This evening, I am focusing on Dumbarton Castle which is located on the north bank of the Firth of Clyde in S.W. Scotland. Dumbarton is about twenty one miles N.W. of Glasgow.
This castle site has a very long history as power base and fortification, possibly dating back about 1600 years when it was the capital of the Kingdom of Strathclyde, a Brythonic (Welsh) speaking Kingdom covering southern Scotland and northern England. In fact Dumbarton Castle has the longest recorded history as a fortification. The name Dumbarton is derived from the Gaelic dun breatainn which means ‘Fort of the Britons’.
The natural defences illustrated below are a function of the remains of a volcano dating from about 330m-340m years ago. In the foreground is the River Leven which flows from Loch Lomond to the Firth of Clyde.
- Captured by the Vikings in AD 870 with garrison taken off and sold into slavery.
- Captured by the Scots from the Northumbrians in 1018 after the Battle of Carham.
- Played key strategic role in Scotland’s victory over the Norse at Largs in 1263.
- Captured by the English in 1296. William Wallace ( ‘Braveheart’) may have been held prisoner here before being transported to London.
- Attacked by Scotland’s King James IV in 1489 when controlled by the Darnleys.
- Mary, Queen of Scots, age five years, together with entourage, departed Dumbarton Castle for France on August 7th, 1548. She was betrothed to Francois The Dauphin and later became Queen of France.
- Held out for Mary, Queen of Scots in 1568. On May 13th 1568 Mary’s army was defeated at the Battle of Langside, Glasgow by Regent Moray’s army which blocked the path of Mary’s force en-route from Hamilton to Dumbarton.
- Captured by Thomas Crawford in 1571 on behalf of the Scottish authorities (Protestants).
- Between the 16th and early 19th centuries there was on on-going programme of fortification including installation of gun batteries, many of which still exist.
- The castle was also used to house prisoners taken during the Jacobite and Napoleonic conflicts.
- Queen Victoria visited in 1847.
- Re-armed during WW2 with an anti-aircraft defences and experienced a bomb attack in 1941.
- Now a visitor attraction which affords superb views of the Clyde and is popular vantage point with bird watchers.