Pining for the West

Dumbarton Castle | August 26, 2009

Dumbarton Rock and Castle

Dumbarton Rock and Castle

If, in your travels you find yourself to be going just a wee bit north of Glasgow, then you should definitely find time to break your journey at Dumbarton Castle.

The name Dumbarton derives from Dun Breatann meaning fortress of the Britons. The rock on which the castle stands is a volcanic plug which is situated at the confluence of the rivers Clyde and Leven. To me it has always been a magical place and I can just feel the history oozing out of the stone. However if actual castles are your thing then you might be a bit disappointed as there isn’t really much in the way of castle, it is definitely mainly rock, albeit it in a very strategic position. Apparently The Rock is the oldest known continuously recorded stronghold in Great Britain, having been occupied since AD 460, at least.

It’s the perfect place to stretch your legs – and I really do mean that as there are supposed to be 365 steps to be climbed before you reach the top. It’s worth it however as the view from the top is just great.

I think the castle has been pretty much neglected over the years as a tourist destination and I know that there is talk of making it more high profile. When you think of all the history behind it, it certainly deserves to be made more of. There is a small museum which mainly has things to do with the old Dumbarton Volunteers Regiment but there just isn’t enough room to do the place justice. I know that there are things scattered around Dumbarton in various places like the library for instance, which should really be shown off properly with everything being in one location and a purpose built building near the castle would be great but I don’t suppose there is the money for it at the moment.

Another view, Ben Lomond in background

Another view, Ben Lomond in background

When we went over to the Greenock side of the Clyde recently, it was the view of the Dumbarton Rock which I really wanted to go for as most of the paintings, engravings and postcards have been done from that angle. Dumbarton has an elephant as its emblem and the story goes that it is because the rock is shaped like an elephant, which I had never believed. So I was pretty surprised to discover that it really does resemble an elephant when viewed from a particular part of the road near Langbank.

Unfortunately we couldn’t stop the car then, so you will just have to take my word for it.

Even if your legs won’t stand the strain of all those steps, it’s worthwhile going just to have a look at the river and the surrounding hills, which can be viewed from the small park at the bottom of The Rock. Imagine what it was like to stand there and see the QE2 go past when she was launched just up the river at Clydebank. Those were the days.

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