My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

Goth is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, the expression of that in Goth rock. It looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, et al) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Craig Dunain Cemetery

Yesterday I walked up out of the city up to the old Craig Dunain Hospital buildings, being guided by some friends. Craig Dunain Hospital initially opened in Victorian times as Inverness District Lunatic Asylum, and remained a psychiatric hospital right into the '90s when they transferred all of that to the New Craigs buildings just down the road. Craig Dunain hospital has a long, and fairly well documented history. I have lost several hours to trawling the web and reading about it, and looking at photographs of the hospital at different points in its history. Anyone who has an interest in Victorian 'Lunatic Asylums' should look it up, because its history is also one of the transition from the Victorian style institutions (of which Craig Dunain was apparently relatively progressive, especially in the promotion of eating for health and the use of time in the parkland and gardens surrounding for its therapeutic qualities - something that is once again being seen as valuable to mental health recovery) to modern mental healthcare, as the site was used until relatively recently, and was more shifted along the road to newer buildings than really closed. 

Photographed through the wire fence. Photo by Housecat
I have been up to that part of the city before, but not all the way to to the old hospital complex, and I was amazed by how huge it was, and what a beautiful old building it had initially been before time, neglect and several fires took their toll. Having seen old photographs of the interior, it apparently initially had quite lovely Victorian details, some of which were in a Gothic Revival style. Having looked at more recent photographs by an urban explorer at ::this:: page, it looked like some of the interior survived until 2003, but having been heavily altered over the years. Now it looks like it was entirely gutted, presumably by the fires, and parts of the roofs have collapsed, and looking from the outside through some windows, it looks like there's nothing left of the interior and it's just a shell. Either way, it now gives me the creeps, despite being the kind of architecture I quite like - maybe it's just all the fire-damage and scaffold reinforcements that tell me it's now an obviously dangerous and unstable ruin, or maybe it's the local stories about the place, some of which are quite grim, or maybe it's because other people have told me they've been in it and it's definitely haunted by some rather restless spirits, but it certainly had a sense of great foreboding. I stayed at the roadside, outside the perimeter fence - and even that felt too close sometimes.

As the photographs show, it was a cold, frosted and snowy day, with lots of icy paths for me to slip on, and a pale and wan sun. It was, at least, not too cloudy a day, just one where the sun never rose particularly high, and rapidly dipped low again behind the hill. There was settled snow on exposed surfaces, but underneath the tree cover, it was just cold, with a slight mist or low cloud. 

Snowy Ground. Photograph by Housecat

Beyond it, it what was once part of the hospital's parkland, beyond some woodland, is a small cemetery. Beside it is a plaque explaining a bit about its history, and a proper military memorial for one person interred within the cemetery who earned the Victoria Cross in Victorian times, but was left severely injured and suffering from what would probably be called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder today, and ended up institutionalised in the old Craig Dunain and buried somewhere within the graveyard in a pauper's grave. 

Looking over the graveyard wall. Photo by Housecat

There only appear to be two grave-markers still standing in the graveyard itself, but there's mossy mounds that look like broken graves rather than tree stumps, and my friend assures me that there used to be more grave markers. According to a quote on the plaque from when the cemetery was new, it was built "for the interment of patients not removed by their friends" - it seems so sad that there were enough people who died at that hospital and were not collected for burial by friends and family, and instead were interred here. There seems to have only ever been a handful of stone markers - indicating that some at leat did not have pauper's graves, as stone memorials have always been expensive - but I guess the majority had simple wooden crosses that have long since rotted away. Apparently much was done to make the graveyard a pretty floral garden with nice trees, but the trees rapidly over-took the garden, especially as much of the trees are yew, and yew kills whatever is beneath it. There are two enclosures, one with an external gate, that I presume was the initial cemetery, and another of equal size beside it, which I presume was an extension, and is accessed internally. The cemetery was closed in 1895, when they ran out of space. I don't know what happened to people who died at Craig Dunain after 1895.  

A remaining marker, a stone cross. Photo by HouseCat

Nearby in the woods are three small crosses, lanterns and floral tributes that seem to be from the last year or two, and perhaps are markers for scattered ashes, or as there is a pet cemetery for the pets of patients and residents of Craig Dunain, and of what appeared to be 'ward' pets, maybe the crosses mark further pet burials. I didn't take any photographs of the crosses, or of the pet cemetery. 

The dividing wall between the two enclosures.

It seems sad to me that these people seemed almost forgotten at the time of their deaths, at least by people outside of the hospital, and that now there is little to remember them by except for the wall and some trees - only two markers, most graves without anything recording the names of those buried within. It is not that they are from so long ago that time has forgotten them - there are plenty of markers in the cemeteries within the city that still have names from before 1864 when the hospital was first opened. I have read that in times past, families would basically abandon relatives deemed insane, and carry on as if they had never existed, bound by the stigma around mental illness and behaviours then not socially acceptable. I wish someone would go through the old hospital records, because there must have been some record, even if it was just for the expense of hiring someone to dig a grave, and to place a plaque by the cemetery listing all those buried within, so that they don't remain forgotten. 

I apologise for photo quality; they were taken on my smartphone rather than my proper camera. Photographs edited in a combination of GIMP, which I am just learning to use, and PicMonkey. 


  1. Having worked at the old Craig Dunain briefly I can say it was just as creepy as a working hospital as it is as a ruin, the sadness in the place both past and present was overwhelming. On closing the hospital those patients that could be resettled in the community were. Those unsuitable or too institutionalized were rehoused at New Craigs. But I think the building retains the energies from all its patients and victims over the years

    1. There will be people in Inverness and surrounds who were residents, and I wonder what they think about it. Someone actually did do proper research into the impact of its closure, and interviewed a few ex-residents - I read this article in the Scottish Geographical Journal by some people from Durham University:

      Hester Parr, Chris Philo & Nicola Burns (2003): ‘That awful place was home’: Reflections on the Contested Meanings of craig dunain asylum, Scottish Geographical Journal, 119:4, 341-360

      and is really interesting for anyone wishing to learn more about its closure who wasn't around in Inverness at the time, or wants to hear other perspectives on it.

  2. The old site you visited seems a sad but fascinating place. I have to agree with the above comment that the structure, though only a shell, might still hold the energies of sadness and disdain that likely prevailed there in its heyday.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Nearly everyone I have asked about the place says that it is haunted, and those that do not, say things like "There are no such things as ghosts, but that old place is really creepy". If anywhere is going to be haunted, a derelict Victorian 'lunatic asylum' is certainly the place.

  3. I'd really love to visit this site; the history is so fascinating and frightening. Do you know if there are any books about the Craig Dunain Cemetery, because I'd love to read more. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Not that I have come across at all - it seems thoroughly under-recorded. I feel that a historian should really look into it, but I'm not a historian and it needs a thorough and proper job done by someone that IS - I wouldn't have the time. There MIGHT be a book on the old hospital itself, but I'm not even sure of that.

  4. Does anybody know where the deceased were buried after the little cemetery was closed?

    1. I don't think any of the remains were disinterred - as far as I am aware, they are still buried there and the cemetery has just been allowed to fall into disrepair. There are still markers, and there's no evidence of the cemetery having been dug up (unlike the mausoleum in Culloden Wood, where there's a half-dug up grave, as well as the broken remains of some of the graves and the enclosure, for example.) The best place to enquire would be the Archive at Whin Park in Inverness


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