Walking in the Countryside: ur doin it rong

On Sunday, we decided to take the dog for a walk around Linlithgow Loch. Terry has done this walk before: it’s short, and there’s a proper footpath, so I figured I’d be OK in these:


You see the sticking plaster on the side of my foot? More about that later. For now, just know that Terry didn’t seem to see anything wrong with my footwear either, and so off we went.

Halfway to Linlithgow, though, Terry pulled over to the side of the road. “Hey,” he said. “Let’s not go to Linlithgow Loch. Let’s just climb that instead!”


“That” was Binny Craig. Why yes, it WAS kind of steep! And what’s that? Stinging nettles, you say? All over the ground? Meaning that by the time I reached the top (crawling on my hands and knees, natch), my feet were a red, swollen mess? Yes, that too. Also, there were teenagers up there. They were playing music through those FREAKING tinny speakers kids always have with them now, so even way the hell out in the peaceful, quiet countryside, you’re forced to listen to someone else’s music. This made me want to throw them all over the side of the hill, but unfortunately for me I’m terrified of teenagers, so I didn’t. Also, Rubin had apparently set aside that special time to be an ass, and while I was crawling on my hands and knees up the slope, he was trying to crawl under my belly. WHY?



But we made it to the top.
And we also made it back down to the bottom.
And that’s when I stood on the piece of barbed wire that punctured my foot. Oh yes I did. Terry had to use his sweater to staunch the flow of  blood, and he had to do it to the accompaniment of me shrieking, “OMG, what if it goes gangrened and I DIE?” Luckily I had anticipated blisters and had brought some plasters with me, or who knows what would’ve happened. Terry would’ve probably had to strap Rubin to my foot and carry me home on his back or something.

Meanwhile, this sheep watched us steadily:


Seriously, it never took its eyes off us. Yeah, number 69, I see you watching me there. And it’s weird, because every time I go into the country, I am watched intently by sheep. Remember this guy? Do you think they’re maybe related or something?

Anyway, at this point we decided to go back to the car. First, though, we had to negotiate this:


I, naturally, did this with the same aplomb I bring to everything I attempt:


Note: this picture was in no way staged. So when we got back to the car and Terry suggested we go straight to the nearest psychiatric hospital, I wasn’t particularly surprised. Turns out, though, he just wanted to continue our walk, because the psychiatric institution in question is Bangour Village Hospital, and, happily for me, it’s now completely deserted. It’s also completely fascinating. It was opened in 1904 as an asylum, and is, quite literally, a “village”, set in beautiful countryside, meticulously planned out, and crammed full of these amazing – and HUGE – mansion houses, which are the “villas” of the old hospital. It has been abandoned for years now, although a security guard patrols the site, and it’s quite honestly one of the most atmospheric/creepy places I’ve even been. (It was also the location for The Jacket, if anyone’s seen it, with some of the buildings out there doubling as the psychiatric hospital seen in the film.)


(This is not one of the villas. This was a little club-house thing next to what I assume must have been a playing ground. Inside the little building were rooms for the “home team” and “away team”. )


(This is the main building used in The Jacket)


(See? Huge. And empty.)

There’s a church on the site (also seen in the movie), an old shop, plus various gymnasiums, libraries and dormitories. Most of the buildings are Grade A or B listed, and are gloomy and forbidding, just the way a turn-of-the-century mental hospital should look.  Everything is boarded up and locked, but you can still manage to see into some of the windows, and it’s all very “Silent Hill” inside, with hospital beds and old pieces of equipment left lying around, plus wallpaper peeling off the walls for added atmosphere. I’m fascinated by this kind of thing: it always feels like there’s a great idea for a novel just waiting to be found in places like this. Either that or a Famous Five style adventure, whereby Terry and I discover the old hospital is now the base of.. wait for it… SMUGGLERS… after Rubin sniffs out treasure in the ground.

Obviously, nothing like that happened. I did examine my photos very carefully when I got back, though, hoping there would be a spooky face at a window or something  – it feels like totally that kind of place – but nada. Maybe next time, though. I am SO going to have an adventure sooner or later.  I just know it.


And Rubin knows it too:


(Flickr set here for anyone who’s particularly interested…)