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Dumbarton Castle, Scotland

Dumbarton Castle, Scotland with River Leven in foreground.

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.

A summary chronology of Dumbarton Rock is as follows:
  • 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.
View of River Clyde looking West from Dumbarton Castle.

View of River Clyde looking West from Dumbarton Castle.

Cannon defences at Dumbarton Castle, Scotland.

Cannon defences at Dumbarton Castle, Scotland.

Bird watchers at Dumbarton Castle, Scotland

Bird watchers at Dumbarton Castle, Scotland

14th century Tower House at Lochleven Castle, Scotland.

14th century Tower House at Lochleven Castle, Scotland.

This evening, I am reporting on Lochleven Castle, near Kinross in Perthshire, Central Scotland.

Loch Leven is about thirty miles (one hour) north of Edinburgh.

This castle is located on an island in Loch Leven and hence to access the site entails a boat trip, of about 10 minutes. The boat trip itself is of great interest as the Loch (lake) is a freshwater nature reserve and home to a large of number of waterfowl including swans, geese,ducks and herons. At peak of the autumn migration season the bird population can exceed 35,000.

Video clip of Loch Leven and boat transport to castle.

Video clip of Lochleven Castle.

The castle dates from around 1257 and comprises:

  • Outer Courtyard.
  • Curtain Wall
Curtain Wall at Lochleven Castle, Scotland.

Curtain Wall at Lochleven Castle, Scotland.

  • Tower House
  • Great Hall and Kitchen.
  • Glassin Tower (16th century).
  • North Range.

Lochleven Castle was visited by many distinguished Scots including King Robert I (Bruce), King David II and Robert Stewart prior to becoming King Robert II, founder of the Stewart dynasty.

However, the Castle will be forever associated with Mary, Queen of Scots who visited the castle in 1561, 1563 and 1565. Unfortunately, events turned and in June 1567 she returned to the castle as a prisoner following defeat at the Battle of Carberry Hill. Mary spent almost one year at the Castle before escaping in May 1568. During this latter period she suffered a miscarriage and was forced to abdicate. Within a short time of her escape Mary raised an army which suffered a defeat at the Battle of Langside near Glasgow following which Mary fled to exile in England, a move which ultimately resulted in her execution.

From the late 16th century onwards the castle fell into disrepair and underwent changes of ownership until finally taken into Government care in 1939.

Today, the site is managed by Historic Environment Scotland and open to the public from late March through to end of October.

Dunluce Castle, Antrim, Northern Ireland

Dunluce Castle, Antrim, Northern Ireland.

This evening, I am posting information on Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland which is located on the North Antrim Coast, a few miles west of the Giant’s Causeway and about sixty miles NNW of Belfast. A visit to this castle usually forms part of a tour of the Causeway Coast.

Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

As a power base the site is relatively young by British standards. The earliest standing remains date from around 1500 but the castle reached its zenith in the early 17th century under Randal MacDonnell and his son, also Randal MacDonnell both whom achieved status of Earls of Antrim under King James I.

The MacDonnells brought to Ireland large numbers of Scots to act as a counterweight to Irish Catholics and suppress revolts from that quarter. The MacDonnells were initially very successful and gained large estates and wealth. However, Randal fell foul of the British when he was arrested in 1642. Whilst Randal regained his estates in 1665 the family chose other sites as residence and Dunluce progressively fell into ruin.

Today, the remains include:

  • A Brew House.
  • Stables.
  • lodgings.
  • Bridge.
  • Gatehouse.
  • Curtain Wall
  • Loggia (covered walkway).
  • S.E. Tower.
  • Manor House (Jacobean Mansion)
Jacobean Mansion, Dunluce Castle, ireland

Jacobean Mansion, Dunluce Castle, ireland

  • N.E. Tower.
  • Souterrain (probably dating from the first millennium AD)
  • Kitchen
  • Buttery
  • Inner Ward.

Close to the castle archaeologists have found the remains of Dunluce Town which was abandoned around 1680.

The promontory location offers superb views of the the local coastline.

Antrim Coasr near Dunluce Castle, Ireland

Antrim Coasr near Dunluce Castle, Ireland