Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned

Here in North Wales we have more than our fair share of abandoned buildings. Most are associated with either the slate quarries, copper or coal mines which have long since ceased working.

Miners Barracks

Our first building can be found on the Miners Track as you head towards the summit of Snowdon. At the side of Llyn Teyrn stands this now abandoned stone structure which was the barracks for the men who worked on the Britannia Copper Mine further up the valley. The mine closed in 1916 but the ruined barracks and mill buildings still exist.

Nearly all of the abandoned buildings I have found on my travels no longer have a roof. The walls, made of local stone, will survive the extreme weather conditions, but the wooden supports for the roof will not. Even the walls cannot survive for ever. Often the stone is re-used by local farmers to repair the dry stone walls that are a feature of the hills and valleys in Snowdonia.

Abandoned House

The houses are not big. One, maybe two rooms, at most. What where they used for? In the case of the ones near mines and quarries I think it’s pretty obvious. But the houses that you find high on a hill and totally isolated I’m not so sure about. But I have a theory. Wales is a sheep farming country, and the sheep were allowed to roam the hills. I reckon many of the isolated houses were used by shepherds. Does that sound logical?

Abandoned Hut

Of course not all of the abandoned building were used as dwellings. I found this old building at the site of the Dinorwic Quarry. There’s nothing unusual about it. Three walls and a roof made of slate, which you would expect in a slate quarry. As to its function, who knows? A shelter, maybe?

Stone Shelter

Not all abandoned dwellings are one-roomed, low structure buildings  I’d like to leave you with this final image of the entrance gates to Gwrych Castle which is a  Grade I listed 19th-century country house quite close to me.

Gwrych Castle

The castle was erected between 1819 and 1825 and until 1924 it was the residence of the Dundonald family. After WW2 the castle was open to the public, attracting many visitors through the 1950’s and 60’s. The 1970’s saw it being used as a centre for medieval re-enactments, attracting tourists with such events as jousting and mock banquets. But the decline of Gwrych Castle was already starting and finally it closed it doors to the public in 1985.

An American businessman bought the castle in 1989 but his plans to renovate the building were not carried out. As a result the castle was looted and vandalised to become little more than a derelict shell.

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32 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned

  1. Lovely to see photos of North Wales – instant nostalgia: although I actually lived in Llancynfelyn (half way between Aberystwyth and Machynlleth), we often used to visit North Wales, and the stark beauty is one of my abiding memories. Thank you for sharing. Alienora


  2. Well done Mike, some nice images there. Won’t be long before I embark on my 2014 projects to. Re “The 1970′s saw it being used as a centre for medieval re-enactments, attracting tourists with such events as jousting and mock banquets” we used to go and they were terrific evenings. Ahhh, we were in our 20’s then!!



    1. Hi Richard, as you know , there are so many of these buildings around and they make a good subject. One of my projects this year is the North Wales Pilgrims Way from Basingwerk Abbey to Bardsey island. It’s a great walking route with lots of photo ops.


  3. Such a shame that the American guy did not follow through with the Dundonald castle. That photo is my favorite. Interesting story and now so forsaken. It’s too bad that the government does not have the money to at least partialluy restore these places that are so old.

    All the pics are beautful in their own way. Gee the countryside is so barren but you certainly capture the mood and essence.


    1. We’re planning a trip there Yvonne but we just have to watch out for the security guy. Normally with listed buildings the owners have to maintain them but this one has been allowed to slip through. There have been several plans to turn it into a luxury hotel, the latest one was for completion this year. Yeah right! There’s no chance of that happening.


  4. Times change. People move on to other adventure. The structures they build remain as the only relics of their existence. Others like the American did not count the cost before he bought and others seeing things as things of value that they could either use or sell, destroyed the true value of the heritage. To the government, it is just another building that has been abandoned. To us as photographers and onlookers it brings a sense of nostalgia and poetry. Good shots


    1. Thank you for taking the time to visit and comment. For me, I’m glad that the buildings survived because it give me a chance to photograph them and try and do some research about them


  5. There is a similar abandoned shepherd’s hut near where I grew up in Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia. I suppose the whole culture came out here with the sheep and the shepherds, but changed over time because the climate and conditions are so different. It was built in the mid 19th century, with sandstone walls and a slate roof – Castlemaine also had a slate quarry! I don’t know if the shepherd was Welsh, though…


    1. Hello Tina – we are lucky to have so many old buildings around here, all made of stone so they tend to survive reasonably well. We were going to a slate quarry tomorrow but as it is reasonably high up and there is a prediction for heavy clouds, we’re putting it off for later in the month.


  6. I think the second photo has to be my favourite, it is absolutely superb. Now I don’t know if you’re right about the isolated houses being shepherd’s huts but you did remind me of something that you might find interesting. There used to be a tradition in some areas for shepherds who spent all their time up in the hills to be buried with a piece of wall attached to their clothing. That way, when they stood in front of St Peter at the gates of heaven, it would be known why they were not in church on Sundays.


  7. thank you for the photos of Gwyrch Castle- I’ve driven past it so many times and always wondered what it was. I’m pretty sure you’re right about the little cottages being used by shepherds, or even drovers.


    1. Hello Theresa. It’s a strange place, spreads all over the hill but vastly overgrown in places. The owners have put up a very strong and high fence and yet there are gaps where you can get through.


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