Abandoned Hospital: Politely Breaking and Entering
The abandoned East Fortune Hospital is about an hour’s train ride from Edinburgh, Scotland. It originally served as a tuberculosis sanitorium before WWII, and was later converted into a facility for the mentally handicapped up until 1977. Ezra and I were recently engaged—the ring sports one of his wisdom teeth. After all, the diamond industry is awful, and isn’t it more romantic to give your lover a part of your body? It seemed as good a time as any to seek out some adventure.
Preparing to explore East Fortune Hospital
As is the case with all urban exploration, there were certain precautions to be taken (please, please do your research before doing something like this). We could use asbestos-certified masks to protect our lungs, and gloves to handle rusty debris, but we absolutely could not get caught. We were US nationals, and this was our first serious attempt at urban exploration, so we were ill-equipped to handle a run-in with security. East Fortune was unguarded.
After the train and bus rides to essentially the middle of nowhere, it took us a good ten minute walk before any structures or people were in sight. Outside of the camp was a construction crew working on the road. In hindsight, they wouldn’t have cared if they saw us crawling through one of the many gaps in the fences, but damn I felt cool, crouching and dashing through the tall grass like in Far Cry 3.
The property was also neighbor to a farm. I discovered this when I peered over a fence and found a cow looking back at me. We appreciated the fair warning to turn around before accidentally trespassing on land someone cared about.
The first actual building we found was a little shed, complete with missing floorboards and old, rusty tools.
Exploring the Land
Rather than being contained in one building, the hospital consists of many structures spread across a plot of land, somewhat reminiscent of an old military camp.
The first couple buildings were nothing amazing; just broken windows, some old bathtubs, furniture strewn about. Though there certainly was an excessive amount of asbestos warnings posted, and some signs that other explorers had painted over to omit letters and generate silly messages.
As we went on, things quickly got interesting. There was this big garage-type building taken over by foliage and birds. Previous explorers had placed an armchair against the centre of the back wall, and arranged a deck of cards on and around it. The chair faces a paint splattered, overgrown floor and some poetry scribbled on loose-leaf paper.
Being who he is, Ezra lit a cigarette, sat in the chair, wrote something of his own to leave behind with the rest.
This was only the beginning. The buildings just got more and more interesting, thanks to the creativity of those who’d been here before us. Perhaps because these buildings were more open to light, they were more worthy of featuring works of art.
We felt a sense of camaraderie with the other explorers. The remnants of their presence represented a spirit of adventure, intrigue, and a bit of youthful whimsy. On this day, I felt like I was really living. Perhaps it was the escape I needed from experiences that felt curated by some central entity trying to gain a profit from my actions or presence within. This place was free—monetarily, socially, and creatively—from the constraints of life in the city.
Sadly, we lost most of our best photos because on the walk back to the hotel, Ezra dropped his bag on a busy street before his phone could sync to cloud storage. This blog post on Forgotten Island features a stunning collection of photos that capture what we lost (and they used a much better camera anyway).
My advice to other fledgling urban explorers: make sure your masks are certified to protect against asbestos, do your research beforehand, and pick somewhere outside the city for your first time. Maybe bring some art supplies—we wish we had—and participate in a fascinating community.
Quinn Lowell is a co-writer for this blog, and life partner to Ezra Blake. Though she primarily practices art in the realm of absurdity and surrealism, she readily delves into macabre activities and adventures with Ezra whenever the opportunity arises.