chose to take the risk, but I was careful to avoid anywhere that looked unstable, and I would not visit in high winds or a thunderstorm!