Strolling through the countryside of Scotland you expect to see the ruins of an ancient castle or two - the hillsides are full of them. However, tucked away in the woods outside Cardross lies an entirely different kind of relic.
The ruins of St. Peter’s Seminary are seemingly not of this world. It’s as though you’ve stumbled upon the remnants of an ancient alien civilization. In appearance the word “brutal” is an understatement. Daunting, ghastly, decimated are all appropriate descriptors.
Alien as they may appear, St. Peter’s function was quite quotidian, and as far as ruins are concerned, they are not very old.
Designed in 1958 by Gillespie, Kidd, and Coia, it’s an A-listed building that sits on several preservation lists for being an excellent example of Scottish modern design. So, what brought this spiritual hall of learning to such a sorry state?
By the time St. Peter’s Seminary was completed in 1966, its function was obsolete. The Roman Catholic Church had recently decided that priests should train in communities rather than the isolation of remote seminary colleges. To compound problems, church attendance in Scotland was declining, as well as the number of young men wishing to enter the priesthood. This left St. Peter’s, a school designed to house and train a hundred would-be priests, with a residency of only twenty-some students by the late seventies. In 1980 St. Peter’s permanently closed its doors.
Since then, neglect, the elements, a sizable fire, and nearly daily vandalism have taken their toll, reducing the seminary to a hulking skeleton.
Update as of November 2016: Demolition work has sadly begun and the seminary has been securely fenced off with very limited access. However, if you are wearing suitable clothing and are stealthy enough to avoid guards that occasionally check the site, it is well worth the effort.
Update as of April 2018: The building is being conserved by NVA who have organized walking tours and there are plans for it to be developed into an arts venue and visitor attraction.
Update as of October 2019: The NVA closed down in June 2018 and responsibility of the building returned to the Catholic archdiocese. Being A-Listed, the church is unable to be demolished, and for now, will remain as ruins.
Know Before You Go
Around 24 miles out of Glasgow, take M8 towards Cardross, exit right at Carmen road. Stop at the first intersection and walk the path behind the golf course.