The stunning panorama atop Dumbarton Rock

Why I wouldn’t want to attack Dumbarton Castle

Dumbarton Castle is one of the most under-hyped in Scotland. It doesn’t even get a mention in Lonely Planet’s Scotland guide, a glaring omission for this castle lover. Dramatically situated on Dumbarton Rock, the stunning panoramic views over the Firth of Clyde reveal much about the strategic importance of this spot in centuries past.

dumbarton castle stairs

The volcanic Dumbarton Rock is a powerful mass standing at 240 feet. The idea of putting a military stronghold on it has to be an act of genius. Although the many steps now pose problems for the less fit and able of 21st Century visitors, the visibility from the highest points make any sort of siege an unenviable prospect.

Dumbarton Rock has played a part in the history books as far back as the 4th Century AD. Over that time it has been the capital of the British Kingdom of Strathclyde, a medieval stronghold and a Royal Residence.

Looking out to sea from dumbarton castle

dumbarton castle canon defences.

The little boy in me can’t help but play General. The impressive arsenal of guns directed at the Firth provoke thoughts of a naval bombardment. Switching sides though, it would be a terrified crew of sailors facing cannonballs from this height! The Vikings were one such group of invaders around 870 and did prevail, but not before an epic four month siege. Another was by James IV who took two efforts to crush a rebellion by Lord Darnley.

Dumbarton Castle has also seen some celebrity faces. It was a base for Mary Queen of Scots before her departure for France in the 16th Century and is also believed to have been a stopping point for an imprisoned William Wallace before his final journey to London for execution. Most recently it was used as a base in the Second World War and the Rock was hit by four German bombs from an aerial bombardment.

dumbarton castle firth of clyde

Although the castle is a draw in itself, the real highlights are the views. The football team must be the envy of the Scottish lower leagues with the Rock as the stadium’s imposing backdrop. It is even possible to spot mighty Ben Lomond to the north from the summit. If the sun is out there are many spots for a picnic and this is a terrific spot to stop between Glasgow and Loch Lomond.

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