Dumbarton Castle

Dumbarton Castle, Scotland, The Rock, 

This castle, which was originally a Iron Age or Dark Ages hillfort, is among the longest lasting fortification sites in the world. In this sense that is as, the site was certainly used the post Roman era, as Alt Clut Rock, and then in the Middle Ages and all the way to the 19th Century as a castle. Today it is used as a tourist attraction, and it actually is manned, unlike many such structures, so in a sense it is still used today.

So anyhow, here is my bullet point check list on this area. 

* In Gaelic it is called Dùn Breatainn, which is Gaelic for fort of the Britons. This of course as the Britons, speaking their Brythonic language held this territory as a major site, of states in the Post Roman, possibly Roman, and Stratchclyde eras. Strathclyde, was a major kingdom of the North Britons

in the Dark Ages, at times stretching to Cumbria, likely a multi centred kingdom, but this was among it's central forts.

* It is known as Dumbarton Rock, which is 240 feet (73 m) high, it is right by the Clyde estuary so pretty much this is the sea level, and elevation above land. 

* It site on the north side, of the estuary areas of the Clyde. From it's top you can see west to Greenock, and east to Glasgow. 

* The site as a hillfort was used in the Iron Age.

* The first recorded writing of the settlement was in a letter St Patrick sent to King Ceretic of Alt Clut in the late fifth century. 

* It has been speculated Dumbarton was Cair Brithon ("Fort of the Britons") listed by Nennius among 28 cities of Sub-Roman Britain. I shall add a point, as I like to think they tie in with the 40 or so places mentioned in some later Medieval myths to do with King Arthur and his post Roman era. I mean yes King Arthur was a myth, but surely bits tied in with staid truths. 
 

100 metres east along the river path loo

* There is some kind of rock castle or site, possibly mentioned, I mean it hard to for these exprts to interpret these texts,  in some Roman era works, so it may have been a site of the Romanising North Britons, what some have claimed could be just Romanising southern Picts, even in their era. 

* It seems certain From the 5th to 9th century it was the rock that was the centre of the Brythonic Kingdom of Strathclyde. Alt Clut or Alcluith (Scottish Gaelic: Alt Chluaidh, "Rock of the Clyde"), the Brythonic name was a label for the entire kingdom. It's king in 570 was Riderch Hael, who is mentioned  in Welsh and Latin works. So the old North of the Britons, which included the enormous territories of Strathclyde, that may have extended at times, in a very devolved way to Cumbria. Which is why a Welsh style Cumbric was spoken there likely till after 1000AD. 

* In legend Merlin stayed here. 

* In 756, a moment till then that had been fairly unprecedented occurred. A force of Picts and Saxon Northumbrians took the fort after besieging it, losing it a few days later. 

* Horrifically this great noble capital was raided by the Vikings in 871, after a 4 month siege it was forced to surrender, and horribly many of it's people were taken away as slaves. Very sad, but it had a good innings as a great fort. This tragic event caused Strathclyde to move it's centre to Govan. 

* Strathclyde was later incorporated into the Pictish / Scottish, kingdom of Scotland. It's people soon learning Gaelic, instead of Brythonic, then English. 

* Medieval Scotland had Dumbaron castle as a great fort, kings like David were there, and the much celebrated Mary Queen of Scots.  The site was used as a castle, and was a scene of troubles and safety in those times. In some senses like Edinburgh castle it was a scene of a centre of government a lot of the time, when the leaders were visiting. 

* New structures were built at the castle even in the 18th Century, in fear of the Jacobites and the French. With the castle garrisoned all the way to World War Two. 

* Right down below the castle Dumbarton FC have their football stadium, and they are nicknamed sons of the Rock, in honour of the fort. As 2 time winners of the Scottish championship, that counts as a fine honour for the fort. 

* Today there is a museum at the castle, which is unusual for a hillfort, though this more about of course the castle. 

* You may say this is still a pretty important site in terms of strategic thinking even today, as it has such a great scan of the Clyde, of course in modern peace loving days that may seem unimportant, but that still always has some importance I am sure to those planning the defence of the nation.  


* I have visited the fort itself, and was happy to see the area, including the town of Dumbarton which has a population of about 20,000. 

* Dumbarton also features in the Great Scottish tapestry, a tapestry that opened in Galashiels in 2021, said to be among the longest in the world. It includes a tapestry piece featuring the rock, and the sad, but key tale of the attack by the Vikings, a part of it's long, but often more usually relatively safe position as a base. ​

* The pictures on this page are mine, so you need my permission to use them, not that they are very special, there are good public domain ones, well they are one from the footpath to the west, and another looking across from the lower walls to the south west across the Clyde. 

A confusing thing about Dumbarton, well the term itself comes from the Gaelic name mentioned above, and that makes sense, thought most places like that stayed as Dun this, or Dun that, like Dundee, or Duns, or Dunottar, or Dunadd.

Well over time, it became Dumbarton, as happens, but Dumbartonshire was the local county name, but in the 20th Century or just before that, to be a link with the past some local bigwigs changed the official name of the county spelling to Dunbartonshire, to link it more with the older Gaelic name. Thus as of this, Dumbarton has the unusual situation where the county name is spelt different to the town in that sense. So a real minefield for non locals, they need to watch out for. Surely then of all places to miss spell this is the easiest, I mean Dunbarton Hillfort, or Dunbarton Castle, would be what you imagined was the case if you knew the county spelling, or Dumbartonshire  constituency, but it is Dumbarton castle and Dumbarton hillfort, and Dunbartonshire. Which itself is West Dunbartonshire and East Dunbartonshire, in 2021, not West Dumbartonshire or East Dumbartonshire, with Dumbarton the HQ town for the western example. 

There was also a situation where there were 3 ships called HMS Dumbarton Castle, up to 2021, that served in the Royal Navy. Including one that till 1707 and the act of union served in the Royal Scots Navy, which captured a French vessel on one occasion, while protecting Scottish waters, and was captured by a French vessel on another occasion further afield. Then another that servived in the North Atlantic from 1944, so in Wordl War Two, and another built in 1981, that served in the falklands war and was sold to Bangladesh in 2010, and became BNS Bijoy.

So that is my Dumbarton Castle history there for you. 

Looking West from the western perimiter