Corbelly Hill Convent, Dumfries: PT.I | 720nm Infrared | 35Chronicle Photography

black & white, fine art, full-spectrum, history, infrared, photography, ruins, structures, trees, urban

All Roads Lead to… Roam?!?

Content Warning: This post contains elements of sarcasm, arrogance and common-sense, which some readers may find either offensive, or rib-tickling – depending on your sense of humour!

I may or may not be about to start on a little ‘Rob-rant’; in fact – perhaps I’ll just roll my eyes at this point and take a deep breath instead. Yes, that may be a better thing to do. You see, the one question I get asked a lot when I am out shooting old buildings, ruins, lighthouses, you name ’em – is, “Can I help you?” You may have read my thoughts about this question during one of my posts where I published a few frames of the beautiful lighthouse at Corsewall [PT.I – here] back in December, last year. It grates me every time – and it shouldn’t. 


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I have been meaning to come here to the old convent at Corbelly Hill for around six months. Waiting for a clear day with good sunlight and plenty of time has been the only reason it has taken me so long to get up here, to what is the highest building in Dumfries. Known as St. Benedict’s, and also – Corbelly Hall Convent, it was commissioned in 1881 for the Nuns of the Perpetual Adoration and, was completed in 1884. In its time, it has also been used as a girls’ school, a makeshift Sheriff Court and even a museum. It has lain empty and semi-derelict for a good many years now, though. In 2003, it was used in the filming of Peter Mullan’s film “The Magdalene Sisters” – set in 1964 onwards, about the cruel abuse of women at a convent in Ireland. Though I would dearly have loved to have spent some time shooting inside the buildings, as some have before me – it was not to be. 


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One utterly fabulous thing about Scotland is the right to roam and so, seeing no signage indicating otherwise either, Bumble and I took the walk up the hill from Maxwell Street, enjoying the clearest of views over the town on the way up and, we had a little scout around the outside of this beautiful building with a view to setting up for some fitting frames. The light was just about perfect by midday and it almost took my breath away with the sheer size of this place. As we walked around towards the main entrance, we noticed two police vans, a builder’s van and, a couple of cars. Old vinyl 45s from the 70s were strewn curiously and chaotically across the lawns. A broken window to the left of the main entrance door. Not a person in sight though. We picked up a few of the vinyls and read their labels – each one a 70s chart-hit and not a true dud among them if I’m honest. As we wandered the grounds, I began to capture a few shots. That’s when a short and stocky, builder-chappy – surly of face and postured with intent, walked towards us with his faithful right-hand man… to his left. “Can I help you?” he asked. I smiled gently, trying to not smile my facetious smile at the one question that presents to me every time as a red rag to a proverbial bull. “I’m not sure.” I politely replied. “How much do you know about infrared photography?” This precipitated a stunned silence and a quizzical expression in the gentleman who, once he had remembered why he had asked the question in the first place, told us that there had been a break-in that morning and he was concerned as, he had just acquired the building for himself. “Fair enough, but as you can see – you’re unlikely to get any trouble from us. Would it be okay if we carry on around and get a few more frames before the gates go in?” We were graciously (okay, a little facetious there, I know!) granted the freedom to roam once more; our attire possibly an obvious indication that we were not at all dressed for a raid on this day and were safe to be let loose. Yet, every which way we turned from that moment on, we were followed at a distance of no more than ten paces by the builder-chappy and three others of his crew; every word Bumble and I shared from that moment on, was not private. We contained ourselves to the awe of this place and reigned in our feelings about what had just happened. 


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For around four or five days after I made these frames I was confined to being back at work and so, I literally have only just got around to edits today and, having finished working on this series, I really do have the pleasure of sharing a number of shots with you, which, I sincerely do hope you will enjoy. One more day and I’ll be back in the jug again… so who knows, I may get a few more up tomorrow, too? 

Thank you again for reading and I do hope that you’re getting set for a wonderful weekend. 


This post is thoughtfully dedicated to all owners of derelict land and property who needlessly fear the evil intentions of the middle-classes who walk hand in hand, wielding small cameras.

Fear not – we’re only making pictures!

[All frames: Ricoh GXR LTFS Full-Spectrum Conversion & Hoya R72 720nm IR Filter]

If you would like updates, please click Follow. All Images & Posts © Rob Lowe | 35Chronicle Photography  (2018-2021) except where specified. No Copying or Redistribution of any kind is permitted without prior consent from the author, unless links to original work is clearly provided. All images are resized prior to posting.

6 thoughts on “Corbelly Hill Convent, Dumfries: PT.I | 720nm Infrared | 35Chronicle Photography

  1. Perhaps you are a ‘shady’ looking couple? Down here we get the farmers “Oi! get orf moi land!” like I’m going around trampling and destroying thousands of acres! Just smile and walk away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh Brian, you describe the issue and the solution perfectly. Yes, almost certainly shady!! I know plenty of farmers like that – different accents and vernacular up here, of course, but the sentiments remain the same, I am sure of it!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Amar, thank you so much, my friend! When it comes to marketing, I guess I am a little old-school; I do this for the love of it, first, foremost and, always. But I have been thinking about marketing for full-res downloads for customer prints, on the side. I think my library is big enough now!?! Been toying with this idea for a year or more and maybe I should simply bite the bullet and set it up once i get a few days downtime! My very best to you and your good lady! R.


  2. Great captures Rob ! I particularly like the one in the center, where you caught the roof line and the statue on top. The tree to the left looks electrified. And with the overhead branches in the foreground and the bird in the sky above the statue, you have captured so much depth – really three dimensional And the detail – the cross structure at the bottom and even the broken shingles and the missing piece of the roof’s ridgetop. It all combines to tell quite a story. Of course, I like the side-tale as well – “may I help you?” I suppose they thought your photography to be a ruse. Perhaps you should tell them that you are a photo journalist and ask them for a quote and a picture of them for your publication 🙂


    1. Hi Harold, and thank you so much for your comments and your thoughts. I always appreciate how you see my work – I spend ages sometimes, just working it all out before I make a capture and it is always a perfect compliment when even one person see behind the image and instead, is able to look through it. So, thank you! And as for your suggestion… brilliant! I’ll employ that next time for sure – the outcome of which – may become apparent in some future post! Have a great week, H and I look forward to some more of your brilliance!


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