It’s easy to assume that uninhabited zones are free for entry and relatively safe – after all that collapsing building was once lived in and should be OK, if you watch your step, but that is not the only thing to consider.
First, make sure you have permission to go there. Even though you might think nobody will notice if you slip inside an abandoned mansion for an afternoon, the property is most likely still owned by someone. In case of emergency (anything can happen), you will have to call authorities to come pick you up and you will face the awkward situation, were you have to explain why you were there without having asked beforehand.
To avoid this, you can settle for places that are open to the public. New Slains Castle is a great example. Bram Stoker once walked its corridors while visiting Cruden Bay in 1894, likely drawing inspiration for the novel Dracula. Another is the Glasgow Botanical Gardens railway station. Opened in 1896, it has closed twice over the years, first during the Great War due to funding constraints and then permanently at the outset of World War Two. For the next 25 years, the subterranean facility lingered on as a ghost station, acting as a throughway for trains that never stopped.
When visiting an abandoned place, keep in mind the dangers of the decomposing materials you are stepping on. Not only that, it’s not enough to watch your head and where you step, some places, which have had heavy industry in the past might still have lingering toxins in the air. Do your homework and prepare for everything that you might face.
Never go alone. Abandoned places seem creepy and give some the shivers for a reason. Remember you are not just going on a stroll in the park, ideally you would bring more than one person with you. Furthermore, some places, like the Old City Hall Subway station in New York can only be visited by Transit Museum members, or if you want to explore an abandoned cemetery, you can consider joining a group for its restoration and cleaning. If you do go alone, tell someone where you are going and approximately how long you will take, so they can act as fast as possible if they sense that something might have gone wrong.
You need to accept that not all places are accessible. Mainly military-guarded zones, unavailable to the public. If you trespass in these places you risk getting shot. There are no such places in Scotland, thankfully, but if you were to go to the beach resort of Varosha, in Cyprus, it is a different story. It is a lovely place — or was until 1974, when its residents fled the Turkish invasion. The ghost town has been fenced off and abandoned ever since.
Of course, these precarious measures should not frighten you, exploring forgotten places is an exciting and educational endeavour. You shouldn’t wait for too long to visit your area of interest as these sites are very vulnerable to the elements and by the time you are ready and prepared, it might have become rubble.
And finally, when exploring, please don’t “take souvenirs”. There are other people that visit these places and if you are stealing from the property you are meddling with an historical artefact and depriving everyone else of seeing it. Pictures and just the experience alone will surely suffice your adventurous spirit. Happy exploring!