Capturing abandoned sites with your camera can be an incredibly fun experience. Britain has a huge selection of buildings that are left to the elements, ranging from once grand estates to former industrial buildings. They offer great backdrops for portraiture, but are also stunning as the main subject as well. To help you to find some of the best abandoned sites we have created a list showcasing our top pics.
Here are 10 of the most unique abandoned British sites for photographers.
1. Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey is a picturesque cliff-top ruin of the 13th century church of a Benedictine abbey. It overlooks the North Sea on the East Cliff above Whitby, North Yorkshire, and was once a centre of the medieval Northumbrian kingdom.
The abbey’s ruins continue to be used by sailors as a landmark at the headland, and were declared a Grade I Listed building in the 20th century. Today, Whitby Abbey is open to the public under the remit of English Heritage. There is also a modern visitor centre housed in Cholmley House (also known as Whitby Hall), a 17th-century mansion, which tells the story of Whitby Abbey as well as having exhibitions of finds from the site.
2. The Postal Museum's Abandoned Mail Rail
Beneath central London, snaking from Paddington to Whitechapel, there is another underground network entirely independent of the London Underground. The Post Office Railway, known as Mail Rail since 1987, was a system that transported post between various sorting offices. Since 2017, part of the network is now accessible via The Postal Museum’s Mail Rail exhibit.
The place is perfect for anybody looking for more ‘grungy’ backdrops for their photos. Because of the limited light, it would be a good idea to take a tripod with you to take some sharp images with long exposure.
Imber is an abandoned village that lies in the middle of Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. It was forcibly evacuated in 1943 to allow American troops to practice street fighting, in preparation for the Allied Invasion of Europe. The haunting village is open to the public on limited days each year.
One of the best days to visit the village is between the middle of August to early September, when the Imberbus day takes place – 25 vintage and new Routemaster and red double-decker buses depart from Warminster and stop at other points on the Salisbury Plain including Imber on a regular bus timetable.
4. Cowdray House Ruins
The original fortified manor house was built between 1273 and 1284 by Sir John Bohun. The house on the site today was likely started by Sir David Owen, who was likely the illegitimate son of Henry VII’s grandfather, upon the death of his wife Mary Bohun. Sir David Owen’s son Henry later sold the estate of Cowdray to Sir William Fitzwilliam.
Today, the ruined house is protected, and is still standing thanks to the 1st Viscount Cowdray who commissioned a restoration project between 1909 and 1914. Cowdray ruins remain in the Cowdray family, with the 4th Viscount Cowdray furthering its restoration and preservation. The Cowdray ruins were opened to the public in 2007.
5. Tyneham Village
Just before Christmas 1943 as the Allied World War Two effort was reaching a crucial stage, the War Office (now Ministry of Defence) requisitioned Tyneham so that the army could prepare for D-Day, 7 months away, by using the land as firing ranges for training troops. The village was temporarily evacuated and all of the 225 residents – mainly fisherman and farmers and their families – were given 30 days to leave.
They had no idea at the time, but they were never to return. While it’s still an active Ministry of Defence site and part of the Armoured Fighting Vehicles Gunnery School at Lulworth Ranges, visitors are permitted approximately 150 days a year and the church and school have exhibitions about the village and villagers.
6. Bottallack and Levant Mines
During the 19th century there were over 100 engine houses in the St Just district, though mining has been documented in the area much further back than this. The remains of the mine buildings at Botallack give a fascinating glimpse of Cornish mining over a century ago. Also within the St Just Mining District is Levant Mine and Beam Engine; one of the most ancient hard-rock tin and copper mining areas in Cornwall.
The site offers many exciting possibilities for drone photographers who can capture the industrial beauty from angles that would usually be impossible to access because of the steep cliffs.
7. Dalquharran Castle
This ruin was once the splendid 18th century Dalquharran Castle. It belonged to the Kennedy clan until 1930, when it was put up for auction. In the coming decades it would change ownership regularly until a Produce Merchant from Girvan bought it and stripped its roof. From 1967 onwards the structure was left to wither away. One can find the estate building near Culzean Castle.
Like the previous entry, the castle is perfect for drone photographers who can get a fabulous view over the roofless abandoned building, revealing the floor plan of the structure.
8. St Catherine's Fort
During the Napoleonic Wars, a chain of coastal fortifications were built around the UK, with St Catherine’s Island being chosen as a location because of its proximity to the ports of Pembroke and Milford. Work began in 1867 and was completed in 1870, but the fort was not fully armed for another 16 years. By 1886, it had a full armament of guns. By the 1980s the building was abandoned with only the odd visitor exploring the once formidable fortification.
The best time to take pictures of this beautiful historic site is during the early morning hours and late evenings when the sun is at its lowest. The soft and warm light will help you to achieve some stunning results.
9. Leaderfoot Viaduct
The Leaderfoot Viaduct is a 19th-century railway viaduct that crosses Scotland’s River Tweed. Construction was completed in 1863, granting the Berwickshire Railway access over the river. It was damaged by floods in the 1940s, and was nearly demolished in the 1980s due to its poor condition.
Today, the Leaderfoot Viaduct, also known as the Drygrange Viaduct, is a category A monument. Visit the surrounding greenery or the nearby Old Bridge for stunning views of this historic feat of engineering.
10. Cambusnethan Priory
Cambusnethan Priory, also known as Cambusnethan House, was designed by James Gillespie Graham in 1820. It is generally thought of as one of the best remaining examples of a Graham-built country house in the quasi-ecclesiastical style of the Gothic revival, and was built upon the earlier site of a manor house which burnt down in 1816. Originally built for the Lockharts of Lee from Castlehill, Auchenglen, it was later used as a hotel and restaurant, before eventually ceasing use in 1984.