Lennox Castle is an impressive ruin, lost in the woods, gleaming in winter sunshine and overlooked by the snow dusted Campsie Fells.
The ruin itself overlooks Celtic FC’s training ground. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition. Do the players, training for their next match, ever look up and wonder? Do they hear the cries of the former residents drift down on the breeze?
The castle was built in the 1830s. In the early 20th century it was transformed into a psychiatric hospital. At the time it was considered ahead of its time but it became overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded. It was less of a mental health institution and more of a dumping ground for society’s problems: truants, unmarried mothers, wayward teenagers and children with learning difficulties. Abuse and neglect was rife. Those who ran away were chased by dogs through the woods. Patients could be drugged and dumped on mattresses. Other patients recall being hit by baseball bats as they ran around the castle barefoot for failing to address a member of staff as sir. In December 1989, a study in the British Medical Journal found a quarter of patients in Lennox Castle were grossly underweight and malnourished.
The hospital finally closed its doors in June 2002 after a phased closure and resettlement of the residents.Yet exploring this ruin there was no sense of its dark and sad history, partly because history and the personal has been stripped away, and partly because of the sunlight streaming through the arches windows and gaps where the ruin has collapsed. The most ominous notes were the top-heavy pieces of building that look like they could slice away at any minute, and walking into the darkness of a storage bunker.
The ruins were not entirely a shell. There were some intact services rooms and a staircase to nowhere that looked ready to collapse. There were the remains of an entrance hall that hinted at grandeur. There was a rusty remains of a fire stairway running up the side of the central block, over and into thin air where once there was a roof to support it. Someone had made the considerable effort to tie a long rope and hang a tyre from it.
Of course I had a go. Only once I tripled-checked my weight was not going to bring the stairway down on me from a great height.