About Dumbarton Castle
Dumbarton Castle was a medieval stronghold which served as a wartime prison, a royal shelter and a defence against both foreign and national threats. Even the site upon which Dumbarton Castle sits -Dumbarton Rock – has an illustrious past. Little survives of the medieval castle – most of it is from the eighteenth century – but this is still a fascinating site to visit.
Mentions of Dumbarton Rock date back to the fifth century AD, when it was called the Rock of the Clyde or "Alt Clut". From this time until the early eleventh century, Dumbarton Rock was the centre of the capital of Strathclyde. There is thought to have been a castle there at the time, which would have defended this British kingdom from ongoing Viking attacks, although there are no visible remains of this.
The building of the medieval Dumbarton Castle began in the 1220, amidst the danger of attacks from Norway. It was constructed under Alexander II of Scotland and was intended to protect the border.
Once the Norwegian threat subsided, Dumbarton would go on to become a royal castle and to play a role in the Wars of Independence. In particular, it is believed that William Wallace was imprisoned here for a short time in 1305 before being taken to his execution in England.
With its slightly more remote location, one other important function of Dumbarton Castle was as a royal escape route. In the fourteenth century, David II sailed from Dumbarton and, in 1548, this was where a young Mary Queen of Scots sought refuge before travelling to France.
Unfortunately, most of what can be seen at Dumbarton today dates back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries – when it was renovated as a garrisoned fort – rather than from the medieval or dark ages.