Update: click here to read about my revisit and see photos from the whole shelter!
I’ve known about this place for a while, and always thought of it as one of the “classic” Scottish urban explores, but until recently I’d never actually tried to get in there. A few years ago I heard that the landowner had made access more difficult, so I assumed that it would be sealed up and inaccessible. But in the last couple of months, new photos from in there started to appear online, so I decided it was time to check it out after all.
I actually didn’t have high hopes of getting inside. The explorers whose report I’d read said that they’d had to climb down a tree to get down a 12 foot drop, and I wasn’t sure my tree climbing abilities would be up to that (or, more crucially, to getting back up it again afterwards!). As it turned out, we must have found a slightly easier way down to the shelter than they did; although we did have to fight our way through overgrown vegetation for about twenty minutes, we eventually found the entrance without having to resort to anything as energetic as tree climbing.
(Actually, for me it was closer to an hour of fighting my way through vegetation… my friend had, quite sensibly in my opinion, decided that she didn’t want to scramble down the big muddy bank unless it was going to be worth her while, so she waited at the top while I went off to look for the entrance, then went back to fetch her after I’d found it).
Once inside, I was struck straight away by how well preserved this place was and how much there was to see. A row of old portable toilets were still there, along with the tattered remains of the curtains that once preserved the modesty of the people using them. Further in, just near the big metal blast doors, we found what I’m pretty sure must have been ventilation plant, used to circulate air around the shelter via large diameter pipes. Although the entrance tunnel was lined with brick, making me wonder if we were actually in the right place, further in this was replaced by the distinctive corrugated iron that I recognised immediately from photos online.
I was impressed that all of this had survived mostly intact down here for so many decades. I didn’t notice much evidence of vandalism at all, which makes me wonder if not many people actually know it’s here (one reason why I haven’t named the location for this one, in the hope that it stays that way for as long as possible).
This was once the largest private air raid shelter in Britain. It originally had five entrances from different parts of the industrial site it served; at first I thought they were all blocked off apart from the one we used, but since then I’ve seen recent photos of a different entrance online, so clearly at least one other one survives. I’ll have to have a look for it if I go back.
We weren’t able to explore the whole complex on our visit. Some of the tunnels were flooded (a common occurrence from what I’ve read online) and the water quickly got deeper than my boots. Neither of us fancied squelching around with soaking wet feet for the rest of the morning, so we decided to turn back at that point. On the plus side, from other photos and reports I’ve seen, it does seem as if we still saw most of the interesting stuff, though I might go back later to satisfy my curiosity about what lies beyond the water.
All in all, despite getting stung by a wasp on the way back to the car, and despite the annoyance of discovering that the “64GB” memory card in my action camera was actually a fake 16GB card, this was a great explore, the best one I’ve done in a long time. I never can resist a good underground site.